At least once a year we make the long drive up to visit my parents, who live in the vicinity of Grand Coulee, Washington. We don’t always take the same roads, but over the years, we’ve fallen into a much-loved routine: on the way up, we have to stop at Macario’s Restaurant in Boardman. I don’t know if it’s the most terrific Mexican food–it’s fairly standard beans and cheesy goodness–but we love it there and the trip just wouldn’t feel complete without a stop.
Isn’t it funny how we get into these routines? Little things, little funny rituals take on significance when repeated, and life feels hollow without them. Whether it’s a certain bedtime routine (I struggle to fall asleep if I didn’t floss) or a family holiday tradition, repeated actions sometimes transcend the ordinary and take on extraordinary meaning.
When I was studying early music history, we spent a great deal of time examining the use of music in monastic tradition. In medieval monasteries, the inhabitants lives were very strictly ordered by the canonical hours. They kept to a very strict, very deliberate routine. You can visit monasteries run by these same precepts, and I know several people who have done so. According to one such visitor, after a period of adjustment, your mind responds to the strange rhythms. It becomes dreamier, more mystical, more introspective, even hallucinatory.
Most of us look forward to a change in our routine to help us find introspection and clarity, but maybe the monks were onto something. Maybe we just need to stop looking at routine as dull–and instead, celebrate it.
As for me, I’m already missing my regular routine. I’m too excited about this trip to get any work done! But here’s a photo of what I’ve got to look forward to: