Finding the Art in Everything

22 November, 2007

Holiday Ritual

I noticed yesterday how much I delight in rituals. I spent the day noticing how ritualistic my travelling is. I have a night-before routine, a morning routine, an airport routine, an on-the-plane routine, an arrival routine... and the whole thing in reverse on the way home. It is like a holiday: you enjoy the occasion because you get to do the same things you don't do any other time. Roast turkey and cranberries are not everyday foods; is isn't normal to hang colorful plastic things with hooks on trees; and, unless you work at Disney, you don't get fireworks on a daily basis. The ritual means I delight not only in the destination, but in getting there.

  • The night before I always stay up too late packing, and I try to make Beth help me pack. I used to bribe her with the promise of presents, now I have to bribe her with beer AND preemptive presents.

  • The morning I leave, I vow to rise early to finish the cleaning of my apt I whined about the day before but never did. Then, I oversleep because I was up too late packing and leave a messy apt anyway.

  • I always buy magazines (a budgetary luxury) at airports "for the plane." I buy things I love but don't usually indulge, like The Economist, The New Yorker, and InStyle. (I have a deep fondness for "thinky" periodicals. Even InStyle counts because they have a brainy and artistic word use.)It is during these purchases that my horrible resentment for NOT having a good national paper really burns.

  • On the plane, part of my ritual is guessing who in the gate area will be my seat partner. (only once in my life has it ever been the handsome, single, leather-jacket wearing, scruffy stranger...usually it is an enormous, unfriendly man, a surly teenager, or a chatty old woman who can't identify I intend to read my luxurious magazines) Thist time, I randomly flew next to one of my favorite students from my former school. We had a fantastic 2-hour, life-defining conversation.

  • The arrival ritual includes a dash to the bathroom to cosmetically recover from the just-been-mauled-by-recirculated-air-for-hours effect. KCI (Kansas city) wrecks this part by having the retrieving party wait practically in the gate area. Only when it had been wrecked did I notice this was an important part of my ritual.
I am here now, after a long drive, in Sioux Falls, and we have done some of the Sioux-Falls ritual--like driving aimlessly around the city to see how it has changed. But with this, I got to think about what separates ritual from routine. I think routine is simply repetitious actions, but ritual involves repetition based on enjoyment or meaning. We drive around Sioux Falls because we love the city. I buy the magazines because I love them. I guess about gate-dwellers because I can't help myself. I delight in ritual because I love that I get to repeat doing what I love to do. So often, what I really love only happens once.

What I don't have is an un-packing ritual. I hate it so much, I don't even have a routine. I prefer to keep things in bags for months to putting them away. If only I could find a way to ritualize the triumph of a clean bedroom floor...

1 comment:

Hal and Anna said...

I have the same aversion to unpacking...much to Hal's dismay.
Sometimes I try to trick myself by just putting ALL the clothes, clean or not, in the luandry basket. It usually doesn't work because there are the random items that don't get washed, like belts and shoes that I avoid putting away for the next week...which means the suitcase sits on the floor and I stub my toe daily until Hal bugs me about it, or just dumps the stuff on my side of the bed, making it unavoidable. If you discover a good routine, let me know....