Drum Up The Sun

night sky looking towards Orion
night sky looking towards Orion (Photo credit: kronerda)

This time of year is a dark, quiet one. The sun rises late and sets early — and in some places, it hides its face from night and day alike.

We try to fill the void of the sun with colored lights and candles, festive trees and bright decorations. It’s a time of year when the night rules the calendar. The symbolism in the many holidays that cluster around midwinter is rife with images of renewal, rebirth, of beginnings. The New Year, Christmas, Solstice, Kwanzaa, Hannukah — all these holidays are rooted in light, hope, and the start of something new even when they look toward the past.

Frankly, this winter has gotten off to an awful start for me. As of writing this, I have been sick for over three weeks. It started with a sore throat and stuffy nose and morphed into a racking cough, followed by earaches and a resurgence of symptoms. Pneumonia. Bronchitis. Sinusitis. Ear infections. I’ve had all of that since Thanksgiving.

It’s been a time where my husband and I had thought we were at financial rock bottom — only to find out that we had pickaxes in hand and were hacking away at the ground beneath our feet. I had to humble myself and ask for help. Publishing grinds to a halt, and my inbox has been a world of silence on my many queries.

And Sunday was the year anniversary of my cousin’s tragic death, the memory of which has fogged my emotions with the smoke of grief that still hasn’t faded. One of my closest childhood friends lost someone he loved on Sunday in an eerie parallel to what happened to my family one year ago.

Friday was a day none of us will easily forget. A day when we were reminded that no matter how much joy exists, there are people who cannot or will not drink from that cup and instead sow anguish and reap nothing but death.

The holidays will forever bear deep sorrow for Newtown, Connecticut and for the families who will spend these days crumpled by the agony of 26 small children and adults snuffed out from our world forever.


Bear with me. There’s a point buried under all these Job-like afflictions.

This is a dark time, both literally and figuratively.

But you know what they say about the darkest hour.

Three days from now will be the darkest day of the year. The sun will rise at 7:23 AM EST and set at 4:50 PM EST. It will be the longest night.

Five years ago, I had just returned from Poland. It was one of the darkest times in my memory. I had left a place I loved and come back to a city I didn’t want to call home. And on 22 December, I bundled up early in my warmest clothes and drove my sputtering, 15-year-old Nissan Sentra up to Red Rocks Amphitheater.

Winter at Red Rocks
Winter at Red Rocks (Photo credit: mattsantomarco)

I gathered there with about fifty other people. Most of them had drums. And as the sky began to pale with the shy blush of the returning sun, the drums began to thrum. They started slow and sleepy, dimmed to a muted hush.

As the sky grew brighter over the Denver skyline and the flatlands of eastern Colorado beyond, the beat turned to a pulse. The cloud-dotted expanse above turned from jewel blue to pastel to the crystal white of milky quartz. The first golden rays of the newborn sun reached shining fingers over the frozen foothills, and the pulse quickened in both drums and veins until hands beat drum-skin and knees alike, lit with the fire of the world of day given first breath.

English: Christmas Dawn The sun rises late in ...
English: Christmas Dawn The sun rises late in midwinter this far north. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A month ago when we discussed the topic for this round of posts, I knew I would write a solstice post. I didn’t know just how much life would emulate the darkening celestial events. For many people, this time of year means deep pain. Loneliness and sadness, loss and grief.

But beyond the bustle of holidays and buying gifts, beyond seasonal depression or tragedy, the sun will return.

Whether you believe in the birth of the Christ child to a virgin or the festival of lights or if you track the sun’s path as it falls through a cross-shaped constellation before rising anew — whoever you worship or not at all, the sun will return.

It will warm the planet and birth new life. It will brighten the skies and nourish our bodies. The sun will return.

The darkest hour…

Well. You know the rest.

12 thoughts on “Drum Up The Sun

  1. ((Hugs)), Emmie. I’m so sorry this time of year’s so hard for you. As you’ve said, it’s not particular to you–it’s true for a lot of people. Thank you for sharing your story of hope and renewal with us. Your story about CO took my breath away. Wish I could’ve witnessed it, too. 🙂

  2. livrancourt says:

    My fourteen year old hates Christmas and all the associated crazy, and while I can see her POV, I tried to explain the importance of holidays in general, as a way to frame time. I pointed out how many of the major spiritual traditions have some kind of midwinter celebration, marking the change from darkness to light. I think it helped her? Never sure with teenagers.
    Drumming in the solstice at Red Rocks surely must have helped you. What a moving experience.

    1. Yeah, Christmas has never been my favorite. Everyone else seems to be so caught up in buying stuff, and when I was a kid I never really got presents (except the generic “adolescent female” gifts from charities). That point always got hammered home when I’d go to school and hear everyone talking about their hauls — I’ve never been able to buy into the holiday being about family because of those experiences. Kids never talked about how great it was to spend time with their families. It’s why Thanksgiving has always been the top of my list.

      Though even that is being encroached by Black Friday more and more every year, which makes me ill.

  3. Shauna Granger says:

    That was lovely Emmie, I hope you know your fellow Scribes are always here for you, as we all know how close that darkness comes, even if you’ve managed to crawl out of it before.

    I have always wanted to join a Solstice celebration, but I have yet to find one, a true one, here. So I put up my Yule tree, light it bright, string my lights on the house and remember it’s not for Christmas that I celebrate, but rather the coming of the light and the rebirth of our Mother Earth, and of us, surviving the Winter. Spring is coming.

    1. Yeah, they don’t seem to exist in the DC area at all. In CO there were heaps of lovely pagan events and shops and even a glorious little coffee shop owned by a friend of mine. I miss that environment. I went to an AWESOME Witches’ Ball one Halloween/Samhain, which was so much fun and revelry. 😀

  4. Thank you for sharing Emmie, I agree this time of year has some unpleasant memories for a lot of people. Those dark times seems compounded right now, so many people afraid of the world ending. But, like you and the others commenting, I am focusing on the light! I wrote about what we do for Solstice a few days ago, http://wp.me/p26kY1-61.
    In addition to what we do, we are going to our yoga studio for a fire celebration Hindu style, which is a first for us. For our family Ceremony is a beautiful way to honor anything, and in this case Solstice Ceremony is about being grateful and focusing intent on the Light we are in the world. Shine your Light bright Emmie! I hope you find a group you resonate with in your area.

  5. Laurah says:

    They do it every year. Last year we were finally going to go, but there was a major snowstorm so we were not able to get out to Red Rocks. It’s tomorrow, and we’ll have leave ca. 5.30 am to get there by 6, 6.15. We don’t drum but many of our drummer friends/acquaintances will be there. It will be cold. Bring coffee. Maybe donuts.

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