I am the last to arrive.
I pull my Blundstones off just outside the door,
peering in the window at, it seemed to me, an unlikely group of women.
But it was I who had never been here before.
My feet hit the floor and I push open the door and summon that little burst of confidence it takes to walk into a room full of strangers,
all of them turning in their seats, smiling;
“You didn’t need to take your shoes off. The floors are cold.”
“I’ll be okay,” I say cheerfully, tentatively pointing to a empty chair at four o’clock in the circle of women
“Is this spot free?”
I sit in the folding metal chair, feeling its rickety legs relax under me, and gaze around the room.
I do this thing I recognize as insecurity: assessing which of the women were probably also new to this circle. That one had to be: in her pleated pants and Sensible Shoes, fresh from work, perhaps. Scanning. Definitely that one, who looks like she dressed for the occasion, who looks like she doesn’t quite fit inside herself. Not her, the nervous looking one in the fleece jacket – only because I know she works at the aromatherapy store I buy all my oils from. She’d be the kind to attend something like this.
I wonder if they are sizing me up, too. With my wrapped woven scarf and my yoga pants and my hematite and rose quartz bracelets; veritable sidekicks, all.
But the hostess, who seems just as unlikely as anyone else in the room, at least as visual appearances and stereotypes go, welcomes us all and as she begins to summon the Four Directions,
and we all close our eyes in recognition of the prayer
We are not new to any of this at all. There is something ancient called forth
and we all know what to do to honour it,
because whether we had sat in this very circle before or some other circle elsewhere
what this was wasn’t foreign
but something so familiar
it resonated deeply of authenticity.
And then the drumming begins.
The woman next to me picks up her drum and I can feel it.
Triangular and edged with the fur of some wild animal
I am in awe – the true meaning of the word – both rapt and afraid, amazed and unsettled.
And that woman in the Pleated Pants next to me? She pulls a leather-skinned drum, well worn, from the tote bag at her feet.
And I think: she’s been walking around downtown, probably, on her way to and from her office tower, with a Sacred Drum in her damn tote bag. And I imagine she must have a jagged amethyst on her desk, which her cubicle mates probably think is a pretty decoration. If only they knew.
Around the room, every woman picks up a drum I know to be her own. Painted animal skins, some ivory and still-taut, unbeaten, some clearly worn by the rhythms of many circles like these.
I picture these drums hanging in the women’s homes. Next to an embroidery from grandmother, perhaps, or next to the picture of the childrens’ graduation? Or are they stashed in a Room Of Her Own, somewhere. What do their husbands think? I notice myself thinking this and feel uncomfortable, both for having the thought and because the thought has me.
I am snapped out of my reverie by the beginning, which, like everything else that has happened in this circle so far, just happens. Like we all knew what to do, already.
It takes a mere moment before we find the same rhythm, and it starts as a somewhat-comforting and yet somewhat-insistent beat, with a syncopation that says Pay-A-Ten-Tion Pay-A-Ten-Tion Pay-A-Ten-Tion.
Some of the women rise.
They begin to walk around the room and it is then that the beat of the drums begins to beat with my heart and it feels
and I have full-body chills
and tears swell in my eyes
The unlikeliest of them all whoop-shrieks
and others follow suit.
And the beat kicks up a notch.
We are frenzied.
More whoops and call-outs and that
that fur-edged wild thing
is passed to me.
I take it and hold it by the sinew all criss-crossed and knotted in the back
And I join in.
I am surprised to find her beat is soft and powerful
like some Sacred Feminine thing.
And I join in.
I join the sound of these ordinary women from every walk of life
the sound which is just One sound, really,
the beat of twelve drums that sounds like One
and I think, so are we.
And I think, this is it.
And I imagine, in rooms with metal folding chairs around the world
women are remembering
the way women are: many as one. In community.
And the beating of our drums is getting louder. And we are calling the cry of the Warrior.
And we are coming.