For the past several years I have eaten oatmeal for breakfast, six days of the week. I suppose it’s a ritual: I eat the oatmeal at about the same time each day; I prepare it the same way; it comforts me.
At my age (62), a risk comes with admitting to an oatmeal regiment. I could be accused of stodginess: one of those “old guys” who gives up wearing belts in favor of suspenders, filling his wallet with store coupons.
I’ll take that risk. I am a firm believer in Rites of Passage (sans suspenders and coupons) and the maintenance of productive disciplines.
I first learned the beauty and benefits of ritual and discipline through my upbringing in the pre-Vatican II Catholic Church. (I will not go into my pseudo-agnostic hiatus, but I will say that I have returned to reciting daily the Apostle’s Creed).
I spent my early adult life as a professional musician: a tubaist. It takes a good deal of mental and physical discipline to maintain a professional level of musicianship. The ritual of regular daily practice is an absolute necessity.
My music career was cut short by something called “dystonia,” a cruel condition that strikes right where it hurts: the musician’s physical means of making music (with brass and wind players, it hits the embouchure).
For the past 23 years my creative ritual has been writing. I write first thing in the morning, six days a week (before oatmeal). My wife, Jo-Anne (a poet and scholar), maintains a similar writing ritual.
Listening to music is a ritual. Lately we have been listening to the music of Morten Lauridsen. O Magnum Mysterium is our favorite.
The other day I found a dead sparrow on our patio. Jo-Anne cried. We both thought about Matthew 10:29: “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground without your Father’s will.”
I buried the sparrow under a tree. I marked its grave with a stone painted with a cross. It was a necessary ritual.
Timothy Reilly was a professional tuba player in both the United States and Europe (in the latter, he was a member of the orchestra of the Teatro Regio in Turin, Italy). He is currently a substitute elementary teacher, living in Southern California with his wife, Jo-Anne Cappeluti, a published poet and scholar, who also teaches university English courses. His short stories have been published in The Seattle Review, Flash Fiction Magazine (UK), Blue Lake Review, Slow Trains Literary Journal, Amarillo Bay, Foliate Oak Literary Review, Passenger, and several other print and online journals.