"It's as if a great bird lives inside the stone of our days and since no sculptor can free it, it has to wait for the elements to wear us down, till it is free to fly." Mark Nepo

Sunday, March 25, 2012


Sitting in class that first day, we practiced alternating hands to produce a good bass sound. Simple movements, a basic beat produced by a dozen hands in near-perfect unison. I felt a stirring that took me by surprise. A smile took over my face of its own accord. My breathing  became a part of the song.

I wasn't supposed to be sitting in that folding chair with a djembe drum between my knees, my husband next to me. The original plan was for me to drop Walt off for this class that was his birthday gift, spend the hour at Tao of Tea, then continue our day of celebration together after the class was done. When we walked into the studio before the class, the instructor suggested I stay. "There's room and an extra drum."

And so I said yes. Not sure why, but it's the best yes I've stepped into in months.

In his introduction, Clifford, our teacher, said the djembe drum is supposed to make you happy. That drumming is meant to be fun and light and full of joy. And it has been that every minute of every class. It's not only the pulsing of the drum beat itself, but it's also the circle of disparate characters all joined in a common endeavor. For those minutes of unified symphony, there is no room for anything but full presence.

I'm aware that for one of the first times in my life, I don't care how good I am at this new thing. I'm not trying to please the teacher or impress (be better than) my fellow drummers. I'm good enough to acquire all the feeling coursing through my being. I'm good enough to be included in this circle. I'm good enough that Walt is happy to have me by his side. I'm. Good. Enough.

Although my hands produce the sound as they hit the taut goat hide, I feel the vibrations in my chest. Those radiate to the rest of my being so that a few beats into our simple rhythms I find myself connected to a song that feels ancient, primal and essential. I want to get up and dance. My body moves in the chair, as much as the goblet-shaped drum hugged by my knees and encircled by my bare feet allows.

That timeless vibration has opened a new channel through the middle of me. One that's pushed me through the dam of darkness built up over the long winter of the last year and a half. I hear the pulse of light in the wild riot of robin song that starts the day. I see the pulse of life as the rain-swollen Lewis River rushes pell mell toward the Pacific. I feel the pulse of love in Walt's eyes. All present before drumming, but none experienced in my blood as it is now.