Rituals

Today’s post comes to us from Port Huron Steve.

The debut broadcast of CBS Sunday Morning aired January 28, 1979. Because I was a fan of the host, Charles Kuralt, I made a point of watching that first show. I’ve seen many of the broadcasts that have aired in the 40 years since. While my life is mostly unstructured and variable, I try to catch that show. It pleases me to have something in the week that is fixed and predictable. Watching it has become a ritual for me.

Most of us have rituals. They can be annual (like how we celebrate Christmas) or monthly, weekly, daily or something altogether different. If I can believe his songs, a ritual for folksinger Greg Brown is drinking coffee in the morning. My parents couldn’t go to sleep until they had told each other, “I’ll see you in the morning.” Some people meditate. Many folks couldn’t feel right about a week that does not include going to church.

For several decades our family had just one ritual. On Saturday nights we gathered to enjoy the Prairie Home Companion broadcast. We were heartbroken when Garrison quit—was it two times or three?—and thrilled when he came back. I used to walk dogs with a woman who was close to Garrison. She assured me that he needed to do the show as badly as I needed to hear it.

In 2000 I acquired a puppy, an exceptionally affectionate English setter. Katie and I both needed exercise, so we adopted the daily ritual of hiking the off-leash dog park that lies between Minnehaha Falls and Fort Snelling. We had many friends there, human and canine. Our route took about an hour to walk. I used my time in the park to reflect on my life. I couldn’t afford a therapist with an office and a couch, so I relied on the park walks to help me sort out my past and make plans for the future. Katie and I walked that park virtually every day of her life for eleven years.

Like many fans of Trail Baboon, listening to The Morning Show was once an essential ritual for me. I remember thinking I couldn’t bear starting the day without the help of Dale and Tom. Even so, I always knew that someday the show—wonderful as it was—would come to an end. Shows do not live forever, although The Simpsons carries on as ever. The LGMS remains one ritual I’ve never been able to replace.

What role does ritual have in your life?

31 thoughts on “Rituals”

  1. My morning ritual currently consists of “waking up the house” – turning up the heat, booting up the computer, opening shades – and then getting on with the day. I would like to do a meditation, and find a poem or short piece to say to myself as a start. So far I’ve found a John O’Donahue poem from the book Anam Cara, but it isn’t quite right. I’ll post it later, but I’m open to suggestions.

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    1. What does your morning ritual mean to you, BiR? Is it important to do the same things each morning? Would you feel uneasy about skipping some of the ritual?

      For a poem, you might look at the work of Mary Oliver. She just died, as you probably know. I think her work would be highly appealing to you.

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      1. You know, you’re right, Steve – some of her poems bring me to tears… will explore that.

        I just want something different for my first early morning thoughts than: “OK what am I responsible for today.” Starting with some kind of gratitude seems like a good idea. And it doesn’t have to be set in stone, because I don’t want this to be another guilt-creating thing… Now that I’m thinking more about it, on mornings when I don’t have time for much I could just say Thank You.

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  2. On the days he is home, Husband gets up, starts coffee, turns up the thermostat, I get up, praise the coffee, put drops in youngest cat’s ear (she has a chronically inflamed polyp on her ear drum), read through the two devotions I follow, get ready for the day, and go to work or church, depending on the day

    For some reason, an assessment of the coffee is important.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Rise and Shine Baboons,

    Wow, I can really relate to Steve’s comments about the LGMS and that ritual. What pain it caused to let go of that. The Trail and blogging did ease some of that. And Renee’s assessment of the coffee also resonates with me.

    My Morning Routine starts the evening before when I set up my coffee maker, setting the timer and adding water and coffee, so that at 6:30am then next morning there is the smell of coffee that awakens me. The other morning ritual that actually is meaningless, but still starts my day, is Making the Bed. I rarely miss doing this unless someone in the house is sick and using the bed. It signals to me that my day will move forward. I have a little ritual here in AZ that I enjoy. I open the blinds, sit on the couch, then watch the sunrise over the Superstition Mountains. Each morning it leaves me in awe—so lovely.

    There are multiple little rituals in every part of my life that help me transition from one thing to another—home to work, work to home, and on and on.

    I wish MPR had some rituals about easing programming in and out. They did a terrible job with the LGMS that alienated listeners. I have never again given them a penny. They tend to throw the baby out with the bath water; this is senseless when an organization is listener supported and kind of reminds me of #45 and his tactics. MPR did it again with Keillor. As much as I disliked some of his behavior and his obsessions with women’s appearance, his 5 minute show featuring poetry was wonderful and did not put him in the position of displaying such behaviors. I really miss that ritual of listening to his poem of the day. MPR could have easily kept that small thing, but they alienated me yet again because their management does not seem to know how to manage programming transitions. It makes me so mad.

    So. There.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I vigorously agree with you, Jacque. I was once passionate about my support for MPR, but, wow, they lost me. They’ve come close to making me wish harm to them.

      I wonder about how making the bed affects your day. The fact you could just as easily skip it seems important to me. If you get up and introduce a little order where you could get by without doing that, you have defined yourself as a person who doesn’t cut corners. I think getting up and meditating or going jogging can work like that. If you adopt those rituals, you are defining yourself as a person who cares.

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    2. I agree with making the bed. I just like having that little bit of life organized.
      It’s like hauling out garbage and cleaning the shop on Fridays. So it’s clean when we come in on Monday.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I’ve been thinking about ritual (obviously, for I wrote about it). Two things occur to me that help explain why so many of us feel a need for it. First, ritual gives our lives some predictability and stability. We don’t need to make choices when we do something ritually, so each time we repeat a ritual we create a moment when we can relax and give up making decisions. This is automatic . . . which can be good! Second, ritualized activities don’t require us to think much, which frees the brain to tend to things that need tending. If you run in the morning, you can use that time to think about where your life is going. Of course, my dog walks did that.

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    1. Is it just me, or do you folks seriously think of these activities as rituals? I don’t. Perhaps I’m quibbling about semantics, but I’m wondering how you differentiate between habit, routine, and ritual? I think of ritual as something that you are mindful of doing in a certain sequence and to which you attribute a certain significance or meaning (and which, I might add) often makes me feel silly.

      I have never considered making the bed, brushing my teeth, walking the dog, or meditating rituals. Thoughts?

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      1. Good point. The definition of ritual has to do with “established” procedures for a rite.
        And I’d venture Steve’s walks with his dogs were certain a rite in their own way.
        And maybe my chores in the morning are not, but standing outside at night would be.

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      2. For me the difference is in the mind of the person doing the activity. If you see walking the dog as just a way of getting exercise, that’s what it is. If it an essential part of your morning that makes you feel better and allows you to deal with difficult issues, it is probably a ritual. Maybe these things exist on a scale. Some activities are just habits; some, if we think of them in certain ways, become rituals.

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  5. This is a great story Steve. Rituals are important.
    I don’t have time in the mornings to watch sunrises; I may notice them as we all deal with other things, but I don’t just ‘watch’. Perhaps the opposite equivalent (I just invented that phrase! 🙂 ) is going outside every night before bed and standing for a few minutes. Maybe the moon is out, maybe it’s cloudy, but to be out there for a few minutes and appreciate the quiet and the dark is important to me.
    Even last night with the snow, I stood in the garage door and appreciated it. And this week if it’s as cold as they’re saying I’ll still stand there, just maybe not so long.

    My mornings start with letting the dogs out, then opening the garage for the other dogs, then opening the chicken coop and making sure they have water and food.
    I think it’s important we take care of the animals before we take care of ourselves.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That’s a lovely comment: “it’s important we take care of the animals before we take care of ourselves.” It fits with something I’ve noticed about many rituals. They end up defining us. In this case, taking care of animals reinforces the notion you are not lazy or selfish. You accept a responsibility to the critters in your care. That’s a ritual that seems appealingly modest and responsible.

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    2. I was just out looking for eggs again (before they freeze) and thought you all would appreciate this story.
      On Saturday I got 17 yearling chickens from a friend. We put them in the pen and I’ll keep them confined for a few days before letting them run free.
      But that first night; the new ones had all found a perch and were settling in for the night and then all the old chickens came to settle in and there were all the news ones in their way. And it was pretty evident the old hens were going ‘Uh, who are you and you’re in my spot’.
      It took a while for everyone to find a place.

      There isn’t usually much fighting. Except for the rooster; he has to get right in there and show them how cocksure he is.

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      1. Like going to a “strange” church, by that I mean one you don’t normally frequent, and take a seat in a pew only to be given dirty looks if you have inadvertently usurped someone else’s seat.

        Liked by 4 people

  6. My rituals mainly revolve around getting up and ready for work 5+ days a week. I get up, put on my new purple plushy slippers, go to the bathroom, do my face cleansing/moisturizing ritual, deodorant and brush hair. Then I get dressed, put on some nice matching jewelry and go downstairs. Either make and eat breakfast, or pack my breakfast and lunch to bring to work. Then I go back upstairs to apply make-up and style hair a bit if there’s time. I do not rush, I might read a bit if I’m eating breakfast at home.

    No making the bed, as Jim starts work later and sleeps. I catch the bus for work and settle in for an hour bus ride napping and listening to music, a meditation or an informational podcast.

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  7. I call some of these things routines, not rituals, but same difference, I guess. I tend to do certain things in a certain order and a certain way. Like I always put my house key in my right front pants pocket. When I come home, my sunglasses and other outdoor things go in my locker by the back door. Stuff like this eliminates the “where is it?” panic.

    Now that I do hardly anything, some of these routines are pretty much shot. On the few days I leave the house, I regularly forget to bring my house key with me or to put on my sunglasses. I do, however, always take my shower before breakfast. And I take my morning pills before the shower. So there’s a routine.

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    1. PJ’s question is a good one. You say these are just routines, not rituals. And if they are just habits that help you start the day, they wouldn’t be what I call rituals. It is a ritual if it contributes to your sense of well being. It is ritual if it makes you feel connected to life forces, even just a little.

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  8. In June of 1960 my family left the only town we’d really known and moved to the Twin Cities. Dad and I went first so we could line up a place to live and organize his new stuffed toy factory. For two months we rented a room in a home parked right near the shore of Lake Minnetonka,.east of Wayzata.

    That summer someone asked my dad how we liked living in Minnesota. Dad said, “Oh, it’s great! We have this little ritual. Each morning we wake up, wade into the lake with soap and a wash cloth to clean up before we start the work day.”

    Teenage boys are often hypercritical of their parents. I about gagged when I heard about our “ritual.” But I didn’t say anything. We did get up to bathe in the lake like that . . . exactly one time. At 6 AM in June, Lake Minnetonka is pretty chilly!

    I’ve often remembered Dad’s claim. He was a romantic sort of guy, someone who preferred a good story to boring truth. Everyone knew he exaggerated, and nobody called him out when he embroidered. It was important to him to believe that we had a bathing ritual. I never saw a reason to challenge him on that.

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  9. Based on the way people are discussing rituals versus traditions versus routines, I’m going to say I don’t really have any rituals. I have routines and I have traditions but I don’t really have anything that I do on such a regular basis and then I have such a feeling about that I would be discombobulated if I didn’t get to that ritual.

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  10. That being said, I have something that comes close. Jacque, you mentioned missing Garrison Keillor’s poetry. He’s’s actually back online now with the Writer’s Almanac. If you go to Garrison Keillor. Com, you will find it there. I do listen to this Monday through Friday when I am at work although I don’t listen on the weekends. Yet. But I do find his voice very soothing and he uses the same piano music at the beginning in the end that he did when Writer’s Almanac was on MPR. This may be close to a ritual. This morning I had gotten carried away with my emails at work and I was getting a little frustrated and out of sorts with things and decided that it would be calming to listen to The Writer’s Almanac. And it was. So maybe I do have one ritual.

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  11. Years ago Robert fulghum was a favorite and when he was I believe done with his sermonette style of writing he tried 200 pages on a topic. He did a research and wrote a book on and called rituals. It was interesting. The threads of what we do and inherit and pass on and have as vital parts of out lives.
    Mine have pivoted over the years. French roast coffee have way to black tea when I began homeopathic medicine as my practice for me and my children. I was a hard core coffee drinker, 4 5 pots a day. All day and all night. Started smoking when I was in 7th grade by age 20 I was 3 packs of marlboros a day. Quit 13 years ago when my daughter said she wanted to be just like me. I am very orally fixated. Today I have tea and water with me at all times.
    I discussed with my then shrink the concept of rituals and she pointed out my morning bath.
    I told a friend once that I woke up. Turned on the coffee pot, let the dogs out, grabbed henpaper. Ran the tub, got my paper turned on tv and radio and soaked in the tub with my pot of coffee, pack of cigarettes newspaper and radio/tv for my intro to the day every day for about an hour. By the time I joined the world a pot of coffee , 5 or 6 cigarettes, the newspaper and my touch with the news of henday and some tunes were ready to send me forth, an English muffin (split with a fork never a knife) with peanut butter and I was ready to go light the world in fire.
    I continued the bath after marriage and found that when smoking in the house became taboo my bath time shortened for a while. Time for a pivot. Children meant a morning bath with my son then son and daughter and that was where we met officer rafferty with bathtub dancing as the morning show topic.
    My shrink pointed out that the ritual of the bath as a therapy both morning and night was a ritual and was passed on to all my children.
    I think of ritual as the way we do things we can do no other way. How you deal with death, how family plays a role in your life, what is a must do process or else the world is messed up.
    In my oral accommodation today I have taken to chewing my nails to the nubs. Drinking liquid all day long of one sort of another, I love,music and podcasts but find I need to keep my brain on task and podcasts take me away so I rely on pandora to weave my way through moods. I can not bring myself to delete Christmas music from my shuffle list and little,drummer boy and baby it’s cold outside pop up and make me smile all year long, pa rup a pum pum.

    My favorite ritual is chatting, every where and always except when it is obviously wrong, there are times and sometimes I don’t recognize them when I should but most often I am just a happy wanderer who asks and shares whatever is on tap for the moment.

    Ritual , habit, routine, similar but well defined. My dogs know whose routine they are going to be following by the pecking order of the walk team…. routine
    Habit, my damn nails took cigarettes. Place and as unhappy I am with it it is a much less evil weaknedd for me to pardon myself for,
    Ritual…my brain coming to the day with a list to get to my me time.feed the dogs cats and fish, start the tea grab the paper, decide if I am showering or heading to the club for a steamer and whirlpool with or without a workout. Email business then social get my to do list in order and my wish/thank you list for the day in line and off til bed the a review and a thank you recap and list for evening dream solving.
    I close my eyes and wake with a fresh heart ready for the new day. Again

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  12. Meant to comment (after Ben’s comment above) that here’s another one for the glossary: “Perhaps the opposite equivalent (I just invented that phrase! ) is going outside every night before bed and standing for a few minutes.” I also think that is a really cool ritual, but I’ll wait till it’s warmer…

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