"A village without elders is like a tree without roots."
- African proverb
I crave the presence of old, wise women. The sage, the elder, the crone. The wise old woman, or man.
Like an open wound craves soothing balm and mending and tenderness, I crave the smell, the words, the energy of the mature feminine archetype. And of actual old, wise women.
Where are they?
We have an ageing population, but - as Michael Meade, host of Living Myth podcast so eloquently states - instead of getting older and wiser, it seems people are just getting older.
I cry out angrily and despondent in both my dreams and in my waking life. Where are the old women who can shake us out of our cultural immaturity?
Where are the elders who can wake us from our cultural mass hypnosis where Instagram influencers selling fit tea and tiny handbags have hundreds of thousands of followers, whilst grandparents wither away in nursing homes, barely visited or listened to? Like priceless pearls never discovered while we squabble for bits of disintegrating plastic on the beach like misguided seagulls.
Where are the old wise women who can with a withered, gnarled but strong arm and a dry, cracked but sharp tongue, guide us with a firm but loving "not that way.. this way."
My life is achingly bereft of wise elders. My grandparents are long dead, and sometimes it seems my parents' generation is stuck. Stuck in mothering, or in running away. Mothering emotionally immature boys disguised as fully grown men. Mothering girls who absorb the same conditioning as their mothers, never growing into self-empowered, self-knowing women, repeating the same damaging patterns with their own daughters, unable to break free.
The women of my mother's generation, the baby boomers, seem so terrified of growing older that they put all their energy into disguising this fact rather than gracefully giving up the things of youth, honing their elder superpowers and wisdom so that they can offer it back to society.
Perpetual plastic surgery. Compulsive buying. Collecting trashy magazines and reading them cover to cover. Lying about their age. Being fat phobic. Publicly judging women on their appearance. Nowadays it's not just millennials and Gen Y's who partake in such rubbish. These are all things I've seen women in their 50s, 60s, and 70s doing. The grandmothers, the ones who are meant to teach us the wise ways.
It makes me want to cry, and scream, and rage.
Of course, it's not the individual's fault. Lost rites of passage. Patriarchy. Devaluation of the elderly. Consumerism. These are the problem.
Where are the old, wise women? I just can't see them. Do I need to dive deeper?
I now begin my search in earnest.
Hopeful, when I meet older women who glimmer with the prospect of holding some wisdom inside them.
Like a treasure chest with it's lid barely ajar, these women radiate quiet confidence, an unshakeable fierceness and graceful strength all at the same time. A potent, irresistible combination that comes not just with ageing, but ageing with grace, awareness, courage, intention, and clarity.
Clarity about their purpose and clarity on who they are.
These women know themselves so well, they no longer need to think about themselves.
They are too busy doing important shit.
I have found elders. I have found wise women. Some are old, some are not so old. But I have found them all the same. They were under my nose the whole time.
I needed to go looking for them. They are too busy doing their work, to go looking for you and me.
How did I find them?
I got clearer on my purpose, and on who I am. Not perfectly, unfalteringly clear. But clearer.
I have found them in places where my passions lie. I have found them where worlds teeter on the edge of inequality, injustice, and environmental destruction. I have found them in near-forgotten corners, quietly and ceaselessly doing good work, yet somehow generating the energy to do this work from an inner source that does not seem to run dry.
They don't get caught up in their wrath at the injustice of things. They radiate strength. They are positive about how things can be tomorrow, if we do the work today.
Elders, true elders burn with a passion. They know their purpose, and they live it. Be it permaculture, ending diet culture, environmentalism, human rights. They keep burning.
Where there is a fire ablaze, and where there is progress being made (however slow or seemingly small) - there are elders to learn from.
When my idealism and anguished soul has collided with the wisdom of an elder, I feel like I've received a loving slap in the face. The message I've been gifted from numerous elders is something like this:
"Why waste your energy on being angry at the state of things? Use all of that energy instead for the highest good. Create, regenerate, reconcile, heal. Now GO!"
I am still angry at diet culture. I am still deeply purturbed at blind, mass consumerism and the destruction of the environment. But I'm doing more now. I'm living more in alignment with my values and my wishes for the world I want my children to inherit. I am clearer on my purpose. And I'm acting on it more seriously.
And the clearer I get, the more the elders seem to come into my life. Beautiful, strong women. Wise, intelligent, compassionate women. Loving women.
Women who destroy old worlds and old paradigms not with anger, but with deep love, and deep tenderness.