The Elderwoman Newsletter
Issue #28, November, 2010

Welcome to the November 2010 issue of the Elderwoman Newsletter
- an e-zine for 21st century elderwomen committed to radical aliveness.

This has been such a full year for me that I have only managed three newsletters rather than the usual four. But I make no apology for that. For as I have often said - and as I am sure you will all agree - this time of life is not a time for 'shoulds' and 'oughts' and all those other duty-related words 
that have dogged us for so much of our lives. It is a time for doing what pleases us, what feels natural, right, comfortable and appropriate to the moment. It is the time when we are, at last, most fully and completely ourselves. So now, at 74, I create newsletters when I feel like it, blog when I feel like it and most of the time I am able to please myself about what I do and when. It is a delicious feeling!
The highlight of my year, of course, has been the publication of my new book - this time an anthology, edited by me but with writings from more than two dozen other contributors besides myself - GreenSpirit: Path to a New Consciousness. Published by O Books in April, it is selling well in the UK but I need a lot more help with publicizing it in other parts of the world, particularly in North America. So any help you can give by telling your friends and acquaintances about it (and your local library) would be very much appreciated.
See below for details about all the ways in which you can assist.
Many of you already have, and for that I am especially grateful.
As a matter of fact, I have completed yet another book this year. Entitled Downshifting Made Easy: How to plan for your planet-friendly future, this one will be published (again by O Books) next May. More details about that next time.
Meanwhile, here is the latest serving of items that I hope will be of interest to all of you in this wonderful, world-wide web of elderwomen.

Many blessings,


Being Special

Earlier this year, I clipped an item from the San Francisco Chronicle about a 94-year-old woman who had just earned herself a college degree. (Click here to read it.) I love collecting stories about elders—especially female elders—who, like this woman, defy our culture’s stereotypes about aging and what it is possible to do when you are old. Such stories give us all a boost, reminding us that many of what we see as the limitations that come with old age exist only in our minds. In fact, research has shown that our beliefs about what it is like to get old are the major determinant of our experience of aging. If we believe that decrepitude will set in rapidly once we pass a certain age, then it most probably will.

A lot depends on our role models, especially our early ones. In the village where I spend the latter half of my childhood, no-one ever thought it strange that our 82-year-old neighbour still cycled everywhere. And since my own great-grandfather was bright and active well past 90 it never occurred to me, as a child, that anyone in their 80s and 90s would not be leading a full and active life. So stories in the newspaper, like this one, are a good way of reminding us that our limitations are to a huge extent self-fulfilling prophecies. 

But there is another side to it also. In fact there are at least two other sides to it. People do get sick. Genetic inheritances are by no means equal. Some people die young. Accidents happen. Dementia happens. So when we make a big song and dance about someone who is still climbing mountains at 85, 

figure-skating at 90 or graduating at 94, what message are we giving to all our brothers and sisters who, through no fault of their own, are confined to wheelchairs?

Secondly, are we raising the bar of expectations so high that all those elders whose achievements are less newsworthy feel a sense of failure and all those younger people whose parents are now feeble and dependent feel sad or even resentful?

By singling some people out for praise and adulation because of their late-life achievements are  we perpetuating the ‘celebrity culture’ that is so prevalent today, in which some people are seen as ‘special’ and being ordinary has no value any more? Should we not, in elderhood, have moved beyond the rampant competitiveness that has already blighted Western, consumer society so badly?  My favourite spiritual teacher often used to tell people “Delete the need to be special.” For nobody is really special. Or, more accurately, we are all special, each in our own unique way. There are no duplicates. It is our egoic striving to be ‘better than’ other people—smarter, wiser, richer, fitter, prettier—that causes most of the problems in human relationships.

So there are really no ‘right’ answers. We need stories like this because they inspire us. They break down our stereotypes, encourage us to live our old age fully and remind us not to impose restrictions on our dreams and ambitions. We need to be inspired by people who, by  going to the limits of their abilities,
are keeping their muscles strong, their bodies fit and healthy and their minds stretched. Because that encourages us. It helps us to remember that we create our own reality. Yet at the same time these people are really no more ‘special’ than anyone else. Everybody, regardless of his or her achievements, is unique and special and needs to be loved, valued and celebrated. 

It is one of the many paradoxes within which we live.

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Enchanted by the 2010 Crones Counsel

 By Berta Parrish

The state of New Mexico advertises itself as the “land of enchantment,” and it is breathtaking.  However, when you add the beauty, humor, fellowship, and energy of 130 women embracing life at whatever age, a spell was definitely cast at the Eighteenth International Crones Counsel gathering in Albuquerque. 

From the opening ritual dramatizing the Native America myth of Grandmother Spider to the closing ceremony, the theme of Weaving interlaced everyone’s hearts and minds. 

 The first thread was the daily Storytelling Hour.  Women from New York to California, got up on the stage to share their stories.  Sad tales of abuse needing healing.  Compelling stories of loss and recovery.  Inspirational stories of fear conquered. All powerful and liberating stories of the suffering, courage, and joys of being a woman.  If the speaker wanted a standing ovation, all she had to do was ask and the audience exploded with clapping and cheering.  What a joyous noise we women make!

Another thread is the “Honoring the Elders” event that set the tone for the next three days.  Everyone over eighty years old was on the stage being acknowledged for the simple act of growing old.  Each woman shared her hard-won wisdom in a short statement of advice or insight. Afterwards, they were given the best seats, were first in line for meals and the Give Away Table, and were generally revered and cared for by friends and strangers alike. 

 These two traditions plus so many others, such as interesting afternoon workshops; supporting Crone Circles; the touching Empty Chair to honor deceased friends; the hilarious Crone Follies; and lots of laughing, singing and drumming, comprise the annual Crones Counsel gatherings, which started in 1993. The yearly gatherings are planned by local groups and held at different locations usually in the western United States although last year’s event was in Atlanta, Georgia. Portland, Oregon has been selected for October 12 -16, 2011.

The gatherings further the organization’s mission: to promote equality, encourage diversity, support personal empowerment, and honor older women’s wisdom and accomplishments.  The term "Crone" was deliberately chosen, in spite of its negative cultural connotations, to confront the stereotypes and challenges facing aging women. The name “Crones Counsel” was chosen over “Crones Council” to reflect the intention of creating a place where older women could share their histories and counsel with each other. 

            I left the gathering feeling quite energized at sixty-four, eagerly anticipating the opportunities ahead, and appreciating the awesome wisdom of older women.  By assuming the mantle of Crone, we are reclaiming the archetype of the Wise Woman in a youth-centric culture. 

Grandmother Spider was indeed very active at Crones Counsel XVIII, weaving a strong web of love, support, fun, and optimism, so each participate could take home a strand to connect others to Crone Consciousness. 

Berta Parrish is the author of Wise Woman’s Way: A Guide for Growing Older with Purpose and Passion ( 

 For more informational on Crones Counsel visit


 Offline Reading

 'Crone' Magazine keeps getting better and better.  I enjoyed Issue #3 even more than I enjoyed the  previous two. 

 If you haven't subscribed yet, I hope you do soon.

 Crone Issues #1 and #2 are sold out in the  printed  edition, but available as a PDF-eZine  download for your reader or computer. The printed  version of Crone issue #3 was mailed to all  subscribers on July 9 and copies of printed or  PDF-eZine versions are available now. New  subscriptions (both in print and eZine formats)  will begin with issue #3.


Online Reading

I know I have mentioned this before, but we have so many new subscribers this year that I felt it worth saying again. If you are interested in social research into all aspects of aging, sign up for the free, e-zine called The Positive Aging Newsletter

Edited by Kenneth and Mary Gergen, this is one of the regular newsletters put out by the Taos Institute—a community of scholars and practitioners concerned with the social processes essential for the construction of reason, knowledge, and human value. With an office in Chagrin Falls, Ohio (USA) this organization offers  conferences, workshops, publications, a PhD program, a distance learning program, newsletters, and web-based offerings. Working at the interface between the scholarly community and societal practitioners from communities of mental health, social work, counseling, organizational change, education, community building, gerontology and medicine, they develop and explore the ways in which scholarly research can enrich professional practices, and practices can stimulate scholarly inquiry.

 Another e-zine I enjoy—and one that long-time readers will have noticed that I often ‘borrow’ from—is Emily Kimball’s ‘Make it Happen’ newsletter.
Emily, now 79, calls herself 'The Aging Adventurer. '

And an adventurer she certainly is. Last month, her latest adventure—hiking the first hundred miles or so of one of England’s most challenging long-distance pathsbrought her right past my door. Well, within two miles of it anyway. Although Emily and I have been Internet friends for many years, we had never met face to face until a few weeks ago. So read on for the story and pictures of our meeting on the clifftops…

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Walking with Emily

Most days, I walk a few miles. But last week, an elderwoman I have known through the Internet for many years but never met face to face turned up in one of my regular walking places. Emily, along with her younger friend and walking companion Barbara, had been making their way along the first few sections of Britain's longest (at 631 miles) hiking trail, the beautiful South West Coast Path. These were sections I had walked myself (click here to read my blog posts about one of those walks) so I knew what glorious scenery they would have enjoyed on the way here. But I was also aware of how challenging the route can be, even for younger folk, with all its ups and downs. And these two adventurers, who had come all the way from Richmond VA, were carrying everything on their backs. 

But at our pre-arranged meeting spot, there was Emily, with a smile on her face.

 It always amazes me, when I eventually get to meet someone I have previously known only in cyberspace, how familar they feel. It was as though I had been friends with Emily for ever.

The next day I went walking with Emily and her friend (this time just with light day packs) and took great delight in showing them the marvellous geological formations in the cliffs near where I live.

I showed them the place, not far from here, where you can see how some mighty tectonic plates have crashed together, aeons ago. A truly amazing sight. Geological students are often brought to this spot on field trips.

That afternoon, I waved the two intrepid walkers off as they started on the next leg of their adventure. It had been a delightful meeting. They said if ever I am down their way, they will take me walking in their woods. I might just take them up on that one day!

A Call from Kate

Kate Farrell, who lives in Sebastopol CA and who is a reader of this newsletter and a member of our Elderwomanspace Network, has asked me to pass on to you all this invitation to be part of an exciting new project. It is an anthology of writings about mothers and daughters. The title of the book will be
Wisdom Has a Voice: Every Daughter's Memories of Mother. Here is Kate's 'call for submissions.'

 A groundbreaking anthology, to be released October 2011, will include 25 true and compelling stories about mother (or a mother figure) that express the wisdom shared or learned from a particular experience with her.

We are looking for personal narratives that demonstrate the art of storytelling and possess a story arc with dramatic appeal. We will select stories that weave the significance of the unique experience into the storyline. Each selection should adapt easily to the spoken word as an audio version.

We will look for the wisdom or lesson learned from mother to be expressed in an authentic voice with originality and resonance.

Each contributor will receive a complimentary copy of the book with the opportunity to purchase copies at a discounted price; an option to record her story as a free podcast on Wisdom website; mention in promotional media; and photo/bio posted on Wisdom website and in the book. 

For more details, see Kate's website:

And speaking of books…                          

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Request from  author Marian Van Eyk McCain

These days, authors and editors have to publicize their own books, as most publishers can no longer afford to do it for them. So I am asking for your help in telling the world about my latest book: GreenSpirit: Path to a New Consciousness 

 Published by O Books and launched in London in July 2010 by Jonathon Porritt, this book brings together the words and ideas of contemporary writers from a wide range of disciplines and wisdom traditions to create a comprehensive manual for eco-spiritual, green and sustainable 21st century living.

In his Foreword , Resurgence’ Editor Satish Kumar says: "I am confident that the book will act like a guide to many who are seeking a right relationship between the human spirit and the natural world.”

Contributors include environmental lawyer Cormac Cullinan, economist David Korten, cosmologist Brian Swimme,  ecologist Stephan Harding, ecopsychologist Sandra White, Episcopalian priest and educator Matthew Fox, wellness expert John Travis MD,   spokespeople from the Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, Sufi and Pagan traditions and more than a dozen others. 

The late Thomas Berry gave this book his special blessing when the manuscript was first completed, just six months before he died.

All royalties from the sale of the book go to the UK charity GreenSpirit.

There’s a ‘Look Inside’ on Amazon and Amazon UK  and you can also download more extracts here.

 Here are seven ways you can help:

  1. – the quickest and easiest way of all. Cut on the dotted lines and forward this in an email to a couple of people you know
  2. – forward it to more than 2 people. (That would be even better!)
  3. – if you’re into social networking/bookmarking, use the little green ‘share this’ button half way down the publisher’s web page to ‘tweet’ it, ‘stumble upon’ it…etc.
  4. – go to the book’s own Facebook page  and ‘like’ it
  5. – if you can afford it, buy the book and share it with friends
  6. – or borrow it from the your local library (if they don’t have it, suggest they  get it)
  7. – if you read the book and like it, write a ‘customer review’ on Amazon and/or the other online bookstores. Customer reviews are very helpful and valuable. Prospective buyers almost always read them.  

 As you know, word of mouth is the very best promotional tool in existence. So your help is really, truly, sincerely and hugely appreciated!! Thank you

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(Remember, by the way, that if you have something you want help with publicizing and you think other elderwomen might be able to help, I would be only to happy to include details in one of these newsletters. )

A Reminder

If you are not yet a member of our network (and there are hundreds here who are not) why not sign up? Just email me and I will send you an invitation.
And for those of you who are members but have not logged in for a while, be sure to drop by soon to tell us how you are going and what is happening in your life and to meet some of the interesting women who have joined in your absence. Elderwomanspace is a wonderful little corner of the Internet, a private space especially for us. Hope to see you there soon.

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Eagle Blessing


We are never told ‘when’ the eagle will
touch us nor the way in which the feathers
will enfold all of our lives

We are never told of the softness
and the sounds of the brushing away
of all that is accumulated over the trails

We are never told ‘when’ the smile of an elder
will come to be the reason a day unfolds
near the fire and clasping our ‘ways’
hands to hands as in the sign of friendship

We are never told ‘when’ the sage , shell , and smoke

will bring all of the decades to pass
in the silence of standing ‘still’
and dreaming of the fire and the oaks
and the deer and the elk
and the bear

 There is ‘no time’ now
just the soft moccasin step 
back and forth
in the snows and near the edges of cedars
‘No time’ in the way the boulders still hold
the leaning trees and leaves of ice

We are never told ‘when’ we will be in life
as fully as when the last aspen of autumn
sings to her cove and the fox appears

 Judith Ann Henry

Introducing herself, this poet (Judith Ann Henry)  says: 
I live in the Southwestern US and have written poetry of/for/and with this area for the last 25 years.
 I also have worked with Native communities during these years and am Choctaw for my father's clans and Hungarian for my mother's side.
Blessings from all of the directions, as we say here

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.

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George Phillips , an elderly man, from Meridian, Mississippi, was going up to bed, when his wife told him that he'd left the light on in the garden shed, which she could see from the bedroom window. George opened the back door to go turn off the light, but saw that there were  people in the shed stealing things.

He phoned the police, who asked 'Is someone in your house?'  He said 'No, but some people are breaking into my garden shed and stealing from me.'

Then the police dispatcher said 'All patrols are busy. You should lock your doors and an officer will be along when one is available.'

George said, 'Okay.'

He hung up the phone and counted to 30. Then he phoned the police again.

'Hello, I just called you a few seconds ago because there were people stealing things from my shed. Well, you don't have to worry about them now because I just shot and killed them both, the dogs are eating them right now,' and he hung up.

Within five minutes, six Police Cars, a SWAT Team, a Helicopter, two Fire Trucks, a Paramedic, and an Ambulance showed up at the Phillips' residence, and caught the burglars red-handed

One of the Policemen said to George , 'I thought you said that you'd shot them!'

George said, 'I thought you said there was nobody available!'

"OLD" IS WHEN... Your sweetie says, "Let's go upstairs and make love," and you answer, "Pick one, I can't do both!"

"OLD" IS WHEN.. Your friends compliment you on your new alligator shoes and you're barefoot.

"OLD" IS WHEN.... A sexy someone catches your eye and your pacemaker opens the garage door.

"OLD" IS WHEN... Going bra-less pulls all the wrinkles out of your face.

"OLD" IS WHEN. You don't care where your spouse goes, just as long as you don't have to go along.

"OLD" IS WHEN..... You are cautioned to slow down by the doctor instead of by the police.

"OLD" IS WHEN..... "Getting a little action" means I don't need to take any fiber today.

"OLD" IS WHEN..... "Getting lucky" means you find your car in the parking lot.

"OLD" IS WHEN..... An "all-nighter" means not getting up to pee.

Sunny and Tina, were outside their nursing home having a smoke, when it started to rain.
Tina pulled out a condom, cut off the end, put it over her cigarette, and continued smoking.
Sunny: "What's that?"
Tina: "A condom."
Sunny: "Where'd you get it?"
Tina: "You can get them at any drugstore"
The next day, Sunny hobbled into the local drugstore and announced to the pharmacist that she wanted to buy a pack of condoms.
The young woman looked at her strangely (she was, after all, in her late eighties), but politely asked what brand she preferred.
"Doesn't matter," she replied, "as long as it fits on a Camel." 

The Elderwoman Newsletter by Marian Van Eyk McCain, November 2010
The Elderwoman website:
Marian's e-mail: marian(at) 
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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