Aging and Kinship by Sara Wright

When I moved to the mountains my children were grown and gone…

Finally I had land of ‘my’ own with a brook and mountains that was surrounded by forests. I felt protected by something I could not name. I was living on the edge of wilderness and a hunger I had been carrying for all of my adult life was finally appeased.

Although I had a vegetable and flower garden I felt a deep reluctance to cut trees and eventually lost most of my field to pines. When I finally built my log cabin, I did plant fruit trees, but every action was predicated on my need to give back to nature what she had given to me.

It was at this midlife crossroad that nature took me to her like the mother I never had. My little brother came to life again as my companion, although now he took the form of every animal I saw, and here there were many, bears and ravens included.

Nature became the Beloved… I had so much love to give. Today, allowing the land to care for herself, to determine her own fate would be called re- wilding.

In retrospect my kinship with this patch of woods and stream changed my life, turning me into even more of an Outsider because virtually no one I knew felt the way I did. I was labeled strange, different, crazy, and dismissed. I remember a stupid neighbor once telling me that he could never just grow flowers when I decided to give up my vegetable garden (except for herbs and tomatoes). The point of such a remark still escapes me but obviously being in love with flowers just because they were beautiful had no meaning for him. 

Nurturing the land, planting flowers that attracted pollinators, trees that attracted birds and insects and eventually giving up my vegetable garden, created more space for wildflowers, wild grasses, mosses and ferns. I created a vernal pool around a small spring to raise frogs each April; I wildcrafted herbs to use medicinally most from my backyard and didn’t care if my grass was ever cut! Although I wasn’t yet aware of the sanctuary I was creating, I was amazed by the abundance of wildlife, rabbits, hares, foxes, coyotes wolves and bears that were regular visitors. With all this non – human activity occurring all around me I became an even more keen observer. I kept yearly records and wrote about the lives of the animals around me publishing my work in different venues. Most important I honed my observer skills…Every one of my ceremonies reflected the seasonal shifts. I followed the Celtic calendar but created my own rituals, all of which became more and more fluid as the years wore on. Professionally, I taught, wrote, and did counseling on the side. In this manner many years passed. Aging crept up on me slowly without much awareness. I did notice some changes. It became more difficult to keep up with the amount of winter shoveling etc. I started to fear the winter months. I was becoming an old woman…

Aging is a challenge. It doesn’t help that there is a great silence around growing old even among feminists. This creates a unique form of loneliness. Last year I broke my foot shoveling ice, and this second break terrified me and destroyed my confidence regarding my physical abilities. I put my beloved home up for sale in a panic only to discover that the trees wouldn’t let me go…

My problem remained unsolved. I had to make a choice to go elsewhere for my own safety, but I had so little money.

With this in mind I applied for an apartment for low – income folks. Finally, this January a space opened up. I was ready to leave for the winter until I actually started to move. The kind man who offered to help fell down stairs carrying the very first piece of furniture. The fall knocked him unconscious with me calling 911 and witnessing more blood than I have ever seen… Overcome with horror I went numb initially, but the trauma lives on… for both of us, each for different reasons. 

Two more men I barely knew stepped in and by the end of January the five small pieces of furniture got moved in one afternoon and I did the rest myself in between snowstorms. A monumental task.

It was too late to drain the pipes for financial reasons, so I decided to leave the house ready for occupation and keep checking…

 I had no idea what I was getting myself into with this apartment. I discovered I couldn’t write there. I missed my birds, my trees the mountain I lean against – oh a thousand things. I am too lonely for home, for grouse and turkey convocations, for sunrises and sunsets and a real forest of trees….My support system is gone.

My rational mind tells me that I am fortunate to have any place to go – but my body senses a death of soul – I cannot relax in this environment – it feels alien.

I feel alien. Puzzled by my state of mind it wasn’t until I was listening to Richard Powers talk about kinship that I finally understood that by leaving I had lost the only family I knew and loved. My land.

I am walking on air.

I am not like other people. My attachment to trees, animals, sunrises, one mountain (I could go on here) grounds me in my body. Nature is my family. Without that visceral connection I am lost.

Kinship is about relationship, it is also about belonging, being a part of a tribe. My tribe just happens to be made up of non- human creatures and plants. I am even related to all of them through my DNA! Every tree and bird reminds me that I belong to my land. When I stand on the wooden floorof my house I feel the earth reaching up through my feet. 

Kindly people assure me I will make the adjustment but my heart- body says otherwise.

I have 11 months to decide if I can find a way to make this work. I am profoundly grateful that I don’t have to think about selling my house just yet. I am keeping an open mind – because if this does not work out – then what? Meanwhile I go home for days at a time – coming and going like nomad. When I get home all I want to do is sleep.

I have no answers, only questions – and the hope that some clarity will come. Meanwhile I share this personal narrative in the hope that some older women will begin to ask their own questions about how they will manage when aging overtakes them too.

BIO: Sara Wright is a naturalist, ethologist (a person who studies animals in their natural habitats) (former) Jungian Pattern Analyst, and a writer. She publishes her work regularly in a number of different venues and is presently living in Maine.

Author: Sara Wright

I am a writer and naturalist who lives in a little log cabin by a brook with my two dogs and a ring necked dove named Lily B. I write a naturalist column for a local paper and also publish essays, poems and prose in a number of other publications.

26 thoughts on “Aging and Kinship by Sara Wright”

  1. Sara, I cannot find the words in my heart right now. I am an ‘aging’ woman who has wrestled with your issues about where to live, what I can manage, emergencies, how to hold on to my soul with the requirements that come with being old Your story is one I have followed and always felt you are the bravest woman I “know”. I so appreciate your strength and courage to live the life you felt was yours, and yours alone. And now you must decide if that is possible any longer. I have lived in nature through you, but I do not have that courage to physically be there.
    Your struggle is the very hardest and I can only urge you to continue to believe that the answers will come, give them time and space. In the meantime, you have my heart and support for whatever evolves.
    Jan Rainier
    Rockport, Mass.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Wow what an honoring to be witnessed like this – i am so very grateful – i remind myself that for all of us there are struggles but I think that aging is the hardest and requires a depth of courage that must be forged out of the fire…. For each of us the answers will differ – the important thing from my point of view is to stay with the questions until clarity ( and hopefully not necessity ) offers us the answerswe need – I feel for you as you for me but please do not compare levels of courage… if we age honestly we must embrace courage in whatever form it appears – living a self directed life requires it – that abd self forgiveness – always. Many Blessings

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Dear Sara, your post brings up so many thoughts. It is so clear from this and your previous posts that you have a very special and loving relationship with all the beings on your land and the land itself. I can feel how hard it is to think about leaving it. I do think that clarity will come with time, and 11 months is a gift. I’ve known so many people who had a creative solution to dilemmas like yours just pop up unexpectedly, and I hope that happens for you (one person found a friend who shared her life perspective to move into half her house so that she had help but also privacy and another I just spoke to a couple of days ago needed to move into an assisted living but has been able to connect there to a river that runs close to her old home and gives her a sense of continuing relationship. I’m not saying that either of these would be the exact solution for you but are just examples of unexpected solutions popping up). But, whatever happens, I know you’ll have the courage and wisdom to do what you need to do. And know that you have the love and support of all us here at FAR as you make this transition.

    One small thing I also wanted to mention. I’m like you – I decided not to grow vegetables in my garden even though all my neighbors do. No one has said anything to me, but I’m sure they wonder why I have turned over my garden to wildflowers, herbs, and other pollinator plants. To me, I am feeding the wild beings, so it is as useful as their gardens. And I can go to a grocery store to get my food, but the the birds, bees, and butterflies can’t…

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Love this Carolyn and i love that you chose to give back to nature – it matters- that’s all i know.
      I am well aware that 10 months ( although i had to pay i have only been there 4 weeks and more and more i return here because i can’t write or sleep well without some ground…. I’m letting my body make the decisions – she knows what i do not because she is attached to the whole – we may adjust, we may not but i keep an open mind… feeling gratitude that i have a little time -imagine -my computer is there and i am here – making my writing sloppy because i can’t figure out how to do things with an I phone….!!! Sort of funny! Forgive messy posts – in the meantime bear with me all of you please.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Aging as a female is shocking I find, but aging as a shamanic female already out of time is well um…a challenging adventure and yet another call by spirit to cut a new neural road through the amnesia of our consensual culture that erased us. But not completely. Your work and witnessing renews us all. To be afraid at a new juncture in our journey where there is no support is the same brave spiritual call you answered when you surrendered to your beloved land, which by the way, from your posts, I love in absentia because of your heart-felt writing. Especially, I love the bears you have describe. I really love them. All that matters. Find your way as you are part of our tribe and we lift you and you lift us and we send you light. Namaste.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Aging for a female already ‘out of time’ is indeed another call. I love and honor what you say her… the amnesia of our consensual culture as you say doesn’t make it easier but this quality of sharing does. Don’t you think aging is a kind of shock treatment for both women and men – though perhaps in different ways…I know that for me listening to my body’s wisdom is something I trust… so I wait… believing that at some point clarity of some kind will emerge… thank you for your heartfelt response and just today I was out in the snow looking at liverworts on the scars a young bear made when shooting up a tree at his mother’ command. Like you I love bears – really love them and here they are hated and lied about and shot which has the unpleasant effect of me wanting bad things to happen to these people – I sure as hell am no saint.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Neither am I. With the complications, annoyances and trepidations of being an aging woman with three eyes open I also trust my body. I also trust my sacred rage. I try to temper it with wisdom and nature and breath, but I find the potency of the dark goddesses are comforting to me and comfortable for me at this age. Blessing and protection to the bears and all sentient beings. Namaste.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I hear you about the frustrations of growing old. Several things jumped out at me from your post and comments.
          – “Being in love with flowers just because they were beautiful had no meaning for him”: I think of Robin Wall Kimmerer, in Braiding Sweetgrass, telling the Dean that she wanted to study biology to learn why flowers are beautiful. The Dean responded that that is not a scientific question. In the end, she does find an answer, that fit within his paradigm.
          – “listening to my body’s wisdom is something I trust” I am finding that more and more as I age.
          Kaarina Kailo and Barbara Mann have written a book about bears and goddesses. I haven’t read it yet but it sounds interesting.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Robin Wall Kimmerer is one of my muses – definitely a guide when I doubt myself and yes wanting to know why asters and goldenrod were so beautiful is one of the most important questions a botanist or anyone else can ask… why? Because it keys us in to the mystery of Nature and her astonishing wonder…


      2. Aging for a female already ‘out of time’ is indeed another call.

        Gosh, I felt this in my soul.

        I had to move in 2021 from my somewhat wild quarter acre in the suburbs where I had been for nearly 20 years, amidst a cancer diagnosis and covid restrictions.

        I found a new home that was close, and has the same flocks of birds, the same creek. I had to depend upon my housemate whilst I went through surgery, recovery, chemo, recovery, convalescence, and finally now navigating a new life, new professional role.

        Still being orientated to the land where I have lived for so long was so important to me, and when the owner had the massive Silky Oak cut down and the yard cleared in preparation for sale, I felt like everything was being stripped away, and the grief was profound.

        I hope a resolution becomes known to you.


        1. Oh my god the cutting down of the oak says it all – are you aware that these trees feed multitudes – the most prolific tree in this country – cutting one down is a crime…. You have been through so much and I hope that all will go well for you now.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Thank you. I took the chippings from my old friend and put them in the new garden, and I have three logs and a number of sticks saved from a branch they shed themselves some time prior that I have kept

            Liked by 1 person

  4. Sara, As an old woman who loves living in the wilds of the Arkansas Ozarks, I’ve been pondering similar concerns. I wanted to write to you, but I didn’t know what to offer. An hour later, I ‘stumbled upon’ this message to you (and the rest of us) from Mary Daly. These are the last sentences in her book Pure Lust: Elemental Feminist Philosophy. “I must add to this accounting of my appreciation of a particular tornado, of a brook that rushes loudly at night, of myriad stars and of the Lusty moon—so astonishing on New England country nights. Finally, there are the trees—several in particular—for whose companionship I am grateful.

    All these elemental creatures continue to be sources of hilarity, healing, hope and confidence that the Biophilic Powers of Be-ing will not be defeated, ever.” p.448

    Mary Daly seems to agree that the kinship of the elemental creatures surrounding us will provide as we enter the path of old, old women.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Oh. Mary Daly changed my perceptions about so many things – I love that quote you sent me – and something deep inside me cries YES – this is truth – I throw myself on the mercy of Nature and let the birds and the trees guide me… surely being my elders they know what I do not….

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Blessing to the Bears and all sentient beings – this is worth repeating… finding a balance between aligning oneself with both light and dark – the two aspects of goddess – ah this is the challenge – giving in to hatred is surely not an answer but acknowledging one’s rage surely is…. Walking a knife edge here. Honesty with oneself is key for me.

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  6. Sara, you are a teacher to many of us, i see that here on FAR so clearly. Thank you for continuing to write truth and vulnerability, trusting us with it. I also trust that the path will come, become clear, for you, so that you may continue to live and thrive in your latter years. But I also know that the waiting and the in-between time can be torturous (at least i have experienced that) and costly to one’s sense of peace…especially when we’re outside our element. I am sending gynergy and my love to you. And gratitude- I am so grateful for you.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. And I am so grateful to you Xochitl… funny although I taught for many years I still think of myself as a learner not a teacher! Sharing these experiences will I hope encourage other women to the same! We must break the silence on aging like every other atrocity we experience as women…. With this kind of encouragement and such a safe place for us we have nothing to lose and everything to gain!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Sara,
    My heart feels your pain through this transition during your elder years. I also know the difficulty of being an outsider with a worldview that is at odds with the mainstream. As another aging woman I too face many of the same problems as you do and many others here at FAR – lack of money, can I continue to afford to live in this country and if not where to go and how to pull that off, stretches of isolation, a body that (though still blessed with good health) doesn’t have the same energy it once did and of course the invisibility that surrounds aging women.

    This invisibility fact reminds me of something I heard once about a group of women V – formerly know as Eve Enslor, creator of the Vagina Monologues – called together in which she asked each woman to introduce themselves and what they were involved with. One woman, maybe Pat Mitchell but not 100% sure, had been out of the loop for a few years and wasn’t sure what to say. But when her turn came unexpectedly she said ” I’m Pat MItchell (?) and I’m a Dangerous Woman.” The other women all then claimed themselves to be Dangerous Women, all agreeing that as elders what the heck did they have to lose. Time was short, they had nothing to prove, didn’t need approval from the world any longer and would not fade away into invisibility as was expected. Though of course these women have succeeded in the world and have access to its attention in a way that I have not, I find that when I feel super angry about the world and humanity’s lack of compassion and ongoing destruction of beautiful Earth, thinking of myself as a “Dangerous Woman” reduces the feelings of rage and spurs me on to action, even though my own actions do not have the kind of reach that these women’s do.

    Your kinship with the natural world gives you great strength and insight. I know that kinship will guide you now and you will discover the best path forward for the years ahead – perhaps a way back to your beloved land or perhaps there is a solution that has not yet presented itself but will soon. We live in times of great transformation which the sensitive souls among us feel strongly. But this liminal period for you and for many others – this in-between the past and the unknown way of the future is certainly very difficult. I send bright, bright blessings to you and look forward to many more years of hearing about your interactions with the natural world.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Judith – it’s interesting this dangerous woman aspect – I think I’ve had it for a long time but it’s getting stronger – and it’s true we have nothing to lose my following our own truths regardless of their unconventionality – thanks for the empathy – oh we are so fortunate to have FAR and young people can learn from our honest struggling so that helps too


        1. Yes we are fortunate to have FAR… in general I am careful about social media – but not here – here I feel seen and heard – safe – a great gift that we all owe Carol and Now Janet and Xochitl Blessings to us all – and together dangerous in our vulnerability and strength.


  8. Sara, your candid insights about your relationship with Nature and aging are most needed now. Thank you! I remember reading that people who are in assisted living need to see out of a window…they need to see Nature…they need to see Nature changing throughout the year. No matter where we live, we need to find a way to connect with Nature as we ARE Nature.
    A book I highly recommend is by Angeles Arrien titled “The Second Half of Life–Opening the Eight Gates of Wisdom”. She guides us through the “gates of living”….YES!…We still have a lot of living to do!…as we reach the last gate…the Golden Gate.

    Liked by 1 person

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