In preparing for the upcoming series Growing Older, Growing Wiser: Becoming an Elderwoman, I came across the article below, which was written when I first decided to present the series. It was originally published in The Eddy, the newsletter of the organization Wellspring Haven.
Autumn Reflections, by Katharine Houk
Lately, a cold wind has been rattling the last, clinging leaves of autumn. The mellow days have passed; winter is almost upon us. The harvest is in, my herb garden has been put to bed, and the geese are winging south.
At this autumn time, I am very aware that I have entered what is sometimes referred to as the “autumn” of life, even though inside I feel young, vital, and creative. In the past decade, I have given much thought to what it means to be entering the Third Age of my life: reading, talking with older women, revisiting my past, deepening spiritual practices, conducting research. I wish to live these years in a conscious and fruitful way, savoring each moment.
This autumn I attended a conference especially for women who have discovered that age is something to celebrate. There I enjoyed workshops, drumming, dancing, an “Honoring of the Elders,” small group gatherings, storytelling, and a beautiful labyrinth in the woods, where some deer and two owls appeared at twilight to accompany me on my otherwise solitary walk. Over two hundred women were at the conference, with the workshops being led by the women attending, much as Wellspring Haven conducts its Annual Women’s Campout. Women’s circles are thriving everywhere. It was fascinating to attend a conference designed expressly for Elderwomen, and I came away feeling as though I had experienced an initiation into my Third Age…
Delightfully, being in the autumn of life feels enormously liberating, as I find myself more at peace than ever before. It’s a feeling of lightness, and spaciousness. In my life I have learned from many experiences, both joyful and painful, and I intend to keep learning and growing as long as I am able. Each of us has her life story, rich with experience and insight. Sharing those stories empowers us.
Entering these final decades can be challenging, considering the changes which aging brings and the social attitudes toward older women in our culture. We are “crones,” or “hags” – two words that used to have very different connotations than they do now. “Crone” comes from the same root as the word “crown,” and “hag” mean “holy one,” which is why the study of saints’ lives is known as hagiography. It’s time to reclaim the honor that those words formerly conveyed.
…Becoming an Elderwoman, a Wisewoman, is an ongoing process. Growing older in and of itself is no guarantee of growing wiser. Here is my (and our) “how-to” challenge and adventure: How To Become an Elderwoman, someone aging with grace, good humor, joy, and wisdom. There are things we can do to make our autumn journeys conscious ones, as we deepen our awareness of who we truly are and how we want to live our Third Age. Let’s grow older and wiser together!