Last Friday, I had a great adventure in creativity - this time building a Native American hand drum (or CANCEGA) from poplar, elk hide and sinew. There is nothing easy about building a drum. Piercing the hide, stretching the hide lacing, creating the lacing pattern, binding with sinew...my hands and shoulders felt like blocks of aching cement all weekend afterward. But the process is mystical and awe-inspiring. The hide and lacings are kept wet until ready to use. With good reason, as we could see it drying on the drum frame as we threaded the lacing and pulled it tight. Our instructor, Rick McBride, was patient and encouraging, even as some of us (ok, it was me) had to unlace and re-lace after messing up the over-over-under-under pattern.
After the drums were assembled, all lacings tight and bound off, we were invited to use some of Rick's non-ceremonial drums and join a drumming circle.
Both my husband and son built drums with me, and so we all three grabbed the extra drums and hand-made drumsticks (bamboo, cotton, wood glue and felt or leather) and found our rhythm in the circle of ten drummers. We didn't know the words or the tunes, but the others made it easy to participate and were so patient in explaining the meaning of the songs and how to pronounce some of the words.
This was so much more than another creative event - it was the reunion of my husband and son with their own Native American heritage and traditions missing for generations. I couldn't help but feel a deep joy as the drums reverberated in unison, joining together the past and the present in one steady rhythm.
Once my drum is dry and then awoken in ceremony, it will be ready to paint. That's right, elk hide is a beautiful canvas, another reclaimed substrate but with a beautiful purpose and sound.
This time, the painting will be just for me, and will include my own sacred markings and symbolism.
Rick encouraged us to spend time with our drums in the future, sitting near the ocean or a forest and discovering the spirit of the drum. There is something deeply satisfying about this thought - softly drumming a heartbeat of hand-made wisdom in a high-tech and fast paced world. :)
If drum building and ceremonial drumming is calling you, check out Rick's website for upcoming workshops and drumming circles.