February 07, 2008

Ritual

I like to go back to the same places again and again, doing the same things over and over, until my feelings are embedded in the landscape. The spectacular clear water of Pretty Colour Lake, for instance, holds many of my brooding thoughts, my sad moments, my dreams and crazy ideas. Hundreds of times over the last 46 years, I've walked the trails by myself, deep in my own thoughts, or circled the lake with a friend or family member important to me. Some of my earliest childhood memories are of the traditional fall leaf-gathering picnic with my family and Picnic Family at Pretty Colour Lake, and those memories hug me when I walk by myself.

I have a group of friends — the ones I call the Wild Women — who are equally fond of rituals. We sometimes gather for a full moon ceremony. We've celebrated marriages and divorces as well as births; we've many times burned tobacco ties in the ritual of release. We go off to the mountains together the same weekend every year, to a place where we have a chance to walk a labyrinth, which is a walking meditation. I have other friends I go to a monastery with, and they too share my respect for tradition. Twice each year, we go to the same monastery, that cluster of buildings high in the hills, bringing with us the same food, the same books, the same faults and issues and struggles. And I love the rituals of the monastery, the group of monks gathering for prayer seven times each day, every day, all year long. I love the incense, the chanting, the psalms.

I have celebrated both winter and summer solstices with PlantsWoman, who always has a bonfire for a solstice, and whose rituals include storytelling. My extended family has so damned many traditions that holiday gatherings are days long, filled with rituals that extend from musical performances to fishing for popcorn balls behind my parents' couch. And in my home, we've created our own rituals, like the candle ceremony for birthdays, a ritual in which we gather in a dark room with candles and each say something nice about the person who is having the birthday. Some of my rituals are borrowed from the native people in this area, some come from my own upbringing as a Catholic, a religious tradition that is steeped in ritual, and most involve some kind of natural element, especially fire. I do so love to burn things.

In a book I read recently, Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert, I came across a wonderful description of what a ritual can do.

"We do spiritual ceremonies as human beings in order to create a safe resting place for our most complicated feelings of joy or trauma, so that we don't have to haul those feelings around with us forever, weighing us down. We all need such places of ritual safekeeping. And I do believe that if your culture or tradition doesn't have the specific ritual you're craving, then you are absolutely permitted to make up a ceremony of your own devising, fixing your broken-down emotional system with all the do-it-yourself resourcefulness of a generous plumber/poet. If you bring the right earnestness to your homemade ceremony, God will provide the grace."

Exactly.

13 comments:

anonymous blog reader said...

so thankful for the grace

kathy a. said...

i like that you have rituals, and that you have developed so many with friends and family.

Sarah Sometimes said...

I've heard a lot of good things about that book.

OUT OF AFRICA said...

I absolutely loved that book..it has changed my life already..

Busymomma66 said...

I loved that book. I passed it on, but I think I need to borrow it back to read again.

I love all your traditions, they always seem peaceful, zen, fun and always full of great thought.

Silver Creek Mom said...

Sounds like a book to add to my "to read" list.

Hugs

hele said...

"my feelings are embedded in the landscape"

I love this line.

net said...

I just finished the book and I can honestly say it really made an impact on my life. Ranks right up there with Sue Monk Kidd and Anne Lamott!

Love your blog!

From one Snow Belt Resident and Belly Dancer to another!

Scrivener said...

So you're saying growing a divorce beard is a good thing?

Colleen said...

You just convinced me why I finally need to read that book. I was raised catholic and haven't been to church in years due to a conflict in beliefs, but I've missed it so much.... Maybe this book will help inspire me.

Sue said...

Loved that book. She's right on about rituals.

julieunplugged said...

I have wondered if you've read that book. I really enjoyed it and loved her idea of cherry-picking religion. Good quote. I get to see Gilbert with Anne Lamott at the end of March in L.A.

Back to you: rituals. You are especially good at these! I've not been as good. Moving a lot impacts that sense of place. But I'm rebuilding from stone upon stone.

niobe said...

It's fascinating to read this post and the comments. Because rituals and ceremonies have always made me extremely tense, worrying that I won't be able to fit my feelings and actions into the structure of the ceremony.