CRONES COUNSEL X
HOLDING THE VISION
OCTOBER 23 – 27, 2002
ASILOMAR CONFERENCE CENTER,
PACIFIC GROVE, CALIFORNIA
There is a migration of women each year who begin their journeys from divergent locations across the United States to arrive at a designated location. Every October for ten years women have taken wing and come together to honor our aging and our common bonds as women.
This year was no exception as we arrived for the third year at Asilomar State Park in Pacific Grove, California. Early in the afternoon the registration lodge began to fill with women arriving for the four days of fun, ritual, workshops, storytelling, and re-connecting with old friends. The scene is repeated often as women recognize a friend across the room, drop their luggage, and move lovingly into each other’s arms. We greet one another and our conversations begin where they left off last year as though no time has passed. It is a grand entrance of sorts as one enters and is recognized, appreciated, greeted, and made to feel as if the gathering would not be complete without her. Arriving at any Crones Counsel gathering is like walking into a big hug. You are safe, accepted, and loved.
We began the first evening with an opening ceremony to celebrate our theme this year of Holding the Vision. Five women represented the east, south, west, north, and the within sweeping out the old and sweeping in the new. We had begun our tenth gathering.
Returning to Shore
Each morning we gathered in the main dining room and caught up with one another over a sumptuous breakfast. Earlier in the morning women were to be found walking along the pathways throughout this beautiful setting or doing yoga on the beach or just out watching the waves returning again and again to the shore.
After breakfast we mingle in small groups heading toward Merrill Hall where we will gather for announcements followed by Story-telling. This is the time each morning when women in the audience come forward to share stories from their lives. These are sad stories and happy stories. These are the stories that bind us together woman to woman.
An elder from Washington, Eileen Allen, shared her story about the losses she has had to face with the progression of age. The loss of her ability to be as mobile as she once was. The time arrived when she could no longer be a safe driver. She spoke of the difficulty of giving up her driver’s license. She talked of her gradual loss of hearing, and finally, for this woman who loves the written word, her loss of sight. Sounds like a dreary story except that Eileen is a most unusual woman who shared what has come into her life to replace those gifts that we take for granted now. A young woman reads to Eileen and Eileen memorizes the poems. Without the encumbrance of trying to read the words Eileen now shares poems with us straight from the heart. As I listened to her I felt as though the words being spoken with such intense feeling were coming directly from the place of their birth.
A More Intimate Level
When Storytelling is complete the women break out into smaller groups of 10 to 12 women called Crone Circles. There are a variety of topics being talked about, depending on the group’s wishes. This is a place where women who feel uncomfortable speaking in large groups have an opportunity to share on a more intimate level.
A small break, and then it’s off to workshops. There is always a wide variety of workshops from which to choose. As always the workshops are led by volunteer Crones. The beauty of Crones Counsel gatherings is that there are no paid presenters. Every aspect of the gathering is performed and provided by the women attending it. There are two sessions of workshops available each day
A Focal Point
The vendor room opens each day after lunch. This is a place where crafts and artwork created by women are offered for sale to those attending the gathering. This is always a surprise of new ideas and creations. The vendor room becomes a gathering place for women in between workshops or just time outs for a little relaxation. This is where we establish our Crone Cafe that is stocked with coffee, tea, water, and some light snacks, and becomes a focal point for meeting up with old friends.
This year the gathering offered an Open Counsel session for women to meet with board members and discuss their ideas of what has worked well in the past and to share visions of what future gatherings could look like. This was the first time we have had such a format to be listened to, and it was attended by about half of the women attending the gathering.
Honoring our Elders is always a poignant evening at our gatherings and this year’s was no exception with 13 women over the age of 80 being so honored. Each of the 13 women were escorted to a raised platform by a younger woman where they were then presented with beautiful agate breastplate necklaces and a pouch with a golden acorn. After their introduction each of the women in turn spoke to those of us in the audience. As befits the crone some spoke words of wisdom, some shared an event in their life, and some shared funny stories of aging. It is always a privilege and honor to sit and watch these wise elder women as their backs straighten, their chins tilt up in an almost defiant attitude, and they accept a standing ovation from the audience who appreciates the life paths they have walked.
On Saturday night we traditionally celebrate with the Crone Follies. This is an evening of talented and not so talented productions. We have everything from belly dancers to professional performers. The evening is filled with celebration and laughter.
One Last Hug
On Sunday morning we gather for one last time and close the circle that was cast on our first evening together. This year we added a bidding auction to dispose of decorations that were brought and purchased for the gathering. After we got the hang of it we had a great time outbidding each other. The closing on Sunday is short as women are checking out of their rooms and packing up to begin their migration back to their own communities. There is an almost frantic search of the room for friends we want to give one last hug to before leaving. We gravitate into small clusters around the room with last words of parting and promises to see each other again at next year’s gathering. The gathering is complete and I am full.