Last night, my daughter and I were very lucky to be able to celebrate the Winter Solstice with our favorite Native American elder, Grandmother Nancy. We lit some sage and watched the flames in silence until the embers glowed and the smoke rose. Then, we purified ourselves and began to drum together. Grandmother pointed out that our drumbeats were felt by the earth, the spirits around us, the trees, the horses in the barn and all the other animals out there in the darkness, connecting our heartbeats to Mother Earth.
Grandmother told us a wonderful story about why all the trees except the pines lose their leaves each year. The pines, ever green, watch over all of us, and if we listen to them whispering and singing in the wind, we can here their messages as they protect us. She taught us the “Strong Woman” song, which we sang together, and we promised to share it with other women. It’s not hard to learn-- there is a solo verse and then a refrain that is sung in unison. She drummed along at first, but then used two sticks to keep the rhythm, leaving the last verse only to our voices in memory of women whom we loved that are no longer on this earth.
We talked about how women were the original drummers, welcoming children into the world, sending men off to hunt or to battle, celebrating their return and giving safe passage to souls who are ready to move on.
There were no stars and clouds covered the moon last night. The air was much warmer than it usually is on the longest day of the year. We could definitely feel the hope that was floating in the air.