Issue #42, July 2018

Welcome to the July 2018 issue of the Elderwoman Newsletter
- an e-zine for 21st century elderwomen committed to radical aliveness.

View from the Desk
Feature Article
Links/Bits and Pieces
Call for Submissions
Last Laugh


It is now over a year since I published the last Elderwoman Newsletter. That's the longest gap ever! Partly, that is because I have been busy and preoccupied with other things, like the elder cohousing project that a group of us here in Devon are trying to get off the ground. I've also spent more time travelling and more time writing and publishing book reviews. But it is probably also because at 82 I can feel myself slowing down somewhat and getting less done in a day than I used to. Hardly surprising, I guess. Energy needs more careful harvesting as we grow older and tire more easily. So be it! 

Also, since I have hundreds of subscribers, sending out notices by email is a huge task, and so is keeping the subscriber list updated. So I have decided to do things differently. From now on, I shall not be sending you an email to tell you that a new newsletter is online. Instead, I shall simply post a notice on my blog, at http://elderwoman.blogspot.comAll you need to do to make sure you continue receiving  the newsletter is to go to my blog and put your email address in the subscription box on the top right hand side. When you do that, you will get an email with a line of verification code to click on and once you do that your subscription will be set up. I really hope everyone takes the time to do it. I would be sad to lose subscribers because of the change.

OK, so on to the other news...

The highlight of last year was a trip to the US to see various family members and (for me) to attend the Crones Counsel gathering in Utah—see: 

This was the fifth Crones Counsel gathering I have been to and this one was special because I had turned 80 since the last time, which meant that when it was time for the traditional 'Honoring the Elders' ceremony, I was one of the ones to get honoured, and that felt wonderful.

Someone recounted the ancient tale of 'Grandmother Spider' and my special gift was a lovely, hand-made representation of her in beads, which now sits in pride of place on my altar at home.

The best news, though, is that I finished writing the extra chapter for Elderwoman and republished the book. I had never been happy with the unimaginative covers that the publisher, Findhorn Press, had chosen for it, so now that I was re-publishing it myself I was able to create a cover that I really like. I changed the subtitle too.

What's more, the book is now available on a 'print on demand' basis, which means it can never go out of print again. And, better still, I also created a Kindle version, which is on sale for less than the price of two cups of Starbuck's coffee!

There is a handful of really nice reviews of Elderwoman on Amazon, but there is also one really bad one from some disgruntled woman called Alice, which I found really distressing as it brought the average way down. So I if there is anyone who likes the book and feels like writing a brief review and posting it on Amazon, please, please do, as it will help to counteract the 'Alice effect' and for that I shall be eternally grateful. 

Love and blessings to all,


Yes, Made for these Times
Our world has always needed the wisdom of elders. The trouble is, some time over the last century—particularly, I believe, since the proliferation of television—Western society has become obsessed with youth. So much so that a lot of elders themselves, particularly women, have been frantically trying to find ways to keep looking younger than they are—a desire that, as we all know, commerce has been all too ready to exploit and grow rich on.


At the same time, technology has been advancing faster and faster, the pace of change has kept accelerating, to the point where those of us over sixty are starting to realize that the world around us is now so very different from the one we grew up in that it feels almost as though we are now living on a different planet. This can be stressful. We need to find new ways to cope. But giving up and retreating into a retro time-warp where we stop learning new things and simply nourish ourselves with nostalgia and old memories, is not the answer. We are not just once-young people now grown old. We are elders. And as such we must take our rightful place at the table as elders with our own, unique part to play, not hide underneath it like children who want to get out of washing the dishes.


The first step, I believe, is to think our way underneath the societal changes. After all, underneath its clothes, the human body is still the same basic shape. Our anatomy and physiology remain pretty much as they always were, except for a few minor changes like an increased average height and a lowered age of menarche. We still have the same basic range of emotions as our ancestors, the same instincts and impulses, the same deep needs for food, clothing, shelter, love, relationship, recognition, security, creativity, spiritual meaning, life purpose and so on, even though we might have slightly different ways of expressing those needs and slightly different ways of fulfilling them.


As elders, we have been here long enough to observe the changes in the culture and see the extent of them. Therefore, since we literally can see the whole picture, we are the very people best equipped to practise Big Picture Thinking. And that's the sort of thinking that is most useful now, and sorely needed. So as I see it, our tasks are to:
 1. stay aware of this underlying core of humanness.
 2. be aware of the subtle changes in the ways it manifests nowadays so that we can recognize it in new guises (like for instance accepting that a text or a birthday message on Facebook can convey exactly the same degree of affection and remembrance as a card in the mail with roses on it). A good example is addiction. The nature of addiction doesn't change. It is still based on encouraging the release, in the brain, of the neurotransmitter dopamine. (That applies whether you are a human being or a rat in a laboratory.) When we see this, we suddenly realize that addiction to video games or social media or endless text conversations on cell phones only differs on the surface (and perhaps in degree) from smoking a joint or drinking several double Scotches or snorting cocaine.
 3. accept the inevitability of culture change and flow with it creatively. By which I mean that if there is a change we don't like, instead of just bitching about it we need to look at the needs and impulses that are driving it and seek ways in which those can be met by other, less harmful and more sustainable means. Sometimes it is a matter of 'both/and/and'. Like protesting against fracking AND supporting the erection of a new wind turbine or solar array or whatever AND catching a bus instead of taking the car, helping to build a new cycle path…and so on. Incidentally, dopamine activity is also involved—among other neurological processes—in so-called 'peak experiences' and other mystical moments. Which is why substance abuse can also be viewed as an unrecognized yearning for a more spiritual life—an approach that has been taken, with great success, by enlightened therapists working to get people off heroin. Same process: look underneath, identify the deeper need, think of more healthy creative ways in which that need could be satisfied and then share that thought with others.
It has also occurred to me that over and above our personal problems and stresses, there is so much angst and unrest and turbulence in the world at the moment that we are all—every one of us on this planet—being subjected to a vast number of relentless, background stressors as well. More than we've had to deal with since the end of the Cold War when the nuclear threat receded. Climate change, terrorism, dwindling resources, species loss, soil depletion, lies and corruption at the highest level of government, culture wars, the resurgence of fascist ideology…and on and on. It is a lot to cope with.
Ironically, this increase in background stress, along with the inevitable stress we are having to deal with because of the accelerating pace of change, is all impacting on us older people at the same time that our own physical and emotional infrastructure is beginning to show wear and tear. More aches and pains and infirmities are starting to appear and we can feel our own powers—particularly the physical ones—waning with age. We elderwomen can't so easily chain ourselves to railings any more (by the end of the first hour we would probably be desperate for a pee) and we no longer have the stamina for a long protest march. But we still have a voice. We are more skilled in expressing our opinions now, more aware of the nature of our listeners, more knowledgeable about the ways of the world because we have been in it for longer, and more appreciative of its vast diversity. Our judgments are tempered by more understanding—and hopefully more tolerance—than they were when we were twenty-two.


I have two final, encouraging (I hope) things to say. Firstly, as I have to keep reminding myself, it is surely no accident we are here now, at this time. We have a particular job to do and we owe it to the rest of the world to do it, in whatever creative ways we can. As Clarissa Pinkola Estes so beautifully says, 'We were made for these times' (Be sure and check out the link to her words at the end of this article)
Secondly, there is a place in which to rest—as often as necessary and as fully and heartfully as we possibly can. And that, as my dear partner Sky loves to remind me, has never been more succinctly expressed than it is in the famous Leonard Cohen line "Ring the bells that still can ring." In other words, when you get that awful feeling that the entire world you once knew is rapidly disappearing down the toilet, just take a walk. Look around, soak in the experience of noticing the small things—the small moments of timeless beauty and perfection, like the sun coming through the trees, the song of a bird, the sight of a dragonfly with gossamer wings alighting on a leaf… Breathe into it. Rest into it. Be fully there. It is the place of sanity; an unchanging reminder that we are part of something larger and greater than ourselves, a cell in the body of this big, beautiful, amazing, living organism we call Planet Earth. 
(Click here for the Estes link)

The Monument and the Wrecking Crew: Ageism in the Academy
by Margaret Morganroth Gullette

This is an excellent - and quite alarming - article about ageism in educational establishments - one place where I would have (naively?) expected not to find it.

(If you get a pop-up when you click this link, just press the back button and it should revert to the article)

...and here is Willie Nelson at his best

The Last Naturalist - the story of Berndt Heinrich
By blogger, Bill Donahue

It's Time
By Donna Ashworth

The Navaho Horse Whisperer
By Alysa Landy  (Thanks to subscriber Tia Wallach for this one)

The (In)convenience of Call Waiting
By blogger Diane Dahli
(By the way, Diane's blog, entitled 'Still the Lucky Few' is one of the few 'elder' blogs that is geared especially to my generation - the 'Pre-Boomers', i.e. the ones born before the end of WW2. It is a blog I always enjoy reading.)

How I Made Friends with Reality   Emily Levine's amazing TED talk


'The Advantages Of Being Really Tired'
by Arlene Corwin

I like to do yoga when I’m really tired.

Body falls into a pose;

I’m so tired I simply ooze and don’t oppose;

Well into grooves of stillness,

I don’t need to move -

And isn’t that the object -

To let body

Plus the laws of gravity

Do their business?


Morning freshness has its charm,

Gives the limbs a germ

Of opportunity to not complain.


Come p.m. an I-don’t-care-ness,

Strange awareness

Lets the straining and maintaining

Rally and recover.

Ease and peace and even pleasure -

Virtues I can’t measure,

Are received, perceived are yes, believed.


With temperament conducting norm,

I carry out this easy form,

For there are benefits to being really tired.

Contributions for this newsletter are eagerly sought. Please send in your writings, your thoughts, your poetry, a book or website you have found, an announcement or news item that you think would be interesting to others, a comment on one of these articles, a subject you'd like to see, an anecdote, something that moved you - whatever snippet you want to share.  Don't be shy. You do NOT have to be a professional writer, artist or photographer to send pictures or pieces of your writing to this newsletter. I look forward to hearing from you

Two elderly ladies had been friends for many decades.  Over the years, they had shared all kinds of activities and adventures.  Lately, their activities had been limited to meeting a few times a week to play cards.

One day, they were playing cards when one looked at the other and said, 'Now don't get mad at me .... I know we've been friends for a long time, but I just can't think of your name!  I've thought and thought, but I can't remember it.  Please tell me what your name is..'

Her friend glared at her for at least three minutes she just stared and glared at her.  Finally she said, 'How soon do you need to know?'

The Elderwoman Newsletter by Marian Van Eyk McCain, July, 2018
The Elderwoman website:
Marian's e-mail: marian(at) 
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