Drumming 2

So what is it that happens at Full Moon Drumming?” twenty-something Finch Terranova asked Owen nervously as they munched on lamb and veggies encased in whole wheat rolls somebody brought from Angel’s. “I’ve never done this sort of thing before.”

“It’s a loose jam. Sometimes it gets cacophonous with so many different levels of musical knowledge and drumming experience.”slide10

“Loud too,” offered Charley. “At least when we’re inside.”

“It’s been happening monthly for fifteen years.”

“More like eighteen or twenty, I think,” said Ursula. “It began when that bunch over there were in high school.” She gestured towards Arlo, Jay and Cali.”

“Others are as new to it as you are. Help yourself in the bags of percussion toys – tambourines, maracas, whistles. You name it. The pill bottles filled with gravel make especially good rattles.”

“Not everyone likes this free-for-all drumming,” said Owen. “Some prefer structure and a tradition, be it African, Middle Eastern or whatever. Or written out patterns.”

“There’s nothing wrong with that, mind you,” offered Charley. “A tight structure like a raga is cool and deeply spiritual.”

“It’s like how sonnets or haiku with set numbers of syllables or rhyming patterns somehow frees up the mind to play with images.”

“Owen, are you getting all didactic again?” asked Cali pointedly.

The older man looked sheepish but hadn’t quite finished his lecture. “Sufi dervish or Native American trance dancing has a pattern of rhythms or movements generated over millennia that can even include spirit possession. I learned recently that Shaker turning was also a trance dance tradition.”

“I can’t really grok the celibacy of the Shakers,” said Raven who had just come up. “And I like the lack of safety in what we’re up to.”

“You would,” laughed Alex. “I get frustrated when the beat gets lost.”

“Yet many traditional cultures are open to the unexpected,” said Owen. “In Voudun it’s never known who will be the ‘horse’ the spirits ‘ride.’ Brad Keeney who works with the Bushmen says you have to let go of rhythms even or beautiful dancing to give the gods room….”

“Oooo. Let’s get him here,” said Jasmine.

“We did once several years ago,” said Pia. “Sometimes he had two songs on at the same time to mess up our expectations.”

“Not that we have possession or anything like that goin’ on,” Raven contributed, his tall thin form dancing about a bit, feathered earrings flying. “We’re just makin’ noise and goin’ with what rhythms arise. Depends on the mood and who’s here and what instruments show up.”

“How the stars are aligned,” laughed Pia.

“Did you bring your trumpet tonight, Raven?” someone asked from the edge of the circle.

“I’m taking a break from brass at the moment. But here’s Uri with his didgeridoo. It’s been a while since we had didge players show up.” A couple of people broke away to greet the latecomers.

“I like bein’ in that edgy place where you never know what’s next.” Raven continued his line of thought. “I like the fact that we’re making it up. Older traditions are there to draw upon. Some of us have training even. But we’re combining and integrating to make us a new whole.”

“When it works,” said Alex.

“When it flows,” agreed Raven. “Sometimes it’s coherent and satisfying. Sometimes it’s irritating and ear splitting. Not because someone’s playing a ‘wrong’ note,” he mimed quotation marks with his fingers, “but because we’re not in tune with each other.”

“That’s not the right word cuz it implies ‘in tune’ like our western chord scale,” said Charley. “It’s more that we’re not entrained. Not together in some way.”

“Egos maybe battling a bit.”

“What? Us?”

“Sometimes the internal virtuoso gets the better of one of us and we’re rather showing off,” Owen chuckled.

“Yet sometimes that’s exactly what’s needed. When someone has a moment of being so present in the beauty of their skill that they take off and the rest give them room.”

“Play backup.”

“Yeah, the ego thing is more about hogging that spot or directing the show or … being ‘off’ somehow. Not connected with the group.”

“Don’t forget we add our bodies in there too.”

“When there’s a good beat.”

“Anyway, you’ll see that we’re improvising,” said Owen turning again to the Terranovas. “Making room for each other. Being playful. Allowing new people to be comfortable to give it a try. Just like life.”

“Inspiring the magical. Though we only manage to connect in that way every now and then….” said Cindy wistfully.

“I always like it best towards the end with just a few of us left and we can hear ourselves again – and there’s more room for dissonance and harmonies to take hold.”

“Each time is different, that’s for sure.”

“You’ll tell me if I’m doing something out of place won’t you?” said Finch still needing reassurance.

“One of the kids used to say that if you miss a beat or play a note that feels out of place, just repeat it and then it’s no longer ‘wrong.’”

“So what’s with all this talking?” challenged Raven, his hands beginning to dance on the congas. Arlo went over to join him as did Carlos. Soon fifteen or twenty folks had taken up drums. Others stood on the sidelines. Clusters of conversation persisted so the focus stayed scattered for a bit. Pia danced around the edges urging claves and rattles on the recalcitrant ones.

Most of the kids stayed out beyond the fringes of the music. Enveloped happily by the dark, they’d begun a game of flashlight tag that made them look like spirits flitting about. But as was usually the case, young Flicker sidled over and started in on a spare djembe.

If you listened carefully you might notice at a few who were a bit off. Charley’s plonking on the cowbell was erratic and a-rhythmic and the person on the third conga didn’t have a lot of confidence. But none of that mattered. The majority settled into a groove and carried the others along.

Molly lay down in the center with a deep sigh and let the beat throb over her. Though loud, it soothed her body lulling her almost to sleep.

At the end of the first fifteen or twenty minutes, an energy rush of wild-anything-goes drumming took over. Fast and loud and thumping. People grinned at each other at the joyful noise. Ursula threw back her head and laughed uproariously. Someone began to yip like a coyote.

Finch could feel the sweetness of that wild energy stir in his veins. Certainly finesse was not part of this thronging sound. Looking up at the Mountain, he wondered if he had found his home. He’d dropped in to visit his parents’ latest landing spot but there was something about this process that was calling him to linger…. As he had this thought the music suddenly stopped. Everybody was laughing and hooting in their delight at being together.

“Young Flicker here really lives up to his name. Like the woodpecker who drums on our chimneys, he knows his beat,” said Arlo quietly to Finch in the lull. “You could do a lot worse than tune in to what he’s doing.” Flicker ducked his head bashfully, proud to have been singled out by his hero.

Then the music started up again as spontaneously as a flock of sanderlings taking off at the same moment. This time the beat was more Middle Eastern. Rhea slipped into the center, banging a tambourine against her knee as her belly rolled and hips swayed. She was soon joined by Ursula and Pia as well as lithe and graceful Uri with snaky arms entwining. Two little girls in bright skirts were drawn in to dance their own versions.Drumming Circle 1

Jasmine watched, working up her courage to let her body go with the internal call she was feeling. She certainly didn’t know how to belly dance and it was hard to imagine having the grace and style of those in front of her but when Raven leapt in with wild flopping and flittering movements, she realized that there were no more rules to this than there were to the drumming. She stayed on the outside of the circle, but her sways became jiggles and her hips took up the call, seemingly of their own accord.

In a bit, as if in response to Raven’s antics, the music morphed yet again and the dancing went with it, of course, for another twenty minutes or so.

At the next pause, the dancers flopped down in the chilly sand. Beers were renewed. A few more nibbles found, especially some late arriving brownies. Most families with little children rounded up their things and headed home to bed. A few of the younger couples wandered off down the beach.

Pia picked up her flute and began a quiet Native American yearning call. It wasn’t long before Uri’s didge contributed its primal growl. Soft beats came from a Remo frame drum and the congas. A voice – whose was it? – began to chirp. Another began a repetitious wordless chant. Thea, arriving late, was surprised to hear her own voice take up a counter chant that was syncopated with the other sounds such that her notes stood out every few beats. A clave began to sound in tune with that. The whole thing was mellower and more eerie sounding. Edgier, not in a punky way, but as if a different spirit was now leading the music. Dragonfly, maybe. Bat? That mysterious creature so comfortable in the dark.

Uri was lost in euphoria and his didge seemed to be playing itself. His circular breathing was flawless for once and suddenly it felt as if Spirit had come into him. Was it…. Mountain? Bird? Animal? All of the above, perhaps. Angel? He could feel the connection with the others and knew where they were going next before they actually did it. Was he leading or following? It didn’t matter because it felt so good. The entrainment they all longed for.

Cali sat quietly nursing Menolly next to the fire as the bright blaze began to settle into coals. The evening was winding down. A few drops of rain plinked here and there. More would be following soon. Owen knelt nearby as did several others. The coals were mesmerizing. Black laced with that amazing fiery orange and red. She suddenly knew with a sinking in her heart that she needed to walk on those coals. Not tonight. No, please, not tonight. She knew it was possible – her mom and others had done it in the course of their travels and workshops. But it always made her feel slightly nauseous to imagine it. So impossible. Yet not…. she knew that…. but….

Cindy too stared into the dying fire but she was musing about her husband, Van. Little flames flickered from the coals. Cinders. Cindy. Cinderella. Sometimes she wished she could be someone different for a while. Shed the mask of the shy herb lady and be swept up by a fairy godmother into the castle of her dreams. Not to a different man. But to a man who was different. Would Van ever see the beauty of her magic? Would the shoe of the greenwitch ever fit comfortably on her feet? She knew she was mixing up metaphors but it was that sort of night. Why think in straight lines? Staring into the fire was a kind of scrying for her…. As her eyes blurred she seemed to see a figure in the flames. A salamander. She’d never understood that legend. Here salamander was a creature of the wet woods. Bogs. Yet it was often talked about as if it were a fire being. There it was dancing on the tip of its tail surrounded by blue flames.

You must come dance with me someday, Ms. Cinders,” the salamander whispered in a wavery voice. “The coals – the cinders – are calling you, aren’t they? I know you can hear me.”

Cindy froze using all her concentration to calm her gasping breath. She looked around to see if anyone else was noticing. Cali was entranced with her babe. The others were making quiet, dreamy music – the few drummers still at it were tapping now rather than pounding. Uri’s didge was dancing in and out with Pia’s flute. A voice she didn’t recognize hummed and another made rhythmic ch ch ch sounds. When she looked back at the coals, the salamander was still there, grinning wickedly at her. “You’ll dance in the fire before long, Madam Woodburn. Madam Greenwitch. Oh, you’ll dance…. Only this time you will not burn…”

Drumming 1

Ursula was curled up on the couch happily ensconced in the newest Diana Gabaldon time traveling novel, when Charley came into the living room at full speed. “Are we going to drumming tonight?”

“Shit. I forgot. What time is it now? I’ll need to make something for the potluck.”

“It’s almost 5. We’ve got some potatoes and rosemary. How ‘bout scalloped potatoes. I actually liked it when you made it with rice milk recently.”

“You know, that takes a while and we’ll be at the beach. Let’s just roast the potatoes in foil in the fire.”

“Good idea.”

 

“Looks like the weather is good enough for drumming outside tonight,” said Pia happily to Raven gathering things for the evening from their own cozy kitchen. “I’m glad we have Sitka House as a backup but I’m looking forward to one more beach night.”

“Have you been weather witching again, girl?”

“A little – I just put it out there as a low key request. Nothing urgent. Owen did too. There might not be a connection but it looks to be a good night. So yay.”

“It’s a delicate balance knowing when to ask and when to plead and when to let it go, isn’t it? I guess we’re all getting better at that sort of thing.”

“Anyway, I’ve marinated potatoes, mushrooms and zukes for shish-ka-bob. I think Carlos is bringing lamb for the carnivores. So we’ll need to take the grill for the fire. Did you put the drums and my flute in the car?”

“Yep, we’re all set. Are we taking anybody?”

“Arlo said he’d hitch over and carpool with us. I suggested he invite Jay and Fern from here. Oh and their little one. I think we can fit them all in.”

“Here they come now.”

 

“I kinda wanna to the Full Moon drumming tonight,” Uri said to Michael who was working as usual on his laptop. The desk in the house they’d just moved into was already cluttered with papers.

“Mmmm,” responded Michael noncommitally.

“I know it’s not your thing, but I’m shy about going by myself. You know all those people and can help me connect in.”

“You don’t need me.”

“Yes, no, maybe, but I want to spend the evening with you and I’m getting that I need to do this. I’m feeling some important stirrings in the air this night. I’ve got my special vegetable curry rice all ready to go.”

“You and your stirrings. Okay. You know I’m skeptical of all that, but I know the music means a lot to you. Let me get to a stopping place with this report. There probably are some people there I ought to be talking to.”

 

“Golly, Miss Molly, I’m tired,” thought Molly eying the cold wood stove as she took off her work boots in her living room. “Should I really be going out to drum tonight? Yes. It will be good for me to move my body differently. I can pick up some chips at the store. I certainly don’t have the energy to fix anything.”

 

Owen carried an armload of kindling and newspapers down to the beach access just north of the fork in the road beyond Sitka house. The sky was gray but the rain was holding off. His and Pia’s conspiracy seemed to have worked. They were getting better at knowing when and how to judiciously use their weather juju. This had seemed like an important night to gather outside.

There were some burned bits of driftwood in a circle of rocks and he was soon able to scrounge up more. The pickings were slim this time of year after the summer hoards and before the winter storms brought more in. He started to worry whether others would bring some to add, but reminded himself firmly that he could go get more at the house if need be.

He knelt and built a teepee of kindling stuffed with newspaper, and with a prayer for just the right mix of harmony and edgy dissonance in the evening, set the match to it. He had to do a little blowing but it was soon burning merrily. He loved the act of building the fire to call others in.

As he sat by the growing blaze, he noticed an eagle cruising up the beach towards him. He watched it happily, and then his heart soared as it circled low over his head before heading up towards the Mountain.

“Thanks, Eagle, for the gift of your presence. Good happenings tonight, eh? Thank you, Mountain, for your continued…ummm…. sourcing of our process.” He didn’t know quite what he meant by the latter, but certainly the Mountain’s presence was a constant in their lives that brought the Medicine Circles good energy as well as challenges. Full Moon Drumming wasn’t necessarily a Medicine Circle function, but there was a definite overlap of folks who liked this kind of anarchistic hippie thunder drum music with those who were the healers and seekers of his soul tribe. Certainly the bonds forged at these gatherings, usually held at a different people’s homes, helped the community as a whole, both spiritually and with their sustainability “agenda.”

He turned from his musing as some folks he didn’t recognize came up behind him. Newcomers were often a little early, not sure of the protocol.

“Hi, I’m Owen Logan.” He held out his hand.

“We met at Bear Essentials recently,” said the woman. “We’re Jasmine and Gideon Terranova and this is our son, Finch. We don’t have any drums, but Ursula said….”

“There will be plenty,” Owen assured her.

As if in confirmation, Pia and Raven appeared over the dunes carrying a big conga and its stand, followed by Arlo with his djembe. Jay and Fern staggered in with a cooler of their beer between them. Little Anise followed lugging a bag of percussion instruments. Gabe brought two doumbeks and Alex another conga.

Soon there was a goodly crowd of all ages, glowing in the golden light of the magic hour. A table had been improvised on a relatively flat-topped log a little ways from the fire circle. A couple of people were already digging into Cali’s cookies. Pia added her veggie shish kabob sticks on a grill along side the ones Carlos had already laid down. Underneath were Charley’s potatoes pre-wrapped in foil with rosemary and a dollop of butter.

Ursula stood behind them, holding baby Menolly and cooing to the bright-eyed little one who was cooing right back. Pia stood up to admire her. “Such a sweet little Dragon Girl, isn’t she?”

“Always a miracle that she’s here,” Ursula whispered, knowing that Pia understood how much her granddaughter meant to her. Children and dogs raced around them in the sand, a few middle school aged teens wandered down the beach picking up trash, while groups of adults clustered in conversation.

“Pia, I hear from Charley that you’re cooling on the idea of doing the workshop and Re-Treat business,” said Ursula after she’d handed the baby back to Cali to nurse.

“I’m not cooling on the idea, but I realized after talking to you guys the other night that I just don’t have the right energy to do it. My body gives off unhappy vibes whenever I think of making the phone calls to get things rolling.”

“An important sign you need to listen to.” Ursula turned conversationally to the newcomers who were standing at her elbow.

“We’ve been wishing a long time for someone to set up what we’ve been calling a Re-Treat and Re-Creation program to do speaker gigs and workshops here. A form of eco-tourism we could live with. Yoga weekends or visiting shamans and healers who could teach us new stuff, or whatever.”

“It doesn’t even have to be outsiders,” added Pia. “Plenty of folks here might be coaxed into doing a workshop if details like regional PR were handled for them. My partner Raven and I were talking about organizing this effort but now don’t think we’re going to.”

“Where would the workshops be given and where would people stay?” asked Gideon. “There certainly aren’t any big lodges or conference centers here.”

“We think it would work to use places like the community centers in each of the towns and various meeting rooms here and there. The Art Center often has space, for instance, and so do some of the spas. Actually, the vacation rental agencies have the conference room facilities scoped out, but they don’t have time to book groups or handle logistics. Obviously places for people to stay are scattered about – rental houses plus B & B’s. There are several restaurants like Arachne’s Web who do side catering work.“

“Sounds intriguing to do it in a decentralized way,” said Jasmine. “I used to do retreats for a conference center back east. Where would we start if we were to do something like this?”

“Wow,” said Pia. “Not to jump all over you, but you might be the answer to our prayers. I’d be happy to fill you in on what we’ve been thinking. It’s perfect for an economic development grant since it can be pitched as taking advantage of our existing visitor population yet keeps us from filling with T-shirt shops.”

“I love it when you talk ‘dirty’ like this, Pia,” said Molly. “I can just hear those well-oiled wheels in your brain turning.”

“Takes one to know one,” laughed Pia. “I haven’t been able to think of any reason why it wouldn’t be viable…. besides my own lack of energy for it. My wheels aren’t rusty but they’re ready for a different kind of track….”

“Or something like that,” laughed Ursula.

“The Healers Guild will collaborate,” offered Charley who had come over to add his two cents. “That always appeals to funders.”

“Wouldn’t you need non-profit status?” asked Gideon.

“Maybe,” said Charley. “We just happen to have the Cedar ReSource Center’s 501c3 to sponsor projects that are….”

“….moving our River and Mountain community towards sustainability.” Molly and Ursula chanted this last bit in unison with Charley. “Don’t we sound like a grant proposal already?”

“We’re both on the Board,” Molly explained to the Terranovas. “Charley is staff.”

“I’ve been wondering what that was about,” Jasmine said. “It all sounds intriguing.”

“The Center helps pull pieces together for new projects. Dreaming. Conjuring. Networking. Manifesting. Even providing technical help sometimes like bookkeeping and grant writing. That’s how the Portland State Locus program landed here,” said Charley.

“Wow, I wonder if I could do this project and write too,” said Jasmine. “But maybe they would kind of feed each other. It would be cool to have the Harner people come to town. I’d really like to learn from such folks….”

“I worked with them training for Soul Retrieval work,” said Owen.

“We figured it could start with all the teachers each of us has had over the years,” said Molly.

“In fact, you could probably get a Locus intern right off the bat,” said Charley.

“It could be musicians too,” mused Finch who had been listening intently to all this.

“The ‘shishes are ready,” called Raven squatting by the fire. One of the young mothers, a two year old clutching her pant leg, began helping the bigger kids roast hot dogs on skewers.

“Let’s have tea together next week and I can give you names and contacts on the local end.”

Ursula and Pia gave each other high fives as the others turned toward the food. “Yesss!”

“I knew they were live ones!