Nourishing Rituals in the Home

Hello, sun in my face. Hello you who made the morning and spread it over the fields...Watch, now, how I start the day in happiness, in kindness.
— Mary Oliver

Hi beautiful women!

Lately I’ve been adopting a practice I learned from my mother (I could probably write a million stories that begin with that line). Every night, my mother set the table for the next morning. She cleared the table and cleaned it, set out the plates, napkins and silverware before bed. As a child, I didn’t think about it much. But now that I am an adult and a mother to my own children, it makes perfect sense, and I am once again awestruck at the brilliance of my own mother.
In the evenings, I now set the table before bed. I put out the essentials for our morning meal—mugs and spoons, bowls and napkins. I think most of us can relate to the deep satisfaction that comes from gazing upon a freshly-set table. This simple ritual can change the entire landscape of the morning. Waking up and coming out to the kitchen to see this beautiful spread is heartwarming and rewarding. It brings me a very specific kind of joy, and all with my own hands. It is for me, for my family, for my children. We will sit here and eat breakfast, drink tea, and laugh. We will make a mess. The table, so perfect at first, will soon be filled with crumbs and dirty dishes and tiny handprints. This is all part of the beauty.
My own mother still does this, though we are all now big and grown. She said she began it as a way to help her when she was raising little children. It made the mornings easier, yes, but it also added an element of pleasure beyond just practicality— it brought beauty to her days.
Morning light shines in a different way than any other light we know; morning light is a special gift that we receive each day if we are lucky. Setting the table at night is another gift and then it harvests the gift of morning light. It’s like planting a seed, and in the morning you get to see the flower—the satisfaction is full and wondrous. This is a ritual, a practice, a small way to produce big feelings. I feel some kind of reverence as I incorporate this into my own life. Sometimes the best lessons are not ones that we learn in classrooms or in books, but in the subtle and quiet practices of our mothers and grandmothers.
Our homes contain so much of us. Literally, they house us and our families, but they also house the reflections of our spirits and our hearts. Small rituals at home can actually be big rituals for our well-being and for our happiness. They let the light in.
There is a Japanese concept called Wabi-Sabi, which essentially celebrates the beauty in imperfection and impermanence. This comes to mind for me when I think about setting the table at night. Part of the beauty is, of course, the way that the table looks when it’s set. Everything is in order and the dishes are clean. When I wake up and look at it with the sunlight falling across it, I am moved by its loveliness. And then, there is something just as beautiful in making it messy. Breakfasts and mornings are a special time; sitting at the table with my family in the morning is sacred. Mornings make me grateful. After breakfast, there is nothing left to do but to clear the table and take it all away. No more perfect place settings and pretty napkins—they’re all a mess. But without the mess-makers, there would be no reason to set the table in the first place. Without one side, we cannot have the other. And so there is an inherent beauty in both.
Every woman has her rituals at home. It’s the little things that make our homes so comfortable and loving. Someone once told me that the reason it always feels so good to come home is because home is where we can be ourselves the most.
What do you do to create joy in your space? Is there a ritual you learned from a mother or friend that makes a big difference in your daily life?

With love,