A ritual is “a sequence of activities involving gestures, words, and objects, performed in a sequestered place, and performed according to set sequence.” I just returned from one.
This was my 27th summer of heading south to the Outer Banks with 7 other families for a week. When you throw in the kids……..it becomes quite a gang.
Mind you, we stay in four separate houses, but the ritual includes us all. And we each have a role.
The trip always begins by meeting the family with whom we share our house at a fruit stand four hours into the drive, where at 10:30 in the morning we celebrate by cracking open a beer out of the back of the cars in the parking lot. We only see each other once or twice a year but the bond grows stronger with age.
We all know what to do. There is no need for words. Men get the keys, while the women lotion the boys. Men claim space on the beach early each day, setting out several umbrellas and chairs spread wide enough to accommodate all 35 of us, while the women do the lunches. Boys, now all young men, do the heavy lifting – meaning they carry all of the beer to the beach. And no one wants to miss the infamous dance party, where a partner is definitely not required.
Beach bocce, which is not allowed to be played without beer in hand, reading, swimming, napping, fishing, catching each other up on our year and a great deal of laughing fill each day. As the sun begins to set lower in the sky, beach chairs evolve into a large circle formation, the music is turned on and we pass around whatever snacks remain from the day. We all know what to do.
When this began, most of these kids were merely a thought. My boys have now spent a week with this group every year of their lives, not seeing them again until the following July. But when we all crest the dune and see the group, it is as if not a moment has passed. And this year, two of the “kids” were there with their new 3 week old baby. She joined right in. The ritual goes on.
I gravitate toward ritual. My everyday life contains many……early morning run, followed by a walk through the garden and meditation. Each night without fail I perform a self Reiki treatment as I drift off to sleep. Friday evenings for 7 years now have included yoga, dinner, dance and bath….always in that order. This very writing has become its own ritual.
Some would say life filled with ritual is too rigid or boring. I find it provides the container in which I can just be. Knowing what to do, without the need for words. Letting life fill its form while also providing for the form of the rituals to shape shift as needed.
As the beach day would wind down, my friend Donna and I would always head back to shower and get dinner started while the guys cleared the beach. But a few years ago we added a new improved step to the sequence. We now slip away and head back to the hot tub. Upper deck under the sky, music playing and the switch is made to “real beer” as we call it (you may have noticed that beer, not wine, is one of the sacred objects). Two nights we could still be found there at 8:30 pm. Somehow dinner still made it to the table.
Each year we all hug each other hello and then goodbye, knowing that in what will seem like a blink of an eye, we will once again be cresting that dune. Not missing a beat. And we all agree – young and old - that this ritual is sacred and we are blessed to be held in its grace.
Om to that,