by Rita Gelman
I’m back in Portland after the annual Crones Counsel conference in Mt. Shasta, California. I had never heard of the group until my friend, Jessica Bryan, told me about it. I decided it would be great research for my “Getting Older with a Smile” book, so I drove the 364 miles from Portland for the four-day conference.
Let me start with the drive. I did it all on Interstate Highway 5. What a gorgeous state! Hills, fields, mountains, lakes, rivers (on the inland route), a lot of sheep and cows (including fields full of Black Angus), horses, and even llamas! There were acres of picked pumpkins ready for Halloween and one incredibly huge lumber yard with what seemed like miles of trees, boards, and equipment. There are also tons of bare hills and others with young trees. Everything I’ve read seems to indicate Oregonians are well aware and concerned about the environmental impact. Fall was in full bloom . . . with tons of colors decorating the mostly evergreen mountains, brown hills, and fields. The state was crying for rain.
The conference was great. Crones Counsel has groups all over the country ― all women ― from mid-fifties to mid-nineties. The unifying themes are authenticity and connecting. It felt like a huge family (more than 200 women) and we were encouraged to be open, touchy, honest, chatty … I loved it.
There were lots of workshops and various topical sessions ― all relating on some level to aging as a woman. ― The Laughter Club scheduled two sessions a day, ten minutes per session for laughing! Excessively and unselfconsciously.
The Storytelling sessions invited anyone who wanted to tell a story to sit in the first row. There were a couple of hours each day for timed stories. And what fabulous stories! About childhood, liberation, death, joy, disappointments, relationships . . . My favorite story was told by a woman who had stretched out next to her mother who was in a coma and “on her way out.” The mother hadn’t communicated for days. The daughter lay next to her and began to sing the songs that her mother had sung to her when she was a child. Suddenly her mother began to sing. She left this earth with a song on her lips and in her heart. (That wasn’t the only story that made me cry!) ― When the first Storytelling session began, the leader talked about the role of the wise Crone and the importance of loving ourselves and reaching out to others with authenticity. She also announced that if anyone wanted a standing ovation, she could just get up and ask for one! There were those who did!
Every day we split into small groups (mine had seven women), for an hour and a half. They were called Wisdom Circles. My group’s topic was Joy. I loved it. My Joy pals have been emailing each other since we left.
The mood of the conference was light for the most part. We were encouraged to let go and find both the child and the wisdom in ourselves. By the time those four days were over, everyone had experienced parts of themselves they had buried and parts they never knew were there. Our book (I’m collaborating with Betty Morgan), Getting Older with a Smile: Breaking the Rules of Aging, will definitely benefit from the conference. Morgan and I are planning to help readers experience joy, play, creativity, and liberation from cultural norms. It’s still in the planning stage and if you happen to be a publisher, an agent, or just a potential reader with ideas, please send me an e-mail. firstname.lastname@example.org . All ideas are welcome. Rita Golden Gelman, author, Tales of a Female Nomad, Living at Large in the World, and Female Nomad and Friends, Breaking Free and Breaking Bread Around the World.
Banner from the Gathering: