Finding the Wisdom of the Crone

In this society that seems to value material possessions, youth and physical beauty, a woman over forty must work to find her voice, her heart, her spirit. It's time to change that. All it takes is one woman to change how she sees herself. All it takes is one woman to pass that love of self and her life onto another one. That is all it takes. I'll go first.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

From the New York Times: Sept. 11, 2005

The Rural Life
The Real Inventory
Published: September 11, 2005
Earlier this summer, I e-mailed my brother a list of the animals we're raising on this farm. I called it an inventory, but it was really a way of acknowledging that perhaps my wife and I have gone too far. There are now five pigs in various stages of growth, and a large, comic parade of ducks and geese that settle onto the lawn like so many ships in a green sea. There are chicks in the basement and chickens in the mulch. And there are the longtime partners in this enterprise, the horses, dogs and cats. My brother - who has three pigs and four goats himself - wrote back and said, "Wouldn't it be great to know the real inventory?"
That phrase has stuck in my head for the past few weeks. What I had sent my brother was a list of the animals that Lindy and I are responsible for - the ones we need to feed and water every day. But I hadn't even begun to count the creatures here that are responsible for themselves. Even among those, the animals I think of first are the ones that, from my perspective at least, have a direct relationship with us: the phoebes that nest above the kitchen door, the fox that steals hens from our coop from time to time, the wild turkeys that troop down out of the woods and into the pasture in winter, the red-tailed hawks that screech overhead, driving the poultry to cover. There are others, of course: hummingbirds in the bee balm and hollyhocks, pileated woodpeckers in the deep woods, catbirds in the elderberry. But these too belong to a circle of animals that seem scaled to human powers of observation.
What makes the real inventory interesting is all the rest of the organisms that live on this place, whether I notice them or they notice me. There are times when I get a vague sense of how vast that inventory might be - nights when the crickets sound like a ringing in my ears, evenings when the low sun is refracted in the wings of the thousands of insects in flight over the pasture. But it is still only a vague sense, a catalog of life forms whose numbers I have to guess at. Somehow I instinctively imagine the abundance of life here in the shape of a pyramid - the kind of illustration that might appear in a schoolbook - with a pair of humans at the peak and the legions of soil bacteria at the base.
But one of the things I've learned from living in the country is that life is not a pyramid with humans at the peak. It's an interrelationship that is far too complex to diagram so anthropocentrically and so simply. There is a map of need here that I cannot read but that governs me as well. I go about the endless tasks, the chores, the feeding and grooming of animals, and I pretend that somehow I'm separate and in charge, though the pigs and geese remind me that that is not exactly true. I have to remember that if I wrote up the real inventory, it would include myself as well.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Leap of Faith

I'm doing something today that I thought I would never do - I'm applying for a job outside of my "chosen" profession.

I really didn't chose nursing - nursing education was inexpensive in the 1960s - it was what our family could afford and it gave me a career for almost 40 years.

But I'm tired and I want to move on.

Leaving the security of a job that I do well and that will always be there to try for something completely different (I am just applying with no guarantees) - that alone is a leap of faith for this crone.

I will let you know what happens

Friday, August 12, 2005

The Butterfly, the Spider and the Bat

I was in Pottstown, PA for work yesterday and on the way home (up Rte. 100) I stopped at the Padre Pio Shrine in Barto.

A witch - a self-professed pagan - stopping at a shrine for a Roman Catholic priest who lived and died with the stigmata? You got it! Spirit is everywhere - especially where there is serenity and there is wonderful calm and serentity at this center.

I usually walk into the chapel and sit quietly in its coolness. I walk the grounds that look over rolling hills. On occasion I've lit candles for friends and loved ones, saying a prayer to the little Father who lived in Italy. Witches can and do pray often - at least this one does. It's not against any "rules." I believe that all beliefs are the "true" belief - many paths to the same destiny. I'm sure Padre Pio recognizes a heart of love - and that's what I take to the Center each time I visit.

Yesterday the grounds were full of birds and butterflies. The birds were brown and white - a type I didn't know. And the butterflies were Monarch size but yellow and black. I spent about 40 minutes at the center and then got in my PT Crusier and back on the road home - looking forward to a quiet evening at home.

I was tooling down a blissfully empty Rte. 100 when I looked out my windshield and noticed something yellow and black fluttering on the radio antenna like a small scarf. A butterfly had been caught on the antenna, killing it but leaving the insect wrapped around the slight silver rod - yellow and black wings on either side.

I hate killing any living thing and watched the fluttering butterfly remains with sadness. But then I thought about what Butterfly was trying to tell me. Butterfly is a symbol of change, of transformation. Thank you, Butterfly.

Near my office door is a banister. At one end of the banister is a huge spider web, connecting the top of the banister to the ground. Virtually invisible, you have to know it's there to even see it. "You'll see it when you believe it." I think I'm the only one in my office that knows it's there. I'm the only one that "sees" it. Grandmother Spiderwoman is one of my goddesses. The Spider comes to you to show you that you are part of a the large web of life. Thank you, Grandmother Spiderwoman.

Today as I drove back to my office from picking up lunch, I saw a hawk trying to catch something flying just below a tree. The hawk missed and the bird flew towards my office building. After I had parked the car and got out I noticed that the little flying being was no bird, but a small bat - stranded in the daylight and flying in circles, keening in a high bat song. I stood watching him for several minutes - hoping that he would be safe from the hawk. Thank you, Brother Bat for visiting me. Now I must learn what you are to teach me.

There were so many blessings the last two days - and I saw only three.
But some didn't even see that many.

Sunday, July 31, 2005

What I Want . . .

. . . is really quite simple: A small house in the middle of the woods. Two bedrooms. A loft for my office. A deck. A screened-in porch for the cats. No lawn – just trees. I don’t want to spend my time mowing. But I do want a small open space in the back – out of sight – a circle where I will plant special flowers and herbs and have my fire pit. I am designing a concrete circle with a copper fire pit in the middle – I would embed special rocks and stones that I have collected into the concrete.

There was a house similar to that for sale in the Poconos and so I drove up there today to look for it – directions were from and they were wrong – wrong – wrong. The directions lead me into a development of over-priced McMansion-wannabes. I felt my stomach clench as soon as I saw them – huge houses surrounded by small green lawns and large SUVs.

No. No. No. I want serenity, seclusion and nature.
Maybe the Poconos is not the place. It was a beautiful summer day and Rt. 209 was jammed in both directions. Rt. 22 through the Lehigh Valley at rush hour is faster.

Where can I go to hear the birds without the sound of an internal combustion engine? Maybe I’m really Amish.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

I hate it when I'm right . . .

. . .especially about this. Today NASA announced the grounding of the Space Shuttles. There has been a problem with debris flying off and hitting the shuttle's undercarriage - again. This, of course, was the cause of the destruction of Shuttle Columbia two years ago as it re-entered Earth's atmosphere - costing the lives of the astronauts and NASA's reputation.

I knew there would be a repeat of that - flying debris upon take-off. I knew because I "saw" it - like a movie in my mind while listening to a report about the coming flight - days before the actual take-off.

Now is this a pyschic phenomena or merely a pessimistic thought process? I'm not sure. I only know that I saw a debris problem and "felt" that there would be difficult consequences. I did not see this shuttle breaking up like Columbia - just felt an overwhelming saddness.

I am not one of NASA's critics. Far from it. I've always been a champion of space exploration. Actually I've felt we should approach exploring space the way we did World War II - and see if the economy would increase as a result.

But we, as a country, have not invested the resources into any type of scientific exploration like we should. Our precious natural resources, including our children, are being sacrificed in other arenas.

And so, if I'm dreadfully right, and something dire happens to this mission, if we lose another set of astronauts, we may never return to space.

Too bad we don't hold the same view of war.

Why are soldiers more expendable than astronauts?
Why can we "waste" billions on decimating a country, but not on scientific knowledge?

Why am I looking for Spock's logic where no logic exists?

Developing Insights and Powers

Maybe I'm not developing them - maybe I'm just tapping into what has always been there, unrecognized, locked away.

I was talking to a friend who is also traveling the Crone Path. We were discussing psychic abilities and how children can do and see things that adults can't, when I had a silent and sudden "Aha!" moment.

"What happens to children? What happens to us? Why do we lose those abilities?" she asked in the conversation.

"It's taught out of us as we grow. We're taught that 'imaginary friends' are not 'real' and we should not talk about them or to them. We're taught that our 'nightmares' or our 'dreams' or the people we see in our rooms at night are not 'real' and to not talk about it."

And that's when the "Aha!" moment hit me like a wave washing over me.

Unemotionally I said to my friend, "I had it beaten out of me." I don't think she heard or, if she heard, didn't understand. "I had it beaten out of me," I repeated.

"What do you mean, 'beaten?'" she asked.

I made slapping motions with one hand on the other. "Hit. Beaten. Whipped."

She just looked at me, puzzled.

"If I had nightmares or thought I saw things in my room at night, my father would spank me or beat me with his belt until I would go back to sleep."

She was incredulous. "He hit you? How often?"

"Maybe several times a week. I wasn't even eight years old during this time - we still lived above the barbershop."

We went on to discuss how I dealt with those issues as I grew; how I married a man who treated me poorly . . . (all future stories of this Crone).

And so now I am creating my own reality, working on my own abilities:

Talking to trees Listening to trees.
Seeing things that are "not" there.
Without being afraid of being hit.

The Story of the Chipmunk

I once lived on a busy street in a two-story house. I lived alone most of the time - my daughter was either in college or in her own apartment; however, I did have two cats.

My bedroom was on the second floor and one night I was awakened by the distinctive sounds of cats on the hunt - in my bedroom. I reluctantly got out of my bed and found both of my cats huddle by plastic milk crates that were in the corner of the room. The colorful crates held my collection of old albums - real old albums. The cats were trying to get to a chipmunk cowering in the corner behind the crates.

At first I was a bit stunned to find a chipmunk in my bedroom. I was on the second floor - the darn thing had to sneak inside somehow and then make it up a flight of steps, down a hall and into my room without the cats picking up on its arrival. Finally I realized that if I didn't do something, my bedroom would be the scene of my indoor cats first real "kill". Sighing, I looked around for something to use as a chipmunk carrier. A shoebox! Not as if I didn't have any - my nickname wasn't Imelda for nothing.

I balanced a shoe box in one had and gingerly reached down to pick up the trembling bit of an animal by the teeny scruff of its teeny neck. I can only imagine what was going on in the teeny chipmunk mind. First he had been corner by two ferocious beasts and then this huge thing was reaching down to grab him.

I placed the captured, shaking little fellow in the shoebox, slapped on the lid and then walked out of the bedroom, down the hall, down the stairs, into the living and out into the cool fall evening, making sure my feline partners in the capture where not sneaking out behind me. There I was, a forty-something nightgowned woman, standing on her postage-stamp sized front yard along the busiest street in town in the middle of the night - carrying a shoe box. I had decided his burrow must have been in the front of the house under my porch; since he had so quickly and safely made it into the house, he must have arrived by the front door, scurring in with me unannounced.

"Okay, little fellow," I said as I took off the lid. "Just remember who saved your furry butt." I turned the box upside down on the grass so he could scamper out and go home. I lifted the box expecting to see furry butt running off, but there was nothing - no chippie. "Damn! He couldn't have gotten out of the box and was back in the house," I said to myself. If that was the case, I wouldn't have to give the cats breakfast - I had left them right behind me - having closely followed every footstep of my rescue mission.

"Well, look in the damn box," I said out loud as I turned the box over to check out the inside. And sure enough, there chippy was, all four little legs stretched out and clinging to all four sides of the box - paralized in fear. Of course - I would have been, too. Snarling, saliva-drooling beasts and then a giant. What in that scenerio says trust?

"Okay, buster. Here's freedom. Take it." Again I turned the box upside down on the grass, but this time I made several light taps on the bottom. I picked it up and rewarded by the sight of a teeny, furry chipmunk butt doing a fast chipmunk retreat.

I've told this story many times, using facial expressions and my arms and legs out stretched to relate the picture of a chipmunk clinging to the inside of a shoebox. It always brings laughter.

Today, I realized that there is more to that story.

The chipmunk was rescued and given a chance for freedom. But he didn't recognize his rescuer and didn't realize he was to be saved. It took a couple of taps on the box from a giant hand to get his attention - to make him understand that he had to move.

How many taps from a giant hand do you need? How do you recognize your rescuer?
Start by looking in the mirror.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

The Caregiver

My daughter - when she was younger and at times, still
My mother-in-law - when she was dying of cancer
My fiance - while he was waiting for a heart transplant
My mother - when she was dying of cancer
My father - when he was alone after my mother's death and with him when he died
My ex-husband - recuperating from quadruple bypass surgery

And countless patients, clients and residents.

Many roles in life: women, daughter,wife, mother, daughter-in-law, lover, friend - nurse

And the one that really marked me as a caregiver for life - the first one.
Women are the matrix of society - we hold it all together.
I operate, exist, live daily from that center of strength - knowing that there are many of my "sisters" out there living the same life of giving, loving and being.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Talking to Trees . . .

. . .and listening to them.

The tree is a large spruce that's in front of my apartment building. There is a wide yard between the building and the road and this tree dominates the yard. I love that tree - my little bit of the woods on the busy street where I live.

One day I walked to the tree and reached into its prickly branches, spider webs catching on my arms, brushing me softly with silver threads. As I touched the needles I could hear the tree say, "You know - one day I will be cut down to widen this road."

Needless to say I was surprised to "hear" the thoughts of a supposedly inanimate object. But I was also surprised by the tree's accurate perception of its (his/her) fate. My street connects two busy thoroughfares that are quickly becoming busier. There are plans for a 250-home development, a hospital campus and an "upscale" mall just two miles away. I could see the future need for the widening of the street - the disappearance of the yard - and the tree.

It was in that instant that I realized a truth - they know more than we do. They can see their fate and be resigned to it - understand it - and maybe even understand the human folly that causes it.

I held onto the branches, tearing up, and told my tree that I would love it as long as I could.

It will be difficult to move away from the tree as long as it stands.