Ever wonder how to turn a weakness into a strength? This story of turning weakness into strength is about the making of a new frame drum from Journey Oracle.
The blacktail deer hide came from a old hunter here on Cortes Island, whose eyesight and steady hands are failing. The skin had a number of fleshing cuts but as these did not go through the hide, I took a chance calculated on experience that the finished drum would be alright.
The drum made up beautifully--the skin laying just right on the frame, which did not warp . Yet after the drum dried these two stretch marks appeared in the drum rim.
I had tied an interlacement pattern in the back of this drum that represents the 8-fold path of the Buddha's teaching: a way to gain enlightenment through right effort, mindfulness and concentration.
So here was the drum's first teaching about strength and weakness. The weakness in the drum rim has its balancing strength built right in: strengthen weakness with mindful attention. The person who will own this drum will have to pay attention to keeping the drum away from extremes in temperature so the stretch marks do not become tears. And in spiritual practice and life--sustained attention is strength.
I decided to paint this shamanic drum and began looking for who was looking back at me. Soon I saw this remarkable bird. At first I thought it was an eagle but it became what Martin Prechtel would call "a never before seen thing." The shaman bird.
When I paint a drum I look for a story. Only rarely does a single creature or person appear without being in relationship. And so I kept looking.
I saw a figure of an old woman. This is the drum's second teaching about strength and weakness. Most of us think that being old is being susceptible to weakness. But she is holding a smoking bowl in her hand. Making an offering. Offering the wisdom of experience is a strength, yet stories from elders, how they make or do something, can seem sometimes as wispy as smoke.
But look who is coming to listen. See what the offering of wisdom through the experience of mindful attention can bring.