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.