An Attention Hangover

Wendy at forty!
Wendy at forty!

Frankly I’ve been in attention overload for a couple of weeks. Wendy invited me to her 40th birthday celebration, given by her friend Maria Maria Sangria. Need I say more – with an inventive name like that I should have been forewarned. We had found our way to a magical ten-acre untouched forest in way SW Atlanta where a giant forest spirit protected the land from being developed. And a reclusive creative artist kept the house and land as sacred space for visiting shamans and citizens.

We arrived after 10 pm in the warm April evening to meet women in long dark dresses and drapes, young women in bright dresses and skirts, men in street clothes, African dress and Jamaican hair and children and dogs of no particular description. It seemed not everyone there knew Wendy nor that it was her birthday. I discovered two Italian matrons who had just flown in from Italy for the weekend, and a Ghanaian spirit dancer on his way to the islands.

Only a little panicked I recalled attending the wrong wedding once and thought maybe this was the wrong party. But even in a forest glen like this, cell phones work and Wendy called to locate me. It was time for the drum circle and fire. I didn’t see a birthday cake or hear birthday songs, rather the drums started up and we gathered around the fire pit for a couple of hours of chanting, dancing, praying and a celebration of all of our lives.

In the dark, small lights lit semi-circles of chairs in the woodsy clearings up a straw strewn path past the fire pit to an outdoor open-air grotto. I grew up during the ’60’s and ’70’s in Atlanta; I saw the Allmann Brothers play for free in Piedmont Park; I didn’t make it to Woodstock, N.Y. but to Woodstock, Ga. for a similar festival, and I’d been to some unique parties in St. Louis during college, but I’ve never been to SW Atlanta for a Drum Circle celebration.

This was heaven on earth. People of all descriptions came and went with the wind, and when I left at 1 am the Jamaican music was just beginning. I was high on life for two days before the stimulation and pleasure of the evening began to wear off. I can only describe my state of mind as a kind of attention hangover – there was too much sensory input in the dark night with the drums and chanting for me to pay attention to time and space…can there be too much attention? Is too much attention simply an out of this world experience?

What is your attention hangover story?