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


View from the Desk
Announcements - Lilypad Reviews, Alexandra Pope, Chicken Soup.
Reports - Elderspirit, Ashes & Snow, Discussion Group
Feature Article - A Vacation with Ghosts
Feature Article - Release the Past, Heal Your Heart
Feature Article - Damming the River of Life
Call for Submissions
Last Laugh

It is primrose time again here in North Devon, there are still daffodils everywhere I look, and even the bluebells are starting to emerge. Which means it is now two years since I sat here and wrote the very first "View from the Desk," wondering whether anyone would bother reading this new newsletter and whether I would keep on writing it. But you do and I have, and the mailing list keeps growing.
There are readers here in the UK and in Ireland, all over North America (plus Hawaii), in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa and both Eastern and Western Europe. I'm not sure if there are any on the Indian sub-continent or in Asia yet, but if there aren't, I'm sure it is only a matter of time. Elderwomen are everywhere, and in ever-increasing numbers!!

Recently, I have taken on a couple of new projects. One is to edit a new anthology for Resurgence magazine and the other is to join the editorial team of the GreenSpirit Journal. This means that the Summer issue of the Journal will be my responsibility. It's good for me, as a writer, to sit in the editor's seat for a change and appreciate what it is like to have to make decisions about what to publish and what to leave out.

Taking on new projects is a dangerous thing for me though, as I tend to fall prey to attacks of 'overwhelm' every so often. So I am also looking carefully at the things I already do, and pruning some of them back, in order to make room. I think it is really important to stay tuned to the slow changes that happen within us and to be honest with ourselves when something we do doesn't have any 'juice' in it any more. Our 'Third Age' days are too precious to go on doing things out of habit when our hearts are no longer in them, don't you think? (But just in case you are wondering, I still love doing this newsletter).
By the way, for those of you who have just been celebrating Easter, I hear the latest research shows chocolate is actually good for you after all.

So as you nibble those last bits of Easter egg, relax and enjoy the news and articles in this Spring (or Autumn for you lot down there) newsletter.
I feel especially privileged to be allowed to reprint a beautiful, evocative piece of writing by Ruth Ozeki, a midlife woman of considerable talent, whose website is well worth a visit.

And 'Crone Carna' as she signs herself (Carna Zacharias-Miller) has some very interesting points to make about the effects of motherlessness in later life.
Plus there's a little rave from me about food.

Emily Kimball supplies the quote in this issue: a well-known, female TV personality saying how creative she feels at age fifty. Yes!!
(And it doesn't stop at fifty, either).

But sometimes it's nice just to kick back and do nothing for a bit. So Sky and I are going to southern Crete again in a couple of weeks, to hike and relax and simply soak up sunshine.





The Lilypad List

My new book has been receiving some excellent reviews. The Midwest Book Review had this to say:

'In The Lilypad List: Seven Steps To The Simple Life, author, psychologist, and personal development expert Marian Van Eyk McCain focuses on the inner aspects of simplifying our daily lives to reveal how our inner feelings about life will guide us to decisive and effective actions. Rather than listing general prescriptions, The Lilypad List offers readers a working self-help model to assist them in discovering their own unique paths to a simpler and more fulfilling life. Written in a jargon-free, intimate, and conversational style, The Lilypad List is one of the most accessible, applicable, and down-to-earth advice books available to non-specialist general readers with an interest in adapting their lifestyles to simpler rhythms, less intrusive demands, and more rewarding satisfactions.'

One person has already posted a 'customer review' on both and, much to my delight. I hope other readers will be moved to do the same, as customer reviews really help. (Elderwoman has some fabulous customer reviews on the Amazon sites, too, and more are always welcome).

I have just finished the Lilypad List website Please tell everyone you know who is interested in simple lifestyles, and let me know what you think of the site.


Alexandra Pope, ( whose work I featured in the last newsletter, reports that the dates are now fixed for her upcoming UK workshops, entitled:
The Wisdom of Menstruation: Spirituality and the Body

UK readers, please pass this on to any younger women you know who are interested in the spiritual aspects of the female hormonal cycle:
Alexandra explains:
'There is an enormous elemental force at work in women's bodies that is both intensely intimate and universal: ecstatic, creative, erotic, restorative and full of love. We can enter the depth of this space monthly at menstruation and the menstrual cycle is our training ground for fully realising this power.
In this workshop we will explore how the cycle provides the template for a woman's psychological and spiritual maturation, and menstruation itself the doorway to the ecstatic sacred. A woman who fully appreciates her cyclic experience becomes more sensitive to her own intimate rhythms and the greater rhythms of life, developing a rich emotional and intuitive wisdom. She has the intelligence of head and heart, a spirit of sovereign authority sourced from a deep inner connection with herself and her relationship with the World.
A workshop for all women, through engaged dialogue and experiential exercise we will unfold the woman's path of power and wisdom and how to live it in today's world.
Note: Whilst not a health workshop, for those of you who suffer with menstrual problems or for some reason feel at war with your bodies, this workshop is potentially enormously healing.
Details: (this workshop will be run in two parts. Part 1 stands on its own, however if you wish to deepen into the material more I recommend you also do Part 2. Part 2 cannot be done unless you have already done a previous workshop with me)
Part 1: June 4, London. Contact: Alternatives at or ring 0207 287 6711
Part 2: June 18, 2005 London. Contact: Alexandra and/or +44 156 8750621 (after May 29)'


Small Helpings of Chicken Soup

Those prolific Chicken Soup people are now starting on a new series of small books which they are calling the Healthy Living Series, the first batch of which is going on sale in April.

Unlike most books, these won't be appearing in bookstores right away, but for the first few months will only be on sale in some of the large, US chain stores. (An interesting way of doing it, I thought!) Anyway, one of the four is about menopause, and was edited by Dr. Susan Henrix, D.O., who was in charge of that study that rang all the alarm bells about hormone replacement therapy.

It contains a little story I wrote about something that happened during my own menopausal journey, eighteen years ago. (Feels like a past life, now, it is so long ago!).

Sisters across the Pond, please let me know if you spot anyone at the checkout with the book in their trolley.




What a wonderful idea. A co-housing community specifically for older people who believe in simple living and the importance of late-life spirituality. There is one such place being developed by a group in Abingdon, VA, USA. It is called the Elderspirit Community

Their values statement includes such items as:

'Members believe that spiritual growth is the primary work of those in the later stages of life. Members encourage one another in the search for meaning in life and commitment to a spiritual path. Freedom of religion is fundamental.'

'Members develop face-to-face relationships through which they offer and receive support. They express their needs and convictions, listen to each other and strive to act responsibly, considering their good and the good of the other.'

'Conscious that over-consumption by persons in wealthy countries threatens the earth's living systems, members seek a simplified lifestyle that reflects a respectful relationship with the environment.'


Ashes and Snow

I have been absolutely blown away by the images that I have seen from this exhibition by Gregory Colbert. (That is one of them at the top of the newsletter, and here's another, at right). The exhibition, which was originally held in Venice, opened in New York - on Pier 54 in the Hudson River Park - in early March, where it will remain until June 6. It will travel from there to Los Angeles, where it will open on Santa Monica Pier in December.


The exhibition, which has its own portable, recyclable building, constructed from empty shipping containers, is 'nomadic' and will continue to travel permanently around the world. Colbert's photographs - of humans interacting with other animals - are absolutely stunning. When I first saw them, I thought they had been edited on a computer but they haven't. They are all exactly as Colbert took them.


Discussion Group

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."

if you are worried about the mechanics of accessing the group online, of if you are worried about privacy issues, let me reassure you. You don't have to go on to the Yahoo website or register with Yahoo. There are two levels of membership: full membership (for which you do have to register) and "discussion list only" (for which you don't). All you have to do to be part of the ongoing discussion is let me add your name to the list, and the messages will come straight into your e-mail "in" box. You can send a message back to the group just by clicking the "reply" button. It is that simple. All that Yahoo will know about you is your e-mail address.



A Vacation With Ghosts


My first six summers were American suburban, filled with the familiar thrills of Slip 'N Slides and sprinklers, the smell of gasoline lawnmowers and the tickle of grass blades sticking to my skin. Then, the summer I was 7, my mother took me to Japan to visit my grandmother. It was my first trip outside the United States.

My grandmother was very old. She lived by herself in a tiny house, made of paper and wood, that clung to the side of a mountain. A bamboo forest encroached upon it, tall and towering, like some kind of monster lawn grown out of control. The days were humid and hot, and the heat made everything, including time, stand still. It was a complex Asian kind of heat, made of far more than just temperature. It was textured with strange sound and scent: the incessant whine of cicadas; the moist exhalation of forest moss; the hot breeze rattling the bamboo's bladelike leaves; the faint stench of sewage wafting up the mountainside from town.

I was drawn to the forest but scared of it as well, and so I would stand at the edge, looking in. The forest floor was shadowy, but a bright green sunlight filtered through the canopy. There were trees other than bamboo: stout trees, cryptomeria and camphor, with huge wisteria vines looped around their branches that the local children swung from.

I was curious about these Japanese children. While my features showed that I was half-Japanese, in my heart, I was all American, and where I came from - Connecticut - no one else looked like me. Now, here were children whose faces mirrored mine, but who were still not at all like me. Their tongues made high staccato sounds that my ears could not decipher. I recall one little boy calling out to me-taah-zan! taah-zan!-as he swung from his vine. When he landed on the ground, he thumped his chest and yodeled. I ran back into the house.

My mother tried to get me to play with the children, but I didn't exactly trust her. In Japan, she had revealed hidden sides of herself, the existence of which I'd never before suspected. She and I had spoken only English. Now, as I watched her talk to my grandmother in Japanese, switching fluidly from one language to the other, I saw that in this strange new tongue she was a different person-possibly not my mother at all. It made me dizzy, all this switching, but maybe it was the heat.

The heat was relentless, even at night. After dinner we would put on light cotton kimonos called yukata and walk to the public baths, where it was even hotter. Inside the tiled rooms, steam curled from the surface of the large soaking tubs. Pink-fleshed ladies of all sizes and shapes submerged themselves, then slowly rose again from the scalding water. I had never, in all my seven years of living, imagined there could be so many shapes of ladies.

After we came out of the bath, my grandmother would buy me a soda in a thick green refillable bottle that looked as if it was made of sea glass. The stopper was a heavy marble, held in place by a rubber gasket, which popped when you pushed it back inside the bottle. After the scalding heat of the baths, that cold soda was the most delicious thing on earth, and even the warm wind felt cool on my skin as we walked home through clouds of fireflies that lighted the darkness.

In the morning my grandmother would make tea; she always offered a cup to the photograph of my dead grandfather that sat on the altar, talking to him as though he were alive. He had moved to America in 1896, when he was just 16, to build himself a life, but during World War II, he was interned and my grandmother, who had followed him there, was left alone in Hawaii. By the time the United States government released him, at the age of 65, they had lost everything. Disenchanted, he and my grandmother moved back to Japan and he died a few years later. Of course, I didn't know any of this then. I just thought it was strange that my grandmother talked to a dead man.

But she wasn't the only one. For three days in August, my grandmother told me, during Obon the spirits of the dead walked among us and the living raised red lanterns to guide them, first safely back to earth, then home again to their spirit world. The festival of the dead has been celebrated in Japan since the seventh century. In my grandmother's town, in 1964, a bamboo tower was raised in the schoolyard for the festival and the townspeople gathered and danced around it. There were fireworks, and it was fun, but I still found it strange to hang out with ghosts.

And then there were the soldiers. Like living ghosts, they wore green military uniforms under bedraggled white robes, and begged for alms on busy street corners. They leaned on dirty crutches. Many were wounded or disfigured - amputees - missing arms or legs or parts of their faces. The legless, resting on small platforms with wheels, were my height exactly, and I could look into their eyes. What I saw was terrifying and I couldn't help but stare. My mother took my wrist and pulled me away. When I demanded more information, she told me the soldiers were veterans of World War II. She seemed embarrassed. Japan had fought America and lost, she said, as though this explained everything.

Years later, when I went back to Japan as a foreign exchange student, I asked people about the crippled soldiers begging on the street corners, but no one seemed to remember them or be willing to talk about them. Confused, I wrote to my mother, but she said I must have made it up. She said that while there may have been soldiers begging shortly after the war, they would certainly have been gone by the time she and I went to Japan. She didn't actually say I was lying, but since I'd always been a storyteller, she was accustomed to attributing these discrepancies to an overactive imagination.

But the image of the soldiers persists. How could I have made it up? I was only 7, a postwar child who knew nothing of war's mutilations. I remember the hard red sheen of their scars, the brownish scent of the bandages. But when I went back to Japan in 1975, it was as if the clocks had been rewound, and the soldiers had been erased from history.

Now in midsummer, there are days when the air becomes heavy, and time stands still. Of course, in New York there are no forest mosses, no bamboo or eucalyptus trees looped with vines, but in my neighborhood, there are children swinging in the parks and playgrounds. Watching them, I remember how a light bulb went off in my head, when I ran back from the forest to my grandmother's house, and my mother translated the little boy's strange words. Taah-zan, she explained, was Japanese for Tarzan.

I was delighted! I knew all about Tarzan. It was an American film, after all, and, when I was 7, knowing that these Japanese kids had adopted my country's story was hugely comforting to me. So I ran back into the forest. Pushing the little boy out of the way, I grabbed hold of a stout vine, thumped my chest and swung.

© Ruth Ozeki, 2004

Ruth Ozeki is an award-winning author and filmmaker. Her first novel, "My Year of Meats," tells the story of Jane and Akiko, two women on opposite sides of the planet, whose lives are connected by a TV cooking show. It is a sexy, poignant, funny tale of about global meat and media production. In her second novel, "All Over Creation," a prodigal daughter returns home to a small farming community in Idaho to care for her elderly parents and, in the process, learns valuable lessons about love and reconciliation...and potatoes! Both novels were New York Times Notable Books, and have received various awards and recognitions. Ruth's website is:




Release the Past, Heal Your Heart

By Carna Zacharias-Miller

 Menopause has an irritating tendency to bring up "old stuff". When you were young, you tried so hard to be happy and successful - and now, everything seems to fall apart. Old childhood wounds of being unlovable, rejected, or "not good enough" are breaking open, negative emotions, like anger, show up in most unpleasant ways. If this sounds familiar, you probably suffer from "Missing Mother Syndrome" (or is it somebody you know?). Not to worry: it's a chance.  

When Hope Edelman published her book "Motherless Daughters - The Legacy of Loss" in 1994, everyone who belonged to the secret sisterhood of women who were traumatized by early mother loss, had a revelation: That's exactly how I feel - and I am not alone!

Growing up without the secure presence of a loving, supportive mother is much more than lacking a same-sex role model: It is devastating. Since the mother is the first, the basic caretaker, losing her -in a physical or emotional way- starts a nightmare of deprivation for a child. In a way, it never ends. Many negative conditions and feelings experienced later in life, may have their roots in this extremely traumatic experience. 

You could suffer from "Missing Mother Syndrome", if you experience the following conditions on a regular basis:

  • You feel lost, out of place, and unsafe in this world
  • There is an underlying sadness in your life, even if nothing is wrong
  • You tend to feel lonely and depressed, especially at other people's "Happy Family" gatherings
  • You hate your body or are unsure about "being a woman"
  • You have abandonment or anger issues that hurt your relationships
  • You experience social stress: You either try to stay invisible, or you have a compulsion to be in the limelight
  • Any major crisis in your life, like a divorce, job loss, or bereavement, throws you right back into the painful past
  • There is a lot of fear, anxiety, or even guilt and shame in
    your life
  • You feel homesick without knowing where "home" is
  • You are trying too hard to be happy and "perfect"
  • You take rejection very personally
  • You believe that everybody else gets their act together - except for you

Happiness is not a single, solid "thing" that one can chase down, obtain and possess. It is rather a fluid quality that evolves naturally, when the obstructions that keep it from being are dissolved. Childhood trauma certainly is a major obstruction. What better time to heal it than NOW, when you have all the freedom to change your life. 

Carna Zacharias-Miller, EFT-CC, EFT-ADV, is a spiritual writer and EFT practitioner in Florida. EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques) is a form of emotional acupressure. She offers live and telephone sessions. Her specialty is helping "Motherless Daughters" to release the painful past and heal their hearts.





Damming the River of Life

"The water here in our village," said the waiter, putting the jug down on the table next to the big plate of Greek salad, the basket of fresh, home-baked bread and the bowl of tzatziki, " very good."

He was right. I had never tasted anything so utterly pure and wonderful. I wanted to bring it home by the bottleful and hoard it - except that if I had, it would have lost its freshness and its sparkle and that certain aliveness typical of water just drawn from the spring. Not to mention the suspicious looks I'd get from the customs officers at the airport. They would probably have insisted on pouring it out. "Quarantine regulations," they would have told me. "You can't bring water from some Greek village in here. Sorry madam."

However, despite the fact that I would now have to drink the filtered tap water that tasted flat by comparison, there was one thing better about being home again, and that was my juice extractor. Now I could go to my greengrocer's once again, and bring back bags of those large, deep-coloured, organically-grown carrots, and make tall, frothing glasses of sweet and flavourful carrot juice. Sometimes I added ginger, for a change, and what a lovely 'zing' that gave it. Other times, I mixed it with celery - or spinach or apple. (Or beetroot - now there's a colour combination!). The possibilities were endless.

Then there were all those kilos of loose grapes from the bottoms of the boxes. Grapes the greengrocer would otherwise have thrown out, since no-one wanted to buy them. So for no cost at all except the electricity for running the juicer, I could supply pure, fresh grape juice for the whole family, in copious quantities.

Is it any wonder, I thought to myself the other day, looking at the latest photograph of my grandsons, that they all turned out so healthy? There is a river of life and health which always ran right through the centre of their lives, washing their bodies, their kidneys, their sparkling eyes.

And in the winter, there was soup. Another old family tradition. Aunt Jinnie - my grandmother's sister - made the best soup. She kept a huge, cast-iron pot of it standing perpetually at the back of her stove. On cold winter days, a bowl of Aunt Jinnie's soup was the best thing in all the world.

An ongoing creation, it tasted different from day to day. What started out as, perhaps, a simple brew of vegetables and beans on Monday would have been transformed into minestrone by Tuesday with the addition of some tomato paste and garlic, and a sprinkling of parmesan. Servings taken out were balanced by the leftover vegetables, the potato water etc. which went into it after dinner, subtly altering the flavour again. Then, with the help of some Indian spices, it would have transmogrified into mulligatawny by Wednesday. It remained delicious.

Following Aunt Jinnie's example, I, too, fed my family home made soup that varied in flavour, colour, texture and ingredients from one day to the next. No two pots of it were ever quite the same.

My daughters, I am pleased to say, have kept that river of life flowing. Pure water, fresh, organic juices, home made soup. Their eyes - and their children's eyes - still sparkle. How long, I wonder, can we all hold out? Forever, if I had my way, but then, I won't be here forever. And there are those who would dam the river.

In 1993, the Annual Report of the Coca Cola company contained the following words:

"All of us in the Coca-Cola family wake up each morning knowing that every single one of the world's 5.6 billion people will get thirsty that day...If we make it impossible for these 5.6 billion people to escape Coca-Cola,.....then we assure our future success for many years to come. Doing anything else is not an option."

The following year the CEO of Campbell's Soup Company wrote in his company's annual report:
"As I look to the future, I shiver with business excitement. That's because Campbell's Soup Company is engaged in a 'Global Consumer Crusade.'....The aim is to convert millions of new customers to Campbell brands every year. We are moving across the oceans and into new nation-states and blocs. The joy of it is that there is no speed limit on our progress. We can't be fined for speeding. Rather, the cheering will grow louder and stronger the faster we go...especially from our share-owners...The potential rewards of this Global Consumer Crusade are virtually limitless."

Like I said, they want to dam the river. Will they succeed? Only if we let them.

© Marian Van Eyk McCain, 2001



Don't be shy - send in your writings.

Send me 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.


The Guest House
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they're a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing, and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

-- Rumi



(I love to get your letters, Keep them coming).

Enid, from New Mexico, used to call herself 'Enid/Tiger'. But she wrote to me recently:

'...having become an octogenarian, I decided I am about as aggressive and assertive as I am likely to GET. I have chosen "Enid/ Meadowlark" instead. This bird, according to an animal symbolism book, "usually indicates that you are about to experience a cheerful journey into
the inner you.'
Enid is involved in the Peace and Justice Center in Albuquerque, '..helping monthly with their large Mailings; and being a part of the Raging Grannies group (we sing incendiary songs, do a Grannie Rap and a Geriatric CanCan). We sing every year on Hiroshima Peace Day in Santa Fe or Los Alamos.'
She also comes to Crones Counsel, so I'll be seeing her again in San Diego in October.

(Speaking of which, I just heard this morning that Ann Baylay, who runs Elderwoman workshops in New Zealand -see's_page.htm - is coming to San Diego too. Yay!!)


Kytka, now 41, read Elderwoman four years ago and has been a great ambassador for the book, saying that she thinks women of all ages should read it. And men too - she recently lent it to a male friend of hers aged 56 who enjoyed it and said he thought there should be one for eldermen also. Kytka says: 'The male groups that sometime surround him have been mocking him and being quite caveman-like... but he is strong and thinks that women are the key to all.'

About herself, she writes:

'I have been on a very natural and holistic path for over 14 years now. Three wonderful children, all born at home and breastfed until they decided to wean... natural foods, products, lifestyle choices... I am so committed to the lifestyle and natural rhythms and places that I could no longer bear to live in the US. So, now we all live in Costa Rica.'

Kytka has a website for Waldorf homeschoolers which is a truly wonderful resource, so if you know any parents who are homeschooling, or are interested in softer, gentler, more natural methods of education than the mainstream, point them to


 Christine, from Grande Prairie Alberta, writes:
'I am part of the Celebrating Northern Women non-profit organization where we honour 6 women every year, who are nominated by their friends, families, colleagues for outstanding contribution to the community in a number of categories. My part is to help with the dessert reception and I have chosen with conscious intention to find something inspirational about women that I print on paper and wrap as a scroll at each place for all the guests (usually around 400) to take home.'
So for her 'something inspirational,' she's going to use my description of the Elderwoman. What a wonderful way to spread the word! Thank you, Christine.


(from the newsletter of 'Aging Adventurer', Emily Kimball

'I found it interesting what Kathie Lee of Regis and Kathie fame has to say about turning 50. "You know I turned 50 a year and a half ago and I'm like, 'Why am I so...happy about that?' I think it has to do with the fact that I could have the kind of life I wanted. It enabled me to take time - for the first time in my life -to do something right."

She is now producing her first musical. "Our culture is saying to me, especially a woman in this industry, 'It's over for you. You, the women who are ovulating - step to the front!' And I'm going, 'You know what? I'm more creative now than I've ever been in my life.' I have more to offer because of what I've lived."'




The Elderwoman Newsletter by Marian Van Eyk McCain, March 2005
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