A Weird, Early Ritual

A weird ritual starts my day.

A few minutes after 5am I pour a cup of coffee and say a prayer of thanks for one more day. Coffee mug in hand, I head out the side door of our garage. I walk a short distance around the side of the house and into the driveway. This is the end of the preliminary part of the ritual.

In the dark, I stoop down at the edge of the driveway, like a catcher in baseball. Carefully, I place my coffee mug on the thick grass next to the driveway. Seconds pass. Next, I move the mug to the concrete. Again, seconds pass.

After that, I stand up, coffee mug in hand, and step a few feet across the driveway. The new daily copy of the Wall Street Journal is laying there in a blue plastic bag. I pick it up. Seconds pass. Holding the newspaper, I look up. Again, seconds pass. Skyward and still in the dark, I’ll see stars, clouds, rain, snow, whatever is up there.

Back along the sidewalk, back into the garage through the side door, back to the kitchen.

Ritual over. Back inside by 5:15am. One of my best quarter-hours of the day.

Leaving aside your understandable conclusion about my weirdness, here’s what I just did.

The grass is the earth, made not by me and not by any of us ever. It’s always there, long before me and ever after me, so far as I’ll know. The concrete is different; someone dug it out, mixed it, poured it, ensured it was protected long enough to set and dry until the day it cracks or is ripped apart and hauled away. Man-made, as they used to say. 

One permanent, one impermanent.

The newspaper is filled with stuff of the moment and, increasingly, the sub-moment. It is readable, knowable up to a point. Some of the items are important but most are not or—more difficult yet—shown to be less and less important as hours and days slide by. The newspaper has other uses, as you know, like starting a campfire, lining the birdcage, stuffing a gift box.

And then there is the sky. I know only a shred, or a shred of a shred, a tip of a particle. It’s the opposite of the newspaper. Where the sky is empty, the newspaper is filled. Where the sky is peaceful, the newspaper is frantic. I can put the newspaper to other uses but the sky? Not so much. Yet, really, none of that is true. The sky has countless elements and objects, a window open onto creation, decay, destruction, and rejuvenation. The sky is packed and raucous on a scale without measure. And I look to the sky to dream, to contemplate, to wonder, to talk with Spirit and spirits, to know smallness rather than busyness. 

One impermanent, one permanent.

I think I’ve mentioned this before—an astute historian once wrote that the Puritans had a knack of finding large meaning in small things. Put that way, I guess I’m a Puritan at heart.

Grass and Driveway, Newspaper and Sky.

A right frame of mind.

I think it’s a good way to start the day. Weird but good.

Do you have a ritual?

Maybe I ought to write a short book about some of the rituals of people you’d recognize from history. Hmmmm. Not sure.

Thanks for reading. All the best, Dan