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Life, viewed sideways. Emotions, amplified. Answers, questioned. Me, between the lines.

- A Wounded Heart, Who Can Bear?
- Drowning Under a Tidal Wave
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- Yes, Santa Claus, There Is a Virginia
- Fugu
- Touching the Spirit
- A Hole in the Universe
- Riding on the Dreams of Others
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- Hunting in the Jade Forest
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- The Captain and the Harliquin
- Courting the Devils
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- What If the Man Behind the Curtain Is No Wizard After All?
- All of Us Have a Soundtrack
- Working With Broken Machines
- Happy Anniversary, Baby
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- Running the Film Backwards
- Identity Crisis ("Who am I?")
- Can We Ever Really Admit the Desires of Our Heart?
- Forgiveness is a Rare Thing
- Having Your Heart Caressed By the Creator
- Working With Broken Machines
- A New Leg to Stand On
- The Real Spirit of Christmas
- Chatting With Infinity
- Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder
- We All Have a Great Capacity for Loss
- Brushed Lightly By Might Have Beens
- We See the World Through Our Own Looking Glass
- Every Storm Passes Eventually
- Accidents Can Introduce Destiny Into Our Lives
- Freedom Depends on the Walls Around Us
- Pulling Aside the Velvet Curtain
- Riding the Razor's Edge
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- In Your Face
- Between the Lines
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- Angel With a Coffeecup
- Innocent in the Big City
- Chains of Gossamer
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- Exotic in Thin Air (Part 2, Taxi)
- Exotic in Thin Air (Part 3, The Pan American)
- Exotic in Thin Air (Part 4, Guano)
- Exotic in Thin Air (Part 5, The Andes Express)

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"From this hour I ordain myself loos'd of limits and imaginary lines, going where I list, my own master total and absolute, Listening to others, considering well what they say, Pausing, searching, receiving, contemplating, Gently, but with undeniable will, divesting myself of the holds that would hold me."

Walt Whitman (1819-92)

"When I look back now over my life and call to mind what I might have had simply for taking and did not take, my heart is like to break."

Akhenaton (d. c.1354 BC)

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Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Monkey Drum

blogger_idol-1.gif(Note: This week's Blogger Idol topic is "The Rhythm of Life.")

Function: verb
Etymology: Middle English expaunden, from Latin expandere, from ex- + pandere to spread -- more at FATHOM
1 : to open up : UNFOLD
2 : to increase the extent, number, volume, or scope of
3 : what holding something in your hand can do to your mind.

The brown cardboard boxes would show up once a month, when I had just about forgotten to expect one.

I was eight years old, and my parents had signed me up for the "World Explorers Club," each month they would send me a package from a new and exotic country.

I remember tearing into my first shipment from them. Here was a world map, with each of the countries so brightly colored. And here was a booklet about the country that month, which in this case was China. And a sheet of lick and stick stickers (the only kind kids got back then) that went nicely on the map of the country that was so carefully folded into the package. And there would be a letter from a small girl or boy in that country.

And two more things, these two more things were what made this so special.

There would be a little plastic record. The record was flimsy, like a sheet of plastic, but that was OK because I could still play it on my little record player.

"Hello from Commander Whitehall! Today I am standing in the streets of Peking, China and you can hear behind me the millions of people that call this place their home!"

And, behind in the background you could hear rickshaws and people talking and yelling in a strange language. I mean, the guy was there. How Stanley Livingston was that?

I could picture Commander Whitehall standing there in the middle of that busy street, dressed (of course) in kahkis and a pith helmet, talking just to me.

He would tell about the history, the people, and the music. Usually he would be with the letter writing little boy or girl who would talk about their life in heavily accented English.

The entire world, of course, spoke English. Even little boys and girls.

All of these things were exciting and fun and good, but there was always one other thing. And that's what would get me tearing the box open each month in a hurry to see what was inside.

That "one other thing" would be some special item from that country, some small trinket that I had never seen before.

That first month, it was a silkworm cocoon.

As an eight year old, I knew that silk was valuable. My goodness, how valuable an entire cocoon must be! I would hold it and stare at it, feeling its texture and lightness, perhaps even shaking it a bit and feeling the long dead (one supposed) caterpillar inside.

Another month, it might be a hand game made out of betel nuts. I would sit for hours trying to catch the one nut on the end of the stick. I never became good at that, but I always imagined I could.

Then there was the month from India. It was a small muslin sack, and felt empty. But when I opened it, to my amazement even now, 12 tiny carved ivory elephants spilled out, none of them bigger than one of the characters on this screen. This was treasure!

There was a pencil holder, woven from reeds in Guatemala. There was a rondador flute from the Ecuadorian Andes. There was a hand carved pipe from Germany (non functional, of course, hey I was eight.) There was a little straw basket with tiny straw dolls in it from Paraguay. There was a carved coal baboon from Kenya, and a hand carved "toss the ball in the cup" game from Mexico, and a windchime made of shells picked up on the beaches of the Philippines.

Each month, I would hold a part of the world in my hand.

But my favorite of all, hands down, was the monkey drum from Morocco.

A monkey drum is a neat little instrument. It is made from a double sided drum on a stick, with two wooden balls attached to the sides by a string. All you have to do to play it is to flip it back and forth with the handle, and the balls strike the drum heads and make a terrific racket.

If you put it between your palms and twist the handle like you are starting a fire, you can make it go just under the speed of light.


(My parents loved that one, I'm sure. It kept going missing, but I would always find it again sooner or later.)

I still have every single one of those little packets from beyond, and every single special treasure that I wondered over as a child.

And the drum. I still have that too.

And the wonder.

From things like this, that is where we learn the rhythm of life.

I do not want my house to be walled in on all sides and my windows to be stuffed. I want the cultures of all the lands to be blown about my house as freely as possible. But I refuse to be blown off my feet by any.
Mahatma Gandhi (1869 - 1948)

Permalink: 6/02/2004 11:23:00 AM |
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