In Search of a Small Town American Tradition


Small Town AmericaOften times we think of tradition as drumming, sweat lodges, or other indigenous ceremonies danced around a blazing fire.  We fail to notice the measuring spoons in our lives that are equally as rich in sprinkling our “beingness” with sweetness.  I just landed on an island in the Pacific Northwest to write, and things are still pretty quiet as I unpack from the long journey.  In addition, it is a holiday week, so clients are otherwise busy, giving me uninterrupted time to unwind, clean, and unpack, after a four-day drive through California, Oregon, and into the base of Washington State where I caught the ferry that delivered me to my two-month writing retreat.

Seattle Skyline

Accompanying me on my journey was my furry and fat feline friend, Sashi, who took up residence on my lap for the 1,300 plus miles we covered in a packed Blue Forester. Several times we veered off the highway and ignored Siri’s annoying recalculations and turn-by-turn directions to honor our own unique route instead. One overnight stop into the Redwoods involved work with my medicine teacher. Despite all our work together, she always finds yet another layer that needs excavating. Like a finely skilled butcher, her delicate but precise cuts remove sinew and scar tissues hidden from view, leaving me tender—raw, but open.

After our organic salad and tea, we traveled onward toward nightfall to a seedy ground level motel where sleep was spotty, but no one asked about pets. The car was repacked before dawn as we headed north on Interstate 5 towards Mount Shasta. In the early morning we witnessed the thick clouds part to make way for an awe-inspiring view of the sun flaunting the snow-capped mountains in July. No spaceships, but it certainly left me breathless.


Later that same day, alternating between soaks in my own private mineral tub, sweating in a wood-burning sauna and then dipping naked into a 50-degree stream while being watched and guarded by tall pines and ancient trees, Sashi hid under the driver’s seat to nap. Perhaps we would have stayed longer, but despite all the backwoods charm and great green juice, they insisted, “no pets allowed.”

Fully cleansed from the day before and our early morning ritual we continued our drive. The windshield wipers nearly rocked me to sleep and by the time we reached Portland, and after several hotels with a “no pets allowed” policy, my mood waned and the morning grandeur was lost as poor Sashi had not eaten or visited her litter box in 12 hours. Luckily, a friend brought dinner to our room and our exhaustion was eased by the motel’s cleanliness and hospitality. However, before sunlight, Sashi crawled under the sheets, nudging me to hit the road early. From there it was a five-hour drive to the ferry, and by 11 a.m. we had landed, and have been busy ritualistically washing sheets, towels, and pillows to make the new place our home.

Today there was sun for the first time since I left California, a lucky appearance as it is the Fourth of July—fireworks are best when viewed in a clear night sky over the bay. I was told by townies to go to the local parade, which is the one event this residential town offers each year.

What I realized today is the Fourth of July is perhaps one of the greatest traditional holidays that remain classic American. Imagine, after 238 years, it is not hailed a Hallmark Holiday, and people do not celebrate with gifts or cards.

Small Town FloatIndependence Day is a down home celebration that people celebrate with fun, firecrackers, and picnics. It is as close to an indigenous ceremony as we get. To get to the parade, I had to park over a mile away from the festivities. When I arrived I was greeted by hordes of people cheering on the handmade floats . . . and not floats; every participant in the lineup was met with glowing enthusiasm, including the man pushing a sound box in a wheelbarrow blaring reggae, a bevy of dachshunds, and Chevy trucks older than me.

Afterwards, the festivities continued. However, there were no mechanical rides or vending trucks, just the citizens of the island cooking hot dogs, while others cheered the children’s sack races and egg toss. For a moment I had stepped back into the traditions of my youth that were buried beneath the sinew and scar tissue, which had been so aptly dissected earlier in the week.

Perhaps this is why, according to my landlord that most of the people who rent this house never want to leave. Yes, I believe people are seeking the lost rituals and ceremonies that are measured by teaspoons of sun-filled days and children’s laughter. I doubt one person who left today’s parade and festivities felt anything but pride with the National Anthem still reverberating in their ears.

What are your traditions and rituals? After this and exploring the island some, I stopped to buy fresh corn and other ingredients for potato salad. Time to turn on the grill and watch the fireworks in the clear blue night sky from the deck.

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Renee Baribeau About Renee Baribeau

Renee Baribeau is a speaker, healer, author, and transformational life coach. Over the past fifteen years she has trained with a long list of traditional shamans and modern-day mystics. She has received rites of passage from Q’ero elders in Peru and a Mapuche shaman in Chile, and apprenticed with a Lakota elder in Southern California for nine years. A graduate of the Healing the Light Body two-year program with the Four Winds Society, she then studied directly with Jose Luis Herrera. She has also received the healer’s blessing from Swami Kaleshwar.

Straightforward, Down to Earth, and Wise. Her commitment to her clients is unparalleled. Her private practice is full with highly successful clientele. Her motivation in life is to be of greater service by helping other people transform their lives through possibility and action.