Issue #41 May 2017


Welcome to the May 2017 issue of the Elderwoman Newsletter
- an e-zine for 21st century elderwomen committed to radical aliveness.


VIEW FROM THE DESK

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 ever.

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,

 Marian

 FEATURE ARTICLES

Celestial Love 

by Elle Tyler Gould

It had to be from another lifetime. What other theory could ever make any sense? 

The acceleration of my heartbeat every time I got a glimpse of you walking down 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 the 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 day. 

Many years have passed and we have always greeted each other with a neighborly friendliness. But I never knew your name, nor did you know mine. We never stopped to introduce ourselves. It was as 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 be excited by the prospect of seeing you. Many days I would walk down the street hoping to get a glimpse of you. We never actually spoke to each other. It was only our eyes that connected, smiling, as we passed by each other. 

And then one beautiful spring afternoon, I was walking in the park. It was one of those days when the sun was shining brightly and the flowers were in full bloom. Vibrant yellows and lavenders and greens surrounded me. And the smells per the air were intoxicating. That must have helped to encourage me to vocalize a greeting. “Hi” I said. You smiled. “How are you?” I continued. “Slowing down.” 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 you 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 over 20 years. “Are you still painting?” I timidly asked. “I remembered you use to rent a studio in my apartment building where you came to paint every day. “Yes” you said. “As a matter of fact I have a show opening tomorrow.” Can you tell me where?” I asked, realizing at that moment, that I did not even know your name. “ It’s across town on East 78th Street.” you replied. I quickly jotted down the address and asked you your name. The ice was broken. We had finally spoken. But I was overcome with shyness and abruptly said good-bye and walked away.

That week my best friend and I went across town to view your art. I was drawn into the poetic and romantic quality in your paintings and the pastille colors resonated within me. I signed your guest book, leaving a generically supportive message, knowing you would probably never identify it. After all you had never asked me my name.

Later that day I googled you and was surprised to find out you were quite well known in the art world. It listed your age and I was shocked to find out there was 25 years between us.

The next few years flew by. There were balmy evenings in the summertime when my husband and I would be walking in the park. I would see you and your wife, walking slowly, gently holding on to each other. She looked to be a perfect match for you. Pretty and petite, with silver white hair that was identical in color to your hair and beard. You looked like you belonged together. The love you shared was palpable

And yet, something continued to pull me into your frequency. You were vibrating on a very high level and I couldn’t deny the fact that as the years went by it got stronger and stronger. 

We never spoke at length again. Only one quick encounter when I expressed going to your art show and loving your paintings. You were humble, and genuinely touched by my response. But that was all. I would continue to pass you on the block. The impulse to speak would be there, but I always silenced myself. I would give you a warm, heartfelt smile and move on.

Which brings me to yesterday. I was sick, had been in bed for days, with no intention of venturing out on a frigid winter afternoon. But something compelled me to walk my dog and cash a check at the bank. I had a strong need to breathe in some fresh air and get some sunshine on my face. But I didn’t feel well and I knew I was pushing myself. There was no urgency to cash the check. But I went. I was the only one on line at the bank. Just me and my dog, Shanti. I was glad that I didn’t have to wait on line. I just wanted to cash the check and go home. Then someone walked into the bank and settled behind me. I turned around and it was you. “Oh my God” I said. How are you? You look so good….to me.” “And you look good to me.” You responded. Your face had aged considerably since our last encounter. Time had not stood still. My heart was beating rapidly as I busied myself with my money exchange with the teller. You were to the right of me completing your withdrawal. We were both finished at the same moment. I started to walk out the door and then I impulsively turned to you and said “I have to tell you something. It may seem weird.” You smiled mischievously and said “That's ok, I like weird.” I looked into your eyes and said, “I know this is strange, but I feel very connected to you.” You put your hand on mine…so gently, and then you said, “Well of course we’ve been passing by each other for years and it has always been so pleasant.” But that’s not what I meant. I wanted to tell you that it was much more. You were so familiar to me. We had to have had another relationship before. Some other time…some other place. That I was sure you had been a part of my life. That our souls had been deeply connected.

At that moment you leaned toward me and gave me a kiss on my cheek. I felt like I was being caressed by the universe, in such a gentle and kind way. We walked out of the bank together. I no longer felt ill. I had transcended my body. The traffic light changed and you took my arm with your hand, to balance yourself, as we navigated our way across a busy New York City street. There on the corner, safely delivered, we said good-bye. You were going to your studio to paint and I was going home to write. I was intending to piece together the fragments of a connection that had probably 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.

Maybe you are my guardian angel. Maybe I feel a celestial love emanating from your heart. Maybe some part of me remembers when we were together in another dimension. Maybe I will never know or understand and yet I anticipate with excitement our next encounter on the block. I await the unknown and the chance that there will be more of our mystery revealed. And so until then, I can only dream. And I will. 

 

Elle Tyler Gould is a winner of the Midlife Collage writing competition where her stories on aging with grace and humor have garnered two consecutive first place prizes. Her 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 East Hampton, NY.
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Modern Death – a book review

 
I just finished reading 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 death. And most of us don't want to spend too much time thinking—or reading—about death. This 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, accident or simply the failing of bodily systems due to old age, your heart stopped beating and everyone knew you were dead. End of story.

All that changed with the concept of 'brain death' and with the gradual co-option of the dying process by modern medicine. Just as birth was once a thing that happened at home and was purely the province of mothers and grandmothers and midwives but has now become a medical thing that most often happens in hospitals, death has, for even longer than birth, become a medical matter. And modern medicine, it often 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 surgery and intensive care units. However it has a downside. Because eventually it really will be time to die and nowadays, if we are unfortunate enough to die in hospital—which many of us probably will—this process that once was so normal 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 might up being hooked up to life support systems that will keep us breathing until 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 don't—and if we haven't taken the right precautions, we risk landing our families with 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 into conflict about such things. We hear about the well-publicized cases that get 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 frequent basis. 

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 to State and some health organizations, such as Kaiser, provide these forms also.) Lodge a copy with your doctor. 

Let your loved ones know. Discuss it with them. They will be forever grateful.

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Old Age and Mindfulness 

   

   

One day last year I fell down the back steps. And when I say 'back steps' I am not talking about a 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 steps leading from one level to the next, and a rope to hold on to. The steps at the back are primitive. They are steep, uneven, narrow, and roughly dug out of a steep slope. And they are often muddy. Going up is not so bad but the only things to hold on to on the way down are the multiple trunks of the ancient hawthorn tree 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 water supply 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 and without looking where I put my feet. Until last year. Until the time my foot slipped on some mud, my feet shot out from under me and I slid down the rest of the way on my back, coming to rest with a jolt as the edge of the bottom step 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 other leg. Eventually I stood up, dusted myself off, went indoors and burst into tears. Not about what had happened but about what might have happened. 

Despite the arnica (both internal and external) I was a bit sore for a few days but then I was fine. The bruises soon faded. However, the memory didn't. The next time I started to come down those steps I felt a sense of panic. I hung on to the hawthorn tree as hard as I could, inching myself carefully down, conscious, as never before, of where my feet and hands were, moment to moment. And feeling really relieved when I reached the bottom. The same thing happened the next time. Most of the time, though, I 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 more carefully, staying totally aware of every movement of every muscle. Staying mindful. 

This new way of walking down steps even transferred itself to indoors, to the action of walking down our wooden stairs, which of course I do dozens of times in a day. Even now, more than a year after that tumble down the back steps, I can never walk down any flight of steps or stairs, anywhere, 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 the thought: wouldn't it be wonderful if this phenomenon I am thinking of as 'creeping mindfulness' crept so far into all my daily activities that I actually achieved, without much effort at all, what all those gurus and meditation teachers have been telling us for so long? For I am sure all of us have heard about the importance and the value of mindfulness? We have heard that it is the perfect antidote to anxiety. It lowers your cortisol levels. It strengthens your immune system and adds years to your life. It is the path to spiritual enlightenment. When you are fully and completely present in whatever you are doing in each 'now' moment, life takes on deeper and richer hues. Time slows down. What's not to love about all that? 

So maybe old age and mindfulness really do go hand in hand. What a wonderful thought!! Would I ever have had that thought if I had not fallen down the back steps? 

 LINKS/REPORTS/NEWS/BITS AND PIECES



Travel Photographer Captures What Happens When People Around The World Are Told They Are Beautiful

http://www.boredpanda.com/smile-project-very-beautiful-rotasiz-seyyah/

(Thank you so much, Helen Albans, for sending me the link to this lovely piece.)



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*****

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 my blog.
A gentle reminder for all of us...


*****

Ram Dass Video

 
Renowned spiritual teacher and author Ram Dass is no stranger to the concept of “conscious aging”. Best known for his books Be Here Now and Still Here: Embracing Aging Changing and Dying, 85-year-old Ram Dass views aging as a springboard for 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 “was a stroke of luck”. Since then, he continues to delve into the aspects of aging that terrify most of us and shows us that it’s possible to stay present in the midst of suffering.

In this 7-minute video, hear Ram Dass’ experience of first realizing he was getting older, how he felt about 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 the US 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 DLBauthor(at)gmail.com

Congratulations, Diane! I know all our readers will join me in wishing your book every success.


Diane's book launch in Ireland

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*****
'Older Ladies'
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.

                                 

CALL 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. 


POETRY


                                 

I am not old

  
I am not old, she said
I am rare

! am the standing ovation
at the end of the play 

I am the retrospective
of my life
as art 

I am the hours
connected like dots
into good sense 

I am the fullness
of existing 

you think I am waiting to die
but I am waiting to be found

I am a treasure

I am a map
these wrinkles are imprints
of my journey 

ask me
anything.

 
Samantha Reynolds

www.bentlily.com

 

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LAST LAUGH



The Elderwoman Newsletter by Marian Van Eyk McCain, May 2017
The Elderwoman website: http://www.elderwoman.org
Marian's e-mail: marian(at)elderwoman.org 
NB: replace 'at' with the @ sign, and please remember to insert OKEM in the
 subject line to make sure you get through my three layers of spam filtering!

Unfortunately, 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 MARIAN with an 'A' (the same as Robin Hood's girlfriend) 

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