It was my friend and colleague Cindy Morris who provided the news.
Cindy graduated from Cornell University’s agriculture program enough years ago that the professors have all probably changed a time or two since and she once owned the European Flower Shop in Boulder, Colorado. Like me, she has fairy in her blood and holds court with the plant people on a regular basis. We were chatting over the telephone and I reported having brought in about thirty-five geraniums to overwinter in my house. Summer had given way to fall and the nights were getting cold enough to make the geraniums shiver. It was time for them to come in.
“I’m not exactly one of those crazy old ladies . . . yet . . . but I know that some people would find bringing in thrity-five geraniums to join all of my other indoor plants to be, well, a little excessive,” I said.
Cindy’s reply was immediate.
“Don’t kid yourself. You and I are those crazy old ladies.”
Then she laughed that deep, throaty laugh of hers that I love. It always suggests a knowing that might be hers alone or might be shared. In this case, she intended for it to be shared, whether or not I was ready for it. It was the same kind of matter of fact comment coupled with a knowing laugh that I imagine Carl Jung making in a private conversation with Freud. “You know, you’re crazy as a loon. But, then, so am I. In fact, since we’re all just drifting through the dream, we might as well make the best of it.” Like that.
When I first commented that I hadn’t yet become a crazy old lady, I was thinking of the woman who lived across the street when I was growing up. She often took her meals on her tiny front porch, scooping food into her mouth and, without seeming to think anything strange to it, putting the plate down for her cats to join in, then taking it back for another bite. Her house consisted of narrow aisles winding among stacks of newspapers and assorted objects de debris.
Surely I hadn’t yet become her. Had I? And how old was she, anyway, when I was ten or twelve? Surely she was truly a crone and not sixty, like me. Or was she younger than I now make her? It’s hard to tell. Everyone seems old when you’re ten or twelve.
I began thinking about what a ten or twelve-year-old girl might think of me. Would I appear to be a crazy old lady? Okay, okay, some people assume I qualify without giving it another thought because I’m a practicing shaman. But that’s just small-mindedness. Okay, I also have a penchant for herbs, some of them odd little varieties like mugwort. A few centuries ago they burned women like me at the stake. Some people I’ve met appear to still prefer that as a valid way to dispose of shamans and herb lovers. What else? As far as I’m concerned, fairies are real, trees have a lot to say to us if we will but listen, and the energy of things can be seen and felt. Maybe a ten or twelve-year-old would think me crazy. And maybe a four-year-old would agree with my model of the world because she wouldn’t yet have been socialized out of the knowledge that the world in which we live is truly magic.
What else might make me a crazy old lady? Well, some adults would say I’m crazy because I left a perfectly rational life in corporate America to be an entrepreneur and, with that, came to value happiness over cash. I might be seen as crazy, too, because I sometimes choose to dress age-inappropriately, say exactly what is on my mind, and believe that love trumps just about everything. Can’t help it. It’s who I am.
I’m embracing cray old ladyhood and thank you, my dear friend, Cindy Morris, for bringing it to my attention. Somehow it’s a relief to be a crazy old lady.
But now I’m wondering what other women think qualifies them as crazy old ladies. If you think you’re one (or even a crazy young lady), I’d love to hear from you.
copyright 2009 by Melanie Mulhall (aka crazy old lady)