The Woman at the Gate

V, whose bower this is in a manner of speaking, rubs the trance from her eyes. Rising to her feet and shrugging her shoulders, she says, “I need to go to her. I bet it’s our neighbor. She’s deeply religious.” To the driveway’s gate, V walks swiftly, though with a bit of a wobble so abrupt has been her return to the mundane matters of fear.

The rest of us grumble a bit and wonder what our outdoor drumming has stirred up in the neighborhood. Settling down, we snack, share water bottles and begin recording our experiences before every dayness sweeps them down the river of forgetfulness.

I reflect on my own fear of drumming forty years earlier. Then married and with four children between the ages of 2 and 9, we’d recently moved into the long awaited home we’d had built in the country – twenty three acres bordering on sixty more at least – meadows, forest, stream and no neighbors. One evening along about dusk as we were putting the kids to bed, drumming, not a lone person but a group drumming, began just out of sight of our home. I’d never heard drumming before but it conjured primitive lust and violence to me. By the light of the next morning, I could imagine it was simply young folk drumming for the full moon, but at night with the horror of Charles Manson still in the news, my atavistic fears of the unknown rose to Matterhorn heights. I panicked.

This was after all thePhiladelphia suburbs and I was after all an upstanding  educated young woman who’d never encountered such a thing as people beating sticks on wood and leather. Why would anyone want to do that? I had no generosity of spirit toward things remotely occult or people possibly tainted by witchery. I was a champion of the underdog but not that underdog. I fought for social justice and acceptance of the other – but not THAT other.

My compassion for the woman at the gate bubbles freely, contrary to some of my mates who are angry, aghast that we are disturbed and disrupted this way.

After only a few minutes, V comes back and reports that it indeed was their neighbor and she finds the drumming annoying and distasteful. V points out that power lawn mowers are operating all over the neighborhood and that they, too, are loud and annoying. “But they last only a short time. You were drumming last night, too!” V reassures her that this is a weekend event and that we’d be drumming only a few more times. Saturday evening would be the last of it. She smiles, lowers her shoulders.  “Oh that’s not so bad, “ she says.

We realize that this is a powerful experience, a microcosm of planetary conflicts as cultural paradigms collide. This is a our personal opportunity as a group to handle the situation with dignity, courage and compassion, a call to stay true to our course at the same time we honor the doubts and misperceptions of the other, doing our utmost to keep our own bellies relaxed and our own hearts open.

Whoa, this is the world’s work!

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About Deborah

Deborah Jane Milton, Ph.D. is an artist, mentor, and eco-psychologist, mother of four and grandmother of eight.
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