Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Wild Elders

Just as we could say that becoming an adult it is the overall developmental task of the child, I believe that the overall developmental task of every adult is to become not just merely an ‘old person’ but a true elder. In my second book, Elderwoman, I listed what I saw as the twenty principles of true elderhood. These are:

Ø      simplicity: living lightly on the Earth
Ø      deep vision: seeing beneath the surface, the ‘big picture’
Ø      passion: caring deeply about what really matters
Ø      compassion: for humans and the more-then-human world
Ø      non-attachment: to people, possessions etc
Ø      Earth-centeredness: living ecocentrically, not egocentrically
Ø      comfort: in one’s community and surroundings
Ø      connectedness: with all that is
Ø      respect: for others, all other life forms and the Earth itself
Ø      creativity: in what one does and how one lives
Ø      delight: in one’s senses, simple pleasures and life in general
Ø      lightness: and the freedom to become one’s true self at last
Ø      enoughness: living within our means, and those of the planet
Ø      heart-listening: trusting the voice of intuition
Ø      peace and quiet: enjoying solitude and a slower pace of life
Ø      authenticity: being all one can be, like a ripening fruit
Ø      responsibility: playing one’s part in the healing of our Earth
Ø      radical aliveness: living fully  every moment. A ‘yes’ to life
Ø      acceptance of change: knowing it's the only constant
Ø      balance: balancing the yin and the yang in one’s life
Although Elderwoman, as its title implies, was written specifically for ‘third age’ women, I have been surprised and delighted by the number of men who have written to tell me they enjoyed it too. But my list of ‘Elderwoman Principles’ is probably appropriate for both genders.

One principle I didn’t include—although in a sense it is covered, in a way, by several of the others, is the principle of wildness.

‘Wild’ is not an adjective one often hears applied to older folk. And yet, when I read the following passage on page 414 of Bill Plotkin’s book Nature and the Human Soul (New World Library, 2008) it set my heartstrings twanging. That’s why I want to share it with you. Bill wrote:

A genuine elder possesses a good deal of wildness, perhaps more than any adult, adolescent or child. Our human wildness is our spontaneity, our untamed vitality, our innocent presence, our resistance to oppression, and our rule-transcending vivacity and self-reliance that social convention can never contain. We are designed to grow deeper into that wildness as we mature, not to recede from it. When we live soulcentrically, immersed in a lifelong dance with the mysteries of nature and psyche, our wildness flourishes. A wild elderhood is not a cantankerous old age or a devil-may-care attitude, nor is it stubbornness or dreamy detachment. Rather, the wildness of elderhood is a spunky exuberance in unmediated, ecstatic communion with the great mysteries of life—the birds, fishes, tress, mammals, the stars and galaxies, and the dream of the Earth” 

Wow! Isn’t that great? I wish I could write like that!

(Thanks to Jay Luttman-Johnson for the picture. It is one of my favourites.)


Folkways Note Book said...

Thanks for the quote from Nature and the Human Soul. Plotkin is "right on," as my grandchildren would say. If only the adult and young folks knew how wonderful being an elder is. I never knew about the lightness and the freedom until I became an elder. -- barbara

Grandmother Mary said...

I like your list. It's how I want to be when I grow up. In Plotkin's quote, I loved the "spunky exuberance... and the ecstatic communion with the great mysteries of life." That's a worthy goal!

June Calender said...

The last sentence you quote from Plotkin is the part that speaks to me. It seems a serene "wildness", yes with spunkiness, but not the person in the illustration -- the two don't go together for me.

In your own list I especially like the "enoughness". Our (American) society so mitigates against ever gaining that feeling and yet I think it's necessary for several other traits you list, like balance. It's a thoughtful and thought provoking list. Thanks for it.

Fay Campbell said...

Yay, yay, yay and whoopie! I'm celebrating being 55 all year. I very much like your list and think I'll go looking for your book now.

Gaea Yudron said...

Yes to wild elders-- what a wonderful blog post. I look for the day when wildness in the ways you speak of is a word associated with elders. May more of us display and share the riotous, untrammeled wildness we have found within ourselves. Everyone can be nurtured and inspired by that.

I haven't yet heard any of the CDs Clarissa Pinkola Estes has just released on The Dangerous Old Woman, but from her wonderful sharings on Facebook I know that this work is about the wild old woman. So this idea is moving around in the culture.

I love your Elderwoman book, and your list. I am glad you've added wildness to it.

Rosaria Williams said...

Something to aspire to.

Valerie said...

I hope that I am as wild as you when I become an elder woman!

Anonymous said...

Wild Elderwoman, again I greet you and delight in finding your reference to Bill Plotkin. I have been traveling with AVI for the last 4 years and find these principles guiding and shaping my own elderhood.So many women our age have settled into a diminished domesticity. I need Wildness, outer and inner to breathe, to know myself alive. Thank you.

One Woman's Journey - a journal being written from Woodhaven - her cottage in the woods. said...

I love this
Thank you for the quote
Agree totalloy
This freedom
I love....