The First Drum Circle (Thursday, May 7th)
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Last month, Leslie Kolovich invited me to a drum circle at her house. I was both equal parts excited and apprehensive—what would it be like? What could I expect?
I arrived about 20 minutes before we were supposed to begin. I greeted everyone and Leslie asked that I write down some names of people that I would like to lift up for this evening’s drum circle. I wrote down a few names and at the end included the people in Nepal who had recently been affected by the earthquake.
Leslie asked that we bring our own drums, so I brought my sister’s djembe that she bought when she was in Cameroon, and a stumpfiddle that I made. I set the instruments down in the middle of the circle where everyone else had placed their rhythm instruments; there was a whole assortment of drums—large, small, tall, squatty. Other rhythm instruments included bells, hand cymbals, frogs, rhythm sticks, egg shakers, Tibetan singing bowls, and maracas.
As the clock approached six, we formed a circle in the family room downstairs. Leslie greeted everyone and then Jaime, a local musician and probably the most experienced drummer in the room, explained that we would be drumming for 108 minutes straight, and that it was going to be a freestyle drum circle with no central leader, but one where the group would ebb and flow on its own whim.
He then asked us a question. “How many of you are drummers?” A few hands went up. “How many of you are think you’re not drummers?” Most of the hands in the room shot up—for many of us, this was our first time at a drum circle. With a smile on his face and a twinkle in his eyes, he said, “Well, I think you’re going to prove me differently by the end of the evening.”
We then went around the room and shared our names, and why we were here this evening. I told everyone that I was there to listen with an unclouded heart. Among the other 21 drummers, many mentioned being there to find harmony or love. One lady said she was there to heal a broken heart. Another person said that there was a lot of hurt going on, and she wanted to lift up peace to the world.
After going around the room Shantaya, a local yoga instructor, began playing on her box accordion and lead the group in a mantra. After a few minutes, Jaime began playing his drum; with a deep bass thump and steady rhythm that resonated throughout the room, most of us began nodding to the beat. After another minute or so, a lady from across the room joined in on her drum, somewhat unsteady and unsure at first, but soon slipped into a rhythm paralleling Jaime’s drumming. One by one, everyone else in the circle joined in. Shantaya stopped playing the box accordion and the percussive beat of drums filled the room. Ba-boomp, ba-da-boomp, ba-da-boomp, ba-da-boomp. Ba-boomp.
The group began with this really heavy throbbing drumbeat, and then the beat changed. Three beat time switched to four beat time and cycled back again. Each person was a thread, a thread of frayed and loose sound that rapidly intertwined with others, spun wildly with others; came together freely, completely designless and free. Rhythms wove throughout the room, the warp and the woof formed a fabric of sound, enveloped us in a warm and palpable blanket of rhythm.
Towards the end, I wanted to take a break, so I left the circle. I grabbed a cup of water and a slice of watermelon and went outside to the porch. The last hours of sunlight hung in the sky and reflected off the nearby dune lake. I listened: Crick, crick, chirpity-crick, chirp, chirp. Nature has its own rhythm, and I could hear the beating of the drums mixing with the night sounds. I thought to myself: crickets and frogs sing their song every day, and if only we could do the same thing and not be held back by society and cultural inhibitions and just live our lives and create music!
I came back in the room and looked at the drums spread out all higglety-pigglety on the floor like toys in a child’s room. Playing drums, playing music.
I looked around the room—every one person had their own instrument that they were playing and yet, collectively, we were creating music together. Each cricket rubbing its individual legs yet together forming a chorus, each ant grasping its own leaf yet together feeding the whole colony, each butterfly flapping its own wings yet together migrating southward…Interdependence. To create your own rhythm and sync it with others—it’s not just humanity, it’s life!
Not long after I sat down, Shantaya began to squeeze the bellows on her box accordion and the drummers began to slow down and fade out, recognizing that we had been playing for almost two hours straight.
Shantaya soon stopped playing and the room sat in silence. After listening to almost two hours of loud, rhythmic, pulsing, pulsating, beating drums and then to have a moment of silence? It really was deafening, audible—I heard the sound of silence. It spoke to me as much as the drumbeats. Sometimes the absence of something is just as important as the presence of something. When you have a cup, that which is not is what forms the usefulness of a cup. We drink from the hollow section and the cup is just a container. Even drums need a shell or a resonance chamber to allow the vibrations to spread through the air. Eardrum, sound, house, cup. That which is useful is not.
Five or ten minutes passed with us sitting in silence and breathing in each other’s presence. Leslie concluded the evening and the group was in agreeance that this was truly a special evening and that the drum circle should continue.
The next drum circle is Thursday, July 9th, from 6-8 pm Central Time and will meet every 2nd Thursday of the month at that time. You can watch the drumming sessions on YouTube. Hope to see you there!
Excerpts from Laudato Si’
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Last Thursday, the pope released his first encyclical. Its topic was a somewhat unlikely one: climate change and the continued destruction of our planet. For the figurehead of the largest Christian denomination in the world to deliver an encyclical, one of the highest-ranking documents a pope can issue, on environmental issues is not something to be taken lightly. Furthermore, Laudato Si’ (whose title is inspired by poetry from Saint Francis) is addressed not only to Catholics, but to “every person living on this planet.” (Section 3) At 184 pages, it is about the size of a novella, and it reads like a college textbook throughout most of it. However, there are some moments within the encyclical that are quite inspiring and resonated with me. Here, I share them with you:
If we approach nature and the environment without this openness to awe and wonder, if we no longer speak the language of fraternity and beauty in our relationship with the world, our attitude will be that of masters, consumers, ruthless exploiters, unable to set limits on their immediate needs. By contrast, if we feel intimately united with all that exists, then sobriety and care will well up spontaneously. The poverty and austerity of Saint Francis were no mere veneer of asceticism, but something much more radical: a refusal to turn reality into an object simply to be used and controlled. (Section 11)
In some places, rural and urban alike, the privatization of certain spaces has restricted people’s access to places of particular beauty. In others, “ecological” neighbourhoods have been created which are closed to outsiders in order to ensure an artificial tranquillity. Frequently, we find beautiful and carefully manicured green spaces in so-called “safer” areas of cities, but not in the more hidden areas where the disposable of society live. (Section 45)
Today, however, we have to realize that a true ecological approach always becomes a social approach; it must integrate questions of justice in debates on the environment, so as to hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor. (Section 49)
Since everything is closely interrelated, and today’s problems call for a vision capable of taking into account every aspect of the global crisis, I suggest that we now consider some elements of an integral ecology, one which clearly respects its human and social dimensions. (Section 137)
It is essential to seek comprehensive solutions which consider the interactions within natural systems themselves and with social systems. We are faced not with two separate crises, one environmental and the other social, but rather with one complex crisis which is both social and environmental. Strategies for a solution demand an integrated approach to combating poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded, and at the same time protecting nature. (Section 139)
We need to take up an ancient lesson, found in different religious traditions and also in the Bible. It is the conviction that “less is more”. A constant flood of new consumer goods can baffle the heart and prevent us from cherishing each thing and each moment. To be serenely present to each reality, however small it may be, opens us to much greater horizons of understanding and personal fulfilment. (Section 222)
Happiness means knowing how to limit some needs which only diminish us, and being open to the many different possibilities which life can offer. (Section 223)
Inner peace is closely related to care for ecology and for the common good because, lived out authentically, it is reflected in a balanced lifestyle together with a capacity for wonder which takes us to a deeper understanding of life. Nature is filled with words of love, but how can we listen to them amid constant noise, interminable and nerve-wracking distractions, or the cult of appearances? Many people today sense a profound imbalance which drives them to frenetic activity and makes them feel busy, in a constant hurry which in turn leads them to ride rough-shod over everything around them. This too affects how they treat the environment. An integral ecology includes taking time to recover a serene harmony with creation, reflecting on our lifestyle and our ideals, and contemplating the Creator who lives among us and surrounds us, whose presence “must not be contrived but found, uncovered”. (Section 225)
We must regain the conviction that we need one another, that we have a shared responsibility for others and the world, and that being good and decent are worth it. We have had enough of immorality and the mockery of ethics, goodness, faith and honesty. It is time to acknowledge that light-hearted superficiality has done us no good. When the foundations of social life are corroded, what ensues are battles over conflicting interests, new forms of violence and brutality, and obstacles to the growth of a genuine culture of care for the environment. (Section 229)
Saint Therese of Lisieux invites us to practise the little way of love, not to miss out on a kind word, a smile or any small gesture which sows peace and friendship. An integral ecology is also made up of simple daily gestures which break with the logic of violence, exploitation and selfishness. In the end, a world of exacerbated consumption is at the same time a world which mistreats life in all its forms. (Section 230)
Love, overflowing with small gestures of mutual care, is also civic and political, and it makes itself felt in every action that seeks to build a better world. Love for society and commitment to the common good are outstanding expressions of a charity which affects not only relationships between individuals but also “macro-relationships, social, economic and political ones”. (Section 231)
Monday after the Summer Solstice drumming circle by Leslie Kolovich
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I am sitting in my basement studio early this morning. The sun coming through the windows is making interesting shadow patterns on the white rug. I close my eyes and I can still hear the beat, the rhythm from Saturday nights Solstice drum circle. This room continues to have a vibration from 17 drummers who joined together to welcome inner Solstice. It soothes me. It brings me into Monday with a calm feeling.
Each drum circle is unique. The music is never the same. This event brought 12 new people to the session, each sharing an expression from their soul. For some, the drumming was a brand new experience, and others it was a long overdue reunion with the drum.
I continue to be amazed how drum circles evolve. It reminds me of a ocean wave beginning to form way off shore. Slowly building gathering volume, height and suddenly all the water within the wave is synchronized forming this beautiful perfect roll. But then from the glory of the peak it falls apart. Water goes where it wants to go. Keeping close to the main wave, but nonetheless as it falls from the crest it creates what seems like pure chaos. Then water makes it’s way towards the shore much smaller and fragmented. However, once it hits the beach, touches the ground it returns back to the open ocean pulling together another synchronized wave is formed. Some waves last longer than others, but one thing we know is that waves will never give up. Even on very flat water days there is always motion and rhythm in the ocean.
Drumming with a group is a great teacher for our daily lives. We learn to feel the power of synchronizing with others. The thrill of when the entire group is connected is spectacular. We learn to feel patience when the group seems to break off into pure chaos. We let it flow knowing we will join back when the time for gathering again is needed. We learn to support each other, share, and most of all respect that there is no wrong way to play your soul’s expression of rhythm.
On this Monday after the Summer Solstice drum circle I go forward with this renewal, with a new understanding of myself, and my connection to others through many cycles of rhythm.
Healing Peace, Love and Drumming ~Leslie Kolovich
***This drum circle will meet every 2nd Thursday of the month starting July 9th 6-8pmcst.
Cover photo credit: Caroling Wholeo Geary
You can watch our drumming session on Youtube
Next Path Awaits by Leslie Kolovich
When we go down a path with twists and curves, one that tests our very being.
Darkness. Light. Shade. Brightness. Gray. Dingy.
Where truth is hidden or being hidden from us.
Where trust is not given and false words are spoken trying to penetrate to the heart,
breaking boundaries of love and kindness, confusing the journey to the point of blindness.
Even in the blinding darkness the light is still there.
The journey will change.
Strength will rise from deep inside and compel you forward, and you will be greeted by light and those who were waiting patiently for your return.
Gratitude flows for this experience.
Wounds will heal as this is where the light entered.
Onto the next path wiser.
Remembering that trust and trusting are instincts, gifts from our creator.
Welcome back says Soul
Body says Thank you for Light
Soul next Path Awaits~Leslie Kolovich
The color tells a story by Christian Wagley
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It’s a fine day for a sail as I rise in the early morning darkness to catch a ride on a friend’s sailboat for a daylong voyage into the Gulf of Mexico. As I sip coffee and gather my provisions in the morning silence, I relish the thought of sailing in a single day from bayou to bay to gulf, and observing the colorful changes along the way.
We motor out of the slip and leave the dark and sheltered waters of the bayou, entering the larger Pensacola Bay. The moon sets in the western sky and the first light of dawn appears in the east. Once past the narrow channel we turn the engine off and let the sails fill with a gentle wind.
We sail toward the pass, a narrow channel between two barrier islands that follows the route of the old river that is now a drowned valley some 50 feet beneath us. Sea level was much lower 18,000 years ago, and the river once flowed many miles farther before it reached the Gulf.
Approaching the pass the calm bay waters begin to churn as the opposing forces of Gulf and bay meet in the constricted channel. With each ebb and flow of the tides, huge volumes of water push through the narrow pass and collide in a dramatic turbulence.
From the upstream watershed of 7000 square miles of land comes the fresh water that falls as rain, filters through forests and pours across streets and parking lots, and flows down miles of streams and rivers to the bay. And from the Gulf come briny waters carrying the dissolved salts and tiny larval creatures of the sea. These contrasting waters mix in some places and stratify in others, and here at the pass they hit head-on.
The whitecaps and foam on the surface clearly show the epic battle of waters taking place, but it is the color of the water that draws my eye above all else. The bay waters are a dark blue stained brown by loose soil and tannins—compounds dissolved from tree leaves and other plant parts. The Gulf waters are an intensely clear green, looking even greener in colorful contrast with the bay.
The differing colors offer a great lesson to paddlers in observing the many waters we encounter. Brown water could be carrying mud, or naturally-occurring tannins as rain filters through forests. A brown color can also come from tiny plant plankton (called phytoplankton) that tint the water. In general, these darker and browner waters tend to carry more nutrients and support more biologically productive natural systems.
Where waters are an intense clear blue they often indicate more of a biological desert, as sunlight reaches through clear water with little phytoplankton and all but the blue wavelengths of light are absorbed. Green waters often lie in between, as areas where moderate levels of nutrients feed phytoplankton containing chlorophyll that color the water.
But color is not the whole story. Many of the most troubling chemical pollutants and pathogens introduced by humans are invisible to our eyes. Mercury, PCBs, chemicals that drip from cars, viruses, and bacteria are causing harm in many coastal waters and yet can only be seen through laboratory analysis.
The color of the waters we paddle tells a story, and one that we should all know and understand better. But color is not the whole story, and so we have to continue to support scientists and citizens who collect water samples and monitor the waters we paddle. Only by having the complete picture of the health of our waters—observing the changes we see as paddlers, and acting on the recommendations of scientists who see what we can’t—can we restore and protect the waterways we love.