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The morning ritual: Some pray. Some meditate. Some do yoga. Some exercise.

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My dad cleaned the kitchen.

Often, he’d awaken me. Running water. Pots banging. Glasses clinking. The sound of a whisk broom against tile. Cabinets opening and closing. The sun always rose with a clang — a whole cacophony at sunrise.

But no whistling.

My dad never whistled, even though he had devoted his life to music. Perhaps he thought whistling an insult to music itself. There was no music from his lips, despite his soul being overwhelmed by it. But even though he tried not to enter the kitchen for any other reason at any other time, every morning he was in there and cleaning it.

There’s some parallel between the two I don’t pretend to fully understand.

Maybe it was this: Although he knew he was a horrible cook (He really was: Opening a can of beans confused him) he had decided his contribution to our culinary life at home would be to clean up–at least in the mornings. When it came to music, he knew he was called to do greater things than to just hum or whistle. He left the humming and whistling to the people who usually worked in kitchens.

It was a flip-flop by which he acknowledged an order within his universe. In the world of music, he ruled. In the world of cooking, dad pushed the broom and wiped down the counters. There was a debt to be paid in each case. And he tried to pay it.

The morning ritual is when one takes stock of this sort of thing. What can you do? What do you want? Where are you strong? Where should you be stronger? Where are you weak? What do you still owe? How many mornings are left to pay it?

The morning ritual itself is a submission to something greater than ourselves. It’s an acknowledgement that time is something greater and outside of us. The sun will rise each day. We only witness unto it. After we’ve gone the sun will still be there. We weren’t making it rise. We were only granted some finite number of chances to honor the event–to celebrate with the universe its unfolding. In the light of the morning we offer up what we are. We lay it out and look at it in the light. And we realize what we really have to work with, and how much of it is left.

One morning, there were no sounds of cleaning from the kitchen. And there never were again. At least not from my dad.

Now, I clean the kitchen. I don’t hum or whistle. And in some ways, I try not to think.

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For more on ritual and cooking and family and all sorts of other good things, check out my novel at Eye of the Diamond-T.

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