Issue #7, September, 2004

Welcome to the September issue of the Elderwoman Newsletter - a place where 21st Century elderwomen meet, connect and rub noses with each other in cyberspace. 


View from the Desk
Feature Article "Treasure on the Corner"
Call for Submissions
Book Review
Last Laugh


Dear Friends,

The last time I sat down to tell you about the view from this desk, I was saying how nice it was that the rain had finally come. Well yes, it was. But the old saying, "It never rains but it pours" seems to be appropriate here. Britain has just had its wettest August on record. In many places, the entire summer was the wettest ever recorded. Our little garden is like a green and dripping sponge. Meanwhile, an Australian friend who is staying with me at the moment is having huge difficulty making herself pour the washing-up water down the sink instead of taking it outside to put on the flowers. An eight year drought has changed the water-using habits of a nation, she says, and not only the greenies among them.

This newsletter is somewhat shorter than usual, I'm afraid, as I am rather pushed for time. I am just getting ready to leave for the US. I'll be in Boston, in New Mexico - and at Crones Counsel again, this time in Las Vegas. So I am sure I shall see some of you there. And if anyone is along my route, let me know. I'd love to meet up with you for a cup of herbal tea.




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The publishers have changed the cover design of my new book, The Lilypad List, and I must say I am absolutely thrilled with the new one.

I have arranged a special offer for my newsletter readers. If you order this book online from the Findhorn Press website, you will get a further 25% discount on top of the usual 20% discount. Plus, if you order at least 1 copy of The Lilypad List, you will get that same discount rate on anything else ordered at the same time. To obtain that discount, enter the promotion code lilypadVE (exactly) in the relevant field at the payment stage of placing your order. (At the time of posting this, the book was not yet on the website, but will be soon, so if it's not there, check again later).
"A book of profound insights, at once inspiring and practical."
Satish Kumar, Editor - Resurgence Magazine

As you can see, the new cover is totally different. It is designed to appeal to women of the Baby Boom generation, many of whom may have been scared off by the wrinkles on the old cover. And they are the ones I most want to reach.

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.... And speaking of book covers..

Now that the first printing of Elderwoman has almost sold out, the publishers have decided to give the book a new cover.

As you may recall, there have been problems with the original cover since Day One. Some people loved it and some people - including several of my friends - hated it. Apparently, the distributor's representatives disliked the cover so much that they would not promote it to bookstores. So Findhorn Press said that if I would not agree to a new cover they would let it go out of print. Obviously I didn't want that to happen.


I would love to hear all your reactions to this new cover.

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Do you recall that in the June newsletter, Maggie Lowe told us about the "Crones Day" held in May at her home in Australia's Blue Mountains?

To remind you, here's what she wrote:

"...Before the day, all participants were asked bring one item from nature, from their own surroundings, e.g. stone, seedpod, flower, feather or similar, and a piece of fabric any shape, size, colour. Something pleasing or with a story in their life, disposable, no commercial value.
To start the day, each person introduced herself and pinned her fabric onto a piece of calico the intention was to create a mandala as a centrepiece for our activities. ... we gathered some more items from nature to decorate our mandala. Flowers, both native and exotic, bark, weeds, leaves, cones, stones etc. we placed on the mandala which instantly gained an extra dimension from the gifts of nature

Well, Madeleine, who led this group in some of the Dances of Universal Peace, was in England recently and came to visit me. She brought her cousin with her. We had a wonderful day, talking non-stop about our lives and experiences. Madeleine brought some photos with her. Here is her photo of the mandala, in its raw form.

 Someone skilled in fabric art is going to work with it to create a permanent centrepiece for future crone days and rituals. What a great idea.

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Treasure on the Corner" by Marian Van Eyk McCain

Something reminded me of Mr Blundell this morning.

Mr. Blundell was a grocer. Not a "store manager" in a navy blue suit with a plastic name badge and matching, plastic smile, but a proper grocer, who wore a fresh white apron every day, with a bib that came to just below the buttons of his shirt collar

His arms had fine, gingery hairs, undersown with freckles that extended right across the backs of his hands. Big, capable hands those were, with fingers that could select a square of paper and have it deftly shaped into a cone before you finished saying "demerara sugar..."

He sold local eggs. And local butter - huge, golden slabs of it, on a board, ready to cut to size and to imprint each block with the profile of a cow.

From the waxy wheels of cheese, Mr Blundell's thin wire could cut you a wedge that was never more than half an ounce over the weight you specified - a skill so finely honed that when he held out the wedge for your inspection, on its square of greaseproof paper, it would have seemed shamefully petty to request that it be further trimmed.

He could cut slices of ham so thin you could have held them up like net curtains and read the wording on the Colman's mustard poster right through them.

Not that anyone ever did that, of course. Such bizarre behaviour would have been unthinkable. For there was a code of conduct in that shop; an age-old ritual, a dance, of which every step was already choreographed. It began the moment you pushed open the door, and the pinging of the bell announced your entry into the ritual space.

"Morning," Mr B would say, dropping the inflection on the second syllable. And then, as he met your gaze, a big smile would crease his face. "How are you this morning - all right?"

Discussion of the weather was next. That part could take a little longer, offering ample opportunity for elaboration. This served to bind the participants, to bring them close in shared misfortune or in shared delight, as they either muttered their indignation at the wrath of whatever baleful sky gods had chosen to single out this place for especially rotten treatment, or, on the luckier days, congratulated themselves on the special grace of sunshine, blue sky and sweet breezes.

Sometimes the shop, with its sugar sacks, its iron scales, and its smell of tea and cheese, contained just Mr Blundell, standing behind his tall, wooden counter, or pottering about. More often, though, you would find him already slicing or cutting, weighing or wrapping, and there would be a conversation in full swing. As the bell pinged, and you walked down the two steps, faces would turn towards you. The circle would widen, drawing you into the gentle ritual of meeting and greeting, and of remembering the significant events in other people's lives upon which comment could - and should - be safely made.

"How's your sore wrist - coming along?"

"Bill enjoying his new job?"

"Saw your daughter in town. My how that baby is growing"

"So sad about poor Elsie...."

It was a pleasant ritual, and filled an important need - the ancient, tribal need for connection which can never be satisfied by standing, glassy-eyed, in a supermarket queue, each in our own bubble of self-absorption, taking our turn to be processed through the checkout, our very selves as anonymous as the identical packets of sugar, the vacuum-packed ham slices and the butter flown in from the other end of the world.

What stands on that corner now, I wonder? Did they demolish Mr. Blundell's shop to make more room for parking? Did they cart away the scales, with their pyramid of weights, the sacks, the tea chests, the mustard and Bovril posters and faithfully re-erect them in a theme park somewhere, to rest, immobile as pinned butterflies, under the sentimental yet unseeing gaze of visitors to a past so lately, heedlessly, thoughtlessly lost? Or did some new people take it over, modernise it a little, improve the lighting, put in a freezer, buy in whole grain rice and herb tea and try - because they cared so much about the way the world is going - to staunch the ever-increasing haemorrhage of cash from their neighbourhood into the pockets of greedy, transnational corporations? If those noble folk are still struggling to revitalize their local economy, will they win? Can they - can we - change a society which, from ignorance, laziness, or brainwashing, has now come to accept supermarket shopping as a way of life, forgetting all the small treasures lost along the way? Treasures like Mr Blundell.

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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 quote, a new discussion topic - whatever snippet you want to share. This newsletter is a forum for exchanging ideas and experiences, a place to network. So please - send me your words.

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I just bought a book for my youngest grandchildren which I absolutely love. It is a marvellous twist on the creation story called Big Mama Makes the World, by Phyllis Root, with the most wonderful illustrations by Helen Oxenbury (Walker Books, 2002) The Sunday Times called it "one of the picture books of the year." 


"Maybe the things we're working on today won't bring about changes for years. But, it's just as important that we do them." Virginia Ramirez

"We have to balance our knowing with a recognition of our deep unknowing."
-- Margaret Somerville

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 Uncanny, isn't it?

The Elderwoman Newsletter © Marian Van Eyk McCain, September 2004
The Elderwoman website:
Marian's e-mail: marian(at)  
NB: remember to replace the word "at" with an @) sign. And please either insert OKEM in the subject line or make sure the subject line says something meaningful., as messages with blank subject lines - or generic ones like "hello," - or even "hello Marian" - may not get through my three layers of spam filtering! Unfortunately, the filters are a necessity, for otherwise my in-box floods with spam. 


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