The Elderwoman Newsletter

Issue #18, October, 2007

Welcome to the October 2007 issue of the Elderwoman Newsletter
- an e-zine for 21st century elderwomen committed to radical aliveness.


These past few months have been unusually busy ones for me. First the two weddings – both of which went off really well, I am pleased to say – and then a trip to Italy, followed by a trek up to the north of England for our annual, GreenSpirit Gathering, of which I was one of the organisers this year. We just got back from the Yorkshire Dales a few days ago. 
So the leaves are already falling off the trees around here, the blackberries are almost gone, the swallows and martins have left to fly south and the September Newsletter has, as you can see, become the October Newsletter.

A number of new subscribers recently signed up while I was away and I didn't get around to acknowledging their messages the way I usually do. So for the benefit of those who are receiving this newsletter for the first time I would like to say that if you are interested in reading any back copies, all the previous issues are archived online. You'll find an index of them at: 

I have been putting out the Newsletter since the beginning of 2003, so there is a stack of reading piled up there by now!

I also make a practice of inviting subscribers to join our Elderwoman Discussion Group. It is a private group, through Yahoo, in which elderwomen all over the world can share their thoughts and ideas and experiences. There are more than seventy women in the group at present. Membership is entirely free, but open only to women who subscribe to this Newsletter, of whom there are now several hundreds.

Many blessings,


Qualities for Eldering
by Ina Albert

These are the qualities by which I chose to guide my life in my elder years. But, in order to be tangible, they had to have character; they had to come alive so that I could include them in my everyday struggle to become whole. They are role models based on women I have known who personify these qualities for me. Their example makes it possible for me to fulfil life's blessings.

Integrity is clear about most everything. When she is not, she sits down and thinks hard about how to keep herself feeling like a whole piece of cloth without a single tear or rip. She loves seeing patterns come together, and pretty soon she knows what to do. She has abundant patience, inner strength and wisdom, but she never tells others what to do. She simply helps them discover what is right for them.

Connection relates to everything and everyone. She is an optimist and a toucher. She loves to hug and tells Health that they must hug each other 13 times a day to stay well. Connection also talks to trees and plants and rocks and to God every day. She is joined to every cell in her body, to every living creature, and relates to the planet and the whole Universe. She says you have to be connected to feel alive and to be holy.

Health is a strong woman. She jogs every day, eats organic food, thinks good thoughts, meditates and prays. Her body is supple, but she sees changes in her skin and feels tightness in her joints. She needs more rest than she used to and sometimes forgets things. But she has gathered more wisdom, her heart is open and she is calm. As Health reaches elderhood, she is growing deeper inside rather than getting stronger outside.

Spirit is the mother of everything. Since she is the ultimate creator, she is in everything and is everywhere. Yet, she is invisible. You can only feel her presence. As Spirit creates, she leaves her seeds behind to grow which makes her the strongest force there is. Lots of people have relationships with Spirit, though she never utters a single word. Somehow, she sends messages without talking out loud.



 About the author

Ina Albert is co-author of Write Your Self Well...Journal Your Self to Health, a journal/workbook written for people suffering from illness and stress based on research demonstrating the health benefits of expressive writing. As a healthcare public relations professional, trainer, workshop facilitator and consultant, Ina has written numerous articles for healthcare publications during her 35 year career. Her work is included in The Art of Grief (Routledge Press) and her short stories for children and adults have appeared in various publications including Parent Magazine. The author lives and writes in Whitefish, Montana.

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'Living in Sad Times:The Depression Epidemic, and Some Green Notes' 
By Gaea Yudron

Gaea is a long-time subscriber (and contributor) to this newsletter. Her excellent article about depression was recently published in Sentient Times magazine. Here's the link to it:

'A Strange Kind of Normal: One Little Girl's Experience of the Plymouth Blitz'

I can't remember whether I have posted this link before or not, but if I have, new readers may find it interesting. It is the piece I wrote for the BBC's archive 'The People's War'(a collection of British people's memories about World War 2).  If there are any readers in my age group who were in Britain during those years, I think you will find some of it very familiar:

... And here is a link to an article from the Theosophical Society that I think you may enjoy:
Conscious Aging
By Nancy Coker


Elder Co-Housing
 Barbara Koser of the Elder Cohousing network has asked me to pass on information to you about co-housing, as this may be, for many of us, both old and young, an option well worth thinking about. After all, in view of climate change and the drying up of the world's oil wells, there will need to be many changes, over the coming years, in the way we live our lives, or humanity cannot survive on this overloaded and over-used planet. The more we share resources, the more sustainable our lives become. And co-housing is particularly suited to elders. Elderhood is a time of life when many of us feel the urge to pare down our possessions and simplify our lifestyles. And living in community ensures that there will be support around us as we age. Co-housing gives us the benefit of community whilst still affording us the privacy and autonomy of owning a home of our own. Here is a  website about the concept of co-housing in general:  and here is one on elder co-housing in particular:
If you have questions on co-housing that are not answered by the information on these websites, Barbara's contact details are: Barbara(at) tel: 303-413-8066
Her organization runs workshops on co-housing every year. Unfortunately, this newsletter didn't come out in time to tell you about last month's workshop – my apologies, Barbara.

A Message From Gaea Yudron

Dear Elderwomen:

I have very happy news to share. For several years I have contemplated starting an organization dedicated to creative aging, and now I am actually doing it. Here is the new center's mission statement.
 will provide programs that affirm the value of age and elders to  individuals and society.

 The center's programs will:
 Advance the health and creative well-being of people 50 and older
 Investigate issues and areas of interest to elders
 Enhance support, community and connection
 Combat ageism in media, business, medicine and community

Programs for fall 2007 include AgeWave Cafe gatherings and two Sages' Play workshops.

 Gaea Yudron

The Living Spiritual Elders Project

Psychotherapist, interfaith spiritual director and author Meredith Jordan offers an inspiring opportunity to participate in The Living Spiritual Elders Project, an eight-week discovery and discussion series.

The Maine series will held each Tuesday afternoon 4:00-6:30 pm from October 16th through December 4th, 2007. at the Williston-West United Church of Christ, 32 Thomas Street, Portland ME.
The New Hampshire series will be held each Wednesday afternoon 4:00-6:30 pm from October 17th through December 12th, 2007 at the North Church of Portsmouth, 355 Spinney Road, Portsmouth NH.
The Florida series will be held each Monday afternoon 4:00-6:30 pm from January 7th through February 25, 2008 at New College, 5800 Bay Shore Road, Sarasota FL.

The Living Spiritual Elders Project uses rare DVD films and audio CDs to explore the teachings of revered spiritual elders from diverse faith and spiritual traditions. In this eight-week series, we will plumb the wisdom of the elders of our human family: wisdom that assists us in renewing our personal lives and shaping our communities.

About the Project...
Using audio-visual DVDs and audio CDs, our study circle will share in the sacred wisdom teachings of multi-cultural and interfaith living elders including Father Thomas Keating, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, Buddhist monks Chan Kong and Thich Nhat Hahn, Diana Eck of The Pluralism Project, Huston Smith, Nelson Mandela, Pema Chodron, Arun Gandhi, Parker Palmer, Faithkeeper Oren Lyons, Elie Wiesel, Byron Katie and Marion Woodman.

Now in the second half of their own lives---some in their last years---these inspiring multi-cultural teachers provide a rich source of collective wisdom to those of us poised to inherit the role of elder within our families, communities, workplaces, organized religions and the world. This is a rare opportunity to experience and assimilate the richness of their stories: now, when humanity aches for wise counsel from the elders who walk a wisdom path and mark the way for all of us!

Participants will be invited to search our own depths to find the particular gifts we carry for the good of all. In small study circles---using our dreams and journals, exploring interfaith spiritual practices, listening to one another in sacred witness, sharing the tears and laughter of our human journey---we have an extraordinary chance to enrich one another's lives and inspire each of us to affirm our place as the elders and mentors of tomorrow.

Register early as space is limited!

Call Rogers McKay at 207-283-0752 or email 

 Wonder of the Mother

Lani and Melinda from 'Wise Women Ink', who brought us the two beautiful decks of cards called 'Journey of the Maiden' and 'Wisdom of the Crone' just wrote to me to announce that they have now produced the third deck in the set, called 'Wonder of the Mother'. It looks as utterly gorgeous and inspiring as the other two decks. So if you are looking for a gift for any of the mothers you know (for example your daughters, nieces or friends) this would be something truly lovely to give them.

Wise Women Ink, LLC
P.O. Box 1450
Mt. Shasta, CA 96067

... and here's my favourite card

Earth Mother

Because she knows the earth is our mother
she stands up, speaks out, attends meetings
and makes phone calls.
She lives her truth by recycling,
peacefully protesting and clearly
communicating on behalf of our planet.
Because she knows the earth is our mother
she protects
the land that is her body,
the air that is her breath,
the fire that is her spirit,
the water that is her womb.
Because she knows, she acts for the
children, for their future.
Let her example inspire us all to do the same

Our New Magazine – coming soon

As Ann Kreilkamp, the founder of 'Crone Chronicles' wrote,
"For the first time in history, enormous numbers of women are traveling through the gate of menopause and looking forward to a life span of some 30 more years. And we women have a certain hard-won wisdom, gleaned through consciously processing the experiences of our long and fruitful lives. What are we going to do with this wisdom? Play golf? Get our hair done? We begin to glimpse the opportunity, and the responsibility." 
And as I mentioned in the last issue, although Crone Chronicles ceased publication several years ago, the phoenix is about to rise from the ashes.
The first issue of the new magazine'CRONE: Women Coming of Age',  will be published in Spring, 2008.  will be published by Anne Niven, of BBI Media and 'SageWoman' magazine. Ann Kreilkamp, founding editor of 'Crone Chronicles: A Journal of Conscious Aging', will serve as Elder Editor. The magazine will be substantial in size, perfect bound (like a book), and published twice per year at the equinoxes.
For new subscribers to the Elderwoman Newsletter - see our last newsletter for more details about this exciting new magazine


Medicine Dance 
by Marsha Scarbrough

I first met Marsha at a '5 Rhythms' dance workshop at Crones Counsel, several years ago. Knowing that I was a writer, after the class she shyly asked me if I would be interested in reading the manuscript for an autobiographical book she had just finished writing about her experiences with Native American spirituality.
Having seen Marsha dance, and noted with interest the quiet gentleness of her manner and the passionate nature that obviously lay behind it, I was curious to read her story. I was not disappointed. Marsha is a wonderful writer and I was captivated by Medicine Dance. It was one of the most honest and revealing autobiographies I had ever read and at the same time informative and inspiring.
Knowing how difficult it is, these days, to get a publisher, I was overjoyed when Marsha wrote to say she had a contract with O Books. And a few weeks ago, I received my official review copy, much to my delight.
So it is a book I heartily recommend to you, full of crone wisdom, and written, I am proud to say, by one of 'us'. Here's what Marsha has to say about it ....
My book Medicine Dance: One woman's healing journey into the world of Native American sweat lodges, drumming meditations and dance fasts has just been published by O Books.

You can help make me a SUCCESSFUL published author by BUYING IT TODAY! You can  ask for it at your local bookstore. Or send me a check for $20, and I will send you an autographed copy. Visit my website to read part of the first chapter, get more information and click a link to buy it from the publisher or from Amazon or to send me an email.

I promise you will enjoy reading it. It’s no dry academic account. It’s a fast-paced page turner that’s quirky, funny, sad, sexy and deep…like me. But don’t take my word for it. Dr. Christiane Northrup, author of Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom says, “Medicine Dance is just fabulous. I couldn’t put it down. Rarely have I read anything that gets as close to the whole truth about health, disease and relationships. Well done!”

The Santa Fean magazine writes: “Some readers may be offended by the idea of a white woman ‘playing Indian,’” admits Marsha Scarbrough in the preface of her new memoir, Medicine Dance. The book, which details her multi-year exploration of Native American spirituality—guided by non-traditional healer Beautiful Painted Arrow (Joseph Rael)—does at first seem to be a fairly stereotypical account. From ancestor prayers to sweat lodges and dance fasts, she follows her teacher’s advice unfailingly, from California to New Mexico, despite feeling at times skeptical or ridiculous. But Scarbrough’s unflinching inner dialogue, combined with Rael’s approach—adapted for “contemporary society and people of many cultures”—helps avoid the high-mindedness that plagues similar tales. Scarbrough is careful to present her story as the journey of one individual, consistently focusing on her own struggles with family, cancer, mortality, and a sometimes horrifyingly impersonal healthcare system. With its polished prose and meticulous description, Dance stands as a graceful illustration of how free cultural exchange helped heal one life.

After you’ve read it, write your own review on or (it can be a couple of sentences), send an email to all your friends telling them how much you liked it and suggesting they buy it, buy another copy and give it as a gift to a friend going through a hard time. Then go to, find the link that says “Email us” and send Oprah an email about how my story inspired you. Hey, it’s worth a shot!

It’s a thrill for me to see my book in print. Thanks for sharing that thrill with me and being part of my public relations team.

Please forward this notice to any interested friends.
Boundless Blessings,

Marsha Scarbrough

Wise Woman's Way

by Berta Parrish

Back when I wrote my first book, Transformation through Menopause, which was published in 1991, the concept of menopause as a threshold, an important doorway into another phase of life, was something that very few women had ever written about. In fact it was something that, with a couple of notable exceptions, such as Christine Downing, hardly anyone else seemed even to have thought of.

 But it was, as the saying goes, 'an idea whose time had come.' Soon, other voices began to speak up. It was as though something was bubbling up from what Jung called the collective unconscious and emerging in several places at once, like water from an underground spring.

And the spring continues to flow. Berta Parrish, a subscriber to this Newsletter, has recently published a really great workbook for women poised at this  highly significant threshold in their lives and wondering how to step through it in a meaningful and graceful fashion. She has entitled it Wise Woman's Way:A Guide to Growing Older with Purpose and Passion. It would be an excellent resource for any midlife woman, helping her to make the very most of this important time of transition.

You will find more details on Berta's Web page -
(I always recommend ordering books through one's local, independent bookstore, as it helps to keep the 'little guys' (and gals) in business. But if you do need to order this – or any other – book from Amazon, you might care to do it via the Elderwoman website so that I get commission. To do that, just click here and scroll down to the appropriate Amazon button)
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Towards Wisdom
– by Sheila Ward

Sheila has been subscriber to this Newsletter for years and is also a long-time member of GreenSpirit which, as you may have gathered, is an organization very dear to my heart.
She and her colleague Rosemary Ward (no relation) run workshops for midlife women at The Grange, in Shropshire, England.

Sheila's book, Towards Wisdom, is in part autobiographical, exploring the author's own journey of personal and spiritual growth through the membership of various groups and circles in which she has taken part over the years. It details the techniques and practices used in each of these and how they might be used by other groups or individuals, particularly groups of women entering -- or already in -- the second half of their lives.
In doing so, it provides a wealth of useful material for any woman who is either seeking new ways to pursue her own inner journey or who is in some way facilitating the journeys of others, particularly by means of circles. For as we all know, sitting in circle and telling our stories is the time-honoured way in which women of all cultures transmit their wisdom to each other and to younger generations. We need to acknowledge this important tradition and reinstate it as a vital part of our own culture, and elderwomen may often be the ones best suited to take the lead in this.
Another interesting component of Sheila's book is her exploration into the many meanings of the word 'love'. It has become such a catch-all term that most of us do not even stop to think about its many layers and shades of meaning. We may dimly remember that the Greek philosophers classified love into several forms but most of us would be hard pressed to explain the classifications. Sheila's classifications feel intuitively right to me, particularly her discovery and exploration of something she calls ‘Inspirational Love.’ This, she explains, is "a love which inspires and energises but has no physical component."

This type of love is non-erotic, in the sense that no sexual feelings are involved. Neither is it the same as the kind of love one has for a child, a parent, a friend, a companion animal etc. It is not to be confused with what the Greeks called agape – the impersonal, selfless love that the Christian is urged to foster for his or her fellow-human. Inspirational love is, according to Sheila, in a class apart.
" I am sure that many people experience this," she says, "but I have never found it identified and if others can confirm my experience (which some have already done) then it seems to me vital that it should be more generally recognised. What is needed now is the affirmation of countless other women who can, in circles, explore their experience of different varieties of love and what it means. It is only in the confidentiality and trust of such circles that women can speak openly of such experience…it may bring to light many other sorts of love which will enable a much greater understanding and maturity The process of self-revelation with a deep level vulnerability creates a special kind of love between the circle members which in itself may be worth exploring, (and may also give strength to some of the more lonely women in our society). But more importantly if such Circles were manifest on a large enough scale it could begin to change the emotional and spiritual climate of our culture as well as having a deeply evolutionary significance."
Towards Wisdom is available from the UK-based mail order service, GreenSpirit Books

Gaea Yudron is currently reviewing  60 ON UP: The Truth about Aging in America.  Look out for what she has to say about this new book by Lillian Rubin in the next issue of the Elderwoman Newsletter.


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.


Baby's first examination

The doctor arrived and examined the baby, checked his weight, and being a little concerned, asked “Is the baby breast-fed or bottle-fed?”

"Breast-fed," she replied.

"Well, strip down to your waist," the doctor ordered.

She did. 

He pinched her nipples, pressed, kneaded, and rubbed both breasts for a while in a very professional and detailed examination.

Motioning to her to get dressed the doctor said, "No wonder this baby is underweight. You don't have any milk."

"I know," she said, "I'm his Grandma, but I'm glad I brought him."

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The Elderwoman Newsletter by Marian Van Eyk McCain, October, 2007
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