Last summer my friend Sharon and I decided to make our own drums. We both enjoy Shamanic work and drumming is an essential part of that practice. My first drum was small: a piece of cowhide on an 11.5 inch diameter wooden base. It took us two days to complete those first drums and was only accomplished through the assistance of her artistic husband, Jim, kit instructions, and a Youtube video. As with all first attempts, we over-engineered, making it harder than it needed to be, but we were so proud of the end result, especially me! A novice drum-maker was born.
Yesterday, I added the finishing touch to my latest drum, a stylized painting of the sun. This was my sixth drum and already I am thinking of the next one. In addition, I have helped my husband make two drums making a total of eight drums scattered throughout our house. Oops, make that nine, as I neglected to count a store bought drum. I forget that one simply because my homemade drums are so much better than the decorative one.
Why do I need so many drums? Why am I so fascinated with drumming? Why has drumming been such an integral part of almost every indigenous culture since the beginning of humankind? What do Ringo Starr and every other famed drummer know that we don’t know? First, each drum has a different tone. So many things impact the resonance: the size, the type of hide, its thickness, its decoration, even the tension combine to create its song. Second, each one is alive. Hold the drum up to catch the wind and you can hear its voice. In a circle, each drum hears the beat of its neighbor and all attune until discordance becomes fluid.
Music may soothe the soul but drumming revs it up and carries it away to places mythical and magical. My heart entrains with the percussive beat; my muscles start to twitch and bounce to the music. The beat touches something deep inside, buried in the limbic brain, and unleashes a primal freedom. I am the classic definition of an introvert. Each time I had to sing alone in front of my high school choir, my knees and voice quaked so much I could barely squeak out the words. When I would sing along with the car radio, my children would yell “stop signing, Mom.” Yet at our first drumming circle in January, I led the group in a rollicking version of the Cherokee Water Song, chanting and drumming my heart out. I didn’t care if it was good or bad. It simply was. Folks told me later it was the best part of the evening. That’s the beauty of drumming and chanting: all you need is heart.
As Valentine’s Day approaches, my heart is on my mind. Notice I said “my heart” rather than “the heart” for I believe that when it comes to the heart, there is only one way to do it. You have to get personal. You have to dig in, open it up, turn it over, scour out the crud, and get ready for love to pour in. Something or someone may crack it open a bit, but only you and you alone are in charge of getting it ready, like a mother bird feathering her nest in anticipation of new life. I’m getting ready for the February Drum Circle, the circle in the month of the heart. Gathering with my friends, we’ll drum in Love, attraction, sacred union, mirroring and reflection. We’ll allow the drums to purify our hearts and get them ready for new beginnings. I don’t know for sure what that new beginning will bring, but somehow I think another drum begs for creation.