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  • Writer's pictureDavid Carlson

243: Nov 14th, 2020: Ritual begins at a kitchen table and in our imaginations.

(El Paso Volunteers at Table)

Day 243: Saturday November 14th:

Ritual begins at a kitchen table and in our imaginations

Last night Dan Lambert had had enough of computers and staring into electronic screens which he called “the bane of our existence.” His solution was to take time out and work in the yard. It gave Dan space to think and work on something of the earth – something completely different. It was a fulfilling ritual.

“This is what rituals are for. We create spiritual ceremonies as human beings in order to create a safe resting place for our feelings of joy or trauma or disgust. Rituals encapsulate the feelings so we don't have to haul those feelings around with us forever, weighing us down.”

For me, the early rituals of my life centered on serving Mass and the kitchen table. Every meal was for 12 – a dozen Carlsons gathered together at the most important hours of the day. My father would arrive home at 6:15 and we’d all tumble into our assigned seats, say grace and mother would announce “Dinner is served.” We’d eat and then the stories would begin. Each of us was expected to recount something of our day and then, and only then, could we be excused. Meals were rituals.

But at this time when so many of us are alone or in pairs how do we celebrate and create rituals that are meaningful for each of us? We are isolated but we can use this isolation to create rituals as we go. And, based on the resurgence of Covid-19 we may need to create and retire rituals in the next few months. So let’s get creative… and find the joy.

A small litany of satisfying rituals among us:

- Peter has found a way of looking at the world through baking bread. Maybe he’ll move onto muffins or cakes and cookies. Pies for Thanksgiving?

- Sandy walks with a friend each morning and maybe she’ll have her own small congregation when she meets up with old friends who have also moved to Lincoln.

- Victoria reads deeply and meets at noon with Pat for noon prayer.

- Linda who spent so much time on the election, plans daily physical activity with more gardening, and road trips with husband Paul and dog Luna.

- Now that Denise and her husband have finished work rebuilding their home she’s planning to get involved. Third Wednesday meals at Sam Jones is a great start.

- Patti celebrates by giving food away 2 or 3 times a week. This is life giving for her and the people she helps. This is communion.

- Virginia is using her gifts in her assisted living home which she calls “God’s little finishing school” to offer compassion and hugs (where appropriate and safe) to her mates. She has become the de facto chaplain of the place and has officiated at two funerals.

- Hermine accompanies a 91 year old friend on walks and personal forays into nature (masked of course).

- Beth loves teaching and is working with 2 young boys on Tuesday and Wednesday.

- Nancy and Bob celebrated their 51st anniversary by trekking off to Tahoe. Travel is one of the best rituals around.

- Sister Fran (Paquita) takes her sister, Sister June out for a drive each week. This is a ritual lifeline.

But what are we going to do about Thanksgiving?

Thanksgiving is our national ritual – cruelly and abruptly upended by the virus.

But still Enid, Victoria and the vast majority of us are figuring out ways to make this celebration a reality – either in tiny groups or on ZOOM. It's about the table and the thankfulness we offer before each meal. Which reminds me of this reading

The world begins at a kitchen table. No matter what, we must eat to live.

The gifts of earth are brought and prepared, set on the table.

So it has been since creation, and it will go on.

We chase chickens or dogs away from it. Babies teethe at the corners.

They scrape their knees under it.

It is here that children are given instructions on what it means to be human.

We make men at it, we make women.

At this table we gossip, recall enemies and the ghosts of lovers.

Our dreams drink coffee with us as they put their arms around our children.

They laugh with us at our poor falling-down selves and as we put ourselves back together

once again at the table.

This table has been a house in the rain, an umbrella in the sun.

Wars have begun and ended at this table. It is a place to hide in the shadow of terror.

A place to celebrate the terrible victory.

We have given birth on this table, and have prepared our parents for burial here.

At this table we sing with joy, with sorrow. We pray of suffering and remorse.

We give thanks.

Perhaps the world will end at the kitchen table, while we are laughing and crying,

eating of the last sweet bite.



In that first hardly noticed moment in which you wake,

coming back to this life from the other

more secret, moveable and frighteningly honest world

where everything began,

there is a small opening into the new day

which closes the moment you begin your plans.

What you can plan is too small for you to live.

What you can live wholeheartedly will make plans enough

for the vitality hidden in your sleep.

To be human is to become visible

while carrying what is hidden as a gift to others.

To remember the other world in this world

is to live in your true inheritance.

You are not a troubled guest on this earth,

you are not an accident amidst other accidents

you were invited from another and greater night

than the one from which you have just emerged.

Now, looking through the slanting light of the morning window

toward the mountain presence of everything that can be

what urgency calls you to your one love?

What shape waits in the seed of you

to grow and spread its branches

against a future sky?

- David Whyte


Miserere mei, Deus - Allegri – Tenebrae

Clannad - I WIll Find You (Theme from The Last Of The Mohicans)

German Orthodox Chant

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