Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Beating of Our Hearts

A circle is formed by the women who until now have been chatting in excited little packs, anticipating the challenges they will face in the next two and a half hours. A lovely young dark-eyed woman, curvy with pregnancy, sits on one side of me; on the other, a blonde with a German accent and high cheekbones rests her strong, dye-stained hands on her drum. Two French-Canadian women converse quietly along one side. A woman in her 60s brushes her bobbed hair back off her cheek. A woman with naturally curly hair, a tie-dyed shirt, and beautifully-sewn moccasins sits across from me. There are others in this circle as well.
Our leader, our teacher, settles into place behind a large djembe, showing us how to align the trail of the goat’s spine that bisects the skin so that our hands hit on either side of it. This symmetry pleases me.
Jean has the sparkling eyes and easy carriage of a woman who has chosen her own paths and followed her own passions, a woman who has settled comfortably into life’s joys and woes with grace and humour and optimism. Her long silver hair floats softly around her face, crowned with a black beret that sits high on the lovely curve of her forehead. Her earrings don’t match: in one ear a moon, in the other, an exotic coin of some sort. This asymmetry pleases me. A trace of unrest shimmers just below the surface, but is harder to see when she begins to drum.

She talks of grandmothers, of the eggs we carry being passed down from our mothers, and their mothers’ mothers. My eyes spill water I didn’t know was there. She talks of how we already know how to drum, because we spent nine months listening to the drumbeat of our mothers’ hearts. I resist the urge to place my hand on the pregnant woman’s belly. I think about my mother and grandmothers, and of the many women that trace a line back from me to the beginning of humanity. I think of African women beating the dusty earth with their feet, and Celtic women leaping to the low tattoo of the bodhran. I see Anishnabe women shawl dancing and Arabic women belly dancing and Hawaiian women hula dancing; I see hips shaking, bodies undulating and shimmying, and feel the irresistible pull of the drum in all cultures.

After a short while, I stop thinking and my hands are drumming, vibrating with the impact, thrilling to the ancient sounds they are drawing from the drum. It is a concert; we are a community, we are playing a game of hide and seek, give and take, whisper and listen…I hear crickets and frogs, grass rustling, hoof beats on soil, claws on bark, wind chimes and wind. I hear the breaths and sighs and moans of the women present, and of those not present.

At first I am self-consciously aware only of the sounds from my drum; then they are blissfully lost, happy and mingling with the many other beats that spread out and fill this room. Each woman that wanders into the room for water or a snack can’t help herself; she bounces and thrusts and raises her arms in praise.

My eyes are closed, my mouth and heart open in a smile, and my hands?

My hands are drumming.


  1. Awesome.......can't wait until the drumming women's night this summer!! One day we will do the whole weekend.....I have always wanted to drum and never have. Great piece, Steph!

  2. Steph, what a great time and fab experience you have taken part in with these many women in tune with one another. I, too, would like to drum in a circle some day.

  3. This piece of writing is breathtaking.
    I have never drummed but your description of it being a part of every woman's core made me shiver.
    Would love to do this one day.
    Great photo, too!

  4. beautiful words today. i felt myself sitting beside you as i read. thank you.

  5. How inspiring to see all that you are doing in your own life to nurture yourself! I wish I could have afforded that creative sounded so wonderful, but not in the cards for me. I'm so thankful for your friendship and for the creative spark that you have to are a generous and beautiful soul! I look forward to seeing you soon!
    xo maureen

  6. You write beautifully, thank you for sharing such a precious feeling with us.



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