Issue #1, Spring 2003

Welcome to the first edition of the newsletter. I am not sure, yet, how often these newsletters will be coming out. To some extent, that depends on you (see "Call for Submissions"). I'll aim for once a quarter, at first, and see how we go.


View from the Desk



The Book Cover Debate

Amazon Reviews

Feature Article: Playing Outside

Call for Submissions

Talking Point: Do we need a discussion board?



Dear Friends,

Finally - the Easter break and an opportunity to sit down and create the first edition of the Elderwoman Newsletter. This feels like quite an exciting moment. So exciting, in fact, that when the time came I found myself almost scared to do it. I noticed that I kept putting it off, and doing other things instead - making phone calls, writing emails, surfing the Internet, tidying a drawer, playing a game of solitaire - anything but getting started!! Isn't it funny how we all tend to do that ?

When I stop a moment and focus on the feelings, I realize that underneath the desire to get started is the fear that I don't have anything worthwhile to say and that my newsletter won't be interesting enough for anyone to bother reading it.

But now I have identified those feelings, and given my Inner Kid a quick hug of reassurance, I expect she'll quieten down!

Life has been quite busy this past few months. I did workshops at a series of Mind, Body Soul shows, and sold books from a booth at each of the shows, in conjunction with the Cygnus Book Club.

Sitting at a booth, talking to people all day, was a new experience, and quite a terrifying one for the Inner Kid, who kept tugging at my hand and saying "Can we go home now?" But I am really glad I did it, for I met some very interesting people and made lots of good contacts.

Even being in the city is tiring for me these days, let alone spending eight hours in a crowded hall with all that buzz going on around me. But I survived it. And the peace and quiet of our dear little cottage has never seemed so precious as it did each time I returned from one of these forays into the "big world."

Spring is truly here now, in this little corner of "Forever England". There are primroses and violets everywhere, and the hedgerows are dotted with the white stars of stitchwort. The bluebells are coming out earlier than usual, with all the warm weather we have had this month. The swallows will be here any day. I keep scanning the sky expectantly, knowing that when I first see them my heart will leap for joy. Their coming all the way from Africa to sit on the telephone wires at the top of our lane always seems to me like such an amazing and probably undeserved privilege.

With Spring, comes the usual sprouting of ideas that have lain dormant, like patient seeds in the winter garden. So I am busy writing again. Finally, The Lilypad List - my little book on the joys of simple living - is taking on its final form, after going through several incarnations. I'll report on its progress as the months go by.

I hope you enjoy this first newsletter.


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Attention - all you Kiwis down there! Ann Baylay, a wonderful elderwoman from the northernmost tip of the North Island is now running Elderwoman workshops in New Zealand. Not only is she running them on her lovely property by the sea, she is willing to take them to your area, too, if you are interested. Ann has her very own section, now, on the Elderwoman website. You'll find all the details at's_page.htm

Another wonderful elderwoman I would like to tell you about (in case you haven't yet noticed her on my Links page), is Sheila Ward, in England. Sheila and her colleague Rosemary Ward (same surname, no relation!) run residential retreats in several different locations for groups of women who want to take time out in a supportive atmosphere to explore the "second half of life." I recently (at one of the MBS shows) met someone who had attended one of these retreats, and she said it was an extremely worthwhile experience. More info about Sheila, Rosemary and the retreats on:

I'll be offering two workshops at the Quest festival this summer, in Newton Abbot (Devon, England). One on the Elderwoman topic and the other about simple living. Details on the Quest website:

I am not planning any events in the USA this year, as I'm currently concentrating on getting my books more widely known in England. But I shall probably be making a quick trip to Washington DC in early October, to visit family there, so I'd be happy to give a talk there, sign a few books or whatever. Let me know if you have any ideas for me about that, or any relevant contacts there.

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A group of Baby Boomers recently started a new journal for midlife women, called OurSelves Newsletter, based in Nashville TN. It promises to be a great little publication. The publisher, Amy Lynch, interviewed me recently, and we had the most stimulating conversation. Please support this new venture, and tell anyone you think might be interested in subscribing. Their website is:

Changing Faces
When Botox and plastic surgery change your face, what does that do to your insides?
Rose Rosetree is a professional face reader, based in Virginia. She can look at your face and tell you all sorts of things about yourself. She has just written a fascinating article about the implications of deliberately wiping your history and personality off your face.

"Those of us of a certain age are sitting ducks for those who sell Botox and vanity surgery. My perspective may help you resist the growing pressure to "fix" your face.
An impossibly flawless (frankly, plastic) look has become the norm among America's actors and models. And have you noticed that vanity surgeons promote themselves more aggressively with each passing year?
It's working, too. The number of customers for vanity procedures is 8.5 million a year... and rising faster than those old signs at McDonalds that tracked sales of hamburgers.
Who dares to publicly criticize the fad for fake faces and bodies? You'd risk being called a spoilsport, a nut or, even worse, someone too socially clueless to understand that nothing in post-modern American life matters more than how you look
Read the rest of this article at:

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Elderwoman's publisher, Findhorn Press, told me recently that their distributor's reps, whose job it is to get books into stores, seem to have taken a dislike to the cover. This is very interesting, as I have had so many comments, especially from women, about how much they like that cover. At the shows, women were coming up and stroking it. Many went out of their way to tell me how much it "spoke" to them.

Only once did the opposite happen. One rather haggard-looking woman, who seemed to be about my own age, but with the saddest face I have ever seen, came up and said "Oh why does that woman on the cover have so many lines on her face? And why does she have to look so SAD?" I'm starting to think that my book cover is a bit like a Rorschach blot - reflecting people back to themselves.


Thank you so much, you fantastic folk who have posted such great reviews on It feels so good to have that sort of support. I'm hoping I'll get some on the UK site soon too (, now that the book is getting better known in the UK.

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"Playing Outside"

A friend's six-year-old son had one of his friends to stay last weekend. The two little boys were playing out in the yard when suddenly, from behind the hedge, came the loud crowing of a rooster. The visitor screamed in terror. "What was that?" he cried.
"It's just a rooster," said my friend's child, quite perplexed at his little mate's reaction.
"What's a rooster?" the friend asked.
The little boy stared at him in amazement. "It's a boy chicken, silly. Don't you know anything about chickens?"
The other one shook his head.
"Come on then, I'll show you."
He took his mate next door to see the chickens, but it was obvious that the other boy was intensely uncomfortable about the experience. He didn't relax until they were both safely indoors again.
It might seem amazing to us that a child could have reached the age of six without ever having encountered chickens. But sadly, more and more children are becoming indoor dwellers.
Where most people my age recall spending as much time as we could outside when we were kids, climbing any tree we could find, capturing beetles in matchboxes like Christopher Robin, and making mud pies, today's youngsters are more likely to be found inside, staring into an electronic screen.
A recent study in the USA revealed that while the average American can identify fewer than ten types of plants, he or she recognizes hundreds of corporate logos. The same is probably true anywhere in the world that the modern, consumer culture has taken over hearts and minds.
In just a couple of generations, our Western societies have turned their kids from children of nature to children of mass culture. To me, this is child abuse of the worst kind.
In their recent book Affluenza, authors John deGraaf, David Wann and Thomas Naylor, write:

"Thirty-four percent of Americans polled in 2000 rank shopping as their favorite activity, while only seventeen percent prefer being in nature. The Las Vegas Strip is ranked as the number one 'scenic drive' in the country. One fourth-grader, asked if he preferred to play indoors or outdoors, replied,' Indoors, 'cause that's where the electrical outlets are.' Another child poked a stick at a dead beetle, commenting to her friend that the insect's batteries must have run out. On a field trip to trace the source of their drinking water, inner city New York middle school kids were spooked by the cool, starry darkness and crescendo of silence in the Catskills."

One of the authors recalls helping a college student to plant a garden. She confided in him that until that time she had always thought that potatoes grew on trees.
It is no good leaving it to our educational institutions to remedy this situation. The schools themselves are becoming infected with the same malady, as the corporate world makes deeper and deeper inroads into classrooms, creating curriculum materials with commercial messages, attaching commercial strings to financial gifts, and so on. There are powerful vested interests in turning us and our children - particularly our children - away from the natural world and towards an increasingly artificial, sick, dumbed-down world of consumerism, working, getting and spending.
Besides, even an interested child tends to feign cynical disinterest in anything unfashionable in front of his or her peers. And nature is unfashionable right now. Virtual reality is in. Real reality is out. Pop stars are cool, stars in the night sky are boring. There's no money to be made from breaking off a willow branch and making your own bows and arrows, or hunting for birds' nests and watching the babies hatch. A rooster is a fast food logo, not a natural noise from next door's garden.
What to do?
I take heart, as always, from the writings of Paul Shepard. He reminds us that we carry in our every cell the genes of hundreds of generations of hunter-gatherer ancestors who lived their lives totally immersed in the rhythms of nature. This artificial civilization we have created is still only skin-deep. To re-awaken the natural child, in ourselves or in another, especially a little person, takes only a touch. But it must come from us - the parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles, big brothers and sisters. And it is really important that we find a way to do it.
So get out there. Turn off TV and go and play outside. Take a little person (or your own, inner Child) for a walk this week. Or better still, a camping trip. Lie in the grass, climb trees, peer into the creek. Have a picnic. Listen to the birds. Make daisy chains. Re-connect. And if you hear a funny noise behind the hedge - just go and look. There's nothing to be scared of.


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My vision for this newsletter is that you will all contribute something to it. A piece of writing, a poem, a story, an announcement that you think would be interesting to other elderwoman, a discussion topic - whatever you want to share. I want it to grow into a forum for exchanging ideas and experiences, a place to network. So please - send me your words. No payment, I'm afraid, as this is a free newsletter. (But you know what they say about the Best Things in Life....)

I decided to start small and not to use one of the online newsletter agencies, like Topica. Not at first, anyway. As and when it grows, we may have to do that. At the moment, there are some sixty-odd people signed up, and that's still manageable from here, without any outside help.

TALKING POINT: Discussion Boards

Do we need a discussion board? Would you like one?

There are a number of options for sharing ideas. One is to submit them to me for this newsletter. But that is a very slow method.

Another is to communicate via the guest book on the Elderwoman website. (I upgraded this recently, so that people can reply to each others' messages).

A third option is to use a public message board. I already have one of these with Ezboard, but haven't activated it properly yet.

A fourth option is to have a discussion board built into the Elderwoman website. This would involve upgrading my hosting account and learning some more techie things that I'm not au fait with yet.

Then there are newsgroups.

Please let me know your thoughts on this, or any other options you might like to suggest.
Also, let me know of any other "talking point" you would like to get feedback on.

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I'll sign off with this great quote from Krishnamurti, sent in by Bronwyn Lamb (thanks, Bronwyn):

To transform the world we must begin with ourselves and what is important in beginning with ourselves is the intention. The intention must be to understand ourselves and not to leave it to others to transform themselves. This is our responsibility, yours and mine. Because however small may be the world we live in, if we can bring about a radically different point of view in our daily existence then perhaps we shall affect the world at large.

© Marian Van Eyk McCain April 2003
The Elderwoman website:
Marian's e-mail: marian(at)  (remember to replace the word "at" with an @) sign)

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