Sunday, October 07, 2007

Parenting at the edge of magic

"We are embedded in a world of rhythm worlds. The rhythm world of the body is one, our own personal rhythm world. The rhythm world of nature, and the rhythm world of culture. Those are the rhythm worlds. They all move on together okay, and how you relate to all that stuff is how well you go through life, how happy you are. If you're in love, that's rhythmic. When you're in love with somebody, you feel the synchroning, you feel this entrainment with somebody, you want to be close to them, your heart beats the same way. You feel this thing. That's rhythmic entrainment. That's what love is. When you fall out of love, you fall out of rhythm. What about health, disease? You're out of rhythm. When you're in health, you're in rhythm. Your body is functioning well, the blood is pumping you know, you exercise in the morning, you feel vitality in your life and you're rhythmically tuning, it's a tuning fork, this is what this is. Drumming, rhythm, music allows in the focusing technique, that's what this is. Drumming is a focusing technique, that's all really it is." - Mickey Hart

Mickey Hart's book Drumming at the Edge of Magic has been on my mind for the past couple of days. I read the book in 1990. I'm not even sure why I picked it up - I like the Grateful Dead, but I've never been a serious fan. I've never been a drummer. But for some reason, it called to me, I read it, and it has stayed with me for the past 17 years.

The book is about Hart's life as a drummer and about the art and the spirit of percussion, but it's also about the rhythms of life - the rhythms that are in all things, the way we feel when we suddenly find ourselves in sync with the people around us, the environment we're in, the universe itself.

Hart calls it "entrainment" - the groove that develops when drummers play together in a circle and a spirit emerges and takes over, making the resulting rhythm something greater than the sum of its parts. But, Hart says, entrainment is about more than just drumming. There is a rhythm in life, he says, and we spend our lives trying to get in sync with the rhythms that surround us, to find our groove, to engage with something in a way that helps us become greater than we could be alone.

I thought about entrainment yesterday as Bud and I hiked through the woods together. Bud and I had been out of sync for a couple of weeks - not just with each other, but in general, with the rest of the world. Somehow it seemed like we'd both been going through our days clapping on the off-beat, though, somehow not together, not in counterpoint, and never at the same time.

The weather certainly didn't help. We'd been out of sync since a morning thunderstorm broke our rhythm and started us flailing - Bud beating too fast, me struggling to keep any beat at all.

But not so for a few glorious hours yesterday, as Bud and I hiked together in the woods, alone, together with the universe for the first time in a long time. As we hiked, we fell into rhythm with each other - our footfalls, our heartbeats, and the intake of our breath - we worked together and built on each other, and as we did, the leaves that crunched beneath our feet, the wind that rustled the branches overhead, the squirrels that darted by unseen - they all joined the rhythm, and I was suddenly aware that it was not merely a nice day. It was a spectacular day. It was the sort of blue-sky, cool-breeze autumn day that actually makes you happy that summer is over.

It all came together as we hiked.


I've also been thinking about Drumming at the Edge of Magic since a meeting with the team at Bud's school on Friday. They'd invited me to join them for some note-sharing, brainstorming and problem-solving as they tried to figure out the best way to address some challenges Bud has been having lately. It was a productive meeting and as we were about to wrap up, one of the team members brought up another behavior Bud's been exhibiting at school: tapping. Tapping with pencils, tapping with hands, tapping with feet, tapping, tapping, tapping, at all kinds of volumes, during all kinds of activities.

"Is he humming when he does it?" I asked.


"He's drumming. To a particular song - whichever one it is he's humming at the time. He's actually very good at it. You can bet that he's drumming the exact same beat he's heard on the CD. Honestly. It's pretty amazing. You should have him do it when a CD is on sometime."

The women at the table were quiet. I glanced around nervously, then added, "But of course, that doesn't make it okay to be disruptive when..."

Then, before I finished my sentence, the team members started talking, their ideas flowing, their energy building, their excitement growing:

"We could capitalize on his interest in drumming..."

"What if we got one of those practice pads that dulls the noise? He could use that in the classroom..."

"Maybe drumming is something we could use as a reward - you know, instead of using the computer all the time..."

"Let's talk to the music teacher. Maybe she could use this..."

"Maybe she'd be willing to work with Bud one-on-one..."

The energy grew, the ideas meshed, and I could almost hear it buzz and resonate and echo as it filled the room.



Club 166 said...

Did that really happen? You didn't just dream that?

Way cool.


Anonymous said...

i've said it before, but you're so blessed to have such an amazing team working with you and bud. i'm coming to realize that it's very likely we won't find an acceptable kindergarten situation for my kiddo. and that's a major disappointment.

kristen spina said...


kristina said...

The first thing that is coming into my mind on reading this is about a scene from Strictly Ballroom where the grandmother of Fran beats on the chest of the guy (I can't remember his name....) and talks about rhythm. It's something essential, like a heartbeat.

Niksmom said...

Oh.My.God. That is spectacular! I mean the walk and all is wonderful and made me kind of wistful wondering if I'll have that with Nik one day. But the school scenario? Took my breath away. Oh to have a smidge of the dedication from Nik's team at school...we might have kept him there had there been any of this kind of dialogue. Wow, MN, just wow.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful stuff. A great team can make such a tremendous difference to how an IEP turns out. What a creative team, all of you.
Best wishes

Casdok said...


Eileen said...

Team Bud is awesome!!!

I understand this whole being out of sync and then in a moment this can all shift and suddenly you are in rhythm again. This happens all the time with Andrew and I, just like it did for you and Bud on your walk. Now, if we could just figure out how to keep the rhythm. Maybe we all need a set of drums.

Drama Mama said...

WOW. You have quite a team assembled. And quite a Bud. Entrainment. Love it.

Angel The Alien said...

Wow, that's awesome! I think its wonderful when teachers take something a kid is good at and loves to do, and use it to help the kid learn, instead of calling it a disruption!

David said...

Nice post mom. Beautifully thoughtful. Entrainment- what a great word for that focusing technique which can take so many different forms.

Music is obviously a powerful element in your son's universe.
I too have music in my head all the time. Way to go IEP team on brainstorming usage of that. Be careful with that reward/denial tool though- it is easily over-used.