“Rituals are the formulas by which harmony is restored.” Terry Tempest Williams
Last night I carved pumpkins with my 3 youngest kids. It was excruciating. Hands-down the worst creative experience of my life. It was so, so messy and slimy
and I spent a ton of time moving from kid to kid to trouble-shoot those gross strings and to add my more significant muscle and dexterity with a metal spoon. I scraped and scraped and scraped then sawed with those baby-sized, orange handled saws for what felt like 100 million years.
My kids worked so hard. Serious faces concentrated on stenciled or hand drawn designs, making sure their pumpkin lived up to their expectations of a semi-magical transformation. It was kind of intense, and fairly awful, but also pretty dang great.
The kids thought the whole process was exactly what they wanted it to be. Even when we cut open one of the pumpkins to find brown goo coating the inside, my kids weren’t daunted by any of the steps. For some reason we had a package of doctor-style latex gloves in one of the kitchen junk drawers. The gloves were quite a few sizes too big but the kids slipped them on an operated on those orange orbs like pros. When I lit the tea lights at the end of the second hour and we turned off all the lights, the kids roared with giddy delight at how spooky and amazing their creations were. They danced a spooky dance, they called Dad from our bedroom to partake in their celebration. They woke this morning, checked on their babies and started counting down the minutes until the sun sets and they can light the candles once again.
My parents didn’t celebrate Halloween when I was growing up. I didn’t trick-or-treat or carve pumpkins. We belonged to a fairly conservative Christian denomination and my parents were even anti-Harvest Party in their rejection of Halloween. Really, and I think they would agree now, I think they just were cheap and lazy. They didn’t REALLY believe it was the Devil’s Day or too “of the world”—they just didn’t want to pony up for costumes or candy or trick-or-treating. It is a fairly common affliction of their generation, I think (not to be too anti-Boomer, but for realz).
I want my kids to have traditions they remember with affection, like carving pumpkins in October. We have a few silly family traditions like “Birthday Cereal”, and frikadellers on Christmas, and racing down the rows of our vineyard every Labor Day. Those traditions help keep us connected even as we grow as individuals and our paths start to move away from each other. They need those regular expressions of commonality. Additionally, I want them to know the joy of a ritual.
Ritual is a spooky-sounding word (PERFECT for this time of year) but really, rituals merely are those predictable, intentional series of acts that are life-affirming and that allow us to be our authentic selves in any situation. Mini-routines/rituals have been life giving for me, whether they are daily or seasonal. There is an unexpected fusion of connection and freedom in creating a ritual. I create movements that honor my authentic self, manage boring self-care, and connect me to the people and things in my world that need tending; and in doing so I create freedom for myself to do MORE of what I need.
My favorite rituals involve my Cozy Corner. That name sounds lame now that I’ve typed it out, but I’m going with it anyway. I love, love, love my little corner in my house. With 6 kids and 2 adults in our house-of-perpetual-projects
space is a prized possession. I honestly do not have any space in this house that is exclusively mine. Every bit is “shared” (I say it in air quotes because while I’m supposed to have rights to space, any space I claim gets encroached on by my husband or children). I try with all my might to keep my Cozy Corner to myself. I set up my favorite chair (that my teenaged daughter tried to claim for her room because her cat loves the chair) in my favorite corner (windows on each side of me), and made it comfy—throw pillows, a blanket, a basked for my books, a little side table for my coffee, plants all around me.
Turns out that this is everyone’s favorite spot to sit, but let it be known that it technically is MINE!!!! My Cozy Corner is where I write for 20 minutes each morning—nothing earth shattering, just personal writing that isn’t journaling. It get’s my mind rolling and provides some structure when I could regress into laziness (aka falling back asleep in my comfy, cozy bed). If my kids aren’t awake yet after I drop off my almost-licensed driver at his early morning bus stop, I grab a book and settle in. I have a few books that I’m reading but the usually fall into the categories of a devotional, an inspirational, and a writing book.
From my Cozy Corner I have a perfect view of autumnal leaves. I watch their progression knowing that soon the trees will be bare, and I will be watching snow fall.
Also, from my corner I watch my chickens free range around the house. They are housed in the barn several hundred yards from my corner, but they circle the house every morning, their own kind of ritual. My Cuckoo Maran is very vocal and makes eye contact with me thru the window nearly every morning.
My Cozy Corner is big enough to host a snuggle with a kiddo. My youngest daughter, ginger-haired and freckle-faced, is a new reader and has a stack of fun books she likes to read to me. This surprised me a bit because she never liked when I would read to her before this. But, her leading is fitting because one of her first full spoken phrases was, “I do it myself!”
She sounds out words in the cutest way with her light orange brows in a serious tilt and she turns her baby-toothed smile towards me whenever I gasp over a difficult word read correctly. It is Heaven, I swear it.
My Cozy Corner is kind of the heart of the household because it is where my centering rituals take place. It is where each kid knows they can go to create their own comfort or receive my comfort. They find their harmony in a place where they see me find my harmony. I hope this provides them a lifetime of knowing they have the means of returning to harmony.
Rituals are great. I feel the wobble in my rhythm when I miss one. They aren’t magic. They aren’t spooky. They are simple and sweet and create a safe center for those in our world.
What rituals do you have in your life? Do you need help figuring out how to create a ritual? Do you think they are lame? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Let’s share on IG and hashtag it #ritualsweetandsimple Look for posts from me the next 2 weeks that share thoughts and pictures from my Cozy Corner and other little rituals in my life.