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Offering up an opportunity to discover spirit at the women's shelter...

Updated: May 31, 2022

Today, at the Armory Women’s Shelter, we played in the garden.

D, an older black woman, toothless and hoarse, picked up the New Mexican native Serpent drum and began to bang. She kept a consistent rhythm and then she began to vocalize, yelling out sounds. I joined her. Soon, she began to sing, “Day-O”. Another resident, a woman new to the shelter, playing an egg shaker and then a tambourine, was laughing and playing along, obviously enjoying. I tried to back up the vocals and the womens’ rhythm with my Meinl Djembe.

“Thank you!” D said, when I brought the jam to a close with a final bang. “You really

brought my spirits up!”

A woman leaned over the fence from the sidewalk. “I want you to know I just turned off my car

radio to listen to you, you sound great!” she said. D was beaming her toothless grin. “Aah, thank you!” she said, receiving the compliment like the star she is (or wants to be.)

The compliment clearly buoyed her, and she started up again with the drum and began to sing a rendition of “Shake Your Money Maker,” repeating the chorus “Get, Get on Up,” over and over again. I tried to lay down an underlying rhythm, shifting it around a bit to get at some deeper tones and support the singers and shakers. (Another woman had come along by then and played a shaker from the bench a bit away.)

There was so much joy, and D kept thanking me profusely for coming and bringing her so much joy. “I don’t know where this is coming from…” she said. I smiled. “We all have the music inside of us,” I said. “We just have to let it out.”

I ended with a meditation, asking them to do a body scan to find where their tension was

hiding, then asking them to listen to the sounds. Afterward, the new woman (Valerie?) said, “Wow!” and explained how she’d had images floating around her the whole time, including a big butterfly. She said she was very very relaxed. “It’s amazing what your brain does!” she said.

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