Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Crone Speaks

April - '09

At a recent TTN (The Transition Network) peer group meeting our subject was “aging.” A member handed out invitations to her “Crone Crowning Party,” which spurred a discussion of how the Crone is revered in many cultures where older women have an exalted place among the elders. In American culture, old women are more often hags than wise crones; they are patronized or pitied for their forgetfulness, wrinkles and stooped backs.

As the seven of us contemplated this, we explored how we might look at ourselves as the feminine holders of wisdom. “I am a huge fan of Oprah,” one member said. She related how she never missed reading “O” Magazine, and told us that on the last page of each issue, Oprah writes a piece titled, “What Do I know for Sure.”

What do we know for sure? We have lived long and full lives, we have loved, suffered, triumphed and failed. What wisdom have we collected along the way?

In thinking of my answer, I tried to recollect those times in my life when something important happened: a birth, a death, an epiphany, a struggle, an ecstatic moment – for it is the poignant events that give us pause to adjust, adapt, assimilate, and, above all, to learn.

My thoughts settled on a moment twenty-five years ago. My best friend, Susan, had just died of pancreatic cancer. Although it was highly unusual, I shut the door to my office, unready to mingle and converse with those around me. A floor-to-ceiling window looked out to the front of the pre-school where I was an administrator. I watched as young children tumbled out of vans and station wagons, carrying their Care Bear lunch boxes and Smurf dolls. Some ran around the dogwood tree, others climbed the lower branches while their mothers, dressed in jeans and tennis outfits, planned their day together. I found myself getting angry; didn’t they know something enormous had just happened? The world had changed, yet they were carrying on as usual. “Don’t you understand?" I mouthed at them through the window.

As my anger and despair rose, there was a knock on the door. Taking a deep breath, I decided to open it. Looking down, I saw three-year-old, Caroline Kinsolving holding a plate of Christmas cookies. Caroline spoke with a slight lisp. “Hello, Nanthee. I juth wanted to thay Merry Crithmath.”

As I bent down to receive the cookies, Caroline said further, “And I juth wanted to axth you, how come your door ith clothed?

I gave Caroline a big hug and wished her a Merry Christmas. Suddenly something snapped inside of me, and I said, “I’m not sure why it is closed, Caroline. Let’s open it.”

I learned a very important lesson that December morning from a three year old. A closed door shuts out life. Even if we can’t move, even if we’re standing still, even if it seems as if the world has stopped, we must always know there is a way to move forward; I know for sure that doors must always be kept ajar.