What is my life? What does it add up to? It passes so quickly. In the afternoons, as the shadows deepen, I can see my life, spread before me, out in the open, and the rituals of my life our chores, are a kind of symphony singing my song.
My wife and partner, moving to the barn to feed the barn cat, my dog, awaiting his instructions to move the sheep, the chickens heading for their roost, the donkeys moving towards the feeder. These are the rhythms of my life, they are my song in shadows.
There’s a sweet and gentle man named Otha Day who travels the Northeast offering drumming classes meant to heal and inspire and calm. He travels with his Freestyle Djembe drums and charges $10 a person for an hour-and-a-half session. Otha suffered a series of strokes and he believes the drums helped him heal. He travels all over in his white van hoping to help others do the same. Maria has been going to his classes for a few months and has invited me, but I resisted. It seemed her thing, not mine, and I didn’t think I would get much from it.
Tonight, I decided to go. I felt like in refusing, I was just being one of those grumpy men who want to sit around at home all evening, and I wanted to share the experience with Maria as long as she really wanted me to come, and I think she did. We have often ventured out on spiritual quests and I do not want to lose my love of that. And I liked drumming, felt very comfortable there. And I could use some healing.
Otha has a nice way about him, he brought me into the drumming and never made me feel foolish or incompetent. Otha guided us and we just had conversations with one another through the drums. I played the drums when I was a kid, and loved it, although they were very different kinds of drums. Still, I felt the old rhythms coming back to me and after a few minutes, I closed my eyes and felt all kinds of things coming up through me. There were just four of us, sitting in a Studio at Hubbard Hall’s Arts Center, and after awhile we were beating the drums together, in sync and in a kind of harmony that was spiritual and healing for me.
For me, this is part of being a man. Staying open. Sharing life with my wife, my love. Breaking down the lists of things I don’t do and won’t do. Seeking ecstatic experience wherever it presents itself. Otha is a Sufi, and I thought of him as a prophet wandering small towns and struggling cities to bring his message and his drumming to people who have enough wounds to want some healing. We are a tribe, I suppose and we often gather together.
For me being a man isn’t about the things I don’t do, but the things I am willing to try. And every time I do, I am richer and better.
We are scrupulous about keeping our light in the window on at night, it is a beacon to us, and we hope to people driving by. For me, it means hope and generousity and freedom from fear and anger. It calls me to be creative, do my work, change and grow. It evokes a time when people kept candles and lanterns burning in their windows to guide and comfort travelers in the night. We hope it does the same.
Ben finished the last work for now on the New Bedlam Farm. He had a truckload of gravel delivered and he smoothed out our pot-holed driveway – bad water spot for the winter – and put gravel over the mud on the hay feeder outside of the Pole Barn. We got three truckloads of gravel and Ben spent most of the day spreading and smoothing it. It is the last major work for now, and although there are a lot of things we would like to do, we are out of money.
It would be impossible to list all of the things Bed did here – doors planed, beams shored up, garbage and trash hauled away, barn repaired, Maria’s Studio – and I am sure he will be back. Old farmhouses never stay static for too long. Our realtors Chris and Kristin Preble came by this morning and we signed a new listing agreement for the next six months. Many people say it’s important to change realtors but I think it’s important to not change realtors if they are Chris and Kristin. They have worked hard to sell our farm – ads, showings, e-mails, and we have no complaints. The inventory of homes is dropping rapidly around here, and a number of people are moving up in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, as they did after 9/11. We have had a stead stream of showings, and people seem to be loving the farm.
It is getting closer, it will happen that someone who loves that wonderful place will want to buy it. The last person who looked, a lawyer from New York City, said he loved the farmhouse and the price, he was just not planning to move up here for a few years and was checking things out. Kristin said home sales in this are are up 40 per cent over last year and things are beginning to move again in the markets.
Today was a landmark day for us, Ben is off to other jobs and we are on our own here. The house is in much better shape – new wiring and plumbing walls and ceilings, wood stove and new slate roof. It cost more than we thought, of course, and we will be facing some challenges in the New Year. A perfect life is not one without challenges, I think, but one in which challenges are met openly and honestly. There is no price too great to pay for a meaningful life, Maria and I share that strong belief. So thanks, Ben, we will be calling you often. You may not realize what a gift you gave us with your hard and good and honest work, but we do.
Around dusk, Strut gathers the hens and leads them to the coop, where they peck and march around for a few minutes before hopping up, one by one. Then we shut them into their nifty designed chicken coop, safe from predators and the elements. I had a big day on the farm today, Ben finished the last work on the house, but more about that later. Maria has invited me to her drumming class and I’m going. People tell me I could use some drumming and I’m curious to see what they mean.