Tag Archives: finding peace

Rituals for Leaving Home

Robin Botie of Ithaca, New York, photographs her Havanese dog standing on top of her suitcase painted in a pre-travel leaving home ritual.When I leave home to go to Australia I will kiss the dog on her nose eighteen times. I will build a tiny campfire by the pond and ponder where I’m going. I’ll buy a new book. And pay all my bills.

Before setting off on a trip I always clean the house, and eat every last thing in the fridge, stashing away a frozen pizza so I shouldn’t return home hungry to a completely barren house. Other pre-travel practices involve weeks of packing and repacking my luggage, and painting or repainting the red and yellow dots on my bags to make My Bags look different from all the other black rolling suitcases.

These are simply rituals, small acts I do to make myself feel comfortable. Grounded. To give me strength, maybe. These are not things one HAS to take care of, like arranging for houseplants to be watered and the mail to be brought in. No, these practices are to reduce stress. And express my gratitude for having this home that hugs, and holds, and sometimes hides me.

As part of my farewell ritual, I try to have everything all packed and ready at least a day or two before my actual departure date so I can have the last day, or the last evening, to sit still and listen to the sounds of the house from my favorite spots inside and out. So that I have time to remind myself that this is where I belong, and this is the place I will return to.

The very last things I do before leaving: I stand before the life-size portrait of my daughter who died, and invite her to come with me (or at least to lend me her strength while I am gone). Then I look around the house like it might be the last time I ever see it.

My pre-travel leaving-home ritual enables me to face the world. Whatever happens next, whatever chaos or misfortunes I may encounter in my travels, I know I will find peace, order, balance, … my roots, right where I left them, when I return home.


What do you do as you get ready to travel away from home?

At Peace with the Past

One duck left at Robin Botie's pond in Ithaca, New YorkSome summers there were ducks on my pond and other summers there were geese. But there were always foxes and coyotes. So nesting never lasted long. And now it is down to one duck.
She does what she’s done for years: sits and waits in the same spot even though this no longer seems to make sense or have purpose. The duck flies off occasionally during the day. But she always returns to the same spot.
“I won’t feel sorry for you, duck,” I tell her from the other end of the pond. The next time she flies off I walk over to where she sits to see if there’s a nest. But her nesting days and mine are over. I find only a few scattered feathers.

I could make up stories about the duck, say she is waiting for her long-gone life-mate to return or she’s grieving her lost ducklings. Maybe I could even say this duck is my daughter reincarnated, watching over me.

But what if the duck is simply enjoying the quiet place she’s always known? Maybe she is finding peace and there is nothing to move on from, nothing to grieve or get over. What if the dashing rains, the sun on her back, wild winds of winter, the mate who landed splashing in the pond with her, sweet broods hatching, lost ducklings, the teeth of the fox, wrecked-empty nests, and breathless flight are all just part of who she is at this moment?

Every summer morning on rising I peek out the windows north and south. First I look to see if the shiny black Dodge Challenger is in the driveway; my son is home.
Then I check for the duck.