Halloween Capers

and Random Acts of Kindness

I’ve been taking a Community Ed class at East High here in Salt Lake. Quinn decided on a break from teaching djembe [that threatens to be a long-term shift], and I needed focus and music in my life. I’m not terrifically self-directed, so I pulled my old guitar out of the garage and started again with Beginning Beginners. I love it.

My wrist has not complained like it did when I dusted off my rusty, twanging dreams 4 years ago, when my real journey with Fibro began. I definitely feel it, but pain patches and yoga really seem to be taking care of me for now. LARGE BLESSINGS!

My body is my own again!

It’s clear that the janitors come during our class, because every week when I leave, the halls simply sparkle. For some reason [I’m weird], last week I got the idea to leave notes for the cleaners. I giggled and giggled dreaming up my caper and yesterday, I finally played out my little impish frolic. I ducked around a corner every time I heard someone approach, then re-emerged to post another note. No explanation can capture the why of this, or how hard I had myself laughing.

Trick or Treat!

Halloween is my FAVORITE HOLIDAY!

2011

Redhead Costume Idea … FIRE Itself!

second-floor

thank-you

“Excellent Work!” “Wonderful Job!”

Soli for Solstice!

solstice 2

We started a new session today. 2 new things happened. First, I could not get my part. I don’t prefer to play any of the 3 drums in dunun. I’m not very good at it and I’d rather do djembe, but, struggle though I may, I always eventually get it. Not today. We ended the segment before I ever found my “on” switch, you know? That’s a little frustrating. It’s very frustrating, actually, because the rhythm wasn’t that hard! It was simple, conceptually, but I just couldn’t put the 2 hands together. Yet. I will. So, there’s that. No biggie.

Next, oh man! I rolled for the first time today. Ha! Quinn taught us an arrangement with rolls. That was intimidating! I got it, but not consistently. It’s very exciting to imagine how far he’s gonna push me this time. Wow!

No longer do we brush-up on mechanics and technique. We warm up with a rhythm we already know, and jump straight into something unfamiliar. Quinn called today’s accompaniment “the building blocks of solo work.” What?! No way! I don’t see myself ever tearing it up freestyle with a steady chorus backing me up – except in musical theatre, hehe. Maybe I should. Maybe I should start to imagine myself as a bad-ass drummer.

What an awesome class. It pays me back again and again and again. I love djembe!

Speaking of theatre, today this quiet girl teased me (a great drummer with killer rhythm). It doesn’t take long for me to let loose, and I’m used to these people now. I have no idea what I said, but she laughed and laughed. “That was so dramatic!”

Oh. That.

I know I’m theatrical, but every once in awhile it surprises even me how over-the-top I must be. I don’t think I’m that animated, verbose, outrageous, but… people do. 🙂

I love these people. I love djembe!
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Soli is Malinke, from Guinea, played for male initiation.
solstice

TEDx Salt Lake City

Look what I found!

Africa Heartwood Drum & Dance Ensemble performed at TEDx on Sept. 20th. Of course, I can hear myself and immediately begin finding fault, but I just have to remember that day. I love Africa Heartwood Project. I’m so honored to be a part of it. I love the music. I love the community. I love African drum and dance! It’s the best thing I’ve ever done for me.

This was so exciting and nerve-wracking. You might perceive, also, that as an ensemble we’d never heard the last song of our show before we took to the stage, haha! Andy’s… inspiring like that. 🙂

(Ooh, get up on that note! I remember thinking, “Oh my, they started a little high.” Oy!)

(Funny side-note: I’m told I clapped for myself after my first performance at 3 years of age, as well. It was my premiere audience and I suppose I thought, “Oh, this is what we’re doing now. How lovely, yes!” I’m still at it, it seems, only these days I have a percussive rattle. I clap at the end of my shows, too. I love the actors I work with, and I really love the audience. Live music, theatre, and dance are special. Even if it’s not the best, there’s something beautiful about the symbiotic relationship we create together. It can’t be duplicated. It’s fleeting and sacred, and exists only because of every person in the room.)

Korejuga

Finally!

For the entire class last week, I was trying to think of the name of the Lakota group that’s an approximate equivalent to the Korejuga, from the Malinke tribe in the region of Guinea in Africa. (Korejuga are the jesters who show up to your party and tell jokes about you ’til you pay them.) They are the Heyoka. Phew!

Among the Lakota people, the heyoka (heyókȟa, also spelled “haokah,” “heyokha”) was a contrarian, jester, satirist or sacred clown. The heyoka spoke, moved and reacted in an opposite fashion to the people around them. Only those having visions of the thunder beings of the west, the Wakinyan, could act as heyokas.

Korejuga is a really fun, challenging rhythm. It’s a little frustrating, because it’s one in which the difference between slaps and tones really makes the music, and I just don’t differentiate yet. I try not to get – rah! – with myself because I am a beginner and I get to sound like one, but it makes a difference with timing, somehow, when you muddy over the distinct voice of each beat. I catch myself falling out of sync with the recording when I practice. I do love this one, though, and I love Quinn.

Quinn is the Korejuga of my life. He likes me, too, because I make faces and swear at him, haha! When I really zing him, he calls an “Air five!” or “Air hug!” Sometimes when I go for it, I get “DENIED! Oh!” Straight out of the 90s. He’s so much fun! He’s like a kid brother and I couldn’t love him more.

Now… I have got to figure out this signal! Why is this so hard? I can alternately play and fake the rhythm, but this signal is mocking me!

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In my first sweat lodge, my leader was Heyoka. I was confused, because this event was supposed to be so holy. There was no frame of reference for such an irreverent man. I, myself, am quite an irreverent person. Paradoxically, I also have a great reverence for spiritual things. In my own “Orthodoxy of Christie,” God or Whomever is freaking hilarious, and one of the most healing, loving, delicious things we can do, privately and communally, is to laugh. But my upbringing made occasions of gravity… somber. Not really. People tell jokes at church. The funny talks are always the most touching and human, memorable. The Bishop who made me laugh is still my favorite. But Sweat Lodge seemed to me like going through the temple, I guess. I’ve never done that, but I know how you act in there. Hushed and humble, not cackling and contrary!

I caught on to Chief Shellbone’s oppositional humor. Between one of the sessions, when he opened the door covering he bellowed, “Hot enough for ya?”

“NO!” I hollered back.

He threw cool water on me and I got street cred, haha! Aho Mitakuye Oyasin!

(Incidentally, whenever I start to “go” into the heat, I have visions of prairie people in wagons. Every time. Many of those with whom I pray here are Native. I have come to believe that my people, who met theirs while crossing the plains, are joining with us, just as their ancestors are. It’s so beautiful.)

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Oh my gosh, I’m the Korejuga! My friends paid my way for all of my twenties. (The “’til you pay them” part cracks me up!) I’d consider myself a mooch if I weren’t so amusing. Also generous and loving. 🙂 I babysat a lot of kids for free. Lucky me.

Sinté

I’m buying my djembe today, and last night as I was going to bed I decided that my new goal in the next year is to learn to play and sing together. It’s hard! With Africa Heartwood Project, all I’ve done so far is to shake a rattle – and sometimes I can’t sing at the same time! (Or keep the beat… Something’s gotta give, haha!)

When I pictured myself singing and drumming freely and with skill, I thought, “Oh, isn’t that strange? That dream from my childhood…”

I used to sing/chant this verse to my dolls that a golden idol taught me in my sleep. She turned into a woman in African dress… and chased me, actually. It was terrifying. But I remembered the song she sang to draw me to her. She was in my dreams for years until Mom forbade me to sing what I’d learned, and then I forgot her. Maybe manifesting African drum and dance in this life wasn’t so random, after all.

I found out years later that my ancestor, Abigail, woke up knowing songs, too. She wrote about it herself in the 1800s. In a childhood dream, Abigail heard the song of “a people in white on a vast plain of grass” and “longed to be numbered among them.” She taught the song to her friends. (I taught my chant to my sister. That’s when I got in trouble. Melanie always told.) Later, Abigail became one of the first Mormons, and she and the other fleeing members sang that song while crossing the plains to Utah.

This morning my friend invited me to a dream workshop on Friday. Should be fun.

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Sinté is played for weddings on a large krin, which fits 3 players.
(rhythm modified for Malinke drums, which we play here in Salt Lake)

Location: Boke, Guinea
Ethnic Group: Nalou

Soboninkun

I’m back on the djembe!

I had planned to rejoin my original Tuesday class after we closed 9 – 5 The Musical (last Saturday). The session I had to miss wraps up in a couple weeks, and I would jump back in with my crew at the end of November.

Quinn talked me into joining his Monday class, with a new session beginning yesterday. I declined at first because I’d enjoyed my classmates, and I need some time to recoup a little cash. But he worked on me a bit, and I’m so grateful he convinced me!

I really just thought he was trying to fill the empty seat. That’s money now. But there’s a part of me that thinks he knew I could handle the challenge of a more advanced group. There was a girl in my first class who struggled. For the most part, I didn’t mind the [constant] review. I’m a beginner, too. But often, I felt like we could have got a lot more done – learned another rhythm altogether, maybe more! – if not for her.

Well, I’m definitely the weak link in my new class, and I’m excited to step up my game! He moves FAST with these people. He had to know I could keep up, and that makes me feel great. I’m the slowest student now, but I get there, by damn. This group is going to improve my skills! I’m not there simply to learn rhythms anymore. I’m expected to demonstrate technique… and I don’t yet!

But I will…!

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Soboninkun is a mask of a small animal head. The dancer would make his rounds after harvest, and dance very acrobatically on a big grain sieve. This dance is now extinct (a seemingly simple concept that I can’t wrap my head around. If we still have the rhythm, why is the dance gone? “Because no one does it anymore” doesn’t satisfy me. If we know what it was for and what it was like, doesn’t someone know what it … is?).

Location: Guinea
Ethnic Group: Malinke

Confronting My Molester

I don’t know if it was necessary. I don’t know if it did anything for me.

I’m still overwhelmed by the coincidence that brought me to the moment I felt it was time to accuse him. I felt like… well, hell, I’ve always nominated myself the one to speak for any disenfranchised “us” I’ve decided I belong to.

I started dating a guy a month ago who immediately read my blog. He got to the part where I mentioned having been molested by the neighbor, and knew him by name! I got sick. I haven’t said that name in 30 years. “How do you know?!” I learned that I had not been a fluke, as I believed. I thought that I just happened to get caught up in it because, as the best friend of the sister he was sexually abusing, I was in the home.

No. He targeted the entire neighborhood. In fact, he raped some of the young girls, including the ex-wife of this guy. She had been a childhood playmate of mine.

I was outraged. The first thing I did was call my sister and make sure she had not been victimized, as well. No, praise God, but not for lack of trying.

Then I wondered, why have I never sought him out? Everyone’s on Facebook. Sure enough, there he was, with his schmuck smiling face, boasting of his son’s military service. I typed a rapid-fire message and sent it before I could chicken out. Normally, I try to withhold words at a time of intense emotion, but he deserves no such sparing and I deserve to accuse my attacker. Panicked at the moment I hit “Enter,” I scrolled back to read what I could not suck back from the ether… to learn that he had contacted me 4 years earlier in a breezy message that went to a junk inbox I never noticed. He was casually wondering if I could put him in touch with my brother, as though nothing ever happened! I FLIPPED and wrote again, then blocked him.

I don’t feel any different. Was it necessary? It feels so strange to come from the trauma with Christine in Spain, wrestling with why I didn’t leave sooner and grieving because I know the answer: I was perfectly groomed not to. I went into a place of survival, where the little girl in precisely that circumstance couldn’t leave. And she had to find a way to love the person attacking her. I feel as though I’m recovering from my childhood all over again.

And now here’s my molester. I can’t face it all at once! How do other people process their foundational injuries and move on, meaningfully and successfully? I try so hard. I mean to rise above it every goddamn day. I just keep falling back into it, as though it’s happening now. If others are visited from time to time by the shaky beginning that formed them, it’s the exception in functional, happy lives. For me, it’s the exception to be well. It never lasts.

I’m so tired. I’m so confused. I want so desperately to believe that this confluence of early-life traumas is a poetic, timely event designed to help me at last to put my past to bed. I’m sad to know that it’s really all just random. It happened. It’s done.

And then Sunday came. I’m reeling anew.

Since Jeffrey’s death in 2011 I’ve been wrestling with shame and guilt for verbally abusing him during the lowest days of the heroin addiction that killed him. We were roommates. It was awful. I’ve made peace with the fact that I was fully triggered, and even the sanest person would lose it, but not quite at the level I did. Words are weapons, and he got my worst. I abused his parents, too. They came into my home, in what felt very much like an ambush, to accuse me of stealing from Jeff through the utilities. (How do you figure? Half is half.) It’s amazing how addicts can convince themselves of anything to get the money they need for a fix. It was more amazing, and beyond insulting, that his parents believed him and challenged me to prove my innocence, which I refused to do (though I kept meticulous records and made copies for Jeffrey that I explained, and he agreed to, EVERY MONTH). With more than a few extra words – surprise – I told them to go to hell. Well, really, I told them they were killing him. And then he died.

Sunday, his brother and I were headed to the drum circle when his folks pulled up to deliver fresh garden veggies. I haven’t seen them since that day 4 years ago. They couldn’t see me in the car, but I was moved to act and terrified to do so. I had to apologize. I knew through the grapevine that they’d forgiven me. I’m not surprised. Jeffrey was the most forgiving person I’ve ever known; it came from someplace. But I needed to ask for it, and simply to tell them how very sorry I am for contributing to his suffering and theirs. So I did. I was loved and held, and I … feel terrible.

Why EVERYTHING? Why all at once? I suppose I will put this behind me. Even if we don’t consciously put the past behind us, that’s where it goes. But I feel like I’m drowning in regret and failure, while yet knowing I’m doing better than I ever have before. Why don’t I feel good about it?

I’ve had a headache for weeks. I’m exhausted, though neither sleep-deprived nor sleeping too much. I can’t sit with a book. My food addiction is out of control. My eyelashes are getting more and more sparse. (How can it be psychological when they hurt?) I’m irritable and weepy. I’m not coping well.

Thank god for drumming. It’s my happy place right now. Thank you, angels.

***

TO THE SEXUAL PREDATOR OF MY YOUTH:

July 14, 2014

“I just found out I’m not the only girl in the neighborhood you molested. You made the rounds victimizing everyone! You are a sick, violent pervert who traumatized precious young girls. You fundamentally changed us. You robbed us of our innocence. You raped us. All my life, I thought it was a fluke, that you got out of control with your sister and I just happened to be injured because she was my best friend and I was in your house. But you sought us out. You went out of your way to pursue us, to degrade and mock us, and force us to gratify your twisted sexual appetites. In truth, you know as well as I do that the rage it took to perpetrate your crimes was born of your own impotence and weakness. You’re a disgusting loser who has to act out on children in order to feel empowered. That hasn’t changed. Til you die, you’ll be a child molester and rapist. I don’t know how you live with yourself, and I don’t care. I’ve long-since been rid of you, but I found out just hours ago that I wasn’t the only one. You can never make up for what you did to us. You can never restore what you took. I finally decided to reach out and identify you to your face. I see you. I know who you are. You’re a fraud and a liar. You’re a rapist and pedophile. When you take the Sacrament, you are spitting in the face of God, who made me and all of your victims. Shame on you.”

and then…

“oh my god! are you insane? i just saw that you contacted me years ago asking after my brother, as though nothing ever happened! how are you not HUMILIATED? how do you look in the mirror? how do you not kill yourself? i couldn’t live with the burden of being the monster you are. you’re sick. don’t contact me again. I have the right to speak. you do not.”

“The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” – William Faulkner

I’m working through it, presently.