The importance of ritual

At the beginning of the month, my fiancee and I drove to Northampton, MA to catch Livingston Taylor at The Iron Horse. If the name sounds familiar, well, yeah, he's James's brother, and his live performances always rise the spirits.

Liv's a good musician. He has a number of fun, quirky, folksy tunes, and also reaches deep for nostalgia-evoking ballads. He strums guitar and plays piano and an occasional banjo. Liv introduces most songs with an autobiographical story. He's honest, sincere, and projects a sense of love for his audience.

I've been going to the Iron Horse to see Liv perform each January since my undergraduate days at UMass Amherst in the 90's. The tradition started with a handful of friends. As my buddies moved away, I began checking out the annual show with whomever I was dating at the time. For the past two years, the lucky gal has been my fiancee Mary Kate, but truth be told, I'm really the lucky one.

I think traditions are important, be they Sunday rituals in the fall and winter involving a certain undefeated football team, daily routines of exercising, listening to music, or playing a game, or yearly events like catching a musician or getting away to a favorite spot.

For the past three years, Mary Kate and I have trekked north to Vermont's Inn at Long Trail for a weekend getaway inside one of the inn's fireplace suites. This past September, my friends and I ventured to Burlington, VT for a weekend of camping, cliff jumping, and revelry in the city's pedestrian-friendly downtown.

We even managed to catch a show at Nectar's, the venue where PHISH first performed before they made it big. We've already talked about going back this year.

I find that as I get older and time becomes scarce, I need to schedule almost all my activities in advance. Once it's on the calendar, it becomes "real," and demands to be taken seriously.

This isn't to say I can't roll on the spur-of-the-moment, it's just that as I've aged I've come to rely on schedules to bring order to my life.

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