'Yellow - Red - Blue' by Kandinsky

Creativity and ( Crone ) the Wisewoman

by Phyllis L. Mayfield

When I get up to read my poetry, some passionate, at a local coffee house, I always say my age. I am 71 years old. People in our society are so spooked about getting older. As has been said, now that there are no censored words on the tube, the most taboo word is "death." Yet the media are absolutely enthralled by the subject. I almost died twice, myself, in the last seven years, from crazy auto accidents. That is one of the reasons I feel so fortunate to be alive, and so determined to use the time I have been given back . . .

 I know I don't have to follow anyone else's rules for an old person. I wear my hair long, though it has been gray since I was in my forties. When a man looks at me with interest, I look with interest back. Sometimes I begin conversations with men just as I always have with women.

I have already fulfilled the requirements society put on women of my generation. I worked hard in school, finishing at a university with a teacher's credential. Married, I worked as a teacher, then at home with my children, then as a school librarian. I retired early when my husband did, and built a house with him.

When I retired I thought, "Now I can spit in anybody's eye." But I was wrong. I had never dealt with my angry, controlling, critical, husband. After he survived cancer, he became angrier than ever and somehow blamed me for his illness. Finally, his fury was so intense, I was no longer safe in my own home. I was too afraid to face my fear of him. Instead I became more and more depressed. I was afraid to stay, and afraid to leave.

I divorced my husband three years ago. He is now in control of his anger so we can share the house, he, upstairs and I, downstairs.

I think the key to creativity is freedom. I'd like to tell you how freedom developed in me. I spent my life of 71 years being fairly open about who I was. Since I fell in love five years ago -- enormously in love, a love that has charged my batteries in a whole new way--I have given up being anything but open about myself. My creativity can, thus, flow on any subject without much censoring from me. I have given myself the freedom, also, to be imperfect in every way. Sometimes I can even act on that permission.

When erotic thoughts come to me, which they do often, as in love as I am, I write them down in poems. My kids won't read them or listen to them; they think I should be dead in that area by now, but others enjoy my passionate words. They cheer me on. One 20-year-old told me I give her hope. She said, "I want to be just like you when I am 71."

Five years ago I fell in love with the most wonderful man I have ever met. The love pushed me right out of my depression. Like the magma in a volcano lying hidden, then pushed to freedom by the enormous force inside the earth, my creativity was freed by the enormous love I felt for him. Like ash thrown thousands of feet into the air, my creativity reaches higher and higher. Now free, I can soar through my writing . . .

I have written poetry for 18 years. For the first 13, I filled one and one-half journals. I am now writing in my sixteenth. The love has pulled poems out of me more often than even I can believe. They are mostly about love, but the intensity of my feelings for my beloved makes everything more exciting. It makes all the poems have a fervor and a strength they never had before.

I write because I love to write when the words flow. I hope my words will help others and give them hope, no matter what age they are.

I no longer live with the negatives I allowed to keep me corralled so long. I believe in myself more than ever, and try to love myself as much as I love my friend. I like approval, and hate criticism, but I know fear of criticism, as well as my self-criticism, kept my muse chained up most of my life.

Confronting my fears lets my muse loose now, and she favors me with ideas and phrases I would have discarded immediately, in the past, as not good enough. When I go to my poetry critique group, I am able, after three years, to accept criticism without flinching too much, and then use many of the suggestions offered.

I find there's a lot of freedom in giving up resistance to others' genuinely helpful ideas.


About the word crone. . .

Someone, or perhaps a committee, decided that's a good term for an older woman. If, when you are my age, if you want to be called crone, OK. No one asked me. When I hear "crone", I see a pathetic, witless woman drooling into her chin whiskers and muttering about bad things in times past. Call me old, elder, senior, wisewoman, even bitch -- at least there's energy in that word, but do me a favor--don't call me crone.

Phyllis L. Mayfield lives in the Santa Cruz mountains with her loved companions, her collie, and the redwoods she has known since she was five years old. She is currently letting her creativity soar by writing an autobiography, called Gazebo, about her last five years.

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