Ritual is a set of actions often thought to have symbolic values, the performance of which , says wikipedia, is usually prescribed by a religion or by the tradition of a community by religious or political laws. Perhaps being part of something bigger than ourselves. Tony and I have a "ritual" when we paddle out of St. Philips and that is after the paddle,we clean ourselves of salt water in the stream that runs down to the ocean side and pools in a small cove. The salt and the fresh water blend but the further up the stream you go the more fresh water obviously. It is in essence a part of the paddle we look forward to because we clean the nasty salt water from ourselves and our things so as to prevent it's destructive corrosive forces from reeking havoc on our gear and boats. It is contemplative time as we engross ourselves in the task but also reflective as we discuss the days paddle. It is convenient for sure and usually the outside bay offers enough challenges for a days outing.
Rituals can be thought of as a sort of compliance to ideals, satisfaction of emotional needs, strengthening of social bonds, demonstration of respect or sometimes just obtaining social acceptance or approval and sometimes just for the ritual itself. If kayaking were a religion, I more times than not think it may be, then our fresh water cleansing would be one of its rituals for all the reasons mentioned. It is ironic that it in someways may mimic those of a religious religion. I am certainly not religious in the since of the God implications and traditional religions, but can honestly find spirituality in kayaking.
Kayaking continues, in my experience, to bring people together in such a positive way and for such a positive purpose, which may be very individualized depending on the person but that is the beauty of it all, you can still maintain your own individual kayaking mentality but still belong or be part of the "kayaking community". I know I express my skills differently than the next kayaker but there still has to be basic similarities because that is the nature of the sport itself there are still rules and laws that involve organization as much as it does physics and, humanity as much as it does the environment and psychology.
So as I put lights on my Christmas Tree as part of yearly ritual owning in itself to a religion of which I have long since been removed, I feel somewhat hypocritical, but at the same time enlightened in knowing that a kayaking "religion" of sorts I have made over the years for myself may as well be celebrated and seek thanks to the kayaking Gods for providing me and my good friend Tony, and all kayakers in our community, with another safe paddling year. Joyous Kayak! This is a shot of Tony heading for our paddling ritual. The beauty of the spot lends itself to the fulfilment of the task.