Crones Counsel at Asilomar this past October was truly remarkable. It stands apart from other conventions because nearly all the content was created by the people participating. Each morning was Storytelling. Anyone could tell a story from her life, and ask for a Standing Ovation. The stories were amazingly varied: we talked about ourselves or other women. As we heard the heartfelt stories, we became respectful of our differences (inclusive), accepting of our aging, joyous at our courage in the face of the challenges we face, exuberant with standing ovations honoring each other.
We ranged in age from 86 to 31, from strongly Mormon to Wiccan, from newly married and on a honeymoon to lesbian, both sets with partners. Stories were wondrously individual; we honored mothers, mentors, those who could not be with us. We told stories of triumphs, of life-threatening illness, of our ancestors and our futures. The morning storytelling was so vivid, so real; as we clapped and roared our standing ovations, we affirmed all crones everywhere as well as ourselves.
Afternoons were also woven by people at the Counsel. There were focus groups of all kinds; workshops led by crones who felt an expertise; family groups to become more deeply involved in listening to each other; many ways to share our lives and wisdom. The planning was deliberately fluid to welcome evolving interests and expertise.
And there was more, too much to detail: cronisms, honoring our eldest, rituals to open and close, drumming and a bonfire, a wonderful Talent Night, a Baghdad Bazaar of delightful things to buy.
It was extraordinarily moving to me to be at Crones Counsel for the first time. My own mother was not a good role model for aging. To see so many wise and exuberant women, to learn from their wisdom, to leaugh and cry, to share my life’s learning, to make new friends and meet old ones–a magnificent occasion. Some things stand out. When we sat decade by decade, to honor the eldest among us, I could see how our bodies change and age, and put no negative connotations to it. I went to a wonderful seminar on Mother-Daughtrer-Mother where I was given wisdom and support on a knotty problem of forgiving and loving a daughter who is abusive to her children, my grandchildren. There was much wonderful drumming. I am almost deaf, and have not enjoyed music for years; drumming as a participatory event was a revelation of joy to me, and one that I can share with hard-of-hearing groups and friends.
When I first learned about the Counsel in May, I wrote and asked for support for the hearing-impaired who might wish to attend. I explained that hearing impairment is extremely isolating, and that most who are hard of hearing would simply not apply. It would be sonderful if provision could be made for the hearing-impaired as well as for others with disabilities, and that any woman’s need for FM Receivers be a registration check-off. That did not happen, and in fact I did not know until half an hour before the Opening Ritual that a special FM system for the hearing-impaired was supplied and in place. I was initially angry and upset, but that fell away as the Counsel began. In fact, there were several FM Receivers for use. One daughter told us her story that her mother who was also at the Counsel had tears in her eyes because she could hear at a meeting for the first time in many years. I told my story about being almost deaf and offered to guide anyone interested toward assistive listening devices. Several gave me their addresses. I have sent them a first draft of a handout on the wonders of ALDS, complete with suppliers.
I feel so fortunate to have been at this Crones Counsel 2000. While sad that Crone Chronicles is ending or changing. I am relieved and delighted that Crones Counsel 2001 is already in the planning stages.