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Filtering by Tag: ritual

Writing and Seeing | 7.1 Poet Elizabeth Harlan-Ferlo

Trevor Sutton

wrist 7.1 Poet Elizabeth Harlan-Ferlo writes about a broken wrist and the ritual of seeing.

A few weeks ago, I broke my right wrist, the one I use to write. It’s currently immobilized—under the skin, with metal plate and screws, and over the skin, with a cast of purple fiberglass.  This has disturbed my regular rituals and rhythms of writing.

After more than twelve years of writing poetry regularly, I have developed more than a few. Some have to do with time of day, and others with how I set up my laptop or tracking system.  But the most important practice of what makes the poetry happen is opening the poetic eye. Not unlike Emerson’s transparent eyeball, it creates a kind of mystical awareness of the world.  But in true twenty-first century form, my poetic ‘eyeball’ doesn’t always let the self drop away.  It is a net in which ideas can be caught and held up to the light.  My juxtapositions are often between the sacred and the profane—a news report, a piece of art, commercial detritus, a personal experience--in the same field of vision as a religious idea or image.

The profane is everywhere, but connecting the sacred takes practice. Sometimes the sight of an unfamiliar object, or a snatch of conversation, reminds me of a particular theological idea, frequently one that I have sought to explain to students in my Hinduism or Judaism classes. A hesitant churchgoer, (I practice a kind of attendio divina), my beloved Episcopal Eucharist can also provide another sight of the liturgical God. Just reading scripture is not enough; the poems require the physical engagement of religious practice.

Close attention—visual, tactile, aural—requires practice too. It is symbiotic with the discipline of writing. Otherwise, what I notice can just pile up and rust into a poetic junkyard. I must keep writing to keep seeing.

Right now, I am watching for the purple cast’s reflection--what opens into the world (and in scripture) when life gets broken. And I’m learning to type with one hand.

Elizabeth Harlan-Ferlo is author of "Flies" and "In Which Buddah Reads Aloud Firecracker Instructions"  in issue 7.1 of Relief.

A Need for Order | 7.1 Author Lindsey DeLoach Jones

Trevor Sutton

soda7.1 Author Lindsey DeLoach Jones talks rituals and the need for order. I like my drinks very, very cold.

A plastic tumbler, 6 ice cubes, and a can of Diet Coke chilled at least twenty-four hours in a 35-degree refrigerator. Limit one per day.

Occasionally, I joke about being obsessive compulsive or a control freak or both, but I’m neither of these things really.

Maybe it’s the pressure to confront the veiled chaos of the blank page or the daily, private rumpus of my soul. Maybe it’s the anger I hear already in the voice of my one-year-old daughter, anger I didn’t put there and can’t control. Something compels me to keep a very few things in a very particular order.

Writers need ritual, I tell myself. We look for order everywhere, but it often seems in short supply. And so the soda-slush that predictably forms on the ice cubes in my cup are a solace. Order is present, at least, within the insulated confines of my preferred chalice.

A few other things compel this same rigidity: the temperature of the house at night (so cold my husband pleads for just one extra degree), my position on the sofa in front of the television, the relative greenness of my morning banana. It is a ceremonial pleasure to peel back the skin of a banana and find fruit suitably firm and tart.

My inflexibility embarrasses me. My husband should not come home from the grocery store beaming, having found an entire bunch of bananas for me “so green they’re practically neon.” People all over the world would love to eat a mottled yellow banana, drink a lukewarm soda.

How do I know the difference between a tradition that serves something greater than me – the ritual “confession of sin” we make in our church service between hymns numbers 2 and 3 – and a tradition I have begun to serve? Have I become a slave to my man-made rituals?

At 7:30 every evening, before my husband and I sit down to dinner, I zip up my daughter in a sleep sack, spin the volume dial on the sound machine that sits on the floor of her room with my big toe, and push her hair from her forehead before leaving the room. This liturgy is her safety.

And yet soon, she will need to learn to sleep without the sack, without the sound machine, and – one day – without me.

I can excuse the custom Diet Coke experience, for now, can’t I? I can pray that when I am called, perhaps I will be ready to move from ritual into the wild, where lives tepid soda and mushy bananas.

Lindsey DeLoach Jones is author of "Cutting Our Fingernails" in issue 7.1 of Relief.

Rituals | 7.1 Author Timothy Reilly

Trevor Sutton

oatmeal 7.1 author Timothy Reilly talks about daily rituals ranging from oatmeal to writing.

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 ReviewFlash Fiction Magazine (UK), Blue Lake ReviewSlow Trains Literary JournalAmarillo BayFoliate Oak Literary ReviewPassenger, and several other print and online journals.