The Elderwoman Newsletter
Issue #29, February, 2011

Welcome to the February 2011 issue of the Elderwoman Newsletter
- an e-zine for 21st century elderwomen committed to radical aliveness.

While my daughter and her family are still digging their way out from under the huge snowdrifts that have piled up around their house in New England, here in my little corner of old England, the first small signs of spring are already evident. Snowdrops are blooming, soon to be followed by crocuses,
then the daffodils, whose leaves are already spearing up through the humus everywhere I look. The birds are starting to sing again and territorial disputes are already in full swing.
After the severe winter that we have all experienced here in the Northern Hemisphere, it is wonderful to know that the milder weather is on its way.
Meanwhile, our thoughts have also been with our friends and relatives in the Southern half of the globe, where the weather has been more than usually tumultuous.
The extreme weather conditions have revved up the debate about climate change of course. And I have written a little bit about that in one of the articles in this Newsletter.
Plus there is a second article by me in this issue, one from Louise LeBrun, and various other snippets that I hope you will enjoy.

Many blessings,
Urgency vs Panic

by Louise LeBrun

A few days ago, I had the opportunity to spend time with some women who are new to me, in my life. I have become accustomed to spending time with people who know me well through ample personal contact. I sometimes forget that what I intend to say and what others hear, don’t always match. Such was my discovery during this recent conversation.

As we shared perspectives, one thought that came into my awareness was my mindfulness of increasing speed in the passage of time; and in the acceleration of interacting, living organic systems - be they the individual or the planet. I was reminded of having read of the Schumann Resonance ** or pulse of the Earth (like a heartbeat) ... and how since 1980, this resonance has slowly been rising from 7.83 cycles per second to its current 12 cycles per second! Not only do I ‘know’ this acceleration reflected in the words on a page in the scientific community, I ‘know’ this as a profound truth in the very tissue of my being.

As we were approaching the end of our evening exploration, I shared with this small group of women my deep and vast sense of urgency. It caught me off guard when one of the women present spoke to that notion of what I was calling ‘urgency’ in words that referred to ‘panic’ and ‘terror’. It was a great opportunity for me to stop... take a breath... and revisit: just what do I mean by urgency?

Certainly, not that! Despite what I hold to be the great potential of massive change, having a significant impact on my (and your!) world and all of us who walk through it, I have no sense of panic or terror - and I do have a great sense of urgency.

Urgency! To get on with it; to engage the moment, fully and with 100% of my attention present. Urgency, to stay mindful and present; connected to my own internal truth as the external truths of myriad others hold the potential to penetrate and take the lead on the deeply personal journey of my life.

Urgency! To live... engage!... and express fully all that moves inside me. Being both willing and able to notice that on the holodeck of my experience, nothing presents that is not intended to awaken me to the ‘more’ that I already am - and have not yet noticed.

Urgency! To take the breath that presents in the moment and not try to pass it by for the next. To breathe and relax and let go... into the unknown of my safe and expansive Universe, that I might better know more of ME to be its living expression.

Urgency! To say what’s on my mind, in the moment that it moves... and not seek to wait for the ‘right’ time or the ‘optimal’ time or the ‘best’ time... but to know that the passage of time is the unfolding of my life; choosing to live fully right here/right now, rather than wait for the next invitation to do so.

In the urgency of my being, there is no good/bad, right/wrong, there is only the power of potential and the grace of opportunity, leaving me to determine how much or how little of each, I might embrace.

For me, urgency is a measure of the intensity of my great desire to LIVE! It recognizes that life is all about living - not thinking about living; and it reminds me that the only moment that I can know, for sure, will be mine is THIS one. What do I intend to do with it? Who do I intend to allow myself to become, from it? If not now, then when?

I am so grateful for that brief yet profoundly moving moment with another whose Great Adventure has intertwined with my own. I now know mySelf more than I did in that moment; and I am even more wiling to accelerate this path... with urgency.

Louise LeBrun has been changing lives - including her own! - for more than 25 years. In times of uncertainty, agitation and fear, she believes that what is inside us will shape what unfolds outside of us, as evidenced by the choices we make. Her original and extensive collection of books, CD’s and guided experiences have been helping women to trust the truth of their own experience, redefining and reclaiming leadership for a new world. Visit her website at
In later conversation with me, Louise said this about herself and her beliefs.

 In the work that I've been doing for the last 20 years, the greatest distinction can be summarized as one of being either internally referenced or externally referenced.  When internally referenced, I take my cues from that which moves somewhere deep within; from that small voice that speaks without words; from that 'knowing' from instinct rather than from fact, reason or logic.  

I am one of those who believes that the future of the world is in the hands of women.  In my work with women who are seeking to engage with others, we move toward the creation of a non-competitive business model; a way of moving through the world that is low to the ground... more like a web of interconnecting points of Light, easily accessible and instantly aware of any and all movement along the fibres of connection... rather than a monolithic expression that presupposes emanation from the 'core', with its attending isolation.  In that spirit, I see you and know that you see me.”  

** To lean more about the Schumann Resonance that Louise refers to, and how it affects us all, watch this 4-minute video
Then, with those images of lightning still in your mind, read on...

Whether the Weather…

 Cyclones in the south, hurricanes in the north (same thing, different dialects), floods, bushfires and record snowfalls—the past few months have certainly seen some displays of tumultuous weather.

Of course, since the average human lifespan is less than 90 years, most people alive today will not have experienced many severe weather events like these, especially all in the same year. So it has been tempting to say—and I have heard many people saying it of late —“aha, you see?! If you wanted evidence of climate change, there it is!” 

Which immediately brings out in force all those climate change deniers, eager to prove that humans are not affecting the weather by pointing out our planet’s long history of changeability and unpredictability in the weather department. (Because of course if they are right, then we can continue in our wasteful, planet-trashing behaviour and won’t have to trade in the SUV for a Prius or turn down the central heating or stop buying stuff we don’t need.)

The point is, when people tell you that extreme weather is  normal, they are actually right. And the tumultuous weather  that has  been happening in Australia and elsewhere recently actually IS quite normal and just part of a 'La Niña' pattern—one of the patterns of global weather that is well-known to meteorologists worldwide. The world's climate has always undergone huge  fluctuations and disturbances, like for example lengthy glaciations (ice ages) interspersed with post-glacial periods when things warmed up. 'Weather' is a  short-term phenomenon. 'Climate' is about long-term changes in weather  patterns and temperatures etc. over many centuries.

 There are several factors that cause climatic swings over time, such  as the tilt of the Earth's axis and its slight 'wobble', and it is the  interplay between all these that causes the major fluctuations, such  as the ice ages. It's a actually a very complex issue, as he  interplay of factors is not easily predictable. Because the world’s climatic system is so complex and so difficult even for trained scientists to comprehend in its entirety, our mass media, which thrive on (a) oversimplifying everything for a dumbed-down audience and (b) whipping up controversy, rarely even attempt to explain the details. And even if they did, it would be over most people’s heads in any case. It is certainly over mine. 

However, there is just one important  fact to grasp (though most people don't seem to, unfortunately) and if you can get that across, the details don’t matter. The important fact is this. Despite  all these fluctuations in its climate over the millions of years of its existence, our planet has always been able to adjust  itself and stay within certain limits, using some key mechanisms. What  human activity has done is to cripple—or at least seriously impair—some of those vital mechanisms. 

For example, two of the important 'adjustment' mechanisms  involve  forests. Forests are vital because of the moisture they  'breathe out' , which by creating clouds balances up the increased  albedo (reflectivity) of the polar ice caps during glacial periods, thereby warming things up again. They also, as we know, soak up carbon and this, too has an effect in the overall, climatic scheme of things. So by chopping down forests  and at the same time churning out a whole lot of extra carbon we have  done severe damage to two of Earth's important coping strategies. It is just as though a person’s sweat glands were destroyed, leaving her or him without one of the key strategies for regulating body temperature. The next fever might prove fatal.

 So no, extreme weather events like floods and cyclones are not  necessarily human-caused, for they have always been with us, and yes,  we ARE causing climate change, long-term. Go tell it on the mountain. 

© Marian Van Eyk McCain, 2011

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A Conspiracy of Crones

 A pod of whales, a murmuration of starlings, a gaggle of geese...what, do you suppose, would the collective noun be for crones?

Would there be one, in fact? Many of us, at this stage of our lives, have become newly independent creatures, forging a life for ourselves that transcends the culturally prescribed roles we had for so many years as workers, as wives and mothers and day-to-day caregivers of the young and the old. We are cutting loose, breaking new ground, marking out new trails, ‘doing our own thing’ at last, with a fierce and urgent joy and redefining what it means to be elders in the 21st century world. Bringing us together in a flock or a herd, or even in a gaggle, would surely be a bit like herding cats.

And yet...

If there was a collective noun for us, I think it might be ...’conspiracy’. Because one of the most surprising—and utterly delicious—things I have discovered about being an elderwoman is that all the time we are exploring these new freedoms and creating these new lifestyles for ourselves, all the time we are busy being independent, enjoying our solitude, deepening our relationship to Nature and to our own creative pursuits whether these be writing, painting, photography, gardening or quilting or whatever they are, we are doing it together. And we are supporting each other, sometimes in obvious, tangible ways and sometimes in mysterious, numinous ways that we cannot exactly define but only sense.

For there definitely seems to be some unspoken, mostly unacknowledged kind of freemasonry that operates between crones. We send each other secret, wordless signals. Have you noticed those little smiles of recognition that happen, in the street or on a bus, as we sense the passing presence of another ‘one of us’ ? Have you noticed the accelerated development of friendship that happens nowadays when you sit down with a new acquaintance of similar age and interests and the same zest for life? Maybe it is because there is less cautious defensiveness in us now. We are more open than we used to be, more willing to let ourselves be seen, more able to trust. And more intuitive too, probably: more attentive to the subtle energies that flow between us and which connect us by invisible threads to each other and to all the other life forms around us.

I so enjoy bearing witness to the delight of women who first discover my Elderwoman website and other  conscious aging sites, who find their way to this newsletter and find out that there is a social network now that’s just for them—women who thought they were alone in this enterprise and suddenly discover that it is not a solitary enterprise at all but a sisterhood.

Nowhere is the sisterhood more visible or more keenly felt that at the annual Crones Counsel gatherings. Every one of these gatherings is both a homecoming and a new adventure. I just wish I could attend them all. If the need to trim one’s carbon emissions by staying out of the air was no such an important imperative for me  these days, I would definitely go every year.

There is a sadness, though, in the realization that there are millions of ‘third age’ women who still don’t know what they are missing. Women who are busy bemoaning their lost youth and trying to recapture it—a hollow pursuit that can only bring frustration—or who, through caution or particular circumstance, stay locked into the old ways, pursuing ‘business as usual’, and suffering the gradual onset of a sense of meaninglessness. For example, I know a woman for whom all that is left is the frantic scrabble each morning for something—anything—to fill the day, to pass the time until there is something on TV in which she can lose herself, enabling her, at bedtime, to cross off another 24 hours in the seemingly endless wait for death.

And yet I know women many years older than her whose lives are crammed with meaning, women marching with banners, heading up committees, creating art, meditating, blogging, dancing...

What is it, I often wonder, that makes the difference? Why do some people, as they age, seem to lose their zest and shrink into the shadows whilst others, even if they have health problems, find themselves wading ever more deeply into life, savouring every breath and every moment? I wish I knew.

But what I do know is that whenever something new starts moving in the collective unconscious, it usually isn’t long before it swells into greater visibility and starts popping up everywhere. There are more of us than there used to be, of that I am certain. That is clearly reflected on the Internet, by the rapidly increasing number of websites, blogs, books and organizations concerned with conscious, joyful ageing.The conspiracy of crones is widening daily, as we speak. And that, dear sisters, is very good news indeed, don’t you think?

© Marian Van Eyk McCain, 2011.

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 Here’s a snippet from the Nov/Dec 2010 edition of the Positive Aging Newsletter

Dr. OZ, a TV personality and noted heart surgeon, devotes most of his career now to trying to prevent people from needing heart surgery. He has been inspired by many people, including his wife, Lisa, who has brought a respect for non-western medicine into his world. Among his various recommendations is his list of activities that people should do everyday:

  • Walk 30 minutes.
  • Drink two cups of green tea
  • Take vitamin D and calcium
  • Sleep 7-8 hours a night
  • Meditate for 5 minutes

Although this isn’t everything Dr. Oz recommends, it certainly provides a good start.

(From: Dr. Oz’s 6 –month plan for getting healthy. AARP Magazine, May-June, 2010, pg. 34.)

To read the rest of the Positive Aging Newsletter, click here.

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More Online Reading
From that venerable elderwoman  Margaret Rainbow Web, who lives a very simple life in the suburbs of
Adelaide, South Australia, comes another of her interesting newsletters in celebration of the seasons 'Lughnasad, Lammas, Thing-tide 2011'
And were you aware that brisk walking  improves your memory?
Click here to find out how and why.

'Elderwoman Musings'

You are invited to visit a photoblog where elderwomen share their love of photography and writing.  Hopefully, you will find yourself resonating with the images and words and want to join us with your own insightful comments. Kathleen Martin, Donna Bearden, Cate Kerr, and Ellen Hamilton are launching this communal effort in celebration of their own “aging consciously.”  We hope that Elderwomen Musings honors and further elaborates Marian Van Eyk McCain’s efforts to awaken in us that “rapture of being alive” and to share unabashedly with others the wisdom of our elderwoman experiences.

Our plan is to provide a new post on Musings every Tuesday and Thursday.  Since, however, the four of us appreciate the unpredictable and whimsical in life, we might post more often and not necessarily on the designated days.  We do, however, promise to post at least twice a week.  We will comment on one another’s posts with the intention of enhancing our own awareness and encourage you to do the same.  We also welcome guest photobloggers. So come visit us soon at

Remember that if you, too, have something you want help with publicizing that you think other elderwomen might be interested in and/or be able to help you with, I would be only too happy to include details in one of these newsletters.  
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Online Listening

For those of you who have speakers on your computers, here is the link to a short talk by Richard Moss entitled 'The Importance of Elders.' He recorded it as a tribute to an elderwoman who is an old and dear friend.

Richard has been an important spiritual teacher for me since 1981 when someone handed me his first book The I That is We. It was a difficult book to read (his writing has become gradually smoother and more accessible over the years and his later books are all better and much easier to read than that one) but although my mind found it hard to grasp what he was saying, at some other level I was getting flashes of new insight, all the way through. So when I had finished it, I turned to the beginning and started reading it all over again. I still didn't really understand it. And yet insights - a whole new bunch of them - kept coming. 
I read the book a third time. Same thing. It was quite extraordinary. So a few years later I flew to the USA to  join one of his ten-day retreats. It changed my life in a number of significant ways and I have remained in touch with Richard and his work ever since. It was from him that I learned the phrase 'radical aliveness' which soon became my watchword and which, as you will have noticed, is always on the masthead of this newsletter.

Offline Reading

As those of you who follow my blog will already be aware, I recently helped to birth a beautiful little book that was created by my friend and colleague June Raymond in honour of Thomas Berry, who died in 2009.

Thomas Berry, author, cultural historian, geologian and lover of the Earth. was the one who said that if really wanted to experience divine revelation we should consider putting the bible on the shelf for twenty years and studying Nature instead. 

"The natural world is the larger sacred community to which we belong. To become alienated from this community is to become destitute  in all that makes us human. To damage this community is to diminish our own existence. "   The Dream of the Earth,  p.81

I was fortunate enough to sit in a class with this wise and humble man, some fourteen years ago and I am delighted to be playing a part in promoting this little book that June has put together. June, who is a Sister of Notre Dame and also works as a counsellor and a healer in the north of England, using the Bach Flower Remedies, practises the Christian contemplative tradition of bringing certain words of wisdom into the space of meditation. Although Thomas Berry already has a wide following, we hope that presenting some of his words in this new form will bring some of his most profound sayings to a wider audience.
The book is available in the UK through GreenSpirit Books and elsewhere through


Judith Ann Henry, whose poem 'Eagle's Blessing' appeared in the previous newsletter, now offers this one "...about frontier women...and making it in tough  economic times."

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Nancy and Virginia

Virginia lives behind Nancy's house
now just close enough to the horse
corral to have flies and manure...and just
hidden enough from the old entrance to
remember a ranch full of cattle, horses, mules
and the steak house in the mountains.

Friends told Virginia all along she would end up
with too many geraniums and too many cats and
become the cliche of many minds...she knows that
now she only has a few geraniums and the cats don't
live long with the coyotes and foxes coming through.

She keeps many flowers in many containers....
coffee cans, tossed off plastic, pottery that was
once famous and now mercifully cracked to allow
air and moisture to flee...and recirculate and be kind
to petunias.

Virginia had a universe of a restaurant...a bar and a
gathering place for her friends and summer visitors...
her restaurant known for a good cup of coffee and
a really good steak...Nancy had practically grown up
there as a cow girl and a packer for the long hunting
trips into the mountains. Cowboy marriages and divorces
all the rage of the old dance planks...children arriving and

growing up by candle light and boozed up voices....
after pack trips and much to talk about at

Now she is grateful for a front porch, a semblance
of solitude and a trek once in a while to sit by the lake.
To look across at the world her son stole through embezzlement...
how could you ever know that raising a
could you ever know that there was more to talk about
than what actually happened...that even now when the horses
lean on the corral and she moves a flower from the sun
to the shade...that all is good behind Nancy's house...
enough water, enough sky, enough snow, enough elk and
deer moving keep a woman's heart full...
and devoted and tender and shy.

© Judith Ann Henry

Judith writes: " I appreciate the ability to connect with others in our commonalities no matter geography nor age. Some readers have contacted me on Facebook....and I most appreciate pen pals.!/profile.php?id=100001019269057

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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The Hotel Bill

An elderly lady decided to give herself a big treat for her significant birthday by staying overnight in one of London's most expensive hotels.
When she checked out next morning, the desk clerk handed her a bill for $250.00.
She exploded and demanded to know why the charge was so high. "It's a nice hotel but the rooms certainly aren't worth $250.00 for just an overnight stop without even breakfast."
 The clerk told her that $250.00 is the 'standard rate' so she insisted on speaking to the Manager. The Manager appeared and forewarned by the desk clerk announced: "the hotel has an Olympic-sized pool and a huge conference centre which are available for use."
'But I didn't use them," she said.
''Well, they are here, and you could have," explained the Manager.
He went on to explain that she could also have seen one of the in-hotel shows for which the hotel is famous. "We have the best entertainers from Edinburgh, Glasgow, and Aberdeen performing here," the Manager said.
"But I didn't go to any of those shows," she said.
"Well, we have them, and you could have," the Manager replied.
No matter what amenity the Manager mentioned, she replied, "But I didn't use it!"
The Manager was unmoved, so she decided to pay, wrote a cheque and gave it to the Manager.
The Manager was surprised when he looked at the cheque. "But madam, this cheque is only made out for $50.00."
''That's correct. I charged you $200.00 for sleeping with me," she replied.
"But I didn't!" exclaimed the very surprised Manager.
"Well, too bad" she said, smiling sweetly. "I was here, and you could have."

The moral: Don't mess with Elderwomen!!

Brenda, a long-time subscriber from Brisbane, sent that one.

 ...And from Gloria,  here's another:

Yesterday I was at my local COSTCO buying a large bag of Purina dog chow for my loyal pet, Champ, the Wonder Dog, and was in the check-out line when a woman behind me asked if I had a dog. 
What did she think I had, an elephant? So since I'm retired and have little to do, on impulse I told her that no, I didn't have a dog, I was starting the Purina Diet again. I added that I probably shouldn't, because I ended up in the hospital last time, but that I'd lost 50 pounds before I awakened in an intensive care ward with tubes coming out of most of my orifices and IVs in both arms.
I told her that it was essentially a Perfect Diet and that the way that it works is, to load your pants pockets with Purina Nuggets and simply eat one or two every time you feel hungry. The food is nutritionally complete so it works well and I was going to try it again. (I have to mention here that practically everyone in line was now enthralled with my story). Horrified, she asked if I ended up in intensive care because the dog food poisoned me. I told her no, I stepped off a curb to sniff a poodle's butt and a car hit me.
I thought the guy behind her was going to have a heart attack he was laughing so hard.
Costco won't let me shop there anymore.

The Elderwoman Newsletter by Marian Van Eyk McCain, February 2011
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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