I wrote this piece as my swan song for SageWoman Magazine, after nearly 20 years there as a columnist, with “Crone Eyes, Crone Heart.” If you’ll notice, the tone of this piece is very much that of a crotchety crone: direct, no nonsense, seeing through the appearances.
Yesterday, I received a text message from my granddaughter Kiera’s mother Sue. She told me that Kiera might be calling her Grannie Annie soon, after her adventure up Mt. Washington, which she summited last weekend with two other 17-year olds, both boys with mountain and ice-climbing experience. Why they agreed to take her, a complete novice, with them, they probably wondered. She told Sue she’s never been so scared in her life. Leaving home at 4 A.M., four hours later they started up, and actually did manage to get all the way up the mountain (4000 feet from base to summit), carrying sleeping bags and extra gloves, and with help of ice picks, crampons, and, on the way down, ropes.
Oh my! Had Sue known the danger I doubt she would have allowed her daughter to go. But as she said, “Kiera is beginning to realize she comes from a long line of crazy women.” YES!
I do remember saying to her, after one of her fiery tantrums as a little girl: “Some day you will be able to focus and direct this huge energy in immensely creative ways.”
I’m just so damn proud of Kiera who, as far as I’m concerned, has now initiated herself into her obstreporous female line. The key, as I told myself back when I was 26, and just beginning to experiment: “Whatever I’m afraid of, that is what I must do.”
Crone Eyes, Crone Heart, Final Column
by Ann Kreilkamp
SageWoman Magazine, 2011.
We live in succession, in division, in parts, in particles. Meantime within man is the soul of the whole; the wise silence; the universal beauty, to which every part and particle is equally related, the eternal ONE. . . We see the world piece by piece, as the sun, the moon, the animal, the tree; but the whole, of which these are shining parts, is the soul. — Ralph Waldo Emerson
I’ve been writing a crone column for SageWoman magazine since 1993. That’s nearly 20 years. You’d think that by this time I’d feel like a crone! But I seem to have transitioned beyond Crone, indeed beyond any aspect of female, beyond human, into cosmic.
I sense myself as a cosmic, interstellar being.
What happened? How to describe?
It wasn’t anything dramatic; no blinding light knocked me from my human perch. Nor did a booming or whispered inner voice spin me around, shove me forward, order “go that way.” I can’t even point to a particular event that ignited this latest, now visible arcing of my ongoing evolutionary spiral.
As the philosopher Wittgenstein once said — and I’m sure I’ve mentioned him more than once before in this column, in fact exactly this same quote, so please bear with me — “It’s hard to start at the beginning, and not go further back.”
That quote reminds me of the ontological status of all merely human endeavors: how whatever we build with our minds and hands is “contingent, “ i.e. finite, changing, unnecessary, and floats, somehow, miraculously, in the infinite ocean of interstellar space. Simply, ultimately, there isno “bottom line,” no foundation, no place to fall. We live on earth, and build structures around us that we pretend are real, valuable, and secure — and which, sooner or later, crumble. And yet, even so, we don’tfall. We live miraculously suspended in a mysterious living universe.
But back to here, and now . . .
Lying in bed this early morning, I found myself deeply in thought as to what approach I might take to expressively and naturally show the full flowering of the shift I have undergone. For I can say one thing for certain: it happened “from the inside out,” as usual.
This is one of the definitions of Crone (for those many who ask) that I’ve always favored. “Crone is she who lives from the inside out rather than the outside in.” Crones are resistant to conditioning, impossible to brainwash. They have shaken off the ageist programming that is subtly or blatantly dictated by our body-identified, youth-worshipping culture.
Instead, of acting old and decrepit, instead of cringing in public, instead of feeling lonely and invisible and washed up, crones do their thing, even flaunt their thing, and to hell with what others say.
Luckily, unlike adolescents, who also do their own thing and to hell with what others say, we are not young; we are old, and our experience has gifted us with both sides of any equation, so that no matter what happens, we feel what others feel. In doing our own thing, having walked in the other’s shoes, we take care not to step on them.
In gatherings of crones, we open space up wide, wide! wider! — and revel in celebration of each others’ uniqueness. The girdles are off and the hair comes down. Finally, after a lifetime of mothering (whether persons or projects), we flower into exactly who we are, no matter how fierce, or intense, or dreamy, or otherwise strange.
For “as crones become invisible to others, they learn how to see.” This is a huge gift. Freedom of perception! No longer subject to hungry eyes devouring or envying our decked up, sexualized bodies, we breathe a sigh of relief. No longer squinting to avoid others’ projections, sight expands panoramically, our perspective honed by the halls of memory, from which we have gleaned truths and paid dues, in spades.
Crones live from the inside out; crones see all and everything with their own eyes. But how does this shift happen? For it’s not automatic. Not all old women become crones. Aging is no guarantee of wisdom or verve. Yes. How do we shift from needing to be loved by others to, in essence, being love, radiating unceasingly our full luminescence?
Here’s how. We eat our own shadow. Crone is “she who eats her own shadow.” This, one might say, is the Jungian understanding of crone. Crone is one who has “individuated,” become whole, by consciously facing, embracing, and integrating within herself those aspects that lay in shadow — denied, or ignored — and/or of which she was terrified because they felt “bad,” or “wrong.”
Some do this inner work through psychoanalysis. Others devour books. Still others, especially women my age, joined forces in the late ’60s and formed “consciousness-raising” groups. At first, our focus was sociological: together, we started to recognize how we had been pushed into certain “roles” that we then resolved to overcome.
Later, we turned inwards, to “process” our experience. We harvested understanding from dreams and visions, from the miraculous synchronicities of every day; and we dialogued with what we had found in our journals, or at times with others, usually other women, intimates. I, for example, have been co-counseling with my dear friend Claudia, since 1985. That’s 26 years! (She’s the one who remembers mydreams. I, alas, do not remember hers in turn.) Alone, and together, we’ve worked to help ourselves dig up the family roots of our own dramas, so that, in grokking our herstories and their import, we can bless them and let them go.
Aha! I now realize the natural approach I have been guided to take in elucidating this latest seemingly inexplicable shift within my own being.
I’ve just eaten my own shadow again, processed through my own dramas, and this time, the shadow and the dramas were those of the body itself — and not just the aging process of the body, my relation to which has been a dominant theme of my crone contemplation for nearly two decades. I have consciously eaten the body itself. Eaten the process of living in a body.Of residing here temporarily as an invisible, limitless soul trapped inside a decidedly limited suit of bones, flesh, and fluid.
And yet, I have not felt trapped inside this suit. At least not lately. During those twenty years I identified as a crone I did feel trapped.
All my life, I have recognized myself as “ageless,” an immortal spirit uneasily yoked to a mortal body. Immortality is an easy (though profound) understanding when one is young and feels immortal anyway. Not so, during the years of cronehood when what used to be bounding energy gradually or suddenly begins to wind down, until finally the spirit, eventually or suddenly, incandesces.
As a crone, I worked to accept and integrate my ageless self with the seemingly inevitable, sudden or gradual slowdown of physical energy, the sudden or gradual devolution of skin texture and tone, hair color and thickness, muscle definition and tone, and so on. I wanted to stare, unblinkingly, at the ongoing decomposition of the body, it’s inexorable end. And I wanted to utilize that understanding to both enlarge my world view and deepen compassion for all of life.
So yes, that’s what’s changed. I’m no longer meditating so much on “death” as the end of this life, what I must consciously prepare for as I unflinchingly move towards it.
Instead, it’s as if a much larger “I” or being has chosen to temporarily focus in and through this body suit, chosen it as a lens, through which the universe moves into temporary incarnation for a certain purpose.
I remember the day when I first underwent this strange, compelling, very different experience of my own life in a body. I was standing up, bending over my desk, about to write a check.
Suddenly, it was as if a whole chorus of spirits were funneling their combined energies through the tiny aperture of my eyes. Funneling their energies, from another dimension, into this one.
I told my niece, who lived with me at the time, about this experience. She is an amazing being, one of the indigo children, so I didn’t have to worry that she would think me crazy. I asked her if she had ever had this kind of experience. She had not.
This experience, of funneling a group of souls through the aperture of my eyes, started to become more frequent.
In some way, I can look upon this experience as the result of a long spiritual practice, that of “witnessing” my experience, something I began in my late 20s, after reading a book about Gurdjieff, his practice of “self-remembering.” From then on I have cultivated a doubled consciousness: This practice helped greatly to smooth out the ragged edges of my peripatetic, highly experimental and risk-taking life. No matter what, I could always count on “being” there; no matter what I was going through, there was always this detached awareness that calmly and dispassionately witnessed the experience.
When I say I had practiced this since my 20s, I don’t mean to imply that this double-awareness was continuous. Far from it. Rather, I had given myself a sort of operational command, “wake up!” wake up to the actual living reality of the present moment, no matter what is going on! Let go of attachment and emotion and wake up!
The witness awareness would come in sudden flashes, and then blink off. Or it would bloom, for a long moment, and then blink off. Always, of course, it did blink off. The off and on sequencing continued for years, though I will say that at some point it did seem that the on moments began to flood awareness for longer and longer periods of time.
Though I’ve long known that, in reality, “I”, i.e., the real, invisible aspect of me, was larger than my body, and that, actually, as the saying goes, “I am a spiritual being having a human experience,” what I did not realize, until now — and I have no evidence for this, just the subjective nature of my altered experience — was that this life I lead here, this so-called “life,” is but a tiny fraction of my own multidimensional self that is living an infinite number of lives in an infinite series of universes. Yes, I am vast, as vast as being. My being is coterminous with the whole. Nothing separates me from all that is. All, that, is, is me!
So, given this near-ecstatic expansion in communion with the All and Everything — what about this business of being Crone, and of this column, “crone eyes, crone heart?”
After not receiving my column when it was due, Anne Niven wrote an urgent email to ask when it was coming. Her email caught me blindsided. Somehow, her earlier email had not registered.
For several issues now, Anne has been hinting delicately that perhaps my time as a columnist for SW is done, that I have moved on. But I am a creature of habit, and rather enjoyed the quarterly attempt to fashion my usually abstract focus into some kind of concrete form that might stimulate others.
This time I paused. Perhaps it was time to quit. Ah yes, it was. And since mine is a crone column, I also wondered about my association with Crone Magazine. I asked Anne, “Should I quit my column there as well?” (For those who don’t know: I started Crone Chronicles in 1989 and ran it until it closed in 2001. Anne Niven started up Crone Magazine in 2007 with my help as its Founding Editor, a position I relinquished after issue #3, narrowing my role for #4 to that of a regular columnist.)
She emailed me back. “Are you coming to the Crones Counsel in Portland this September? If not, then the answer is clear. You’ve told me you love going to UFO conferences, and you only went to one day of last year’s Crones Counsel in Albuquerque, so . . .”
Aha! She’s right. I’m not going to the Crones Counsel this year. Simply, I don’t feel moved to go. I’ve moved on, as I told her, from gender-based consciousness, and further, from human species consciousness, to interdimensional, interstellar . . .
So, what does it feel like to be me, now, this cosmic, multidimensional, interstellar being who happens to have one aspect of her vast being funneling in through a 68-year-old female body on planet Earth in a tiny solar system in one outer edge of the Milky Way galaxy?
Well, I confess, until I began my new website, www.exopermaculture.com, five months ago, I was feeling, not exactly alienated, as there was no angst involved, no real sense of loneliness, despair, or anything else associated with the existentialism of my ’60s youth. No, rather, it was as if I was done here. There was no more for me to do. I actually began to alert people close to me, like my son, who now lives next door, that when it came time for me to leave this life, I would actively do it. Not by actively killing myself, but naturally. Like an aboriginal, I would simply stop eating and drinking.
Of course, he was alarmed. “Really, Mom??!”
I’ve long had what most people would consider an unusual relationship to my own body, and to life on earth. I’ve known that “death” is not only not to be feared, but welcomed, the entrance to greater life. Further, I’ve seen no point in prolonging this earthly life beyond the place of full usefulness. I take care of my body well, in fact I make a huge point of taking good care of my body, since without a body that is primed and functioning, of what use am I to the whole? I would be focused on my aches and pains, rather than on whatever service I’m guided to give at the time.
And though, last December, my body was still in prime condition, something had changed. I was bored. I could see no more point to living in this body, having seen it all done it all.
And then, for some reason, I sat down at my computer, and very quickly, surprisingly for an self-identified luddite, created a website, www.exopermaculture.com, and have been blogging like crazy ever since.
There’s something for me to do here still.
BTW: I am going to attend this year’s Crones Counsel XXVI, near Bellingham, WA, in late September, along with my old friend Claudia. Moreover, since this column was written, I have grounded myself more thoroughly, in Green Acres Permaculture Village.