In the Mountain's Shadow

Drum-making & sweat lodge were simply amazing!

A side note: this is mostly about me because I'm trying to be very careful with privacy issues — which is also why I'm avoiding using names . However, the woman who ran the drum-making seminar has a public website, so I'm happy to help business her way. She runs Ann's Drums, and she and her assistant planned ahead with us to make sure we all would be able to make the size and type of drum we desired.

Mine was a 13" red-dyed elk-hide-headed Native American style hoop drum, and looking at the wet, soaking rounds of leather waiting for us, realizing that one would be mine in a few hours, was rather inspiring. Interestingly, the 13" drum owned by the cohort member who arranged this weekend always felt so large on my lap, but looks small now next to the 15" and 17" ones. I've looked at both the solidly dyed and the tie-dyed versions now, and I still think I prefer the solidly-dyed colors. With the individual variations on the elk hides, to me the solid dyed ones are already varied and lovely enough.

Due to all the wonderful planning ahead, we had a delicious lunch all ready for us, prepared by some of the cohort. Ann had everything ready as well: the wooden rounds of varying diameters were already waiting for us to select the individual one that would be our own; the tendon cording was hanging to dry; and the various hides were already measured and cut, assigned and dyed as desired, and soaking in water awaiting us. There was plenty of ritual to start out our work together: drumming, some meditation, followed by the beautiful tasty lunch before we started the drums. Later I realize my meditation is odd, for me: with animals in it that I do not ordinarily see, and a lack of the animals I usually see. I write it down for more consideration.

Ann has a real charmer of a kitty — a very friendly torty! He butts his head up against us, purring madly, and I can't resist repeatedly and happily scruffling my fingers through his fur. There are a couple other cats as well: an older medium-hair black-and-white, an athletic looking marmalade, and one other; they were all much shyer, however. The little house is lovely inside; it is clearly much loved and decorated by her.

She also has all kinds of rattles, jingles, leather bits & pieces, etc.! There are some spiffy golden jingle bells on soft black cloth which would be perfect for anklets — I make a note to myself that these might make a good "reward-gift" to myself in a few years. Ann also has a myriad of fantastically decorated rattles. There's a nice one with fur fringe and a bearclaw on it which I rather like. Ann also has one she calls her naughty goddess rattle which she showed us the next day. It's quite beautiful: a really nicely shaped and strikingly fiery-painted female form, based on a lovely blue hand-made vase a friend crafted for her. I am fascinated to see you can so easily shape wet leather for rattles from other molds — I want to try this at some point!

When we start, I realize almost immediately: drum-making is hard work! We cut out the leather with a pattern, then punch holes as needed. After that we're split up into groups of two, because keeping the skin taut against the wooden hoop frame requires two to balance the pulling on the cords. There's a lot of cord pulling, too, which makes for sore fingers and wrists. Ann hands out bandaids to use as ablative armor, an excellent idea which works very nicely. The hardest part is tying the handle, but the results, despite my slightly achy wrists and forearms the next day, are well worth it — absolutely gorgeous!

My red-skinned drum has partially translucent leather, which gives a beautiful almost yin-yang effect. I realize her name later that night, as she's drying: La Dama Roja. The altar, back at the house, looks even more wonderful with all the drums leaning up against it to dry. About 24 hours later, when the leather is mostly dried, I'll wipe her down with peanut oil, and she ends up gleaming and gorgeous. A leather-headed beater is included in the process, and when I play my hoop drum it feels absolutely wonderful — such a lovely, rich tone!

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