These marsh marigolds outside
our back door pop up every year at the beginning of April. They are
such a welcome sight. We
are enjoying a glorious spring here in our little leafy green corner of
the northern hemisphere. The wildflowers this year seem lovelier then
Or maybe it is just that I am appreciating them more. I think as I move
further into old age I am feeling more and more appreciation for all
the good and beautiful things in my life.
The original Elderwomanspace network is no longer being maintained and
I shall be closing it down altogether very soon. Meanwhile, a number of
people have already transferred to the new Elderwomanspace on Facebook
and activity there is quite lively. This change was made because fewer
and fewer people were logging on to the network and the price for
maintaining it was about to rise steeply. Our online lives are getting
ever busier, and I've noticed that Facebook is becoming a 'one-stop
shop' for many people's social media interaction. There is
another--wildly popular--Facebook group, now, for women over fifty,
called The Silver Tent, started recently by a lovely, vibrant woman
called Francesca Cassini. I am hoping to include an article by
Francesca in our next newsletter.
As for me, I've been travelling, planting seeds, editing the Spring
issue of GreenSpirit magazine, working on
our elder cohousing project, promoting the GreenSpirit book series,
now available in both electronic and printed form...and generally
living my life to the full.
Love and Blessings,
Elle Tyler Gould
It had to
be from another lifetime. What other theory could ever make any
acceleration of my heartbeat every time I got a glimpse of you walking
68th street. You were one of the first friendly faces that I
encountered when I
moved onto the block 34 years ago. Usually I caught a glimpse of you in
early morning, if I was out walking my dog. Your smile was beautiful
but it was
your eyes that engaged me. Crystal blue and clear as a sunny
Many years have passed and we
greeted each other with a neighborly friendliness. But I never knew
nor did you know mine. We never stopped to introduce ourselves. It was
though those formalities had occurred at another time and place. No
need for it
now. And yet year after year, month after month, day after day, I would
excited by the prospect of seeing you. Many days I would walk down the
hoping to get a glimpse of you. We never actually spoke to each other.
only our eyes that connected, smiling, as we passed by each
one beautiful spring afternoon, I was walking in the park. It was one
days when the sun was shining brightly and the flowers were in full
Vibrant yellows and lavenders and greens surrounded me. And the smells
air were intoxicating. That must have helped to encourage me to
greeting. “Hi” I said. You smiled. “How are you?” I continued. “Slowing
you said. It was then that I noticed the cane by your side, assisting
you in walking.
I had always known you were older than me but at that moment I realized
could have been my father. Something about the realization of time
going by so
quickly gave me the courage to continue our very first conversation in
years. “Are you still painting?” I timidly asked. “I remembered you use
a studio in my apartment building where you came to paint every day.
said. “As a matter of fact I have a show opening tomorrow.” Can you
where?” I asked, realizing at that moment, that I did not even know
“ It’s across town on East 78th Street.” you replied. I quickly jotted
address and asked you your name. The ice was broken. We had finally
I was overcome with shyness and abruptly said good-bye and walked
my best friend and I went across town to view your art. I was drawn
poetic and romantic quality in your paintings and the pastille colors
within me. I signed your guest book, leaving a generically supportive
knowing you would probably never identify it. After all you had never
that day I googled you and was surprised to find out you were quite
in the art world. It listed your age and I was shocked to find out
there was 25
years between us.
few years flew by. There were balmy evenings in the summertime when my
and I would be walking in the park. I would see you and your wife,
slowly, gently holding on to each other. She looked to be a perfect
you. Pretty and petite, with silver white hair that was identical in
your hair and beard. You looked like you belonged together. The love
something continued to pull me into your frequency. You were vibrating
very high level and I couldn’t deny the fact that as the years went by
stronger and stronger.
spoke at length again. Only one quick encounter when I expressed going
art show and loving your paintings. You were humble, and genuinely
my response. But that was all. I would continue to pass you on the
impulse to speak would be there, but I always silenced myself. I would
a warm, heartfelt smile and move on.
Which brings me to yesterday.
been in bed for days, with no intention of venturing out on a frigid
afternoon. But something compelled me to walk my dog and cash a check
bank. I had a strong need to breathe in some fresh air and get some
my face. But I didn’t feel well and I knew I was pushing myself. There
urgency to cash the check. But I went. I was the only one on line at
Just me and my dog, Shanti. I was glad that I didn’t have to wait on
just wanted to cash the check and go home. Then someone walked into the
and settled behind me. I turned around and it was you. “Oh my God” I
are you? You look so good….to me.” “And you look good to me.” You
Your face had aged considerably since our last encounter. Time had not
still. My heart was beating rapidly as I busied myself with my money
with the teller. You were to the right of me completing your
were both finished at the same moment. I started to walk out the door
I impulsively turned to you and said “I have to tell you something. It
weird.” You smiled mischievously and said “That's ok, I like weird.” I
into your eyes and said, “I know this is strange, but I feel very
you.” You put your hand on mine…so gently, and then you said, “Well of
we’ve been passing by each other for years and it has always been so
But that’s not what I meant. I wanted to tell you that it was much
were so familiar to me. We had to have had another relationship before.
other time…some other place. That I was sure you had been a part of my
That our souls had been deeply connected.
that moment you leaned
toward me and gave
me a kiss on my cheek. I felt like I was being caressed by the
such a gentle and kind way. We walked out of the bank
together. I no
felt ill. I had transcended my body. The traffic light changed and you
arm with your hand, to balance yourself, as we navigated our way across
New York City street. There on the corner, safely delivered, we said
You were going to your studio to paint and I was going home to write. I
intending to piece together the fragments of a connection that had
existed since the beginning of time and would surely comtinie on into
eternity. Our unique relationship had no shared experiences or
memories. In 30 years we had exchanged many smiles, a couple of words,
and one precious kiss.
are my guardian angel. Maybe I feel a celestial love emanating from
Maybe some part of me remembers when we were together in another
Maybe I will never know or understand and yet I anticipate with
next encounter on the block. I await the unknown and the chance that
be more of our mystery revealed. And so until then, I can only dream.
Elle Tyler Gould is a
winner of the Midlife Collage writing competition where her stories on
with grace and humor have garnered two consecutive first place prizes.
inspirational "NO TEARS" was published in 2011 in "WISDOM HAS A
VOICE: EVERY DAUGHTERS MEMORIES OF MOTHER." A former actress and drama
therapist, Elle has recently brought her voice back to the stage by
co-authoring a play titled "WHAT WOULD NORA SAY?" which has had
readings at The National Arts Club in NYC and The John Drew Theatre in
– a book review
what I think is an important new book. It was an interesting and quite
illuminating book, though not an easy one to read as its subject is
most of us don't want to spend too much time thinking—or reading—about
one is titled Modern
Death: How medicine changed the end of life (St
Martins Press, NY, 2017)
and is written by a young doctor called Haider Warraich.
Death, as this author
points out, was once a simple matter. Whether the cause was sickness,
or simply the failing of bodily systems due to old age, your heart
and everyone knew you were dead. End of story.
All that changed
concept of 'brain death' and with the gradual co-option of the dying
modern medicine. Just as birth was once a thing that happened at home
purely the province of mothers and grandmothers and midwives but has
a medical thing that most often happens in hospitals, death has, for
longer than birth, become a medical matter. And modern medicine, it
appears, is hell-bent on keeping us alive no matter what.
In a way that is
comforting and we can all be grateful for the existence of modern
intensive care units. However it has a downside. Because eventually it
will be time to die and nowadays, if we are unfortunate enough to die
hospital—which many of us probably will—this process that once was so
and natural may well be impeded by attempts (more often than not
futile) to get
our hearts beating again by bashing on our chests or, worse still, we
being hooked up to life support systems that will keep us breathing
somebody pulls the plug.
If we don't want this sort
of fraught and ignoble end—and if truth be told, most of us probably
if we haven't taken the right precautions, we risk landing our families
the problem of making impossibly hard decisions on our behalf.
For one thing, that puts a
huge emotional burden on our loved ones. But also, families often get
conflict about such things. We hear about the well-publicized cases
into the newspaper but behind the scenes there are many such conflicts,
according to Warraich who works in a large hospital and sees this
scenario on a
So the take-home message
is simple. If you have not already done so, state your wishes now.
Write them down. Download an Advance Health
Care Directive (also called a Living Will) from the internet and fill
it in and
sign it in front of a witness. (In the US, the procedure may vary from
State and some health organizations, such as Kaiser, provide these
Lodge a copy with your doctor.
Let your loved ones know.
it with them. They will be forever grateful.
One day last year I fell
down the back steps. And when I say 'back steps' I am not talking about
regular staircase. Because our cottage is built into a hill, the garden
is on a
higher level. In the front it is terraced, with rather pretty stone
from one level to the next, and a rope to hold on to. The steps at the
primitive. They are steep, uneven, narrow, and roughly dug out of a
slope. And they are often muddy. Going up is not so bad but the only
hold on to on the way down are the multiple trunks of the ancient
around which the steps wind and then an old pump at the bottom. (Back
in 1733 when
the cottage was built, our ancient well and its pump were the only
for this and several neighbouring dwellings.)
Over the seventeen years we
had lived here, I had gone
up and down those steps so often that I could do it without thinking
without looking where I put my feet. Until last year. Until the time my
slipped on some mud, my feet shot out from under me and I slid down the
the way on my back, coming to rest with a jolt as the edge of the
slammed into my spine.
I lay there, afraid to
move. A dreadful videotape was playing in my head. Severed spinal cord.
Paraplegia. Life in a wheelchair. I called out in a loud voice
"Ouch!" Nobody heard me. I called again. Still nobody heard me. After
a while I plucked up courage to move my foot. Then my leg. Then the
Eventually I stood up, dusted myself off, went indoors and burst into
Not about what had happened but about what might
Despite the arnica (both
internal and external) I was a bit sore for a few days but then I was
fine. The bruises
faded. However, the memory didn't. The next time I started to
I felt a sense of panic. I hung on to the hawthorn tree as hard as I
inching myself carefully down, conscious, as never before, of where my
hands were, moment to moment. And feeling really relieved when I
bottom. The same thing happened the next time. Most of the time,
avoided those steps and used the ones at the front.
But even then, I found
myself taking it more slowly, holding tightly to the rope, stepping
carefully, staying totally aware of every movement of every muscle.
This new way of walking
down steps even transferred itself to indoors, to the action of walking
our wooden stairs, which of course I do dozens of times in a day. Even
more than a year after that tumble down the back steps, I can never
walk down any flight of steps or
without staying mindful.
I stay especially mindful
when I climb down the loft ladder. And even when I climb up
it. Furthermore, I noticed the other day that the habit of
mindfulness has spread to the entire loft, not just the ladder. With that realization came
wouldn't it be wonderful if this phenomenon I am thinking of as
mindfulness' crept so far into all my daily activities that I actually
without much effort at all, what all those gurus and meditation
been telling us for so long? For I am sure all of us have heard about
importance and the value of mindfulness? We have heard that it is the
antidote to anxiety. It lowers your cortisol levels. It strengthens
system and adds years to your life. It is the path to spiritual
you are fully and completely present in whatever you are doing in each
moment, life takes on deeper and richer hues. Time slows down. What's
love about all that?
maybe old age and
mindfulness really do go hand in hand. What a wonderful thought!! Would
have had that thought if I had not fallen down the back steps?
Captures What Happens When People Around The World Are Told They Are
(Thank you so much, Helen
Albans, for sending me the link to this lovely piece.)
Elderwoman book to be re-published soon
After fifteen years, FIndhorn Press, the publishers of Elderwoman,
decided to let that book go out of print. There are still quite a few
copies around, both new and second-hand, and they are available
through a number of Amazon Marketplace booksellers.
However, I plan to republish it very soon. The new edition will not
only have a new cover but it will have a whole extra chapter that I
have written since I turned 80, about this later part of old age.
Watch for an announcement on Facebook and on
Renowned spiritual teacher
and author Ram Dass is no stranger to the concept of “conscious aging”.
known for his books Be Here Now
and Still Here:
Changing and Dying, 85-year-old Ram Dass views aging
more conscious living and spiritual growth.
In 1997, he experienced a
near fatal stroke that left him in all-round-care, which he later said
stroke of luck”. Since then, he continues to delve into the aspects of
that terrify most of us and shows us that it’s possible to stay present
midst of suffering.
7-minute video, hear
Ram Dass’ experience of first realizing he was getting older, how he
it, and what he did.
Diane ('Kianna' to her crone friends) Bader,
a long-time reader
of—and contributor to—this newsletter, recently published a book about
her Irish great grandfather, Daniel Mac Sweeney. It was published in
and in Ireland. Diane says, "I had a wonderful book launch in
Falcarragh, County Donegal, Ireland on August 11th. The Minister of the
Diaspora, Joe Mc Hugh, helped launch it.
"It's a very different story," Diane explained, "…because Daniel left
Ireland in 1850 but returned in 1877, a successful businessman from San
Francisco, with his family. Then he got involved with the Land League,
was imprisoned and finally returned to the US"
Here is a link to Diane's book on
Amazon.com (and here for Amazon.co.uk) Or you can
order a copy direct from Diane if you contact her at
Congratulations, Diane! I know all our readers will join me in wishing
your book every success.
I seem to remember that I have included this video in one of the
newsletters before but just for fun--and because a lot of new
subscribers have joined the mailing list--I decided to run it again. It
has been around quite a while, but it always makes me smile.
'Don't Dread Old Age' -- an article from The
FOR SUBMISSIONS 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.
am not old
old, she said
I am rare
at the end of the play
I am the
of my life
I am the
connected like dots
into good sense
I am the
I am waiting to die
but I am waiting to be found
I am a
I am a map
these wrinkles are imprints
of my journey
Elderwoman Newsletter by Marian Van Eyk McCain, May 2017
The Elderwoman website:
NB: replace 'at' with the @
sign, and please
insert OKEM in the
subject line to make sure you get through my three
layers of spam filtering!
the filters are a necessity to stop
my in-box flooding with spam.
- oh and when you
write to me, please remember that my name
is spelt MARIANwith an
'A' (the same as Robin Hood's