Estes Park, Colorado
October 14-17, 1999
Convened and organized by a large group of Colorado crones, Crones Counsel VII was held at the 8,000-foot elevation YMCA Conference Center in the mountains northwest of Denver. Since facility space was limited, there were spaces for only 250 women, and these were all taken six months prior to the gathering!
Mornings were devoted to large group storytelling and small group wisdom circles. In the afternoons, participants chose from over 20 workshops, including “Women, Spirituality and the Crone,””Grief, Growth and Grace,” “Stories of Leaving Home,” “Co-Housing and Community,””Women’s Financial Freedom”–plus a number of workshops on play, rhythm and creativity of all kinds. Evening events included a Women of the West slide show, an Honoring of the Elders ceremony, and a Talent Show.
Impressions of CCVII
by Maija Katlaps
First a long shuttle ride through flat urban sprawl and dry high plains–nodding off, then waking at entering the mountains, sort of expecting more wildness, startled at seeing huge houses crawling up so many hillsides.
Friendly welcome by staff of the YMCA Conference Center. The shock of feeling my crone body being really really slowed down by the shift from sea level to high altitude–walk slowing down to a crawl, hands and feet swelling, nose and mouth drying out in spite of drinking water all the time from the cute Crone bottle handed out with the Counsel VII packet–I liked the color-coded sheets. Workshops intriguing.
After dinner, walking back to the lodge, what a startling sight to see the herd of elk cows and calves; the antlered males watching each other, but not paying too much heed to two-leggeds! At dawn we could hear light sparring by the hills, but no serious combat.
Thursday, a sunning warm early autumn day, more and more crones arriving–some I’ve met before, others new to me and Crones Counsel, a good mix of veterans and newcomers.
Then–watching the vendors create a sudden bazaar of original and desirable wares: colorful clothing for the goddesses, books, cards, artwork–ceramics, fetishes, jewelry: silver, amber, enamel, beadwork. Drums, rattles, herbs, candles, dolls, woolen hand knits, tapes and magazines. So much desirable stuff, such creativity and delightful whimsy, what is a crone with a lean wallet to do?! Story time–once again the heart and soul of Crones Counsel–a glimpse into the lives of women; a wonderful tale of travel with Vita to Amberland [Lithuania]; a stout message by Swaneagle of the heartrending suffering of the Dineh and Hopi elders, being pushed off the land into abject poverty by Big Business to fuel the bloated energy appetites of Las Vegas, Phoenix, and Los Angeles….
To me, the Labyrinth was once again a deeply appreciated gift brought along with a story of life-change by Andy Telynor Andrews.
In our wisdom circle, facilitated by an “almost crone”–the daughter of a crone recently transitioned out of this life–we quickly developed a space for sharing and deep bonding of strangers.
Saturday night’s slide show with stories by women personally related to remarkable pioneering women of Colorado was truly outstanding–my hope is for a format that will become available to a wider audience.
Sharing, bonding with strangers, mutual understanding, emotional support, tolerance, a great and puckish slice of humor, open-hearted kindness, a great ease of being with a large group of women feeling understood and embraced, literally and figuratively, hearing very few contrary, critical or complaining comments in four days of being together. What a refreshing experience and blessing! My one regret was that there were too few open times between structured events that would have allowed for deep sharing, extended conversations and plain “hanging out” with old and new friends and acquaintances.
I thank everyone from the bottom of my crone heart and look forward to next years’ expanded Counsel with lots more open times.
From a newsletter for the gathering, this description of storytelling:
“[At each morning session], after brief announcements, we will declare sacred space. Women who want to tell their story will take a seat in the line of chairs at the edge of the stage. Each woman will have approximately 5 minutes. A light tinkling of the bells/gong will let you know your time is just about up. Please respect the time limit to allow as many women as possible the opportunity to speak. For newcomers, just listening the first morning will let you know how special storytelling time is. Many stories bring laughter, many stories bring tears. Every story is special. We would like to hear your story.”
We share two of the stories told there, here.
My name is Pat Sullivan and my life began as a proud, square shouldered, red brick, part of a stately building. I was one brick among thousands supporting a grand façade.
All SHATTERED when the EARTHQUAKE hit.
Fragments SCATTERED in piles were barged out to sea and dumped.
A JAGGED ANGULAR SHARD of myself plunged through the water and settled to the ocean floor. For decades surges rolled me over and over scraping my rough edges against rocks– slamming me into the sand.
While at the mercy of La Mer, sea worms burrowed holes through me and mussels attached their shells to my sides.
Whatever had been squared or jagged was beaten, broken, buffeted and finally storm-tossed on the beach.
There the sun, breezes and waves took turns warming, cooling and gently rocking me until my transformation was complete.
I am now a FREE SOUL, FREE FORM piece of art–at least a beach combing.
Crone thought so as she chose me for her collection. This story is now a symbol of my own epiphany. I too have been reshaped by life:
LOVED and REJECTED. HIRED and FIRED. HURT and SOOTHED.
PRIDE and TABOOS torn away and vulnerable TRUTH-EXPOSED edges SMOOTHED.
So here I am dear Crones, a FREE SPIRIT who dearly loves women.
A 75 year-old LIBRA – LESBIAN saying HOORAY FOR LIFE !
My name is Marvelle Kaplan and this is part of my story. Many years ago when I was first married, and I’ve been married 55 years, my mother-in-law told me to put aside a little bit of household money into whatever container I wanted to use. I decided to do that, and years ago it wasn’t that easy, I would put a way a quarter a week. Sometimes I would even steal a quarter from my husband’s little cash–of course, I felt I earned it! Anyway, I’ve been doing this about 50 years and I’ve accumulated not a lot of money but quite enough and I’ve never used any of it. It sat in the back of my closet in a little manilla envelope gathering dust but no interest.
Two years ago, when the Crones of Colorado offered to have the Crones Counsel VII here in Estes Park, I knew exactly what I was going to do with that money. I invited my daughter, Wendy Kaplan Backer, who lives in San Francisco, and my three daughters-in-law (daughters-in-love) who live in Georgia, Florida and Fort Collins to be participants of this particular Crones Counsel. I just can’t begin to tell you what a feeling it was to have that accumulation of money and the money is nothing, it’s just plain nothing–what it has given me back in interest is just very hard for me to talk about without getting very emotional. I just thank my children for being here. I have gotten so much, so very much from these four incredible women.
CCVII was wonderful–so nourishing and energizing. I’ll be attending them for the rest of my life. I’m putting my daughter on notice that she has to take me when I can’t get there on my own. HA!
This was my first Crones Counsel and I loved it. On Sunday, I was handing out the day’s newsletter to the crones who were entering the chapel for our last morning together, when two women walked in with beautiful, colorful crowns. I admired them and said I wished they had been on sale in the vendors’ room. During the storytelling, one of the women came up and handed her crown to me. Within a flash she was gone. I turned to watch where she was returning to her seat so I could thank her later. But alas she walked out the door (probably having to leave early). I didn’t want to jump up and run after her and interrupt the current storyteller. I would like to thank this unknown crone, whoever and wherever you are!
Reprinted with permission from Crone Chronicles, Spring Equinox 2000, #42