The woman and bird were always there.  In the drum face with only my dusting of raw earth pigment along the edges.  A thin film of cobalt blue to find the space.  Traces of blood vessels and patterns in the blacktail deer skin to create the detail.

The little bird children were also always present.  Seeming to chirp and hop in cartoonish glee at being found in the shades of light and dark. Oh dear, I do resist painting “cute critters” on drums, these mostly sober spiritual companions for journeying into unknown realms.

But where are they?  The woman is clearly seated and the bird clearly flying, yet also being touched.  I spend  weeks gazing at this conundrum, whenever I pass by the drum in the drum-being-painted location atop a box of books in the hallway.

I ask technology to help me out of this becalmed lack of progress.  The “auto tone” feature in Photoshop usually enhances the tonal modulations in a photo, showing me in that reality what I cannot see in this one.

Wow.  The woman is sitting in the nest.  This is the moment when I recognize I really have been on the shamanic journey I think is necessary to truly find a drum’s spirit in paint.  A drum painting, to be authentic to the drum and not to my wishful projection, usually tells a visual story I do not have the wit to imagine.

All the parts have to fit.  Even the back of the drum will carry meaning to add to the painting if I can coax forward what wants to come, instead of impose my “art” training to make something appear.

The star handhold on the drum’s reverse is a “gateless” design of Celtic ancestry, which means that other than the starting and finishing tie, no other knots exist in the pattern.  This ancient wisdom teaches that negative energy can stick to knots, and so this continuous thong keeps safe the drummer whose hand is holding the star.

May we all be kissed by spirit as we touch,
and are touched by,
the fluttering new life of spring.


You can listen to the Bird Woman drum being played with a felted drumstick by clicking on this youtube link: