Issue #3, September 2003

Welcome to the September Equinox edition of the "Elderwoman Newsletter."

Yay! We have reached and passed that magic hundred subscribers mark since the second issue, just as I had hoped we would. It delights me to see this list growing. Do please keep spreading the word.


View from the Desk
Talking Point - Communities
Addictions - Jan Coleman
Feature Article - A Lesson from L
Call for Submissions
Poetry - Making Peace - Gaea Yudron
Solitude - Oystermoon
Last Laugh


Dear Friends,

This third edition of the newsletter comes to you a little early, because I shall be away from my desk for most of October. But as we have just passed the equinox, this seems like a perfect time to be sending out a newsletter anyway.

When I did the first newsletter, it was Spring here, so I called it the Spring issue, and the next one the Summer issue. But the more subscribers we get from the southern hemisphere, the more it seems unfair to tie it all to our northern seasons, so I have decided to switch to solstices and equinoxes instead.

Here, the trees are gradually beginning to change colour and we are having those wonderful, misty mornings. After several weeks of warmth, the wind changed direction yesterday, and sudden, cool gusts sent the leaves of our huge hawthorn swirling down like golden rain. On my morning walks I see squirrels busy stocking up on acorns and hazelnuts. And the first sweet chestnuts are beginning to litter the path through the woods - little prickly packages that remind me so much of my childhood and the huge chestnut tree that overhung our garden.

I know that readers on the other side of the world are heading into Spring, and by Melbourne Cup Day - if not before - the first taste of hot weather will have come. And between this newsletter and the next, the cicadas will start crawling out from their long, dark sojourns underground to greet the southern Summer, leaving their weird, paper-thin skins on the tree trunks and whirring from tree to tree, filling the evening air with their strident songs.

Right now, though, all our days and nights are equal. Northerners and southerners are like ships sailing in opposite directions, passing each other twice a year at these equinoxes.

I'm looking forward to the exciting events of next month - my first ever visit to Crones Counsel, (being held this year in Boise, ID), then the Gather the Women Congress in San Francisco, and then hanging out with family in the Washington DC area.

All the women attending the GTW Congress have been asked to make and bring a "soul collage," and also to bring ribbons and lengths of fabric to weave together as a symbol of the conference theme, "Weaving a World that Works." It was fun making my collage. (I must confess I couldn't help smiling to myself as I imagined the consternation there might be if someone asked a whole bunch of men to bring a soul collage along with them to a conference!). The piece of fabric that I am taking for the weaving is being decorated by all the members of our Women's Group with embroidery and appliqué etc , so that they will all be there with me - in spirit if not in person - and that feels wonderful. Our group is one of the circles in the Millionth Circle Project started by Jean Shinoda Bolen, who will be one of the speakers at the Congress.

There will be women at the Congress from Iraq, Afghanistan, Israel and Palestine, as well as many other places.

I'll give you a full report on my experiences of these events in the next newsletter.





Quote from the GTW website:

"Women everywhere are hearing the call that we MUST come together and work together to save our planet. That was the call being heard when Gather the Women was first envisioned a little over a year ago and that is the call that sparked the idea of the Congress -- a unique collaborative event between over 20 organisations. Delegates participating in the Congress will be inspired by over a dozen dynamic featured speakers, enjoy music, drumming, sounding and beautiful, interactive art displays, participate in numerous workshops and enjoy a sneak preview of the new PeaceXPeace documentary, Women in the Front Lines. In addition each delegate to the Congress will also be involved in an ongoing circle process geared to deepening our connections to one another and to co-creating a coalition that will enable our individual organisations to move forward with greater impact by working together." ( Return to top)


I just discovered a wonderful elderwoman by the name of Emily Kimball. Some of you know her already. Emily is someone with a real zest for life, and even a recent run-in with breast cancer doesn't seem to have dampened her spirits for long. Emily reminds us about the importance of advocating for oneself with medical professionals. She writes:

Do you sometimes feel that the doctor is writing you off as an older person who he(sic) just needs to prop up for a bit longer, but not necessarily bring back to a quality of life? In a recent bout with sciatica I wanted desperately to get back to my
active routines, so I found a physical therapist who was a bike racer, and rode
my bike to his office. This helped him to understand how active I am and how important it was to reach full recovery. And recover I did.

She reminds us, too, about the importance of staying in shape:
The nurse taking my blood pressure before surgery asked me if I exercised a lot. "Why do you ask," I inquired. "Because you have a very strong heart for a 71 year old," she replied.

The better health we are in as we age the more ready we are to combat successfully the diseases of old age. So keep up that exercise routine, eat right, stay engaged in life, and keep your mind active. It will pay off in more years of healthy living.

Check out Emily's website at She has a free newsletter too.

Do you ever visit the OmPlace website? For those of you who don't know it, OmPlace is a web portal, one of those websites - like Yahoo and MSN - which is an entry point to all sorts of other things on the Internet. Only unlike Yahoo etc., this one has a "mind/body/spirit" feel to it. You can have your own e-mail address there, join in discussions, look up information on all sorts of topics, send beautiful, visionary art e-cards and sign up for a newsletter which has links to all sorts of interesting articles. It even has recipes.

The reason I am telling you all this is because I just signed up to be a "moderator" for one of the topics - "Women and Aging" - so I have my own page on OmPlace now. And that will also include a discussion board. So for now, that solves the problem of whether or not to have one on the Elderwoman website. I haven't started the OmPlace discussion board off yet, but I will do so as soon as I come back from my trip and I'll invite you all to join in the conversation, post topics of your own etc.

And speaking of discussion topics, that leads me on to the next item........



Gaea Yudron, whose inspiring poem Making Peace appears below, writes:

"I am interested in the development of co-operative low cost housing...I know that many elder women are living with frugal means. I dream of a contemplative retirement community, simple, mutually respectful, preferably in nature. I have not yet put my time or energy into creating anything of the sort, but I do think of it quite a bit.. I wonder if any of you have any models to share...?"

I have had several letters from a woman in Wales who has been thinking of something like that also. And Emily Kimball mentions in her newsletter that there will be a group of people meeting in North Carolina next month looking at " Creating Community in Later Life." So maybe there is something stirring in the collective unconscious about this. Let us know what else you hear on this topic, and what your own thoughts are, will you?
As we know, more and more people are looking at models for more co-operative styles of living, such as eco-villages. And I just reviewed a very timely book on the topic: Creating a Life Together by Diana Leafe Christian (New Society Publishers, Canada, 2003) It is packed full of useful and practical advice for anyone contemplating a more communal style of living, and has a Foreword by the visionary doctor Patch Adams, whose own dream of a healing community is only just now being fully realised after thirty years of visioning and planning and working towards it.

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By Jan Coleman

My friend, Baba Nicole, recently told me that everyone has at least three addictions. Really???
Iım the kind of person who likes to believe that I'm open and willing to ponder ideas that I don't know about. But my first reaction was to say to myself: I don't really have any addictions in my life. After all, I don't drink, smoke, have sex with every man I meet, spend a lot of money, or eat much sugar so where could my addiction be? After watching my patterns for a couple of weeks, I still didn't come up with anything.

Then I took a class called the "Circle of Hearts," which is an ongoing women's spiritual group. In one exercise, we were instructed to draw everything we loved about our lives and surrounded it with a heart.

I drew my lovely home and my wonderful family, friends and roommates. I drew flowers which surround my house, the birds and dogs, my finances, my adjustable bed (where I can go up and down, up and down, at a push of a button), my spiritual home where I worship, my special love for my cosmic connection with God/Goddess, and my Starbucks Frappuccino....
........a Frappuccino!!!??

How did this get into my drawing? I love this drink but is LOVE the right word for a drink?

Ah ha! Is this what I was looking for? Is this my addiction? "Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary" says that an addiction is the compulsive psychological need for a habit. My housemate, Jamie, says that an addiction is a mood altering experience which does not allow you to be intimate with God, with yourself, and with other human beings.

Now I really have something to ponder.

After not too much thought, this is what I've finally decided to do. I going to let matters rest, detach from this process, quit looking for addictions, and just enjoy my life and my wonderful Grandé, extra caramel, Frappuccino.

© Jan Coleman 2003

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A Lesson from L

L was a large, glossy, black cat with a sweetly affectionate nature and a delightful personality. We shared our lives for nineteen years. He has been gone a long time now, but I remember him often.

We spent most evenings together, curled up cosily on the couch. When bedtime came, I used to scoop him up in my arms and carry him towards the back door. He would snuggle into my chest, purring happily the whole way to the door, and stay that way even when I opened the door and the chill, night air crept around us both. He always kept purring right up to that very last moment when his paws touched the cold, brick paving of the patio. Whereupon he would yawn, stretch, give a tiny little shudder, and stride off purposefully into the night.

A crazy fantasy occasionally came into my head as I watched him make his almost instant adaptation to his changed circumstances. What if our positions were reversed? What if he were a giant cat and I were a tiny human and he had decided that I could spend my evening by his hearth but that I should spend my nights in the shed instead of the house? Can't you just imagine it? By nine p.m. I would be glancing sideways at the clock, wondering how much longer I had left to enjoy the warmth and comfort of the sofa. I would have an ear cocked for the sound of wind or rain, and an intense interest in the weather forecast on TV. I would be watching my master carefully, hoping against hope that he would keep reading his book a little longer. When the dreaded moment arrived and he stood up and looked at me, my heart would sink. My body would already be contracted against the inevitable and my mind frantically occupied with plans for escape, tales of resentment, or fantasies of revenge.

And yet.... when I found myself outside, standing shivering and alone on the patio, with the door shut behind me, and there was no alternative but to accept the situation and simply get on with it, what would I do then? I would get on with it, of course. Just like L. One generally does. So what is the difference, then, between L's experience and my own? It is a difference of at least two hours and a great deal of pleasure. He has enjoyed that time - I would have wasted it.

Much as I envy my dear departed friend's ability to live in the moment, like so many other humans I have always found it impossible not to think and worry about the future. It is one of the disadvantages of our sophisticated brain development, unfortunately. But one of the good things about being an old woman is that I have had time to discover what appears to be a law of nature, as regards misfortune and disaster.

For I have noticed, over all these years, that no matter how much I dreaded something, the reality of it, when it did happen, was always a lot easier to cope with than all the worry and apprehension which preceded it.

It is a bit like buying a door handle. Most often, when you buy a new door handle, it comes in a little plastic package, complete with the correct number of the right-sized screws with which to fix it to the door. In the same way, I have discovered that every crisis comes in a package which includes the exact amount of strength and fortitude one is going to need to cope with it. When that strength and fortitude are applied, then, just like the door handle, each crisis we experience enables us to open a door into new possibilities in our lives. When we worry about something before it happens, it is like trying to fix on a new door handle with no screws available. That is why things always appear so much more difficult in rehearsal.

Seeing that proved over and over again seems to have helped me to deal with worry. Now, when I catch myself lying awake at night, obsessing about something awful which may or may not happen, I no longer waste time trying to kid myself that it really won't. Instead, I pat myself gently on the shoulder and say "Even if it does happen, rest assured that you will be able to cope with it when the time comes. The door handle will come complete with the necessary screws, OK?"

Maybe my dear old L knew that. Or maybe he knew that even the cold, dark night is full of interesting possibilities and growthful experiences. Not just for cats, either.

© Marian Van Eyk McCain 2001 (This article first appeared in the Australian magazine Living Now)

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It is great to see more people sending in material. Please keep it coming. A piece of writing, a poem, a story, an announcement that you think would be interesting to others, a comment on one of these articles, a new discussion topic - whatever you want to share. I want this to grow into a forum for exchanging ideas and experiences, a place to network. So please - send me your words.

Also, send me your ideas on the sorts of things you would like to read in the newsletter.
I am thinking of having an article in the next one about dreams, and ways of working with them. Has anyone had a really interesting/unusual/meaningful or puzzling dream lately that you would like to share? It would be great to have some recent dreams to illustrate the article. (You can remain anonymous if you prefer).

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Making Peace

By Gaea Yudron


You don't have to be a poet to know

How many wars have been fought since your birth

Everywhere, from the unspoken agonies of the family hearth

to bloody massacres in countries far away,

So many wars, one cannot even be expected to list them all

or know how many have died.

And with each war, the wounded, the dead, and those left to live on

In the ruins of whatever life once went on there,

holding in one's heart the memory

of the particular beauties of the place,

which has been tortured

into unnatural way stations of the soul.


You don't have to be a poet to know

how many deaths you are complicit in

even when you never agreed

to any of those wars from the day of your birth.

Even if you grieve for nameless people

Roomfuls of them, lying covered with dust in

some village in Africa, or out along

the roadside forgotten and ignored


Some people will tell you, "Oh, that's the human struggle,

that's the way life is,

there will always be war."

But do you buy it? Do you gradually

erode your spirit into that political propaganda?


I do not want to use wars as a marker of my lifespan,

even in the midst of this age,

known as the Kali Yuga.

It may be an age of Darkness,

but one is free to choose another way.

One does not have to be a recognised holy person

to choose another way.

Any one of us can do it.


You don't have to be a magician to know

that the Presidency is no longer real.

Perhaps it never was.

At JFK's assassination,

you may have suspected that

some sleight of hand was at work .

Every 4 years I pray for a worthy candidate,

yet no one ever appears who is big enough

to do the job up right. Am I praying to conjure

a world that doesn't exist yet? You bet I am.


So a President who was never really elected,

who slipped through the gates using passwords,

kin, influence, completing an egregious victory,

why isn't a Greek drama written yet about it,

he, most likely insecure in his domain,

clamoured for war from the beginning.

It's the Taliban terrorists, it's Saddam Hussein,

The guy his father never finished off. It's oil.

It's a kind of impotence, a terrible impoverishment.

It's fear. The corruption of power.

You don't have to be a great philosopher to know this.


The other day, a woman in

a Grandmother's Council told us

that she had a photo of George W. Bush on her altar.

Many people gasped in surprise. Why?

We all need praying over.

What will become of us if we

pray for the well-being

of our opponents,

if we gaze into their eyes

if we open ourselves

into a moment of peace and love.


Some people will tell you that it's useless, impossible.

But are you going to buy that?

Some people will tell you that the only good

Indian is a dead Indian, or Persian,

or Jew, or Iraqi, or Moslem, or Bosnian, or

Serb or Croatian or Huutu, but are you

Going to believe that?

© Gaea Yudron 2003

This poem was first published earlier this year in an anthology entitled Oregon Poets Against the War.

Gaea is an author, teacher and Rapid Eye Therapist and you can read more of her writing on her website:

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By Oystermoon


Early morning revival, my everyday ritual, as the sun yawns

and greets the horizon, waking up the beach for another



Repetition precedes me as I walk barefoot on the creamy

white sandy beach, allowing my feet to sink in deep.


My resolve never falters while my cadence finds a rhythm

as I observe the gulls, speaking in a language all their

own, skim the ocean top for their first meal of the



I bend down to scoop up an empty moonshell observing

where a life no longer exists, a strange dichotomy,

where other sea life births so fresh with each new



Walking alone I find my best true self, where I conjure up

my own soul's words, pouring out of me as easily as

honey dripping from a hot spoon.


Sea oats wave to me in a nearby sand dune, flowing with the rhythm of the breezes, acting as foot soldiers, thankful that their tangled root systems protect the

beach from erosion.


My shelling bucket jingles joyously as my beach chair

beckons me back where I sip raspberry iced tea, and

fill blank, white pages with my words.


The hours quickly find the evening, an indication of my

pending departure, as I relinquish the thought that

allows the beach to end its day while I'm still



The amber golden sky affords me just enough light to collect

my things as ardor mounts in anticipation of my return.

Who says heaven is up, out here it is all around.


© Oystermoon 2003

(What a lovely place to live!) Oystermoon welcomes visitors to her website too, at


There is a collective force rising up on the earth today,
an energy of the reborn feminine... This is a time of
monumental shift, from the male dominance of human
consciousness back to a balanced relationship
between masculine and feminine.

-Marianne Williamson (from A Woman's Worth)

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There were 3 good arguments that Jesus was Black:

1. He called everyone "brother".
2. He liked Gospel.
3. He couldn't get a fair trial.

But then there were 3 equally good arguments that Jesus was Jewish:

1. He went into His Fathers business.
2. He lived at home until he was 33.
3. He was sure his Mother was a virgin and his mother was sure he was God.

But then there were 3 equally good arguments that Jesus was Italian:

1. He talked with his hands.
2. He had wine with every meal.
3. He used olive oil. 

But then there were 3 equally good arguments that Jesus was a Californian:

1. He never cut his hair.
2. He walked around barefoot all the time.
3. He started a new religion.

But then there were 3 equally good arguments that Jesus was Irish:

1. He never got married.
2. He was always telling stories.
3. He loved green pastures.

But the most compelling evidence of all - 3 proofs that Jesus was a woman:

1. He fed a crowd at a moment's notice when there was no food.
2. He kept trying to get a message across to a bunch of men who just didn't get it
3. And even when He was dead, He had to get up because there was more work to do.

(Thanks, Jonquil, for keeping me supplied with jokes)

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

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