Red Bucket in Siesta Key
It’s a little after three in the morning and I wake up with both of my hands pounding. It feels like someone took a Eastwing hammer and beat my palms. Perhaps I should turn on the coffee pot and if my fingers are still working, I’ll catch you up on our amazing yesterday.
In my mind I must have looked like Mongo, the over-sized orange headed kid walking onto the beach yesterday with my red five gallon paint bucket in hand. It was all I had, and trust me I had to have it. Sure the children and beautiful families that I passed all sprawled out in the sand had their cute pastel sand buckets and fancy tiny shovels to make sandcastles. It was like I was that kid whose Dad was a painter and said, “No son we’re not going to stop and buy you a pail just so that you can play in the sand. Junior just go wash out one of my five gallon drywall buckets and grab the snow shovel. You’ll have fun and trust me… you’ll blend in.”
No one even noticed my red bucket. It just sat next to me waiting for the the sun to set later in the day. We soaked in the Florida sun on beautiful Siesta Key Beach watching the antics of the sea birds and drifting off in thought of Richard Bach’s book about Jonathon Livingston Seagull. A thong walks past a few steps in the sand from our faces and both our heads follow like it was just the natural and right thing to do. As the pair of cheeks disappear among the other shoreline walkers an older couple who didn’t get the memo that they were at the beach and it was 80 degrees passes with coats, hats and shoes on. No one seems to notice the oddity of it all. No one seems to really think twice about the fact that most of us are all laying out here half naked with sand stuck to our asses. No one even seems to notice my bucket or me. And for some reason it all just feels in rhythm and as natural as the waves splashing on the shore.
What is it about the sea that lures us so? We can dip in any cool pond of water, but the ocean has a mystical draw that I can’t put my finger on. Maybe it is something primal that causes us to pilgrimage from our homes to those places where the salt water kisses the earth. Besides the birds, the shells, the wondering of the unknown swimming below the surface and the sweet smell of the sea, another thing that I love is that it truly is one of those places that makes us all the same. Equal. It’s here that we come and walk the beach in many different sizes of skin. We are a potpourri of colors. Some can pull off wearing a string between their cheeks and a pirate patch over their junk, but for some reason none of that really matters. On the beach we’ve left all our material things at home and have traded the clothes, the stuff that makes us feel successful or important all for a blanket, a towel, a beach chair, a few snacks and an umbrella. It’s one of those sacred places where we can strip it all down and spend a day just being with someone you love and watching the sun move through the sky, listening to waves, counting the faces we can find in the clouds and using our buckets and taking water from the sea and making a moat around the funny little sand castle that we just built.
On this beautiful pure white sand beach when the sun sets and on Sunday evenings another amazing anomaly occurs. One by one people shake off their blankets, grab their chairs and migrate to a place in the sand where something special has been happening for over 20 years. Slowly a large circle forms and out of bags and from wagons pulled in the sand wooden drums begin to emerge. A mound of sand is made in the middle of the circle with a glowing large white sphere on top and branches of palm fronds are laid around it. And then it happens. A beat begins. Just a pair of Djembe drums at first. It sounded like a heartbeat. “Da Dump, (pause pause) Da Dump (pause pause). And then a higher pitched African drum fills in a beat during one of those breath like pauses “Da Dump (pause) Te Te Da Dump (pause) Te Te and slowly a pulse of percussion builds.
A beautiful lady in a long Indian style dress moves into the center of the circle and begins to dance allowing the music and the energy to flow through her. Two little girls run laughing to a stack of hula hoops provided by someone and they move into the circle with their tiny hips swinging the brightly colored hoops around and around. It felt as if we were on a train that kept picking up passengers. The drums grew in numbers. The dancers and hula hoops were of every age group. The magic of the music would morph and evolve just as the center of the circle did. It was somewhere in that first 10 minute song when I jumped onto the train and my Red Bucket became my African drum.
Sharon went back and forth by adding to the music with her egg shaker that we brought, to being a hot hula dancer. Every now and then my red bucket would get a nice low rich tone that the other drummers could hear or at least I thought they did as they would glance my way smiling and shaking their head in beat. There were no endings to the songs, somehow the beat would change just enough that a secret message would be shared among all players and within a few seconds the drums would stop and cheers from the circle would ring out. By the time the sun was on the horizon and about to begin its dip into the Gulf of Mexico our circle had several rings of people around it. A quick libation re-hydration and then a lone tap tap on the hide of a cow or some other African skin, and it would start us all again. A rhythmic celebration of life. Heartbeats echoed in drums. Music felt and reflected in movement. I don’t think I could count the number of drums and hand percussion instruments. I think I heard a flute every once in a while and then somewhere in the circle someone would let out a “Yip” or an “OhWee” , it was like the train was blowing its horn and we were off once more.
Once the evening stars covered us leaving only hints of pinks and reds in the skies, one by one slowly the circle would break away and the band of drummers, dancers and life celebrators grew smaller. I’m not sure how long the core of the locals stayed and played to the moon but the moment came when we had to shuffle through the sand and make our way back home. As I passed one of the drummers I said, “Thanks for the music man. What an awesome Siesta Key tradition”. He gave me a fist to fist hand bump, glanced down at my red bucket and grinned, “Thanks for being a part of the band dude.” I smiled and walked away in stride with my hula dancing mamma on my arm and said to myself “Okay, it’s time to buy some bongos!”
Planning a visiting to Siesta Key.
If you are in the area on any Sunday around sunset you’ll find the drum circle gathering in the sand just off to the left of the main beach entrance as you walk towards the shore. Everyone is welcome to listen, watch and join in. If this is your first time participating in the drum circle, Drum Magazine has a Great article on The Unwritten Rules of Drum Circle Etiquette that you should read first.
After the sunset the quaint downtown area of Siesta Key comes to life with many unique and tasty dining options. We were camping about an hour away in Hillsborough county, though if you want to stay in your RV a little closer, there are four great nearby options.
Myakka River State Park
Oscar Scherer State Park
Sun-N-Fun Resort and Campground
Turtle Beach Campground
All RV travelers, especially full-time roamers understand the rule that if something comes into the camper, then most likely something goes out. I was struggling with where I would store my “new bongos” if I bought some or what would go out in its place. After all the red bucket was perfect, it was a bucket, we stored stuff in it and it also became a drum (though it took a week for my hands to heal). Between our two recliners in the camper we have been using a Coleman cooler that worked as a table, a cooler, and we stored things in it too. It worked, but it just didn’t have the feng shui that my other half preferred. Just so happens she surprised me with a Cajun drum that looks and works like a table and is also MY NEW DRUM!!