For those of you who haven’t had the pleasure of spending much time at Flying Cloud, our drum is a huge part of our ceremonies – including the Friendship Fire, which happens on the first evening of each session. The drum had been around when I was a camper in 2006, and certainly well before then. It’s a unique drum, made of buckskin stretched over a section of hollow tree trunk and weighing a good fifty or sixty pounds. It’s played with two heavy wooden drumsticks wrapped in buckskin, and its sound travels throughout Flying Cloud, rolling over the surrounding hills.

And on the morning of the first day of camp, my first real day as director, I couldn’t find it.

I double checked all the likeliest areas and then started down the rabbit hole of looking for a lost thing in places I knew it almost certainly wouldn’t be. The drum is a little large to be stuck between couch cushions, but if there had been a couch to rummage through I’m sure I would have done it. At my wit’s end, I sent out a page to everyone explaining my plight – this drummed up some sympathy but no Flying Cloud drum.

So we started the session without it. Friendship Fire was heralded by the sound of a different drum, a djembe. It worked, and we used it for our first Honoring Fire as well, but it didn’t have the same feeling – it wasn’t something that was unique to us, created for and by us.

That’s where our friend Mike Descoteaux comes into this story. Mike, along with his friend Pat Leno, visited Flying Cloud twice last year to teach us about Abenaki history and culture. Mike is also a talented drum maker, and so we arranged for him to lead a drum making workshop where campers can build a handheld drum of their own. This was all arranged well before the summer started before I realized that we were in need of a Flying Cloud drum. When he heard of our loss, Mike told me something very important. He said:

Charlie, this wasn’t where the drum needed to be anymore. It moved on. What you have isn’t a loss, but an opportunity to bring something new into Flying Cloud, to create something that has meaning to everyone who is here now.

With that, Mike offered to help us create a new drum. On his next visit up to Flying Cloud, he brought with him enough wood for a huge frame and two big skins to stretch over it. He invited everyone who wanted to participate to do so, from the sanding to the carving, to the stretching and the lacing. The drum would represent the love and hard work of everyone at Flying Cloud.

The drum was ready to play just in time for our final Honoring Ceremony, and it sounded beautiful.

Thanks to Mike, what felt like a huge loss was transformed into a thing of beauty. The drum is a physical representation of the lessons he taught us, and he’ll be in our hearts whenever those beautiful drumbeats go rolling through the clearing and over the hills.

We never did find the old drum. I hope wherever it is, it’s making someone as happy as our new drum is making us, up at Flying Cloud. If you’d like to see our new drum, come to Harvest Weekend and Ice Cutting! I’ll have it out then. Looking forward to seeing you all there.

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