rhythms for renewal






  Brian Cannon












Current Happenings


12 June, 2020
Fourth Quarter Moon prior to Summer Solstice
San Juan Mountains, SW Colorado

The Great Benefits -and Necessity- of Disturbance

Greetings Friend,

Thanks for choosing in this moment to check-in with the Rhythms for Renewal website and see what we are up to.

West African percussion, which is what we primarily practice, is a group activity, a communal endeavor, a village practice; like most group activities it is “on pause” for the moment, pending developments with the covid fiasco and its far-reaching social effects.

I choose not to make any attempts to “digitalize” any practice.

Me, I have been in northern Arizona for the past 2 months, taking refuge at a wonderful property some acquaintances of mine own about 20 miles south of Sedona. I was blessed to have a little covid-refugee drumming group going there for about 5 or 6 weeks; it felt great.

Now I am on my way over to New Mexico, to begin work with Cottonwood Gulch Expeditions, leading educational wilderness outings with youth and adults. Yes, yes, all the programs through the end of July have long been cancelled, but the staff is gathering now to make preparations to begin offering (covid-safe) programs again towards the end of August.

But I just couldn’t resist taking the “long-way” from AZ to NM, looping through the San Juan Range of SW Colorado. I’m spending about ten days here, taking in the fresh air, majesty, power of the mountains, and preparing myself for what comes next.

What a time to be a human on Earth, eh!?

So much disturbance, so much disturbance. Business-as-usual is long gone, friend.

All the time I have spent out in the wilderness, herding goats, and working intimately with the plants, animals, elements, the wild-ness of the Earth, has taught me very many things. One thing I have seen over and over and over is that disturbance- healthy and appropriate disturbance- leads to growth, vibrancy, and maximum vitality. Lack of appropriate disturbance, on the other hand, leads to stagnation, decay, and death.

A few clear examples from my experience:

As a basket-weaver, I have worked quite a lot with willows. Willows are a plant which demonstrate the need for appropriate disturbance so very clearly. In the Southwest, dramatic decreases in the numbers of “browsing” animals (deer, elk, antelope, big-horn sheep, mountain goat)- which love to feed on willows, and other shrubby/bushy plants- and their replacement with “grazing” animals (cattle, domestic sheep)- which feed primarily on grasses- along with the dramatic decrease (near disappearance) in human harvesting of willows for various utilitarian and medicinal uses has led to a situation in which many waterways are now choked-out with willows, which has harmful impact on the entire riparian ecosystems of which they are a part. In the few places where there is healthy interaction with the willows either by humans or browsing animals or both, ecosystems very clearly thrive as a result. Willows need “disturbance”: they need to be cut for human use or eaten down by hungry animals. Without this they over-grow and subsequently destroy themselves, and cause harmful disruption to the ecosystems of which they are a part.

Speaking of browsing animals, yes I spent about 5 years as a nomadic goat-herder is the desert southwest, and monitoring the impacts, the disturbance, of my goats on the ecosystems we were a part of was a primary activity/investigation. Part of that whole project, that whole vision, was to create, model, and share a subsistence system- a culture- which not only enabled and empowered an individual or tribe-like community to provide for itself, but to have a beneficial impact of the environment while doing so. Indeed we were able to accomplish this goal. Our goats, of course, disturbed the environment that they were a part of very greatly: they eat nearly everything! But they are “browsers”, and this is their habitat, and the habitat needs them just as much as they need it. We were effectively re-introducing more “browsing” animals, more healthy, appropriate disturbance, and by doing so providing for our own basic needs at the same time. (yes, it was brilliant, thank you!)

At any rate, a big part of the project was monitoring their impact, and managing them appropriately. And since we went back to some places year after year for 5 years, we were able to see longer-term impacts. With 100% consistency the areas where we lived with- and therefore fed- our goats were noticeably more healthy, vibrant, and vital than surrounding areas. 100%. There were even a few instances in which I initially felt I had poorly managed my herd and over-impacted an area, only to come back the next year and find it glowing and radiant, and so very clearly out-thriving and out-shining neighboring areas.

Healthy, appropriate disturbance leads to- is necessary for- growth, vibrancy, and maximum vitality. These cases with the willows and the goats have demonstrated this to me so very clearly, and there are many, many more examples.

And so,

We are witnessing, experiencing a time in the human-story of very great disturbance. I am grateful, and very optimistic, because it has not been so challenging to see our stagnation, our decay, our march to our own self-destruction, and the far-reaching consequences for the ecosystems of which we are a part. Now, with these great disturbances, comes such an opportunity, an opportunity for re-vitalization and growth, individually and collectively.

Things will not be the same as they were. It is not possible. What will we create from this, how will we move forward? It’s up to us, it’s up to you, to me, to each and every one.

It’s so very important to remember that each and every one of us is a creator of culture, not a victim or subject of it. Every choice we make, every action we take, to provide for our own needs, the needs of family, community, and beyond, all add up to our culture. Our power is in our gift of choice.

How will you use your power, your gift of choice, to co-create the culture that will emerge from this time of great disturbance? This is the question we must ask ourselves, every day, every moment, in every decision we make and action we take. We cannot, ever, escape our role as a cultural co-creator. The task at hand is to take responsibility for that role, and make the best with it.

Bon Courage!

Oh yeah, drumming….

I’ll soon be established in New Mexico, and will start offering various drumming opportunities as they organically unfold and present themselves. I plan to offer regular classes and workshops for musicians and aspiring musicians, but am also particularly interested to work with adolescent youth in home-school groups and with adults in addiction recovery facilities and programs.

If you are in or near New Mexico and desire my services, please do not hesitate to contact me.

In Rhythm,