Saturday, September 22, 2012

Banging a Drum for Peace

Yesterday pretty much ruled. My old friend, Buffalo Charlie, invited me out to bang a drum for International Day of Peace. Buffalo Charlie gets his name from his large herd of buffalo, all native to North America, all formerly tribe-owned (the modern buffalo, in most cases, has a lot of cow in its lineage). Charlie is this quiet, serene man who emits a kind of joy for the life he's found, raising buffalo and living green on principle.


Charlie's little limestone home has been around since the days of the Indian Raids in Kansas, and history is part of its allure. Inside, there's a 40s refrigerator (the type with the round vent on top), a wood burning stove still used as their sole means of cooking meals, and an enormous log in the middle of the kitchen for preparing meals and cutting. Everywhere are images of buffalo and the Native Americans he so admires.  On the stair steps there are hoof prints; he tells a pretty elaborate story of how someone had gotten the idea to ride a horse up the stairs, but the punchline of the whole thing seems to be lost in the verbal tradition; just how did that horse get back down the steps, I ponder.  There aren't any hoof prints in the other direction. I love this place; there might be people who dream dreams of new homes in suburban subdivisions, of mansions by the sea, but for me, this place is absolute perfection.

More after the break...

And this place we went to drum, 'Round Mound' as it's known, was sacred ground for the Pawnees. The Pawnee were a peaceful tribe who were known for their skill in astrology. A museum dedicated to them lies just a few miles south of this homeplace, and when I visited there recently, I couldn't help but admire their lifestyle and their interests; I hoped somewhere down my family tree there had been some Pawnee.
We banged our drums for an hour straight. I felt a bit guilty the two times I had to stop and readjust my wrist and swat at some imaginary bug in my hair. Three people, standing on a hill, banging drums in the same rhythm felt like the universe saying to me, 'this is why you moved back here,' to be around people who know the value of life, the value of peace, the value of believing we can make a difference in the world by standing in solidarity with people all over the world we can't see and will never meet, at the same time, during the same hour on the same day, just banging and hoping.

Returning to my tiny town of 2,000 felt like an intrusion on my consciousness, after having felt so calm on top of that hill. Funny, I thought I'd feel silly... I've never had a lot of nerve when it came to singing or playing instruments in front of other people, but tonight, standing there with Charlie and his grandson Joey, who ultimately felt a bit disappointed we weren't  surrounded by 10-20 or more people also feeling the peace mission, I too felt calm, joy and that feeling I always get when I'm doing something that feels either authentic or unique: I got this image of myself high fiving myself with the thrill of new friends and the audacity to think the butterfly wings of what we're doing will spread.

Charlie told me the story of how this drumming ceremony came to be during the time we were up there on that hill overlooking small towns on the horizon in every direction. A music therapist from Salina, Kansas came up with the idea and spread it throughout the world via the net. Last year they recorded at least one person, sometimes hundreds more, from every country in the world banging a drum at the same time. Some of the drummers told their stories via the web. One woman near Tel Aviv reported to having been sitting on a beach beating her drum when two guys she referred to as "thugs" came up and asked what she was doing. When she told them, they left, but shortly returned with drums and sat with her the hour.
I don't always know that everything Charlie tells me is dead on accurate; maybe I'm just too skeptical, but in Charlie's world, everything seems to be skewed in the direction of belief, compassion and love. It definitely can't hurt to have some people out there taking a look at the world that way.

1 comment:

  1. From looking at the images this place does look like perfection. I too would love to own a place full to history.


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