THE ELDERWOMAN NEWSLETTER: Issue #10, July 2005

Welcome to the July 2005 issue of the Elderwoman Newsletter
- an e-zine for 21st century elderwomen committed to radical aliveness.
 

CONTENTS:

View from the Desk
Announcements:
Can You Wake Animals By Staring At Them?
The California Crones Tour, 2005
And In The Other Direction....

Reports:
Getting Close To The Earth
Elderwoman Discussion Group

Feature Articles:
Turning 60 by Taru Fisher
Bike Florida: An Intergenerational Experience by Emily Kimball
Air Travel Angst by Marian

Interesting News Item

Bits And Pieces
Might As Well Dance
She Looks At Herself
Life Before The Computer
Call for Submissions
Quotes
Last Laugh

VIEW FROM THE DESK 

You may recall that in the last newsletter I told you I had taken on a couple of new projects. One was editing an anthology for Resurgence magazine and the other was joining the editorial team of the GreenSpirit Journal and taking responsibility for editing the Summer issue. I also said, "Taking on new projects is a dangerous thing for me though, as I tend to fall prey to attacks of 'overwhelm' every so often."

Well I didn't have any overwhelm attacks. And I had huge fun with the Journal, which will be back from the printer in a few days. But what I did notice, after a while, was that every time I thought about doing some work on the anthology, I felt as though I'd rather be doing something else. It was that same feeling we probably all had as children when the sun was shining outside and we were supposed to go and tidy our rooms or do our homework. My friend Netty calls it the 'balking mood' – the one we get into when we are following a 'should' instead of an 'I want to'. And it seems to happen even when the 'should' is totally self-imposed.

Even when we are supposedly 'retired' many of us tend to follow the habitual patterns of our working lives and keep obeying the boss – except we haven't noticed that 'the boss' is now just ourselves. I've been doing a lot of thinking about this lately, and coming to some decisions, as a result.

In a few days' time, I turn 69, which means I am entering my seventieth year. In celebration of this, I have decided to throw out my 'shoulds' and take a sabbatical.

So I have resigned from the anthology project and someone else will be taking it on. For the next twelve months I have dropped almost all of my regular commitments and intend just to free-wheel, doing what I like, when I like.

I still enjoy doing this newsletter, but rather than sending it out regularly, four times a year, which is what I've always aimed to do, from now on I'll do it just when I feel like it. So you may get fewer newsletters for a while - or more, but shorter. And if anyone feels like being Guest Editor at some point, just let me know. I'd be utterly delighted.

Right now, it feels as though I am clearing a space in my life and it will be very interesting to see what comes in, as a result. I have always found that whenever you clear a space, something new happens.

There's an inspirational article from Taru Fisher in this edition of the newsletter, another piece that Emily Kimball kindly let me "borrow" from her newsletter, and a rave from me about one of the central dilemmas in my life. I also have a smattering of archaeology for you, that suggests elders were taken good care of way back at the very beginning of our evolution into homo sapiens. There's an unusual request from Rupert Sheldrake, the biologist who studies the more mysterious and invisible ways in which creatures – including ourselves – communicate. And some other interesting (I hope) bits and pieces.

I hope you enjoy this newsletter. Feedback is always welcome, either direct to me or via the Discussion Group.

Blessings,

Marian

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ANNOUNCEMENTS

CAN YOU WAKE ANIMALS BY STARING AT THEM?

A request to you all from biologist Rupert Sheldrake

Many people have found that they can sometimes detect when someone is staring at them from behind, and turn round. Conversely, many people have found they can make others turn around by staring at them. Experiments have shown that this ability to detect stares really exists, and that most people have it. I discuss this research in detail in my most recent book. The Sense Of Being Stared At, And Other Aspects Of The Extended Mind.

Animals also seem to respond to stares. The evolutionary origins of this response might lie in predator/prey relations. If a prey animal can feel when a hidden predator is looking at it, then it might stand a better chance of escaping.

Sleeping animals are particularly vulnerable, and it may be that they too can feel when they are being stared at. Some pet owners have told me that they can wake their sleeping dog or cat by looking at it, and some people who keep chickens as pets have found that they can wake a roosting bird by staring.

I am currently trying to find out more about the sensitivity of sleeping animals to being stared at. I would be very grateful to hear from any readers of experiences they may have had in waking animals by looks. This need not necessarily involve a deliberate attempt to wake the animal by staring at it hard. Maybe more passive looks also have an effect.

I would be grateful to hear from anyone with observations on this subject either by email at pam@telepet.demon.co.uk or by post, at the following address:

Rupert Sheldrake, 20 Willow Road, London NW3 1TJ.


Note from Marian: Since I'm sure many of you have companion animals, and have spent years observing their behaviour, it wouldn't surprise me if you have some comments to send to Rupert. His book is fascinating too, as was the previous one, Dogs Who Know When Their Owners Are Coming Home. I've long been an admirer of his work. If you are as fascinated by this whole topic of telepathic communication as I am, check out Rupert's website http://www.sheldrake.org/ and read the account of an amazing grey parrot who seems to be able to read his owner's mind.

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THE CALIFORNIA CRONES TOUR, 2005

Four adventurous elderwomen from the 'Growing Old Disgracefully' group in England have signed up to come on my 'Crones Tour' to California in October. I'll be showing them round San Francisco first, and then we'll be visiting Yosemite National Park, walking among the redwood trees in the Santa Cruz mountains, exploring Monterey – including a whale watching trip if the weather is fine – and then heading down

to the beautiful Big Sur coast, on to Morro Bay and then right on down to Los Angeles. There, the Angel City Crones have volunteered to show my group their town and to escort them to San Diego, where we'll all take part in Crones Counsel, the highlight of the trip. I'm looking forward to immensely and so are they.

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AND IN THE OTHER DIRECTION....

I just received an e-mail from an elderwoman called Ann Quinlan in the US (Duxbury MA) who, with her friend and colleague Frederica Chapman, arranges women's tours to Ireland, departing from Boston. They visit lots of Celtic sites and from the description of their trips it sounds as though the whole thing is quite an intense and meaningful experience for the women who take part. The next is in Spring 2006. They have a gorgeous website with beautiful photos of Ireland: http://www.spiraljourneys.com

REPORTS

GETTING CLOSE TO THE EARTH

For those women, of all ages, who really want a 'retreat and renewal' experience that connects them as deeply with our beautiful Earth as it's possible to be, there is nothing to beat the annual Wild Women's Gathering at the Sweet Medicine Women's Center in the wilds of New Mexico, seven river crossings from the nearest road.

Here's an abbreviated report from my beloved soul-daughters, Loba and Kiva Rose, who led this year's gathering:

Our sixth annual Wild Women’s Gathering was truly the best ever! We were more organized, prepared and scheduled than ever, and just as inspired!
Surrounded by black walnut, oaks, junipers and ponderosa pines hundreds of years old, grape trellises, cottonwoods and willows, we gathered in our shady haven near the river’s seventh crossing. Women came from as far away as Hawaii and South Africa, Germany, Arkansas and Illinois. Several women also came from New Mexico, Colorado, Texas and Arizona. Artists and healers, students and homemakers, mothers and grandmothers. A lawyer and a dental hygienist, a coffee plantation owner and a dreadlocked shamaness! All bearing coolers full of fruits, chocolate and cheeses, fresh tomatoes, and unexpected treats galore!
We gathered around the fire the first night, howling with the excitement of our coming together! Everyone got a chance to share what they see as their gifts and challenges, and of their personal vision of a Medicine Woman, where they see themselves on that path. It was beautiful and inspiring to hear the many variations of the Medicine Woman archetype. Many of the women happened to be at a transitional stage of their life, ready to embrace a new home, relationship, or a new/ancient, more primal way of being.
Workshops were held in the canvas pavilion, which was decorated with colorful cloths, Gaia and goddess art, and a beautiful altar where all the women were welcomed to add their personal medicine objects.
We spent the first workshop talking about how Gaia’s body is our body, and ways of reconnecting to sacred Earth and Body. The second workshop was about Healing as Wholeness, getting beyond the polarities and reintegrating ourselves as whole beings, making use of the many tools Gaia gives us in order to help restore balance in all things. We spoke in depth about sacred space: how to create it and make use of the sacred spaces available to us. The next day we focused on creativity, the challenges of nurturing our creative selves in the midst of the demands of everyday life, utilizing creativity as therapy and magick, and ways of activating our creative selves. The final workshop was about tribe, and how the medicine woman reaches out from her center to affect the whole, including ways that we can create community, become activists in our own ways, and instigate change that can help heal our precious Gaia!
And how beautiful it was, to feel that in the short time we had together, we created our own community where every woman felt safe enough to express long-hidden thoughts, to share deepest pain and fears as well as the hopes and dreams that can make us feel so vulnerable. And each time a woman ventured to trust us with her depths, without exception she was met with understanding eyes around the firelight, and hugs and stories that reflected back to all of us the truth we know but all too often do still forget: that we are one!
Many of the women spoke of how the simple acts of the day helped them to remember their primal selves: how simply washing wooden bowls in the river sand , carrying wood and water in their arms, and lying in the current brought back intense feelings of familiarity that some of them had never felt before. Many of them expressed feeling more comfortable in their bodies than they could remember since childhood

Oh how we feasted!! Nettle-potato soup with chunks of smoked havarti and goat cheese, tabouli with wild pesto and blue corn flatbread baked in huge skillets, mountains of juicy tomatoes, apples and pears, granola and yogurt, watermelons and strawberries dipped in melted chocolate eaten around the fire, giving us energy for yet more drumming and dancing, singing and story-spinning! We shared wild meat, homemade whole-wheat pasta (the dough kneaded in wooden troughs), tomato curry sauce with grape leaves, and dolmas stuffed with wild rice, sheep’s milk feta, roasted peppers and lemon.
Our closing circle around the fire was so magical, the last tinges of sun after a brief rain making the whole canyon glow with orangey-pink light. Each woman shared new commitments she had made inspired by her time here, and what she felt most grateful for. Several of the women thanked each person for something special gained from the other’s presence, and there were many gifts given. We hugged and howled our last time as a group, feeling so filled with the abundances of sisterhood and renewed sense of self, full of blessings from the canyon and a deeper awareness of ourselves as beings of medicine, ready to shine and share with the world, and with Gaia, all that we are, and all that we can be!!

There will be another Gathering next year. But if anyone (male or female) wants to experience the magic of that canyon (and Loba & Kiva's incredible cooking) before then, it is often possible to arrange a private retreat or 'vision quest' of any length. You'll find all the details at http://www.earthenspirituality.org

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ELDERWOMAN DISCUSSION GROUP

This has gone very quiet lately. Like most Internet discussion groups, activity seems to happen in bursts, with lulls in between. And this is the longest lull we've had since we started. Do you think perhaps the novelty has worn off?

New people have signed up, but they will no doubt be waiting for others to post before adding their bit. So if you are one of those, don't keep waiting. Just post. A thought, a question, a response to something in this newsletter, or just simply a 'Hi, this is me, this is where I live and this is how I like to spend my day.' Anything goes. It's about connecting.

If you have not signed up to be part of the discussion group, for one reason or another, but would like to, then all you have to do is send me an e-mail and ask me to add your name to the list. Just e-mail me with OKEM in the subject line and say "add me to discussion list."

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FEATURE ARTICLES

TURNING 60

By Taru Fisher

I am living a life today that just three years ago I considered impossible. But this miracle is one I created for myself – by making new choices, I have made a new life. I hope by sharing my story, others will realize they can do this too.

Right before I turned 60, I felt deeply depressed about my life. Actually, I felt I had no life and realized I had to change my health or die. I had developed Rheumatoid Arthritis at age 36 while living in the religious commune of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh in Rajneeshpuram, Oregon. I had watched it progress from some intermittent right hand pain to full-blown Rheumatoid Arthritis, eventually claiming my right hand, left hand, neck, jaw, elbows, wrists, knees, ankles and toes. It seemed as if there was virtually no place in my body that wasn’t on fire with a toothache-like pain that was unremitting. With its’ accompanying constant feeling of weakness, depression, and loss of life energy, I began to over identify this illness as who I was. For more than twenty-three years I existed in a living hell, with no real hope of ever emerging again. I tried every known, and many unknown, remedies! All failed me, creating an ever-deepening cycle of despair and hopelessness.

In 1999, I was somehow managing to hold down a full time job at Stanford University, but the disease had progressed to the point where I was unable to walk even half a block, and I was in bed by 6:00PM each evening. On Mother’s Day the year I was 59, I was so sick I had to cancel a visit to my beloved youngest son in Albany, a mere 50-minute drive. I touched a depth of sadness I had never reached before, and had thoughts that death was a preferred alternative to the life I was living.

My dearest friend, Katrina, had been telling me for several years about a nutritionist who had helped cure her of her allergies, but I hadn’t actually been ready to pay money to heal myself; I guess I didn’t feel worthy. I had also tried so many different methods to cure this nasty disease that I no longer believed that there was any cure out there. But now I was morbidly desperate and willing to do anything to feel better so I went to see Dr. Harold Kristal, a Metabolic Nutritionist in San Rafael, CA. After a series of lab tests and psychological assessments, he determined my metabolic type was a "Slow Oxidizer", and recommended very specific dietary supplements and foods tailored to me. He also told me that sugar was poison for me, something I actually knew because every time I ate sugar-laden foods my joints became very painful. However, I had lapsed into emotional eating as my only real pleasure in life, so I had continued to eat foods that I knew intuitively were bad for me. I began my new dietary regimen immediately upon leaving his office and actually felt better that same day. I was at least 65 pounds overweight at that time, and lost 9 pounds the first week. I finally had energy and could walk more than one block! My joint pain decreased so that I was able to cut my arthritis medicine injections in half. I followed his program religiously and to the letter. Once I began to feel more energy and less pain I knew I could never go back to the old way of eating and living – healthy living is now an absolute requirement for me.

I had to learn all about metabolic nutrition in order to fully accept this program; I had previously failed so many other so-called "diet plans". I bought Dr. Kristal’s book and proceeded to learn all I could. Once again, necessity and the drive to learn kicked into high gear. I became so knowledgeable, and was so successful in losing weight (50 pounds and counting), increasing my energy level, and ameliorating my arthritis symptoms, my example inspired many friends and acquaintances to go see my nutritionist as well. I learned that I could inspire and motivate people to change, both through example and knowledge of the subject.

Now that I had energy, my Rheumatologist recommended I start doing SuperSlow® strength training, something I never thought I’d be able to do -- the standard gyms and spandex-clad exercisers years younger than me were not at all appealing. However, I wanted to be able to open car doors, reach into cupboards and get plates, get in and out of a bathtub by myself, so I decided to put my objections aside and start the strength training. I was very gratified to discover that SuperSlow® strength training was done one-on-one with your own trainer, usually in private sessions. The results have been nothing short of amazing, even to my Physical Therapist. Over a span of two years, I went from not being able to walk half a block to walking more than three strenuous miles, leg pressing 314 pounds (more than twice my body weight), and back pressing 140 pounds. I also gained 3% bone mass!

This inspired my husband to learn how to train others in SuperSlow®, which in turn led to a mid-life career change for him. Once again I learned the power of inspiration and example in changing lives. We both wanted to share this safe, effective and powerful strength training method with others so we opened Alive! Fitness Studio where we specialize in private, one-on-one SuperSlow® strength training. Now, as a Health & Wellness Coach, I want to inspire more people over age 50 to live healthier lifestyles and remain active, productive members of society throughout their lifespan.

I’m also ardent about helping women approaching 60 (and beyond) understand that aging is NOT a disease--this is the most incredible time of our lives. I've been so inspired to help other women like me, I went back to school and became a life coach so I could have the skills to motivate and coach others about the tremendous possibilities available to us. Second Adulthood is a time when we can create passionate lives around our deepest dreams and values, coming alive to create communities of older wise women where our wisdom is shared and we make a difference in the world. I want to coach women who want to age with pride, vigor, passion, commitment, and joy.

Now, instead of being crippled by my arthritis and depression, I have so much energy and excitement about life that I can't stop thinking about the things I want to do. One of them is to share some of the secrets of how I was successful in my quest for health and wellness, which I will do in my next article.

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Taru Fisher is a 62-year-old woman who knows beyond a shadow of a doubt that you also have the innate resources to live a conscious life in which you create health, wellness, prosperity, joy and community. Her deepest desire is to be your partner in this exciting pursuit of aging proudly and becoming who you were meant to be. She is a Life Coach who completed her training at the Coaches Training Institute in San Rafael, CA, and is currently completing certification as an NLP (Neurolinguistic Programming) Coach.

Taru Fisher
Coaching for Health & Wellness, and Alive! Women
Email: taru@alivefitnessstudio.com

http://www.alivefitnessstudio.com

© 2005 Taru Fisher

 

BIKE FLORIDA: AN INTERGENERATIONAL EXPERIENCE

By Emily Kimball

 

In March, I traveled to Tallahassee, Florida, to team up with my 42-year-old son, Josh, and ride Bike Florida, a 7-day, 400-mile bicycling adventure. We didn't always ride together (different paces), but we tented side by side, ate meals together and took in the evenings' entertainment. It was the most time we'd spent together since he was in high school. What a special time it was for me.

I wasn't the only one having an intergenerational experience. A 7-year old, her mother, and grandmother shared a tandem and a single bike. Mom and grandmom took turns riding the tandem with the 7-year old.

Another 3-generation family on the ride was a pair of grandparents with their daughter and her husband and 2 grandchildren. The grandparents didn't ride but followed along in their car, and stayed with the family evenings. What a lovely way to experience your child's family and participate with them at the level you are able.

Maturity in Motion

There were a lot of retirees on the ride. One couple, Ron and Jean Duning from Huntsville, Ohio, handed me their business card reflecting their new life. "Maturity in Motion" it read, with a picture of them on a tandem bicycle pulling a load behind. Their focus in retirement is bicycle touring - talk about having a passion and making that passion happen! They were doing just that.

Granddaughter-Grandfather Bonding

One day I found myself riding alongside Kim from North Carolina. Kim grew up in the Florida Panhandle and every summer went to live with her grandparents. She and her grandfather bonded, and from the age of 15 to 40 they exchanged weekly letters. When he died at age 82, she was left with a wonderful written record of his life, values, and opinions about important life issues. Kim cherishes these letters, and often pulls them out to read and remember him by.

Marriage at Any Age

On my way home from Bike Florida, I shared a table at the Atlanta airport with J.L., 81, and Marie, 75, from Arkansas. They were on their way to Portland, Oregon, to get married! J.L.'s daughters were very excitedly arranging everything - including a waltz played at the end of the ceremony so the couple could waltz down the aisle together. They had met in a dance class which they attended three times a week. Don't tell me life is over at 60 - for some it is beginning anew in their 70's and 80's.

(Editor's Note: Better add the 90s to that, Emily. On the BBC news a few days ago there was another delightful story about a marriage. One partner was 90, the other 94. They had a slap-up wedding and were off to a local hotel for their honeymoon. Life is never over till it's over. Or, as Richard Bach says, "Here is the test to find whether your mission on Earth is finished: if you're alive, it isn't").

Emily Kimball is an amazing elderwoman. She's always out and about, having adventures. If you haven't already, be sure and check out her website at http://www.theagingadventurer.com/ You can also sign up there for her free newsletter. 

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AIR TRAVEL ANGST

I received an e-mail this week from the Women's Intercultural Network asking me to join in petitioning the United Nations to sponsor another international women's conference like the one held in Beijing in 1995. which attracted over 50,000 participants. The e-mail said:

"Now at the beginning of the 21st century, with the state of the world as it is, it is a crucial time for women to come together to make a difference. This conference would be the first since the Internet made worldwide communication easy, and would likely be the largest and most effective gathering of women ever held. If you support such a conference, I urge you to sign the petition at: http://www.petitiononline.com/5WWC/petition.html"

My first impulse was to sign. I am all for women getting together in solidarity and sisterhood. And what a buzz it would be. I didn't get to Beijing, but maybe the next one....?

But then I got to thinking about how many of those fifty thousand women (probably including me) would catch planes to attend such a conference and how much carbon that would release into the already dangerously compromised atmosphere and whether that is really the sort of thing we should be doing, wonderful as it would be to have such an event.
And of course that made me think about my own travel habits and whether I should really be flying at all. Like most other people, I delight in the ability to travel around. As you can see, in this very newsletter, I have been talking excitedly about taking crones to California and about women flying to Ireland to visit sacred sites and going to New Mexico for vision quests. And yet.........

There's only 1.9 hectares of the world's surface available for each one of us. I live in a tiny cottage with just 350 square feet of living space. I have no car, no central heating, no TV, hi-fi, washer, dryer, dishwasher, microwave or cellphone. I recycle everything, compost, use low-wattage light bulbs, wear second-hand clothes, grow my own vegetables, eat vegan, organic and mostly local food and never enter a supermarket. My electricity comes from a green supplier and I bank with an ethical bank. I refuse plastic bags, use no paper towels and all my cleaning products are harmless and biodegradable. Yet despite all that, my ecological footprint is still at least 4.56 hectares - which is MORE THAN DOUBLE MY FAIR SHARE OF THE EARTH'S RESOURCES. You know why? Because I make one transatlantic flight each year to visit my children and grandchildren, and sometimes a couple of other flights as well. Without that, my footprint would drop to 2.16, just below the world average. (though still not quite sustainable). That's how significant air travel is. Jet planes not only use up vast amounts of oil, they discharge huge quantities of carbon dioxide and other chemicals into the air and do so at a level of the atmosphere where it causes the most damage. In terms of the impact it makes on the planet, one transatlantic flight by one person is equivalent to a whole year's worth of driving a car.

At the rate our species is currently trashing the Earth, we won't have a liveable planet at all unless we curb our wasteful use of resources and stop our polluting habits. Not sometime in the future, but RIGHT NOW. Americans are the worst offenders, with a massive and totally unsustainable average footprint of 9.7, but most Europeans are also way, way over the average.

I said all this to the woman who sent me the petition. She wrote back to say that she understood my point but that she believed having a conference was really important, as women need to come together to work for equality and for peace. And she said reassuringly that "one world conference every ten years won't destroy the Earth."

Trouble is, neither does my one annual flight to see my family. Neither does my flight from Boston to California to attend Crones Counsel. Neither does any "one" action. That's precisely the trouble. It's the cumulative "ones" of all of us which create the problem. So each of us has to start with herself, here, now today. Every decision counts. The solution, just like the problem, will come from our cumulative actions. For what is pushing our ecosystems towards total collapse is the sum total of all our little, seemingly innocuous "ones", particularly in the US and western Europe.

So I wrote back to her, saying that rather than coming together in huge crowds to talk about peace, I think we should "think globally, but act locally" and put all our energy into withdrawing support for the consumerist monster we have created.
"Which means we must stop guzzling oil and wasting water, stop supporting multinational corporations, stop being wasteful, gluttonous and selfish in our use of resources, clean up our act, (each one of us, individually, day by day, decision by decision, right here in our homes and communities), stop buying - and stop flying. International conferences, great as they are, are a luxury we simply cannot afford. Not any longer, with the polar icecaps melting fast and the climate going haywire. Equality and peace are meaningless if all that's left is dead oceans, bare, barren soil and perhaps the occasional cockroach."

It's easy enough to preach. However, the issue for me remains a deeply personal one. Sure, I can (and often do) travel in Europe by far less polluting means of transport such as trains and ferries. I could stop going to things like Crones Counsel. But I can't bear the thought of not seeing my children and grandchildren at least once a year. To cross the Atlantic and back by ship would cost me an entire year's pension in each direction, which is not an option I can afford. So at this point in my life I know that I am part of the Earth's problem instead of part of the solution.

Even though I've probably planted enough trees in my life to offset the carbon emissions I've caused by all these flights, it's still not a very comfortable feeling to know that I'm taking more than I'm giving to this lovely Earth. As it used to say on my report card every term, 'Marian could do better'. (And so could we all).

© Marian Van Eyk McCain 2005

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INTERESTING NEWS ITEM

Early hominid 'cared for elderly' - a news item from the BBC

Ancient hominids from the Caucasus may have fed and cared for their elderly, a new fossil find has indicated.

The 1.77 million-year-old specimen, which is described in Nature magazine, was completely toothless and well over 40; a grand old age at the time.

This may suggest that the creature lived in a complex society which was capable of showing compassion.

These hominids - like humans - may also have valued the old for their years of acquired knowledge, researchers think.

"It is pretty amazing that [hominid] society fostered this kind of thing nearly 1.8 million years ago," said co-author Reid Ferring, of the University of North Texas, US.

"Almost any way we cut it, this is very unusual and it is a totally new insight into the social relations of this early hominid."

Little people

The senior specimen is one of a collection of hominid finds from the famous site of Dmanisi, Georgia.

The little "people" - who stood at around four feet tall - have caused a lively debate amongst palaeoanthropologists.

So far it has been tricky to work out exactly what they are. Many experts believe it was Homo erectus who first ventured out of Africa and spread around Asia.

But Dmanisi hominids were not typical of the tall-standing, big brained Homo erectus - instead they were short, small-brained, thin browed and probably dragged their knuckles along the ground like apes.

This has led some to believe they may have been Homo habilis . But ape-like Homo habilis was not thought to have left Africa - so the confusion continues.

Although the Dmanisi hominids had no fire and only used very basic chopping and cutting tools, the new discovery does hint at a new level of sophistication.

"My personal opinion is that these people were remarkably human in a lot of ways," said Professor Ferring. "These were tiny people living in a very harsh environment.

"I think we can only compare them to modern humans in their social skills and behaviours, which allowed them to survive against all these odds."

Death sentence

The ageing individual - who lost his teeth some years before death, palaeoanthropologists estimate - would not have been able to chew the raw meat or fibrous plants which made up the creatures' normal diet.

For most animals - other than humans, and their now extinct cousin the Neanderthal - this would have been a death sentence.

But, Professor Ferring believes, this "old man" must have been kept alive by being fed the choice soft morsels like brain, marrow and succulent berries.

"Cooking was not in the equation and it is inconceivable that he would have been able to eat raw meat," he said. "So he must have consumed much more than his share of these very choice soft foods.

"He was either being cared for or being given very preferential treatment."

Whether his group was just being kind, or whether there was an ulterior motive, can only be guessed at. It is possible, according to Professor Ferring, that the toothless man was an extremely useful member of his society.

"It is unclear whether he could contribute to the livelihood of the whole group in terms of procuring food and defending the group and caring for young," Professor Ferring told the BBC News website.

Elderly members of the group may also have been valuable for cultural reasons, just like in modern societies.

Professor Ferring said: "This person might have had a function similar to old people in hunter gatherer societies - his experience and knowledge may have given him high status."    

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 BITS AND PIECES

MIGHT AS WELL DANCE
(Lyn Lubben, who sent this, says it was written by an 83 year old woman)


"Dear Bertha,

I'm reading more and dusting less. I'm sitting in the yard and admiring the view without fussing about the weeds in the garden. I'm spending more time with my family and friends and less time working. Whenever possible, life should be a pattern of experiences to savor, not to endure. I'm trying to recognize these moments now and cherish them.

I'm not "saving" anything; we use our good china and crystal for every special event such as losing a pound, getting the sink unstopped, or the first Amaryllis blossom.

I wear my good blazer to the market My theory is if I look prosperous, I can shell out $28.49 for one small bag of groceries..

I'm not saving my good perfume for special parties, but wearing it for clerks in the hardware store and tellers at the bank.

"Someday" and "one of these days" are losing their grip on my vocabulary; if it's worth seeing or hearing or doing, I want to see and hear and do it now.

I'm not sure what others would've done had they known they wouldn't be here for the tomorrow that we all take for granted.

I think they would have called family members and a few close friends. They might have called a few former friends to apologize and mend fences for past squabbles.

I like to think they would have gone out for a Chinese dinner or for whatever their favorite food was.

I'm guessing; I'll never know.

It's those little things left undone that would make me angry if I knew my hours were limited. Angry because I hadn't written certain letters that I intended to write one of these days. Angry and sorry that I didn't tell my husband and parents often enough how much I truly love them. I'm trying very hard not to put off, hold back, or save anything that would add laughter and lustre to our lives.

And every morning when I open my eyes, I tell myself that it is special. Every day, every minute, every breath truly is a gift ...

....Life may not be the party we hoped for, but while we are here we might as well dance"

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SHE LOOKS AT HERSELF

Age 3: She looks at herself and sees a Queen.

Age 8: She looks at herself and sees Cinderella.

Age 15: She looks at herself and sees an Ugly Sister (Mum I can't go to school looking like this!)

Age 20: She looks at herself and sees "too fat/too thin, too short/too tall, too straight/too curly"- but decides she's going out anyway.

Age 30: She looks at herself and sees "too fat/too thin, too short/too tall, too straight/too curly" - but decides she doesn't have time to fix it, so she's going out anyway.

Age 40: She looks at herself and sees "clean" and goes out anyway.

Age 50: She looks at herself and sees "I am" and goes wherever she wants to go.

Age 60: She looks at herself and reminds herself of all the people who can't even see themselves in the mirror anymore. Goes out and conquers the world.

Age 70: She looks at herself & sees wisdom, laughter and ability, goes out and enjoys life.

Age 80: Doesn't bother to look Just puts on a purple hat and goes out to have fun with the world.


 

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LIFE BEFORE THE COMPUTER

Memory was something you lost with age

An application was for employment

A program was a TV show

A cursor used profanity

A keyboard was a piano

A web was a spider's home

A virus was the flu

A CD was a bank account

A hard drive was a long trip on the road

A mouse pad was where a mouse lived

And if a guy had a 3-1/2 inch floppy .

... he just hoped nobody ever found out !

 

CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS
Don't be shy - send in your writings, your thoughts, your poetry, a book or website you have found, an announcement that you think would be interesting to others, a comment on one of these articles, an anecdote, a new discussion topic - whatever snippet you want to share.

QUOTES

"This is a time for a loud voice, open speech and fearless thinking. I rejoice that I live in such a splendidly disturbing time."
- Helen Keller

"You can no more win a war than you can win an earthquake."
– Jeanette Rankin (the first woman elected to the U.S. Congress)

"An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind"
- Gandhi

"All of us can work for peace. We can work right where we are, right within ourselves, because the more peace we have within our own lives, the more we can reflect into the outer situation."
- Peace Pilgrim

LAST LAUGH

 

The Elderwoman Newsletter by Marian Van Eyk McCain, July 2005
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
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