Category Archives: RITUALS & PASSAGES

Sunday Morning Coming Down

camera-514992_640It’s Sunday. The house is quiet in these early morning hours. I’m tucked away in my she-room, sipping fresh coffee. In summer, when the sun rises early enough to angle through the small window, it falls across the corner of the antique maple dresser I stripped down to the wood and then hand-rubbed with tung oil to reveal the grain.

The sun beam catches the glass of the framed mirror above the small chest of drawers and the room glows with the sweet promise of the season. Whispers fill my inner ear, I’ll bring you fragrant bouquets of roses and peonies. We’ll share lazy afternoons on the two-seater porch swing, and long nights tangled in the sheets when your body glistens from the heat of my touch. 

Oh, lover Summer, be still my heart.

Meanwhile, a friend shares a photo of her morning coffee at a sidewalk cafe in Paris and I feel a pang of envy for the life that got away.

I thought I’d journey to foreign places at this juncture in my life. I thought I’d sip coffee in a Paris Cafe, eat pasta alla Norma and visit the La Pescheria Market in Sicily, dip my toes in the Mediterranean, and drink Ouzo in Greece.

Alas, my husband’s health makes it extremely difficult to travel, and the stress of it when we do only worsens his conditions. He worries about getting where we need to be when we need to be there, with all the medical paraphernalia in tow and on board. But his concerns are that of a general running a campaign. I am the foot soldier with boots on the ground, carrying out the mission—and all the bags.

My travels worries are different. The possibility of a sudden crisis, even death, is something I live with every day. At home, or anywhere within the borders of the continental U.S., I know what to do.

With overseas travel, the thought of navigating unfamiliar territory and being unable to speak the language in an emergency makes it quite a different prospect. I worry about hospitals and transports if his heart, his burdened lungs, and his blood sugar all conspire to attack, deflate, and spike or plummet at the same time. I worry about simply getting us both back home if he dies.

Even when I imagine the best possible outcomes, I still see barriers everywhere. He won’t be walking along the ocean’s edge with me, strolling the maze of cobbled streets in historic cities, or climbing the stone steps of seaside villages, ancient ruins, or soaring cathedrals.

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It seems rather a lot of work, worry and expense just for me to spend most of my time in hotel rooms and sidewalk cafes, even if they are quintessentially European. Sure, I may be able to savor an authentic croissant with my French Coffee or wash down a plate of good Italian pasta with a goblet of chianti, but is it really worth all that?

The heart wants what the heart wants, and despite knowing the reality, considering my husband’s limitations, would be disappointing at best, my heart still aches for this unrequited encounter. Friends tell me to go without him. He tells me to go without him—lot’s of women do it.

We made these plans in a time when we thought we’d both be strong and healthy forever, or at least until we were, you know, really old. My husband has been to Europe, as a soldier, and numerous times after that. Our dream was to go together, to share the beauty and wonder with each other.

I have traveled without him since we married, though on a smaller scale. It only exchanges one ache in my heart for another, the longing for him to be at my side sharing the moments that photographs can’t capture. It casts a pall of loneliness.

My friend is traveling alone with others—sans husband. When she returns home he won’t be there to greet her; he died before they could share this time of their life.

One heartache for another.

 


A Year of Becoming Crone

Crone woman in mosaicI marked sixty years of life last month. I am relishing the milestone. True, a trace of mourning for my lost youth still lingers around my edges, but the circle turns ever onward and aging is life. I find I spend more time imagining my crone years stretching out before me, who I want to be as Crone, and what legacy I want to create.

The triple goddess archetype of Maiden, Mother and Crone has been much misunderstood and often reimagined. I see it as a broad metaphor, not to be applied literally, nor its increments marked so precisely to biological functions in the life span of a woman.

The Maiden embodies youthful spirit of adventure and exploration, she is unfettered and carefree. Her energy is the awakening of and to life and in that respect she is ageless.

The Mother is the perpetuator of life. She has the potential to grow a child, give birth and care for the child, but that potential need not be actualized by the process of physical birth. The Mother is Creatrix of all life. Her energy is to bring change, to keep things moving forward, to create the unfolding of life, especially her own.

The Crone, of course, is the woman of experience. She is a vault of knowledge gained though life’s lessons—often hard learned. The Crone sees the bigger picture, her energy is of comprehension, compassion, and temperance. She has, perhaps, the most revealing of all vision, that of hindsight. The Crone brings closure, a laying down of burdens too long carried.

The passage from one life stage to the next, does not erase the former. We carry with us all the ages we have been. Neither are the transitions set hard and fast in the flush or loss of hormones. Some women enter their croning earlier, some after they are much older. Becoming Crone is not about age, it’s knowing, in your deepest place, when you have arrived.

I have been hearing the Crone whispers for some time now, but events of the past few weeks have turned up the volume. The voice inside me calls, “Don the mantle and cloak, enter the circle of Crones. Your time is at hand.”

But what does that mean? Sit on my porch swing and wait for younger seekers to come ask my advice? Check my inbox for an invitation to the circle? I’m thinking not. So, like I’ve done with most everything in my life, I’m jumping in feet first. The plan is to spend this year defining the parameters of my Croneship.

Many modern adaptations of the Maiden, Mother, Crone life cycle have expanded it beyond the three archetypal phases. Two models stand out as revolutionary and the books that introduced them have become timeless classics:  The Queen of Myself by Donna Henes and The Women’s Wheel of Life by Elizabeth Davis and Carol Leonard.

Ah, but of course! The three stages of the Triple Goddess are not the only points along the way. As on a beautiful color wheel, they are the primary hues, and between them are all of the beautiful blends—some in equal amounts, yes, but also those with a bit more of this than that, to give us all the colors of the spectrum.

The Queen lies directly between Mother and Crone. She is a powerful woman with much of the warrior about her, fighting for the right to her own sovereignty and for that of all women. From advocate to activist, she is a brave force in whatever causes she takes up.

In The Women’s Wheel of Life, Davis and Leonard give us thirteen unique archetypes, all distinct stages of the progression of blood mysteries, but again like the color wheel, the energies of each archetype strengthen the opposite aspect on the wheel. There are no less than five stages between Mother and Crone—Midwife, Matriarch, Amazon, Priestess and Sorceress.

In the Triple Goddess model, I have been more Crone than Mother for some time now. Queen felt right with her empowerment energy and capacity for the work of shaping society, but my urge to pass the scepter and crown to the next generation has become strong of late. While age alone and the death of my own mother makes me a Matriarch, the energy of Priestess and Sorceress feels much more visceral.

This makes sense to me. The Matriarch bears much of the Queenly qualities, still shaping and nurturing her family and community, while the Priestess and Sorceress are channels of Spirit. Their solo journey takes them through the deserts or to the mountain tops, they walk in the dark places, carefully listening, stirring past experience with divine truth, distilling the message that will be shared as Crone wisdom.

I’m going to go out on a limb and say that true croning has almost nothing to do with natural age progression. True croning is an emergence from the depths of our self reckoning and the integration of our shadow and light, a beautiful blend allowing for all the tones. Where once we thought we knew everything, Crone shows us how narrow our vision has been.

The particular Crone energy I’m feeling is one of understanding, compassion, and acceptance that there are many paths to the same end. Between right and wrong action is a wide, gray chasm of potential for harm. I want to choose the way of least harm to myself—this precious, mortal vessel deserves at least as much love and care as I have given to others throughout my life.

I am quite ready to lay down the sword of the Amazon & Warrior, to pass the scepter and crown of the Queen to the next generation, knowing that it doesn’t mean ceding territory already hard-won. I have no doubt there are still many lessons to learn, but I believe they will be of a less corporeal and more transcendent nature.

Whether short or long, my journey to becoming Crone has begun.


When Good Is Good Enough

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I have been the MAD Goddess for so long now I have to dust off my math skills to figure out that this alter ego, the Middle Aged Mouthpiece in me, has been around for almost half my life.

At early 30-something I was, maybe, inching my toes into the stream of midlife. Never-the-less, the MAD Goddess voice was strong and she had a lot to say about aging while female in our American society. She still does at 60.

I may have been young in years then, but I felt old emotionally, if not physically. I had aging parents, three children and a husband. I worked part-time and honed my writing skills in whatever minutes were left over. I was always in the middle of something and being pulled in more directions than I cared to follow.

I came of age during the first wave of women told we could have it all. I’ve often said women were not having it all, so much as we were doing it all; and most of the time we were doing it all by ourselves, despite spouses and extended family.

For women in two career households, there might have been extra money for living the good life, whatever that might be. But more often than not, it ended up being spent on childcare and hired help to do the domestic chores—formerly housework, still largely women’s work.

Even now we continue struggling to figure out the pros and cons of all this upward mobility, and don’t even get me started on how the prevalent middle class dream paints a pretty picture of white-privilege America, while brushing over the class subjugation of people of color.

But there is something else on my mind today. Prompted by a social media post, it’s something I’ve been noodling over for a while now. I call it the ugly duckling syndrome, the idea that we have to undergo personal transformation to be shiny, happy, better people than we are.

As with much in our society, there is a money trail to follow. The pursuit of perfection is big business in America. We’re told daily that we must have perfect, white smiles, fit bodies, eat super-foods, wear dazzlingly laundered clothes, live in Pinterest-perfect homes and shit in sparking toilet bowls.

If it isn’t bigger, better, new or improved, it isn’t good enoughAnd that includes us. So, not surprisingly, with the arrival of middle age for the women who’d been doing it all, came a new industry—personal reinvention. Now that he kids were at least old enough to be somewhat self-reliant, possibly even old enough to leave home, middle class women had a sliver of time on their hands and money in their designer bags.

Instead of forking out their hard-earned cash for child care, they could hand it over for courses of self reflection and personal development that encouraged them to re-imagine their life, presumably one that was better than their current situation. There was a lot of misdirected belly button gazing going on, a lot of faux spiritual connection and self-care than translated to spa services. We were all supposed to come out virtually glowing with the outward perfection of inner enlightenment.

As the MAD Goddess, I was on that bandwagon for a while. I became a certified personal coach, a midlife midwife. I developed a four step process for achieving desired, measurable outcomes, whether a client wanted something as straightforward as finding a better job, or as esoteric and finding deeper purpose.

Being the rebel that I am, or that the MAD Goddess in me is, I focused my coaching on finding the right fit, not changing to fit in. I didn’t work with clients to reinvent or reimagine themselves, as if they were somehow inherently flawed or a broken thing that needed to be repaired. Instead, I encouraged them to rediscover who they’d always been,  to remember what gave them joy—or at least satisfaction if joy wasn’t in their emotional took kit. I led them in returning to their core values and embracing good enough.

Self improvement is not a bad thing. I think we all secretly desire to be better in some aspects. I’d like to be a better artist, I want to play an instrument, I want to write a best-selling novel, I’d like to eat healthier, be more physically active, and dress better. I think I should be a more patient wife, a less demanding mother and a more involved grandmother.

Some of those desires are to please me, and some are to please others.  The motivation behind both is the desire to meet some standard of my own design that is a combination of gut feeling and what I’ve been spoon fed to believe. Bottom line? I believe I should make changes that would presumably make me a more likable and lovable person to others. Pressure!

One thing about moving from middle age into Crone, is that I’ve stopped obsessing over what others think of me, if they like/love me or not. My circle of loved ones is growing smaller all the time, because I no longer have the inclination for wearing many masks or doing the exhausting work of pleasing everybody.

Because I love my husband and kind of want him to stick around and keep loving me, becoming more patient and understanding is worth the effort it takes. Same with going a little softer on my daughters and being a more hands on grandma. And as much as I like being all hermity, writing, painting, gardening, foraging and wildcrafting with plants and herbs (basically being village witch), I nudge myself to make time for my friends, because they are an important part of my life that I don’t want to lose.

And here’s the thing, these people who I love and who love me, they know my house is a mess most times, they know I’m a sort of absent-minded professor too focused on my projects, they know I’m mostly low energy and would much rather sit on the deck and share a bottle of wine these days, than go out to make a show of having fun.

These people don’t care that I’ll never play an instrument, that my art is mediocre or that my novel didn’t make any lists, let alone best seller. I’m good enough for them just the way I am.

More and more, I’m finding I’m good enough for me.

 


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