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July 31, 2006
 
Published on Times News Online (http://www.tnonline.com)

Celebrate life

By Patti Mihalik

By now, the first day of summer is long gone so I can test your memory by asking you this question:

What did you do on the first day of summer? Did you celebrate the official start of this glorious season?

You might not remember what you did on the first day of summer if you treated it like any other day.

My summer solstice was easy to remember because of two friends who are especially good at celebrating life.

For starters, Linda, my wonderful office colleague, refused to let summer arrive without doing something to celebrate in work. At home, she mixed up a colorful fruity concoction and brought it to work. Always one for clever touches, she added a huge strawberry and one of those cute little paper umbrellas to the glass.

How nice it was to sit at my computer and sip a frothy drink in celebration of summer.

Later that evening, drum circle facilitator specialist Moe Jerant made the official arrival of summer a nice celebration by hosting a free outdoor drum circle. Moe seems to specialize in making occasions special. Sixty fun-loving people of all ages who welcomed summer by playing drum rhythms with her will always remember how they celebrated the arrival of summer.

The woman sitting next to me never attended a drum circle and didn't even know how to hold the drum when she came. But the smile never left her face as she found how easy it is to get in the groove with a hand drum.

"I'm amazed," she said. "I'm having all this fun just because I was brave enough to come to something I knew nothing about." She wanted to know if we always have this much fun.

Absolutely. One of the things I like about our Lehigh Valley Drum Circle is that we constantly find ways to celebrate life.

It's not all about drumming.

Sometimes we bond together and celebrate friendship.

Sometimes we meet at a friend's farm and celebrate solstice or even a full moon by sitting around a campfire playing our dzembe drums.

Sometimes we simply celebrate the chance to sit outdoors and share dinner together.

My older daughter sent an e-mail this week to family and close friends telling us about her nifty promotion to director of marketing and communications. "Allow me this moment," she wrote.

I told her it's absolutely essential to celebrate life's rewarding moments.

But it's not just winning promotions or prizes that's worth celebrating.

Sometimes I celebrate something as ordinary as a beautiful summer day. That mini-celebration may only mean taking time after work to sit on my patio and look at the flowers and listen to the birds and sound of the waterfall. Not much of a celebration, some may think.

Those mini-celebrations are just part of a larger effort to savor more moments. And to look for more moments to savor by being more open to adventures.

For weeks, I was looking forward to one of my favorite events of the year, the Lehigh River Sojourn sponsored by the Wildlands Conservancy. I signed up to kayak from Jim Thorpe to Walnutport.

But the day arrived with dark skies, buckets of rain and a forecast that didn't promise anything better. I expected the event to be cancelled.

"No way," said the head of safety. "A little rain doesn't stop paddlers."

As 100 people in boats and canoes paddled down the Lehigh, that "little rain" turned into big rain. Then the big rain turned into an continuing avalanche of water that defies my journalistic efforts to describe. But I can tell you this: I saw ducks huddled under bushes for protection.

We, on the other hand, continued down the river, just as we would have with the sun shining. As my glasses fogged and got splattered with rain, it was sometimes hard to see. But in spite of the weather, I kept thinking being on the river was a nice way to celebrate life.

If I would have stayed home on a day with torrential rains, I would have settled on the sofa with good book and read all day. That rainy day would have blurred into any other uneventful day. Nothing much worth remembering.

My soggy river sojourn, on the other hand, will remain in my memory bank.

When we approached a tricky section in the river and heard the roar of the rapids, a friend admitted that his heart always pumps a little faster in trepidation when he first approaches rapids. Conquering a little fear is part of the fun.

It's a good thing whitewater rapids drown out sound because no one could hear this crazy lady as I paddled through the rapids yelling: Ya-hoo! Yahoo!

Now I ask you, how many times in life do you feel so exhilarated that you yell Ya-hoo?"

Moments like that are definitely worth celebrating.

A woman along on the sojourn told me she scans newspapers looking for new adventures for her and her husband. She surprises him by planning parasailing lessons, scuba diving, kayaking trips or other new pursuits. "He would never plan a break for himself but he's always glad when I do," she said.

I think she knows exactly how to celebrate life.

Life isn't just about "big moments." But it sure is about celebrating the moment at hand.


Maureen 'Moe' Jerant * (610) 428-0544
Lv Drum Circle  * P.O. Box 541, Bethlehem, PA 18016