IMPRESSIONS OF CRONES COUNSEL III
by Alta Happ Wertz and Telia Nunn
Heading south from Oregon toward Arizona, we reveled in our sense of freedom like schoolgirls playing hookey. We were alive with anticipation for the coming gathering of women all converging on Scottsdale for Crones Counsel III.
We had both attended the first two Crones Counsel gatherings–at Jackson Hole, Wyoming, in view of the Tetons, and at Silverdale, Washington, along the edge of mystical Puget Sound. Having shared impressions of both those events, we were curious now about the upcoming one, organized by Malka Golden-Wolfe, Connie Byram and the Sedona Crones.
Ann Kreilkamp’s “dream child,” Crones Counsel lI, was brought to life by Shauna Adix and the Salt Lake Crones. It was a spontaneous, inspired, pioneering effort carried out by women skilled in the art of pulling together something entirely new.
In organizing the second Crones Counsel, the Washington crones added their down-to-earth abilities to the previous year’s inspired beginning by sharing the gift of their success in bringing elder women together in statewide circles. They had already realized the need for elder women to work together in solve the practical problems of aging, and their Crones Counsel II created stability.
Now we wondered what the Arizona Crone leadership would contribute. Malka Golden-Wolfe had volunteered to host the third Counsel in beautiful Sedona. Then, for practical reasons the event was moved to Scottsdale’s Sunburst Hotel.
Our first impression on entering what should have been the lobby of the Sunburst was “Can this be OUR hotel?” Where a lobby should have been there was a boarded-off barricade. Other guests were nowhere in sight. The only sounds were the whine of an electric saw and pounding of nails. In contrast to this weird foreboding scene, clerks behind the desk were pleasantly calm, as if all were perfectly normal. This was impressive and reassuring, though we still felt like we’d stepped into the Twilight Zone.
The friendly young man who led us to our room enlightened us about the major renovation in progress and our spirits lifted when we saw the beautiful room we’d been given. Inside the main building we found a maze of boarded up and roped off areas, then discovered that “renovation” also meant that we would only have limited access in the dining room. These observations fell into place as an extension of the waking dream scenario already underway in our minds. By this time we knew there must be a messge hidden in these unforeseen conditions. Looking back now, it seems that we were being given an experience where it would be important for all of us to let ourselves go with the natural flow of events, adjusting with no resistance to whatever emerged. No picking apart. No prejudging circumstances and no blame.
The next morning 305 women began pouring into the hotel, quickly filling it with high energy and movement. Crones screeched their joy in reuniting with friends not seen since last year. Malka and Connie popped up here and there answering questions and solving problems. At the registration area women scooped up their program folders scanning events and considering choices to be made between enjoying the hosted cocktail party or finding a place for dinner that evening. Not enough time for both.
Malka Golden-Wolfe opened the ceremony that evening with a ritual, followed by the film, “One Fine Day;” Mary St. Marie/SHEOKAH performed her stirring “She…it is…who Remembers” with its slide presentation of her mystical soul art. Unforgettable. Then came Storytelling, a great favorite of everyone. A fine beginning.
Twenty-four workshops were offered that weekend, making choices difficult. It was like a banquet table overladen with great food, yet not being able to taste more than a few bites. Whatever the solutions may be, the prospect of having larger Counsels each year makes this an area in need of creative attention.
The Croning Ceremony on Friday evening was exciting. Malka had planned a sacred southwest Native American ceremony of great power. Women who had never taken part in a Croning Ceremony surely carried away an unforgettable image of that ballroom full of crowned Crones weaving their way in circular formation to the powerful rhythms of Malka’s drum–in and out of a living, undulating archway.
Our last evening, the banquet–its fine food and wine, music, drama–all of it will be unforgettable mainly because of one woman, Kate Millett, icon to a nation of young women in the ’60s, came before us to read from her newest book, “A.D., A Memoir.” The respectful audience of women poised to hear her words were not prepared for the barrage of arrows she launched. What we got was a storm of angry words–spoken with bitter and painful honesty about her early life of mental abuse and rejection. Kate’s scornful views of publishers and people whom she accused of not reading books, caused a shock wave of reaction as woman after woman shouted in protest against her accusation that they don’t read. Many even left the room. Kate’s appearance before us in the role she chose to play gave us a unique opportunity to experience the Dark Crone as unsuspected “teacher,” shaking us up, forcing us to look uncomfortably into the mirror of our own hidden darkness. This was a reminder that aging women need to master compassion and non-judgment in order to reach the highest possiblities of Cronehood. Malka’s words to us the following morning as we gathered for our last hours together, were exactly what we needed to hear. We thank her for that.
Heading homeward, the two of us talked about the total experience, patching pieces together to create an image of the whole. The Arizona Crones Counsel III had completed the triangle–a strong base of Crone power. Something has now been made real and set in motion. A new perception has emerged, of the need to carefully define the organization of future Crones Counsels as an Entity beginning to push upward across the land. “Three” is symbolic of a perfected idea on its way toward the solidity of “Four”–the stable foundation of all that is made real in this world. It is significant that Hexagram Three of the I Ching, Book of Changes is called “Difficulty at the Beginning,” which means that growth must not be pushed forward ahead of its time simply for growth’s sake, but given room to BE in the wisdom of its own timing.
We find it significant that the first stage groundwork for the Crones Counsels has been established just as Saturn, planet of patience and persistence in worldly endeavors, is about to exit its 2 1/2 year journey through Pisces, the sign of inspired visions and dreams. Its coming passage through the sign of Aries grants us opportunity for pioneering in fields having their roots in inspired activity. We can all be proud that we’ve been part of the first stages of Ann Kreilkamp’s original vision, of Shauna Adix’s seasoned understanding of how to translate that vision into group process. How we decide the future of the Crones Counsels must always be guided by the original vision. Looking ahead, let’s keep in mind the theme of Shauna’s keynote speech to us at Crones Counsel III: “Looking Back Shapes Looking Forward.”
Having our third Crones Counsel amidst so many symbols of change–an outgrown hotel in process of transformation, having to adapt to changes midstream, not always having everything our way, was like a waking dream. Thank you, Malka and Connie, for your efforts in our behalf. And thanks to the Sunburst Hotel staff for their gracious handling of 300 Women of Power amidst the rubble of their new beginning. We think they might have even liked us!
Alta Happ Wertz and Telia Nunn live in Portland, OR.
Reprinted with permission from Crone Chronicles, Spring Equinox 2000, #42