In which I ponder rituals and routines...and the differences

This is how my days begin.

It's like pillow fighting--with sound effects

It's really difficult to get still photos of the World Sheltie Wrassling Federation matches that take place in the bedroom every morning.  The light isn't good, and the participants are fast-moving targets.  Here's a video:

The match always has the same ending:  Luna concedes defeat and comes to sit on my foot, despite Mimsy's vocal taunts.  These dogs have been with us for almost 7 years, and over the years they've developed this morning ritual.  It gives them great joy.

I've been thinking about "rituals" and "routines" this week, and trying to figure out the difference.  Clearly, they ARE different.  

After finishing their wrassling match, the Shelties follow me to the kitchen for breakfast.  Sitting politely and waiting until the "okay" is given to dive into dog food...ritual or routine?

Waiting.  Politely waiting.  See us waiting?  Polite.  Very polite.
Very politely waiting.

I'm thinking it's a "routine," because neither dog would sit and wait politely unless it was required by a human.  They don't object to it.  But they wouldn't volunteer for it.

Conversely, there is the behavior of Samantha BarnCat

who waits by the back door every morning so that she can "talk" to me as I walk down to the barn.  I don't require this behavior.  Her food is free-choice in the barn, so she isn't performing a trick for a reward. She talks to me because that's what she does.  It's her ritual.  Samantha gets some kind of comfort and joy from talking to me first thing in the morning, and I admit that it's pleasant to talk back to her, even if our conversations are a little repetitive and silly.

I figure that's how you can tell the difference between "ritual" and "routine."  Both things might happen on a regular, predictable schedule, but the purpose of the "ritual" is outside the basic responsibility to get everybody on the farm fed.  A ritual gives comfort and joy to at least one of the participants.

Here's something:

Hen bums.

My routine is to spread out the chicken feed so the hens won't fight while they're supposed to be eating.  This also gives me an opportunity to count the chickens to make sure everybody's accounted for...but by throwing out feed in a sunburst pattern, it makes a pretty design.  It makes me smile.  Ritual.

I always hitch the truck the same way: start with the ball, then the chains, then the brake cable, then the stability bars and the electrical cable, and finally pulling up the jack.  Routine means I don't forget an important step.
Not forgetting stuff is important.
For ADHD people like me, routines are essential.

When I get to the trailhead, I often take a picture of my pony.  Routine?  or ritual?
I probably have a million photos of this mare
standing at the trailer before a ride.

When I take a photo like this, I'm checking the camera battery and documenting the weather for the ride, so it's sort of a routine.  The photo serves to show me later if my horse is looking fatter or thinner, or seems stressed.  But mostly, I take the picture because I like looking at pictures of my horse.  Ritual.

My Facebook friends are very polite about the endless series of "ears at the bottom" photos
Just a smidge of blue sky above the horizon line

I try to take a picture when our surroundings are particularly pretty...or have changed significantly since our last visit...
These trees used to be upright. it's sort of a routine thing.  But when I get home, I open up the photos and choose the best to share with FB and this blog.  Sounds more like a ritual to me!

This is pretty, so I took a picture

Here's another routine that is more of a ritual:  photographing my friends and their horses and dogs.  

Mostly, I end up with heaps of pictures of the same group of people and the same horses or dogs each week.  But every once in a while,  the camera lens catches something extra.

We actually did brush Ross before taking him into the arena.
He loves to be muddy...and his thick winter coat makes brushing a challenge.

Patty and her retired endurance horse Ross still practice the tricks she taught him 20 years ago.  Routine?  Ross is clearly "in it" for the cookie...but even with my pockets stuffed full of cookies, he's not as bright and shiny to do this trick for me as he is when Patty asks him to do it.

Comfort and joy? Sounds like "ritual" to me.

Throw the stick?  Again?  Even though Duana's arm is probably a little tired, and she's looking forward to a relaxing glass of wine?

Seelah doing what Seelah does best.
But, how can we say "no" to this much comfort and joy?  Ritual.

Standing at the trailer at the end of a ride?  Routine.
Sweatier, but otherwise not very different from the "before" picture.

Rolling in the dirt when we get home is Fiddle's ritual of comfort and joy...

 ...and taking pictures of her doing it is mine.

Life is good.

What are your favorite rituals?


  1. I wish my alarm clock could wake me up with a smile the way those dogs must do. :)

  2. Just wonderful. I'm in love with Mimsy and Luna. I think my answer has decided to be a blog post? It always leaves tracks though, so we can follow it. ;)

  3. Hmm... Here's my take: Ritual comes from the allegedly primitive emotional part of our brain, routine from the allegedly sophisticated planning part. The most enduring things in life combine both. This after a good howlathon with Ripley, Dex and Bil.


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