Routines: a mix of mellow and spice

woods along Mississippi River

Over and over, I walk the paths near home, alongside the Mississippi. Follow the river… Isn’t that what lost people are told?

As I walk, I wonder how far the water has traveled and where it will go. Does it end up back in the clouds? Will it rain down to the river to travel the same path? Or does it live a different life every time it drops to the earth?

More snow has fallen in my area of Minnesota this winter than I’ve seen for many years. I’m quite enchanted with it and the fairy-tale-magic look and feel.

Since I routinely walk the same paths, I also take photos of the same landscapes, keeping a record of familiarity living alongside inevitable change. Such changes come from weather and seasons, but also from development and the influence of increasing numbers of people visiting this sacred place. There are people who damage, leaving their trash and spray painting behind, and there are people who come through and fix and plant and clean it all up.

It’s those that love this place that make me grateful and renew my faith that not everyone in this world has gone crazy and lost sight of the importance of taking care of our and nature’s earthly home. The guardians of the woods and river don’t know each other’s names, but somehow we feel like kin. 

My walks and routines, maybe my entire life, might look boring, but I kind of like boring. I like patterns. I like starting my day with meditation, jotting down the key things I want to focus on, and doing a little scribbling and smearing of paint in my journal while I drink my coffee.  

sketch by Maery Rose

For me (an anxious sort), routine and familiarity are calming. They’re like comfort food—like the base ingredients of a good soup. You’ve got your veggies, your stock, and your meat or fish. Or if you’re vegan, your beans, lentils, or rice. 

soup and bread

But you don’t want to have the same soup all the time. That’s where novelty comes in. You add things to spice it up and make it your own unique recipe—something even you can’t repeat unless you take copious notes, which I don’t. 

You can add onions, garlic, mushrooms, turmeric, basil, astragalus, ginger, dill, parsley, thyme, cayenne, cumin, curry, apple cider vinegar, burdock root, miso paste, fish sauce—the options are endless. Just don’t add all of them to one soup. 

I like to pick an aspect of flavor to draw out. Do I want something spicy and warming? Or earthy and healing? Maybe I want to re-experience a memory of home, or the southwest, or a country I haven’t yet visited but hope to experience soon.

Cork, Ireland
Irish travel dreams… Photo by Jason Murphy on Unsplash

I think about what feelings, images, and fantasies I want the recipe to embody. I pause and taste the melding of flavors often and take stock, making adjustments along the way. 

I carry this over into the spicing of life, adding a pinch of discomfort and a heaping cupful of effort to breathe new life into routines. Lately, this means considering social outings, such as attending the Great Old Broads for Wilderness snowshoeing event in February. Which means facing these kinds of thoughts: What if my knees bother me, and I hold other people back and ruin the event for everyone? I won’t know the people there and I’ll feel awkward and out of place. Is it worth the risk?

Maybe… Probably…

Yes, unless I want to eat the same old bland soup every day.

Maery Rose

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