San Diego, California – October 16-19, 1997
Glowing reports of those at Crones Counsel gathering each year say that each successive one is the best ever. Crones Counsel V was my first experience and it was superb. Held in a San Diego hotel right on the Pacific, a huge waterfall graced its lobby and blooming tropical bushes, ponds with waterfowl and exotic birds dotted along its interior walkways. Right from the start there was a wonderful feeling of total acceptance, sisterhood, unity. We were given balsa wood hearts with our names on them in colors representing our decades of living to wear around our necks so no one had to fish for anyone’s name. 272 women from around the US and Canada, and even one from England attended.
Everything was extremely informal, yet well planned and mostly went off smoothly and well, with a blend of group meetings, sharing meals, ceremony, celebrations, workshops and time off.
Each morning we held what was called “Temperature Taking”–a time for questions, for any problems or concerns, and for people who wished to express any kind of appreciation. This was followed by women telling their stories. And what stories! Heartbreaking tales with happy endings told with humor and pathos. Witty stories of overcoming obstacles, accomplishments and surmounting seemingly impossible difficulties. We laughed and cried with our sister crones.
We say beautiful songs together, ate a catered picnic lunch, sang, drummed and danced on the beach during a nearly-full moon evening. We enjoyed a sumptuous Mexican banquet and a “No Talent” night with funny skits and singing. A marvelous drummer stirred us all and taught us a song to sing with her.
We chose among up to 20 fascinating workshops each afternoon with titles like Gourd Rattle, Doll Want, or Shield Making; Power of Intuition; Creative Writing, poetry, Prose or Journal Writing; Sex & Sensuality; Simple Living; Healing Our Grief; Dancing Our Life Story; Rituals for Rites of Passage; Aging to Saging; Dialoguing Across the Decades; Grandmothers Healing the Earth, Rhythm, Dreamtime Vision, Beyond Menopause and many more.
The finale on Sunday morning was the Croning Ceremony. The eldest crone–who was 85–was solemnly seated in a place of honor up on the platform, with another crone in her 80s on either side of her. Each was given a lighted purple candle in a votive glass. The names of those in their 70s were called in the order of their ages and were given green candles and escorted to chairs along the front of the large platform. All the others were called up by decades in order of age and given lighted candles. Each accepted her candle and then placed it on a round table at the front. All those twinkling little lights created a beautiful sight.
Then suddenly the ceremony was interrupted by the hurried entrance of a man! A security person, who informed the Mistress of Ceremonies that the smoke alarm might go off from so much candle smoke and if it did the sprinkling system would come on! We were asked to take our candles to the outdoor terrace and blow them out. A lot of confusion and crowding around followed as we all rushed to extinguish our candles.
The women had taken advantage of this unexpected situation to visit and talk. Four times the mistress of ceremonies pleaded through the loudspeaker, “Will you please all come in and sit down?” When the group finally quieted, she said, “Will you all stand up?” We all laughed.
The ending of the ceremony went off beautifully. As we sang, “How could anyone ever tell you/You are anything less than beautiful?” I and quite a few others were quite overcome with emotion. The gathering ended with announcements of Crones Counsel VI to be held in Salt Lake City, and I suspect there wasn’t a person there who didn’t feel she wanted to be there for it. One of the thoughtful touches was a list of names of the women attending with addresses and phone numbers, so that we could all communicate with our new friends.
–Ann Emerson, 83, lives in Anacortes, WA.
There was a talent show where women in their 60s and 70s sang some f the raunchiest songs I’ve ever heard. I haven’t laughed so much in years…. I woke up Sunday morning crying because it was almost over…
–Carol A. Brown
All these diverse women, from mid-30 to 85, were truly expressing themselves in the most open and honest ways. So many laughs and tears–while participating in various ceremonies and activities and talking with new friends. We felt the freedom to dress and act as we wanted–to just be ourselves. The thought of “judgment” did not exist anywhere. Love and acceptance of each other bubbled and overflowed so much that other visitors to the hotel were drawn into observing and questioning just what was going on here.
–Betty Chapman, 54, lives in Anacortes, WA.
I went to my second Crones Counsel forewarned, “No counsel is ever like any other!” but I found what had seemed most impressive in Boise beginning anew as soon as I sat down in the Catamaran lobby to await my “roomies.” That was a warmth and awareness of affinity, in an incredible variety of diversities! The “password” for the entire experience will hold for future counsels. It is simply “CRONE.” Emotionally, being a crone means we “cut to the chase.” I have always recognized persons who have given lectures, presided at meetings, or in other ways distinguished themselves as fledgling celebrities, and I sat happily thinking, “Here is the woman who” etc., but here was the most novel thing, these women greeted me, often byname, but unquestionably aware of the inner person I am, even when, as often for all of us, the name or home area lagged a bit behind the rest of the Boise memory! Hugs and hand clasps filled in while we resurrected the story told or perhaps only heard while sitting next to us: somehow we had shared together in others’ pains, joys and triumphant victories wresting wisdom from woes and celebrating the phoenix rebirths of the crone within, crones without, and CRONE as something we carry back, carry on, and expect to meet again.
–Phyllis Clifton, 68, lives in Concrete, WA
Mysteries permeated and charged each event. How did Redmoonsong choose her name? Where can you practice Body Prayer in this inhibited world? How can a five foot tall, 90 pound, grey-haired old lady punch such power into that bongo drum between her knees? Why would a woman want to marry herself?
In the afternoon workshops, I delicately shared my intuition with others, surprised at the depth of our understanding. We considered the possibilities for grandmothering another generation that desperately needs us. And I danced and prayed, letting the years fall away from my cracked feet, my aching arms and my stiff back. Our shared belief in each other’s strength gave us renewed energy to believe in our capabilities again.
Each day, in general sessions, the stories continued: healed by a dolphin; built successful business after age 50; left the rocking chair to travel the country alone; completed doctorate at age 60; began a crone website from her wheelchair. Strangers became friends, sharing email addresses, phone numbers, exchanging gifts of meaning rather than material value, allowing free expression of our uniqueness. The bonfire on the beach Friday night drew a crowd as passersby wondered, openmouthed, at old ladies dancing wildly in the sand, irreverently chanting and singing to the moon, drumming the power of their conviction and commitment to be heard and to make a difference with the rest of their lives.
And during the Saturday night talent show, as I held out my hands to one of those beautiful 80-year-olds and danced with her across the floor as if we were both young again; as I watched the tears bead in her eyes and listened to the words of her gratitude, I saw myself in her place in another generation, not without fear, but without regret. Because, honey, after this, LOOK OUT! You ain’t seen nothin’ yet!
There I was, among nearly 300 women who were not afraid to be ecstatic, display emotions, weep, laugh, sing at the drop of a hat, wear our hearts on our sleeves.
I honor all the volunteers who planned, gave workshops, the CROG board and all who supported CCV.
–Mnimaka, of San Diego, was on the planning committee for Crones Counsel V.
Reprinted with permission from Crone Chronicles, Spring Equinox, 1998, #34