Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Beating a drum and howling at the full moon

Have you ever missed an amazing experience because you stopped to consider what other people might think? How often do we stop ourselves from enjoying the moment by imagining the negative things people might think or say?

Saturday night at a backyard barbecue I almost missed a fun opportunity because I didn't know many people gathered in my friend Henry's backyard. Many people had already drifted away. Perhaps I should too.

I almost left before the wild rumpus started. That would have been a shame.

We'd gathered to send Henry's daughter, Lena, a graduate student, off to an Alaskan adventure, a summer job helping tourists backpack into wild country. It's a fitting job for Lena, who has backpacked as far away as the Himalayas in Nepal and as long as the 2,663-mile Pacific Crest Trail. You can read my story about Lena's PCT adventure here.

Instead of yielding to my inner voice that was telling me it was time to go home, I had stayed longer. I'd seen the musician neighbor's djembe drum and asked him if I might play it when he played his clarinet. He smiled and encouraged me to join him. I've been playing drums since sixth grade band. I still get a kick from playing any kind of drum.

When the musician picked up his clarinet and began playing sweet notes under the night sky, I grabbed the djembe, listened  to his clarinet and started pounding out a rhythm. Soon others joined us around the fire pit playing a tambourine, mandolin, ukelele. Lena picked up her violin and joined in. Henry turned an enormous plastic bucket upside down and transformed it into a drum.

I found myself sitting around a fire pit with old friends and new acquaintances while beating an African djembe drum during an impromptu jam session. Possibilities were palpable under the full moon.

Our moonlit jam session reminded me of one of my favorite children's books, "Where the Wild Things Are" by Maurice Sendak. If you aren't familiar with Sendak's 1963 classic, Max, the wild boy who has been sent to bed without any supper, sails away to the land of wild things, tames them and becomes king of all the wild things.

Then Max commands his subjects: "Let the wild rumpus start!" and that's when Max and the wild things really let loose. They dance in the moonlight, dangle from trees and frolic in the forest. Now, we weren't dangling from trees in Henry's backyard on Saturday night, but we did play instruments with abandon.

If I'd listened to my voice of reason, I would have left earlier and missed that experience. That wild rumpus.

As I played the djembe under a full moon in Henry's backyard, I felt like a wild thing, alive to possibilities.

The next time you have the opportunity to beat a djembe drum or do something out of the ordinary, don't stop to think about what others will say. Instead, do it. Beat your drum. Life's too short not to play an African drum around a firepit and under a moonlit sky.

Let the wild rumpus start!