Tuesday, July 30, 2013

A drum for mystery

I have made more than one hundred drums, and very rarely a drum is for mystery more than for humans.  This drum began as an custom order for a First Nations woman who occasionally was a guest performer with M’Girl.   She preferred an antler handle to the crossed-stick holder at the back and so the drum came home to me. 

This spirit animal and eagle came to the drum’s face when I first painted the hide.   Although I have never been in a place of uncertainty with who I am painting and how—this creature would not take an ordinary reality form, but continued to shift between a bear and a wolf.  

After the drum was returned I decided to redo the image and discovered I could not remove it from the deerskin—the earth pigment had become a tattoo.  This deer was old; its skin crossed with scars and patterns of scratches.  The strange creature and its bird companion began to look like some of the oracle cards I have painted for the Journey Oracle deck: shadowy figures shifting in and out of recognition.

The drum went out again to a new person who respected it deeply but found she could not live with it.  It started on the wall in the bedroom—which is a great place to store a drum because of the quiet energy and lower temperature—but soon the drum was down the stairs into the living room and then out by the door in the entry way.  Each time the woman could still feel the drum’s energy moving, as if in a continual shape shifting.   And so the drum came home to me.

The painting continues to alter its appearance as if in continual patterns of light and shadow.  I continue to feel unsettled about the creatures, wanting to re-establish the painting but not ever quite doing so.  The drum’s voice is deep and rich, as old deer skins often are, and yet I do not consider it one of the “good horses” in my shamanic drumming herd.  If you think this might be your drum, it might be wise to reconsider.

If you want further conversation about this drum, contact Kristen at journeyoracle@gmail.com

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Preparing for a Colonoscopy

How can writing about preparing for a colonoscopy be a subject for a blog about shamanic oracles, paintings, drums and spiritual practices?  Several days ago I demonstrated to myself that this is a perfect event for trusting spiritual guidance, for staying in the present moment, and for expressing deep gratitude.   Just like the Datura at the height of summer, I have used my body to create beautiful art, and the age for appraising my continued well-being has come.

I asked my stone teacher about the success of the examination, because I was struggling with anxiety about what might happen, rather than staying in the present moment. I was told to not be in fear and this became my greatest challenge.  I worked to stay present by trying to not judge any part of the preparation before I experienced it.  Others had said the colon lavage drink was a struggle  to swallow because of the taste.  I kept my first impression neutral and discovered that to me it tasted like licorice. Someone said I would spend "all day sitting on the loo" but my experience of the cleansing was two 3 hour sessions separated by a good long nap.  Trying not to have any pre-judgments feels like accepting the riot of color and texture in the container pots on the deck. Each flower is just itself, and needn't be compared to any other.

If I were to do anything differently, next time I will pay more attention to my own comfort during the preparation, and I would ask more questions about what to expect in the several days after the colonoscopy. I would have appreciated a lap robe and something to pad the toilet seat, plus a foot rest would have been a relief while waiting for the lavage to cycle through.  Now that my energy, and a diet of solid food has returned, I feel incredibly grateful to live in Canada where such a preventative examination is freely and routinely available.  This tiny rose was given to me by a homeless man several years ago, and I'm happy to know that this opportunity for health is possible for all of us, no matter what our choices or circumstances.  

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

What to do with summer visitors

What to do with summer visitors does not include missing their company while I write a blog, so see you next week.  I am going to let go of working on the Journey Oracle divination deck for a few days, and go see the island through my friends eyes. 

Thursday, July 11, 2013

What is a Fairy tale?

In 1992, when I first received a dream about creating the Journey Oracle, I understood that one side of the card would contain a fairy tale.  But what is a fairy tale?  What makes a fairy tale different from a fable, or myth or parable?  This has been a puzzle for me until I brought home a discarded copy of Bruno Bettelheim's The Uses of Enchantment.  Now I understand what a fairy tale is, and am sharing this discovery with you by illustrating the characteristics of a fairy tale with my new versions of the Journey Oracle cards.

The first notable characteristic of a fairy tale is that it always has a happy ending.  No matter the travails the hero must endure, eventually he becomes the wise King who rules a peaceful kingdom. This of course is the child who must endure the difficulties of growing and learning in order to come to terms with the dilemmas of his inner life.

Another quality of fairy tales is that when the heroine leaves home to gain wisdom from being out in the world, the landscape traveled is always the one of fantasy, and not the world of ordinary reality. The child benefits from struggle with monsters and evil ill-wishers in her imagination, without projecting her difficult feelings toward the adults who care for her in her regular life.

In the fairy tale, the wicked creatures and people that beset the hero do not have specific names, and usually neither does the boy or girl undertaking the adventure.  If a character does have a name, these are very generic or descriptive to the culture telling the story:  "Jack, Gretel, Goldilocks."  This is so all children can identify with the heroine as she out-maneuvers or out-smarts what comes to keep her from success.

Lastly, a characteristic of all fairy tales is that the child hero will have help along the way. Talking horses and floating feathers that show the way will always appear.  This is an important lesson for all of us.  Even though fairy tales are not for adults--we also need to know that when we are beset by uncertainty and conflict, help will appear...like the cards and stories that speak of new perspectives and solutions when I consult the Journey Oracle.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

How to paint a drum

When I paint a shamanic frame drum, the first thing I do is not have a plan for what to paint.  I let the drum skin show me, by gazing while in a light trance into its dried surface, looking for the eyes of something from the other side looking back at me.

My painting on deer skin is done with raw earth pigments. This is because these natural earth powders stain the skin in subtle hues without covering up the variations of color and pattern in the hide.  When I first began painting drums I used pigments from Lee Valley Tools and also raw potter's glazes, but now I use pigments from The Earth Pigment Company in Cortaro, Arizona.

Next in my painting on the rawhide drum, I try not to paint the creatures who are showing themselves to me, but instead to paint the background.  This feels like creating a shadow painting of colored dust behind the human and other than human beings.  With the exception of the eyes, I only indicate shapes and lines in the interior of figures in the most minimal way.  In this way they mostly present themselves.

The most challenging skill for me when painting a shamanic image on a frame drum is to not determine the arrangement and the relationship of the creatures.  This beautiful new drum is a perfect example.  For many days the large bird was clear, but what was beneath its outstretched wing?  When I finally saw the foal I first thought, "Oh no, this is a predator of the horse; who would want to have this drum?"  But I kept watching, and slowly the image of the bird's claws appeared.  I realized, "the bird is showing me it cannot hurt the baby horse, who is resting upon its talons. So this giant bird is a help to this newly born power creature."

What a subtle and powerful image.  I could never have been this clever.  This is why I let the spirits create the painting--I am only the artist's apprentice.