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Every year around this time, I spend a weekend preparing for the first big winter storm. It’s a sort of survivalist mentality I take with me out into the yard: wrapping the air conditioner in its comforting blue tarp, rolling up the hoses and stowing the various sprinklers and nozzles that have been hiding in the grass I’ve been neglecting to mow these past few weeks. And rolling the big concrete birdbath into the garage, where I retrieve the snow shovels I hid in the rafters last spring.

Meanwhile, My Lovely Wife is potting up the surviving garden plants for her annual foliage rescue project, and pruning the dogwood that had been dominating the rain garden all summer. It’s a satisfying afternoon all around, and a recognition of the dark days ahead.

I love these seasonal rituals.

They’re predictable, for one thing; I know what needs to be done. Which makes me feel somewhat useful — maybe even accomplished. And it lends a feeling of control at a time when nature is about to dominate our lives up here in the North Country.

Embracing ritual is important at any age, of course, but it seems like more of an anchor to me as I grow older. Daily, weekly, monthly, and seasonal activities help ground us in the moment and recognize (and appreciate) that we are part of a larger movement of time that’s beyond our control. It can be anything from a regular meditation practice to a weekly workout schedule — it all helps you stay focused on what’s most meaningful in your life right now.

Like shoveling snow.


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