Finding the Deep Hum

Berkeley Mural

Berkeley Mural


When I was nine years old, a friend and I took scarves and “holy” objects down into the nearby woods to make a little altar on top of a rock canopied by the oldest oak tree in the woods. We called it “The Little Chapel in the Woods.”

In my first book, published in 2008, (Dancing the Deep Hum, One Woman’s Ideas About How to Live in a Dancing Singing Universe) I wrote, “… we felt something – a vibration, a hum – something still and so deep in pitch you couldn’t hear it.  Shintoism talks about the Kami, the ‘spirit [or god] of that place’, when talking about places that feel sacred.  We were children.  Adults thought we were playing, but deep, deep inside ourselves we were very serious.” (p. 7)

I learned about the “Kami” in a class on Religions of Southeast Asia and was very taken by the idea, but I now realize that the word “Kami” is really untranslatable, it’s meaning not quite the same as “the god or spirit of that place,” so rather than speaking of something I don’t fully understand, I will refer to this feeling as “places that hum.”

So often the places we seek for spiritual renewal – places where we feel the hum – are in the woods, in “nature.” We leave our urban homes to go seek these spiritual places.

But we humans are also a part of nature. Where we are can also be “places that hum.”

Perhaps it’s at coffee shops humming both with human interaction and people working quietly side by side. When I saw a group writing postcards to people in another state to urge them to vote, I could feel the hum. When I work on my writing, cocooned at my own table side by side with someone at the next table working on their doctoral thesis, we hum together, separately.

I feel it in the murals on the building walls, all over the City of Berkeley – murals often created by a local artist and a group of children.  mural makers

And at art shows, musical performances, and when moving together with others at InterPlayce.

Protest marches? Yes.

How about when you stop and look right at a homeless person and ask them how they are and they reply, “I be blessed,” and suddenly you feel connected to the whole universe.

Often the hum sounds in delighted laughter, like when the fire engines go off and all the dogs in the neighborhood howl together, or when you pass a school yard and hear all the young voices shouting and laughing, see the children running and leaping.

How about on Facebook as we all weep together over another mass murder. Is there not a fierce and righteous “hum” found in the community we form even in virtual space?

Alison Luterman tells of walking in her neighborhood after the horrendous shootings at Tree of Life Synagogue:

I have felt deeply comforted today just walking around my neighborhood saying hi to people and being polite and kind and experiencing other people’s – “stranger’s ” – politeness and kindness to me. Moving over on the bike path. Saying excuse me, or thank you, good morning or good afternoon or, in my neighborhood, buenos dias or buenos tardes or just hola. Smiling at beautiful little kids and their parents. Smiling at old people, and people walking dogs. Noticing that the vast majority of us want to be in good relationship with each other. That’s the real news. (

A neighborhood of people that “hum”.

As I write this I realize that the places in the city that hum for me are places where there are many people present – even if I’m standing alone in front of a mural, the many creators of that mural are present, and the people or creatures in that mural are present.

It’s a kind of “hive”ness, a group hum, like bees.  A connectedness.  In InterPlay ( there is a form called “side by side.”  Sometimes it’s danced, sometimes it’s storytelling.  In both cases the individuals are doing their own thing, but because they are doing it together (but separately), because they are aware of each other even though they are not interacting, there is something that feels connected to the rest of the world, the universe. Something that “hums”.  Something that is the “spirit of that place.”

We must keep ourselves open to that hum, we must “arise” out of our self-centeredness and our despair and join the “hum”, the “Dance of Life.” (Arise, join the dance of life.)


In my novel, The Earth Woman Tree Woman Quartet, humans have lost the ability to join the Dance of Life, the Tsin Twei.  Perhaps this is akin to losing the ability to hear the “hum.” The protagonists, who have shape shifted to the form of one of their Tla Twein (see former post “Exploring Our Tla Twein”), are trying to bring humans back into the Tsin Twei.

You can order print versions from Powell’s Books or your local independent bookstore, or purchase print and ebook versions at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Quartet EbookCover


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