ONE CRONE’S IMPRESSIONS
by Alta Happ Wertz
Crones Counsel II was held in October 6-9 at the Silverdale-on-the-Bay Hotel in Bremerton, Washington. Half the women there had also attended the first Crone Counsel, held in Jackson, Wyoming, in October 1993. That event attracted 135 women from 16 states; this one drew 180 women from 20 states.
For weeks my friend and I had been anticipating the second Crones Counsel. Now we were on our way. As the freeway propelled us closer to our destination, Silverdale, on one of the inlets along Puget Sound, we were touched on all sides by the beauty of the area. In Jackson, Wyoming last year, the drama of autumn was centered in the majesty of the magnificent Tetons with their snow-capped peaks and austere mystical beauty.
Now, driving along the Olympic Peninsula, we sensed all the elements combining to create a weaving of deep shades of forest green dotted by random patches of swiftly turning golden leaves as background to the smooth waters of the bays and inlets of the Sound. Everythng seemed permeated with the mystical feeling of the Northwest.
With the terrain of these two sites so unlike one another, I wondered how this second Crones Counsel would differ in feeling from last year’s gathering of women in Wyoming. That one had proved to be a close and informal three days of women coming together; an adventure–the beginning growth of something exciting.
Watching Crones Counsel II unfold last October in Silverdale, I was very impressed by the outstanding Washington women who had been successfully organizing themselves into Crone Circles for several years. They had come together to help one another with the management of myriad concerns that older women find themselves facing–from extremely practical issues to those affecting emotional well being. The offer of this group, in October of 1993, to host the second Crones Counsel carried within it a tacit promise that these energetic Seattle area women would be able to organize a great gathering in 1994 for their sister crones.
Inside the northwoodsy Silverdale Resort overlooking the smooth-as-silk water of the Dyes Inlet, the hustle and bustle of arriving crones filled the air with the sounds and sights of warm reunions of friendships begun in Jackson the year before. The resort turned out to be a great place for Crones Counsel II. It had a cozy feeling, much like being in a good-sized lodge instead of a commercial hotel. We were treated warmly by an attentive staff of bright young people who actually seemed to enjoy being exposed to hordes of voluble and extroverted older women! I suspect they were impressed by our humor and good will, along with other qualities they may not have noticed before in women of age. At the very least, we showed them what good fun older women can generate!
From the first evening friendships were reactivated and new ones initiated. The beginning of our weekend was stamped by the colors and feelings of words like Fellowship, Warmth, Support, Understanding, Empathy, Compassion–and perhaps at the top of the list, the Freedom to speak openly in a safe environment, whether in telling one’s own story or just to express an opinion or point of view during one of the many well-planned and useful workshops. The participants ranged widely from the 40s to a greater number of fully matured crones in their 70s and 80s. Emphatically, none could be described as “doddering.”
There were 22 workshops scheduled. Some dealt with very intimate and relevant subjects, like menopause, its connection to Cronings, and sexuality relating to women in later life. Others explored living with change as an aging woman; the cycles of astrology that help us to understand our progression into natural cronehood; “living” while dying. There was even a workshop on maximizing financial security on limited incomes.
Many workshops celebrated creative activities, such as ÒMythological Storytelling,” “Maskmaking,” and “Power Dancing.” And there were two different drumming experiences: one was created to express the energies of the trigrams and hexagrams of the I Ching, which is being used by its originator to assist alternative helaing; the other was described as ÒA Journey into the Heart of Rhythm.” One group worked on “Wanting to Create Ourselves–Life Poems.” Another workshop explored the idea of traveling alone, with freedom to experience new connections.
And so it went–something for everyone! But for me, the whole experience was about wmen in different stages of conscious aging reaching out to one another to share the feelings, resources, knowledge and wisdom elders can give to younger ones. Wonderful crones in varying stages of this process are accepting themselves and the validity of their own lives, while looking ahead to still further unfolding.
These women (over 180 of them from 20 different states) are learning to dissolve the limiting and outworn patriarchal myths about their roles in the world. They are accomplishing this through the process of discovering what it really means to accept their post-menopausal years as the harvest time of their lives.
It is difficult to segregate one portion of that enriching weekend as a favorite. But as I reflect back on Crones Counsel II, I keep coming back to the morning meetinghs in the great gathering room. The hour and a half during which Shauna Adix (carrying on the tradition begun last year in Jackson Hole) opened the floor to personal Storytelling. Each woman who worked up her courage to approach the microphone was being gifted with an opportunity to be in the spotlight during those few allotted minutes in which she could share a bit of her own story–something that was terriby important for her to verbalize. Every woman in the large room seemed to be projecting her own energy to the speaker, giving her the courage to shed her fear of speaking so intimately before the others. Each story drew forth our empathy, understanding and sometimes, tears. The shared understanding was born from our common heritage of what it means and feels like–not only to be a woman of age, but an ageless woman–as each of us sat spellbound within her own sense of identification with these women’s stories. The walls reverberated with standing ovations.
In summing up my impressions, I felt a strong sense of cohesiveness and harmony threading its way throughout those three days. That harmony was created byt he superbly organized efforts and participation of the Puget Sound Crones and their sister crone circles in Washington. These womne have done a fantastic job creating Crone awareness and providing a network of practical support to one another in their area.
Over breakfast on our last morning at Silverdale, Ann Kreilkamp asked if I would write something about my impressions of this second gathering of crones. I agreed, thinking it would be a simple task I’d be able to accomplish very quickly. Once begun however, it gave me the opportunity to picture how these first beginnings might evolve into a larger pattern for the future of Conscious Aging as it unfolds from within these yearly gatherings in different parts of the country.
Back home in Oregon, getting ready to get these words on paper, I tried to envision the differences between our first two Crones Counsels, and what those differences might imply for the future. As I go back to the beginning last year–to the image of the Tetons reaching upward to the magnificent sky above Wyoming–it now seems to me that our first Crones Counsel symbolized a sincere yearning of aging women everywhere to reach upward to find the highest meanings and purpose for this later phase of their lives and selfhood. It also felt like a gathering of the child and the mother within each one of us, geager to share in that experience. A new beginning! Yet just as any birth is a highly spiritual event, so also was that birth. A sacred birth of the restoration of the sanctity that surrounds the last period of a woman’s life. It therefore needed (and did) carry a deep feeling of the spiritual within its Croning Ceremony. It had a vertical quality that served to thrust us upward.
The Washington Crones Counsel expressed a strong feeling of groundedness nourished with the healing waters of spirit. I felt a sense of strength and practicality, and was reminded of the blending of the energies of Saturn and Neptune during Saturn’s current transit of Pisces. I sensed a melding of the inspiring qualities of the Neptunian water sign with the groundedness of Saturn’s earthy nature in Capricorn. For me, “Saturn in Pisces” was the perfect symbol for this event enacting the portrayal of the second stage of our Crones Counsel purpose. I feel this second Counsel stretched us out horizontally in new and strengthening ways we are not yet entirely aware of.
Then, spontaneously, there arose a third way to look at what is happening to the Crones Counsel growth. We are now looking ahead to the Southwest, where the 1995 Crones Counsel III will be held in Sedona, Arizona. How exciting! We can only speculate at this point–but some things are already obvious. First, it will offer us a different and surely stimulating view of ourselves as possible Crones of the Future. Secondly, Crones Counsel III will create the third side of a triad. Could it represent the completion of the base of a pyramid of power? All new growth can be offshoots of this completed cycle of three. I can hardly wait.
Alta Happ Wertz lives in Portland, OR.
Reprinted with permission from Crone Chronicles, Spring 1995, #22