Wednesday, November 21, 2007

On being 60

And today we are sixty years old.

Okay, I'm sixty. Tony was 60 last week.

Sixty years ago today, my mother was in labor -- had been for hours. She'd listened to the reports of the wedding of then-Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip on Nov. 20 -- all the details, the ceremony, the music. I remember her telling me about it and how it helped her to think of something else.

And I finally appeared after some 26 hours of labor, all 6 lbs. oz. of me, at 8:30 p.m. -- right on the cusp of Scorpio and Sagittarius.

I remember calling my mother on her 60th birthday and telling her that I was much too young to have a 60-year-old mother. She retired from teaching that year, 1981. I don't think she felt old. And I don't feel old either -- although there are lines on my face and neck, and my hair is frosting naturally.

Both Tony and I feel very honored by our friends: we've had parties and cakes and cards and gifts, and many good wishes. The friendships are the best gift of all, and we are deeply grateful.

So let me tell you about my croning.

Croning honors women who are recognized for their wisdom, power, and age. It is the third phase of a woman's life; the first two are maiden and mother. While those "labels" have deep spiritual roots in religions and traditions practiced long before Christianity emerged, especially in recent years there has been interest by mainstream denominations in feminist theology, with ritual and events centered around the stages of a woman's life. While women have long been the foundation in the Christian church, the power has more traditionally been vested in men. That is changing in many mainstream churches, at least somewhat. But it is truth that women are reclaiming their power and position. (and that's probably a whole 'nother blog post for the future)

My girlfriends, the Cowgirls, planned a day away last weekend for the four of us. First we went to the labyrinth at Sacred Heart in Anderson and spent some lovely time walking those circular paths so steeped in spiritual tradition. I'd long wanted to walk one, and am thinking of putting one on our land here. It is a way to deepen any spiritual practice, a walking meditation, and I know each of us found truths in the walking, and loving friendship in the center.

And then we traveled up I-5 to Dunsmuir, a once-booming town built on the slope of Mt. Shasta, where we enjoyed a wonderful late lunch at the Cornerstone Cafe and Bakery. Fabulous carrot cake. Creamy peanut butter pie. Veggie lasagna that was rich in cheesy flavor.

The girls treated me to a delightful assortment of gifts and cards, among them a set of "Wisdom of the Crone" cards, a truly beautiful deck created by a poet, a photographer, and a scholar. The photos are of women from 50 to 100 years old; the words on each card offer guidance for the day, for the question, or just a reminder that life is good.

Today, for instance, I drew "Play."
Play is elemental to our
well being.
Run, jump and skip
across the earth.
Sing and dance around a fire.
Frolic and dive into glorious waters.
Fly through the air with
the greatest of ease.
Play often, play hard."

It's a reminder to me that life is short, life is precious and should be relished, all of it.

And then we went to a lovely little waterfall, Hedge Creek Falls, where they toted various bags down the little trail, and set up a little croning ceremony right by the trail.

So within sight of the cascading water, on an appropriately November-ish gray day, under a canopy of trees still embellished with fall color, my three friends honored me as a wise, loving, loyal woman and friend. Oh, there were hokey moments when I wanted to laugh out loud -- and we did -- and there were a few groups of folks who wandered down the trail, peering curiously at the four ladies, especially the tall one seated on the rocks who had a fake grapeleaf circlet with trailing golden ribbons perched on her graying hair.

But we continued anyway. We let go of old habits, old patterns of thinking that hold us back, and invited new things into our lives. We shed a few tears. We hugged. We smiled a lot.

And it's all about joy and gratitude, I told them. You have joy, you offer gratitude in everything, for everything, and that's all that you need. Indeed, it was a wonderful celebration -- and I was humbled and very touched by how they hold me in their hearts.

Eventually we wound up at Mt. Shasta, driving partway up that great energy center, where I -- lit by a flashlight in the foggy darkness -- promised to be who I am, to be true and honest to myself, and to cherish life with all its ups and downs.

The words were prettier than those, and very meaningful. But that was the gist.

And then, fueled by a stop at a very neat bookstore, and a warm drink for the road, we headed back to our lives in Red Bluff.

It was a magical day, a fun time with dear people, and it marked for me a transition into what I believe is going to be an incredible time in my life.

My 50s were the best decade of my life so far. I believe the best is yet to be. I hope you'll stay with me for the ride.

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