Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Good News!

The Lady Victory
Poems by Jane Vincent Taylor
is available from Full Circle Books in Oklahoma City and at

The Poetry of Home
a week long workshop at Ghost Ranch
has spaces available. July 30- Aug 5, 2012. Register soon at

Summer Rituals

I can’t decide if this summer calls for a new routine, or no routine. Where are the new poems, I ask myself. I hope they are in this unadulterated notebook I’ve just unwrapped, dating the first page, performing my secret blank-book ritual. Routines and rituals, what would we do without them?

When I was a child we routinely went to Sunday Mass, ate fish on Friday, and gave up mostly chocolate bars for Lent. We churned ice cream on 4th of July, sprinkled the clothes with water before we ironed them, fried an August egg on the hot sidewalk, and during the stickiest nights of summer slept outside on cots under a net of fireflies.

Routine. It’s French : for route -- a path, a road to travel. Both ritual and routine offer ways to get from one place to another. A map or recipe, orderly and prescribed perhaps, but pointing to an unknown door. Rites have always moved toward a threshold.

One of my favorite childhood journeys was one where we kids, all dressed up, walked from the portico of St. Joseph’s school to the church, St. Rose of Lima, at the far end of the street. It was May, post-Easter-death-and-resurrection. This, a softer feast, we just called Crown the Queen. With blasts of Spirea in our arms we walked two by two. One child loaded down with boughs, the other in charge of a paper-collared candle. The tapers were lit the moment it got dark enough to make a sparkly show. We were flame and flower moving in song toward our goal: to place a wreath of roses on the painted blessed virgin and make her come alive. Actually, it was we who came a little more alive, even if the cloying churchy atmosphere could make a few girls faint away and have to be revivedwith cardboard fans and smelly handkerchiefs.

Perhaps you, too, were raised on lovely ceremonies. Some of ours brought comfort; some were full of contradiction, irrationality, and fear. But mostly they fed our need for beauty, amazement, and a dose of transformation. Looking back it seems that for routines to become true rituals they need to jolt one off the common path, offering, if only briefly, an awakening.

Last week, for instance, to break the monotony of Tinker Toys, I took my granddaughters (aged 3 and 6) for a walk around the neighborhood. It was ordinary: curb walking, rock collecting, bird watching, dog visiting at various fences. At each corner we decided which route looked the most promising, surprise-wise. Nearing home an oddly brindled cat came bounding out in front of us. A miniature tiger/panther mix, we decided. The girls were convinced it had escaped from the zoo. For about a block we were in the wilderness, a very small wilderness, but still. A walk had turned into something extraordinary.

I think it doesn’t really take that much. Sometimes we escape routine by walking further into it and letting imagination run wild a bit. I’m hopeful for new poems because summer, queen of rituals and not- that-much-routine, is almost here.