Catching the beat

The hippie drum evokes a sunny ring of musicians and dancers in ecstatic release. For DL, his guardian angel Nita, and the other inhabitants of one ramshackle farm, it’s also the beat promising Peace, Love, and Equality, an urgent call that leads to a summer of mountain lakes and partying before winter unmasks core differences that threaten to splinter the household. Nevertheless, out of the discord a few come to an intensified rhythm of delight, purpose, and wisdom flowering the next summer. Followed by a lifetime of questioning and bittersweet memories.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons.
Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

Returning to the apartment, he was summoned to Rolf’s room. “Come here, I want to show you something.” DL thought it sounded ominous, even before Rolf opened the closet door. What he noticed first was the absence of clothes. Instead of shoes on the floor, there were drums. Not just two or three, either. They came in a range of sizes, from ones that would fit in a lap to one that could accommodate four or five players. He started pointing. “That’s a djembe, and the one next to it’s a okonkolo,” he said, moving on to a doubek. Most were made of wood, even rare wood, as Rolf insisted, but there was one with a bronze body and another of clay. The closet wall displayed straps he could use when needed. “You play most of these with your palms and fingers,” Rolf explained, “but some you play with drumsticks or even bones. Human bones, by some Tibetans.”

~*~

To learn more about my novel Hippie Drum, go to my page at Smashwords.com.

Hippie Drum

Lost in the transformation

Four decades after bursting onto the American scene, yoga is hot again – this time, shorn of its religious ambitions. In Ashram, we glimpse what’s been lost in the transformation.

Crossed vajra (viśvavajra) on the right side of the south arch of the Cloud Platform at Juyongguan, Beijing, China.
Crossed vajra (viśvavajra) on the right side of the south arch of the Cloud Platform at Juyongguan, Beijing, China.

Bhima lifts rocks that Rudy, Vajra, and Arjuna together can’t budge. From dull rock, a single whack of his steel mallet opens a bright blue face. When Vajra and Arjuna try, they seldom find the zipper in the stone. They can swing away all day and do little more than dent the rock a bit. Even Rudy, after much practice, splits a stone only half the time. Bhima has an eye for the grain – says there’s a point to locate. Find it, the rock splits effortlessly. He has a good eye for color, too, when he pieces a wall together. As the wall rises, he drops a plumb line “straight as God’s fishing pole” to keep the work flush. Until the mortar hardens, a wall can move around on its own. If it slips a bit out, he shrugs his shoulders, “It’s good enough for the country.”

~*~

To learn more about my novel Ashram, go to my page at Smashwords.com.

Ashram

Back from a country road

Long hair, marijuana, and draft resistance aren’t the only ways to identify a hippie. As DL learns when he accepts Nita’s invitation to lodge in a ramshackle farm shared by a dozen other free spirits, the Revolution of Peace and Love emerges as a testing ground of youthful dreaming and promise.

The hippie beat goes on. Photo by Frank Kovalchek via Wikimedia Commons.
The hippie beat goes on. Photo by Frank Kovalchek via Wikimedia Commons.

With its background of ongoing introductions and developing friendships, Hippie Drum plays out through a sequence of whimsical adventures and daily encounters that range from raising chickens and joining together for bus trips to secluded lakes to basic cooking instruction and the inevitable hitchhiking. Sometimes the most crucial clashes erupt over an empty toilet paper stash or a sink overflowing with dirty dishes. Sometimes, it’s simply the fear of a police raid. Sometimes it’s dancing and drumming. And then it’s gone, leaving only the bittersweet experience. Take a listen.

Something was wrong, they could tell even before noticing the faces of their fellow Ranchers. Something was wrong, they could tell by the silence. There wasn’t a bark for miles. Not even a cricket chirped or a mosquito buzzed. The birds wouldn’t sing.

Even the chicken house was silent. Especially the chicken house, where DL noticed a torn pillow hanging like a frying pan from the woodshed, its legs tied together. Flies covered the entire mass.

“What happened?” Nita asked clinically.

 ~*~

To learn more about my novel, go to my page at Smashwords.com.

Hippie Drum

Proudly and then …

In Ashram, I walk a middle path between those works that breathlessly adore the guru, on one hand, and those that revel in blame, on the other. What emerges instead is a series of encounters demonstrating ways monastic life is intensely down-to-earth, mindful to little things, and a celebration of community, rather than an escape.

Krishna dancing with gopis by the banks of Jamuna.
Krishna dancing with gopis by the banks of Jamuna.

She remembers how, shortly after becoming head cook, she discovered a mound of coffee grounds at the county dump. So, when Vajra wasn’t looking, she scooped them up and brought them back, thinking there was really nothing wrong with this, there was obviously still plenty of life left here and besides, the cost of fresh coffee was outrageous. She was proudly recycling. Why be wasteful? So she percolated her first pot as Rudra had instructed and took a little coffeepot on a tray to Swami, who smiled approvingly at the offering and looked with much anticipation as Satya poured a cup, added the cream and sugar, and passed it on. The cup rose to the lips of the connoisseur, the smile of gratitude that accepted that first sip of the day.

“PHEW!” Swami cried, spitting the roasted liquid back into the cup. “What on earth is this supposed to be! We’ve got to teach you the fine art of making coffee. RUDRA! RUDRA! Somebody get Rudra, on the double! We have a crisis here! He knows how to make excellent coffee. OK, what I want to know now is, just what did you do here?”

Satya then explained the process step by step – just how much coffee she had put in and so on.

“Was the percolator spotless?”

“Yes, Swami.”

“Fresh, cold water?”

“Yes, Swami.”

“Hmm. What kind of coffee beans did you use? You know, what brand?”

“I don’t know, Swami.”

“You don’t know? What do you mean you don’t know?”

Satya then explained her resourcefulness and economy. Swami started laughing. It grew into a roar. Tears rolled down Swami’s eyes. “I’d take another sip of this rust water just to please you, but I think I’ll wait until you’ve mastered the art – which shouldn’t take more than ten or fifteen minutes.”

“We always forget,” Satya thinks, “whenever a new cook takes over, how long it took the predecessor to get up to speed. We always remember the old cook’s great accomplishments and forget the disasters. At least Arjuna already knows how to make decent coffee. Swami should be happy about that.”

~*~

To learn more about my novel Ashram, go to my page at Smashwords.com.

Ashram

Doggone it

In my novel, they dwell on a former farm near the top of a mountain like this one.
In my novel, they dwell on a former farm near the top of a mountain like this one.

Hippie Drum is a playful, lighthearted romp through a turbulent period. This is how once circle managed:

The Ranch was crowded enough without animals. Its original two rooms and loft had been divided into eleven rooms, including one bathroom and six tiny bedrooms. By Easter, the dining room had shrunk to an endless poker hand. Cut me in, deal me out. Like a broom, a weeping willow cowered across the sagging roof. Amid the constant wind, there were motorcycle parts, oil cans, and dog toys curled up on the cluttered, splotched lawn – what there was of one. While humans paid the rent and paid their dues, the canines started to run the place.

~*~

To learn more about my novel, go to my page at Smashwords.com.

Hippie Drum

Speeding toward the Brahmamuhurta

The story follows a single mid-spring day from before sunrise until well after midnight. Each of the eight chapters focuses on a different resident – the actions, thoughts, motivations, and interactions of individuals ranging from a registered nurse and a civil engineer, who has put his career on hold, to a high school exchange student and an ex-druggie who arrived through a judge’s order.

Indischer_Maler_um_1710_001They sit in a comfortable silence.

“The day’s coming up,” Swami says, “when Gandharva will hear celestial music. Maybe she’ll be sitting in the back meadow when she starts detecting what she thinks are faraway bells. And as she focuses, they’ll grow louder and more fabulous, unlike anything she can possibly describe, and she’ll know that even if she never hears them again, she’s been blessed. Few yogis ever experience this.”

They gaze up at parting clouds and a sky being swept clear. Look at the handful of stars peaking through each opening. Each one is different. A meteorite scoots so brilliantly across a clearing they see colors in its trail.

They are speeding toward the Brahmamuhurta, the hour before dawn – the hour when the Earth is most silent and, thus, the time when the divine speaks most clearly.

~*~

To learn more about my novel Ashram, go to my page at Smashwords.com.

Ashram

Out of our parents’ shadow

For many of us, the hippie movement was a search for purpose. Something other than our parents’ lives, especially when it came to the workplace or romance. We wanted to try out our own visions, and to some extent, we’ve been true. Just listen …

Release ...
Release …

In that regard, she contrasted sharply with the women living at the farm, most of them in trusting monogamous relationships. Despite all he had seen of Pea Bee and Angie, including their outings at the lake, he really knew very little about them. They seemed to dwell in Rusty and Mylin’s shadows. On the other hand, Mongo and Scott both had a ghostly stream of overnight guests who were even more shadowy. Joni, with all of her opinionated boldness, was another matter, borrowing DL’s books and art supplies. Irma, of course, was something else altogether, a dour shrew atop the mastadon Wink, with all of his ranging appetite and aversion to labor.

~*~

To learn more about my novel Hippie Drum, go to my page at Smashwords.com.

Hippie Drum