A Ritual of Remembering
When it is Summer here the temperature fluctuates between barely tolerable and scorching, which means that whatever grows or lives at my ranch needs to be watered. All. The. Time.
Since Southern California Summers have only one gear - sunshine every day, all day - this means that without fail I’ll end my day the same way. No matter what activities happen during my workday, the early evening is dedicated to “The Watering”.
As all good rituals do, “The Watering” has its specific props and follows a well practiced form.
It starts with donning the ritual garb: a threadbare spaghetti strapped old linen dress, chosen for it being the lightest outfit I can get away with while still looking halfway decent when my neighbors stop by unannounced.
Next come the essential ritual ingredients: the battered straw hat, gardening gloves and extremely unflattering but super functional barefoot shoes that a friend once called my “gorilla feet”.
From there I make the rounds, turning on irrigation, filling up water troughs for wildlife and barnyard animals, checking on my vegetable beds, filling up the turtle pond and finally as the crowning finale, rolling out the long hose that reaches all the way around the outside of my house.
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At this point the sun has set, the light has shifted into that moment before twilight and the temperature finally starts to cool. The first bats appear and the woodpeckers make some crazy bedtime racket.
Gloved hand aiming the nozzle on the rainshower setting, I’m making my way along the same path I take every night. And, as it goes with all good rituals, the well practiced form allows for body and mind to relax.
My senses are fully alive now. I can feel the texture of the rocks underneath the thin soles of my now soaked shoes, the sunset breeze on my shoulders, grit and sweat on my skin. I’m listening to the sounds of the birds and the running water, tending to new growth and dried up leaves of each plant, inhaling the scents of the herbs as my mind wanders and relaxes.
Memories of conversations, to-do-list items and creative ideas all form themselves and disappear again and at some point, without fail I remember the warm Summer evenings of my childhood.
It’s a visceral memory, coming up through my body. I remember my mother standing the same way I do, nozzle in hand, watering. I remember the smell of my most favorite scent - water on warm earth. I can feel the satisfaction of a Summer day well spent roaming outside and the pleasure of the balmy dusk.
During those school vacation weeks I’d be allowed to stay up late and once the sun was down, I would read in bed with the windows wide open, while my mother performed her version of “The Watering”.
In this moment of remembering, I’m both the girl enjoying what felt like an endless summer of freedom and fun adventures and at the same time my mother engaging in this satisfying ritual of nourishing both beauty and sustenance.
It’s a flash of merging, the sensations and emotions arising within me and leaving a pleasant residue of love, gratitude, yearning and belonging.
Sometimes I hold on to it, sometimes it passes through. But always with the knowledge that “The Watering” will recall those moments again the next time.