rituals: this unprinted calendar (katie mcmullen).

Y’all: Tuesday just came around again, and you know what that means: Guest Post Tuesday!  I am just delighted to introduce to you to today’s writer, a real life mama-friend I’ve seen almost every Wednesday for almost two and a half years now.  Because, you guys, this woman is the one who birthed this phrase: The boring rituals make the story deeper. We owe Tuesdays to her, wouldn’t you say?  Beyond that, Katie is a brilliant and witty leader, gardener, gatherer-of-people, wife and mother.  DO enjoy her words today.  

Flickr Creative Commons: Jacopo Ghisolfi

At the end of October, I plant garlic. Then I go inside for three months and all but forget that I have a garden.

In the cool light of mid-January, my husband and I carry our browning Christmas tree out the back door and toss it off the porch. It falls ten feet to the ground, and takes up most of the space in our small backyard. We’ll have to chop it up soon. I sweep the pine needles out of the living room and walk back outside. I look around. I breathe. In that breath, the season changes.

As January ends, my feet lead me to the back porch. I find myself looking at my backyard again, and again. I can feel it in my bones: spring is coming.

By late February, I have dirt under my fingernails and in the dry cracks of my skin. The days are getting longer and the angle of the sun is changing. I mend fences and build vegetable beds. I stir compost into the dirt as I listen to my mockingbird sing his beautiful and complex song. Does he migrate away from me in the fall and come back in February? Or does he live quietly in my backyard unnoticed all winter long?

In the early spring sunshine, I start to plant. Sweet peas and lettuces, collard greens and potatoes. I push them in the ground. I cover them with dirt, and like magic they start to grow. In the front yard, my plum tree erupts in delicate white flowers. By the Fourth of July there will be more plums than we can eat and give away.

April and May mean planting green beans, tomatoes, and pumpkins. The sunflowers grow taller and taller until finally, in late summer—could be July, could be August, it all depends—they open their yellow eyes to stare at the sun. That’s when the wild blackberries are ripe in the park. I pick bucket after bucket, week after week, and we’ll get tired of blackberries before I’ve made a dent in the brambles.

The garden leads me through the spring and summer the way that holidays mark my fall and winter. I find comfort in the rhythm of this unprinted calendar: sweet peas and plums, then tomatoes; Halloween and Thanksgiving, then Christmas.    

I love rituals: our annual Mother’s Day Camping trip, our first-day-of-school jelly roll, lighting the advent candles at Christmas. These rituals tell the story of my life, and that makes them beautiful.

I also love that rituals celebrate the passing of time. It’s easy to forget that the passing of time is something to celebrate. No one wants to get older, and no one wants to wait for anything. It’s easy to be fooled into thinking that I can control every situation, fulfill every desire on demand, accelerate my efficiency forever.

In the garden I have to wait, like a child waiting for Christmas. My garden rituals remind me that waiting is good, and I can’t control much. Seeds become leaves that put forth flowers that become fruits, which hold seeds. And then it happens again. I watch it, and I get to be a part of it. I like that.

KatiePitchforkKatie McMullen lives in Bayview, San Francisco with her husband and two sons. Look at her cool pitchfork!  Cara again: Did I also mention that Katie is quite the slice of humble pie?  (See also, the above two-sentence bio, for example).  Otherwise, what about Katie’s ritual of tending the land spoke to you today?  Leave a comment & encourage her today!

5 thoughts on “rituals: this unprinted calendar (katie mcmullen).

  1. Oh! I love this because I like gardening and it’s true all the things you said, Katie! I wish I could call gardening ritualistic like you have- for now, for me, it’s a refining fire! Ha!! Beautifully written Katie. Thanks for sharing and inspiring.

  2. I love this line: “It’s easy to forget that the passing of time is something to celebrate.” I’ll be thinking about that all day today. It’s so true. I can get so stuck in the sorrow of my kids growing up or myself getting older. But, that’s not reality. Reality is that time passing is worth celebrating. And that’s why we look forward to our celebrations. Love that!

  3. I love what Katie calls it the “unprinted calendar.” I live by it, too. But for me, it is abrupt shift from winter to spring. While it’s still cold, I have a hard time getting motivated for garden and farm work. I call it “Blah” Season. Then, there is an unexpected day, usually in March, where the sun shines and it warms up just enough to motivate me to get my seeds out. Suddenly, it feel like someone flipped a switch and I’ve GOT to be outside, and I don’t want to come in until October. It happens every year. This year, it happened last week.

    Watching the gradual progression of garden produce – lettuce, peas, cabbage, onions, zucchini, cucumbers, TOMATOES, peppers, squash, lettuce again – and the process of preserving them for the rest of the year have become my favorite rituals. The prospect of what’s to come fills me with so much excitement that it almost brings tears to my eyes.

    Another thing I love is Katie’s pitchfork.

  4. Thank you for sharing, Katie! Thank you for the reminder to celebrate the regular things that mark our unprinted calendars.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *