'Emilie Floge' by Gustav Klimt
Creativity. Women. Aging.
Who are we, where are we going? What happens when we get there?

I keep musing about these questions.

I am 30 years old. I live in a culture that worships the young, the sleek, the beautiful. In the lore of my century, Youth is Beauty, and Beauty, Youth, and that is all ye know and all ye need to know on Earth. No wonder I'm already eyeing anti-wrinkle creams at the cosmetic counters and noticing every grey hair on my head with wry dismay.

Yet I will never pull a single grey hair out, nor dye my hair to conceal their growing numbers. Why?

Years ago, Lillian Hellman, the great American writer & playwright, spoke at a commencement ceremony at a women's college in Massachusetts. As an independent artist, notorious for her drinking, smoking, and unabashed long-standing love affair with Dashiel Hammett, she has always been a heroine of mine.

She must've been in her 80s when she addressed the graduating class. Paraphrased, she said to the young women present, "I must seem like a very old woman to you. You see that my face is lined with wrinkles -- and yet, I will tell you today, that I wouldn't trade ANY of my wrinkles for your youth, for each line represents a chapter of my life and a set of memories that are precious to me. . ."

This season in Moondance, the array of opinions is concerned with women, aging, and creativity. The word "crone" keeps popping up. Grey hair is in the air. Poetry about falling leaves and colder nights is taking us into the autumn. Women are aging. We are all aging. And we are singing . . .

The first opinion, from physicist and author Nick Herbert, comes by way of a letter he wrote to a friend in prison. Nick describes his experience with God personified as an Indian woman, a satguru, who gives Darshan through a hug.

Ironically enough, the incident is prompted by the aging and death of his wife's father, which provides the backdrop for the letter and Nick's colorful description of the experience.

Although he doesn't mention specifically the process of creativity, what Nick does express is the radiation of love from the Great Mother. The essence of being, and doing. "I saw God last week. In fact She hugged me."

The essence of love.

The fundament of creation.

Love, as we shall see, plays a large role in creativity -- or at least in the selected opinions in this edition of Moondance.

Phyllis L. Mayfield, a poet and retired teacher, writes compellingly of the power of love in her creative process: ". . . 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."

The other aspect of creativity, writes Phyllis, is freedom. Freedom to create, to express, to love.

Freedom in living. She also breaks many of the rules that she perceives society has proscribed for older women -- including wishing to be called anything other than a crone.

I want to talk about the image of the crone, because it's become such a misunderstood term these days. In older times and many cultures, the crone or the wise-woman was/is not considered a pejorative term or a station in life

-- In fact, quite the opposite. In the West, the image of the crone is a used-up, bitter old witch of a woman, who dodders about while her younger sisters rule the world and hold the powers of Youth and Beauty.


And yet, the image of the Mariposa persists. Jungian analyst and cantadora, Clarissa Pinkola-Estes, in her wonderful book, Women Who Run With the Wolves, talks about the South American native community where each year the honor of honors, performing the Butterfly dance, is bestowed upon the most powerful female member of the community. Tourists who don't know much about the Mariposa (or the Butterfly) dance, cluster around the clearing to watch the most beautiful member of the tribe dance this ancient dance.

And what happens when the Mariposa actually dances is this: the largest, most overweight, and OLDEST woman member of the tribe steps into the center of the camp and dances the powerful dance. Talk about a disappointment to the tourists!!

The people recognize where the power lies among them -- power resides in the matriarch, the great-grandmother, the old one, the wise-woman, the crone. The symbol of the great mother. The representation of the earth, the nurture, the love.

So croneness can be something to look forward to, rather than something to dread or dislike. Croneness, in fact, is an honor -- well earned, like Lillian Hellman's wrinkles. Or my own greying hair.

Coming back into touch with our birthright, our power as human beings, includes embracing the aging process. In order to age in dignity and vibrancy, we need to create. Aging itself is creative.

And in order to create, writes Robert Kelly in his eloquent study called "Women & Creativity (& Aging)," we need to love, and love well, and love outward.

What is creativity all about?

Robert answers: "Is getting old creative? That's more like it, you're getting warm. Aging is creative, in one sense: one is silently and thoroughly making oneself."

Four female archetypes pass through his lens for scrutiny. Each of the four -- Eve, Lilith, Miriam, Sappho -- belong to the Western creative metaphor. Though all have meaning, import, and weight, for Robert, only one of them is truly creative.

Making and creating, dying out and being reborn, the life-death-life cycle of which aging is a vital and intrinsic part. The summer, ripe and full, giving way to the cooler, more thoughtful autumn, while winter, a whisper in the air at first, approaches. We all know the routine, feel the wind change, watch ourselves go around another cycle.

Hopefully, during that time and in those seasons, we are not only marking the changes of life, but WE are changing. Life -- ripening, growing, maturing, stretching, challenging -- is all around us. It remains for us to embrace it -- and in so doing, to embrace ourselves, our creative powers, our own individual pieces of the magical process we call Life.

Love, and love well. Love well, and love outward. Love outward, and create.

In loving, we live.

Perhaps life itself, in all aspects, is an act of creation.


. . . and perhaps that's just my opinion.

Alex Uttermann

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