Meet Nasuskau, an Inuit woman who was 116 years old when I met her. My family was travelling north in the Peace River Country to pick up Grandad and we stopped at an Indian village with our school bus. They were curious to see inside and asked to have a look. I remember the native Chief offering to buy my brother Billy for $2 (They thought he would make an excellent fisherman). I thought it was a great deal and didn’t understand why Mom and Dad didn’t accept the offer. My parents often complained about not having enough money and here was a chance to make some and get rid of a brother. Next came Nasuskau with a child at each arm, they gave her directions in their native tongue, as to how to get up the stairs of our bus. Inside her young helpers suggested that she sit on the seat. She bent over and felt it, then shook her head and sat down in the middle of the aisle. She said she had never sat on a chair and wasn’t about to now. She was a well-respected Elder who had lived her life on the ice near Aklavik hunting caribou and seal with her family and now was nearly blind. Mom was given permission to take the picture of her.
I thought this photograph was appropriate, for I have been working all month on the Wise Woman Weekend Program, which is on the reverse side of this month’s ISSUES. If you have a look inside, you can meet many wise women willing to share their wisdom and their skills. We are inviting some local crones to join us and if you have a favourite one who is at least eighty years old, you can bring her free of charge. Please phone or write us. We also thought that if you are a youngster (under 25 years of age) and would like to be mentored by a crone and help her for at least six hours of the weekend, we would be interested in having you as a participant. Also if four women register together one of them can bring Grandma for free, as long as she is 70 years old. The weekend is designed for women over the age of 35, but we also realize that age does not always make one wise, so if you feel a calling to be there, please make a special request to attend. We will be happy to consider your reasons for attending.
As far as some history on me being a Wise Woman… I knew as a teenager that I was born old. When I taught sewing and quilting classes twenty-five years ago to women twice my age, I would play a name game to help me get to know people. Everyone put an adjective in front of their name, starting with the same initial. The only adjective I could think of at the time was Ancient Angèle. As a youngster I liked helping my Mom and my brothers. Looking after them came easily and taught me to be responsible at a young age. My deeply ingrained compassionate nature, is not something I have to work at either. I believe we each come into our life with choices. We chose our parents so that our soul will continue to evolve in the direction we want. We also bring with us the knowingness of our many journey’s and the gifts that we earned. Becoming aware and remembering is getting easier all the time.
At the age of fourteen I had five good baby-sitting jobs, and at age sixteen I was working three part-time jobs and going to school. I could see little good in TV, teen model magazines or fancy cars (Mustangs were hot at the time). I could see no reason to smoke or drink and made a promise to myself to only hang out with friends who liked to have a good time without them. At age seventeen I had over $400 dollars saved in the bank. Back then a good wage was a dollar an hour and baby-sitting paid fifty cents an hour. University wasn’t possible for there were no student loans and I knew Mom couldn’t afford it. If I hadn’t gotten pregnant I am sure my story would be different, but the training I got raising a family is invaluable. Getting married and being responsible for the child in my belly felt like the right thing to do at the time. Within a few years we bought a big old house. I advertised for men wanting ‘room and board.’ After four years my down payment was paid back — and just in time, for I needed the rooms for my growing family. Also I was glad not to have to cook all the time. When my three boys were little I made sure I got out of the house two nights a week. I studied dancing, painting and astrology and the other night I taught classes to pay for them. If Rae didn’t want to stay home he could pay for a baby-sitter but I demanded my time away. Because I was so young raising kids, I remembered the feelings and lessons my parents taught me and made sure I didn’t repeat the lessons I didn’t like. I read a few books but most of my parenting skills came from a knowing rather than a teaching.
When my three boys were in grade school I got a part-time job at the swimming pool. Eventually CUPE included us in their contract and I was getting well paid to have fun. One day I disagreed with the young man who was my boss and I quit. I was unhappy. I also wanted sunshine. Many years earlier when some grey clouds had rolled in I started crying because I knew I wouldn’t see the sun for weeks. A clear voice spoke and said, “Sell your house when it is worth $48,000.” The voice gave me hope and when house prices rose I remembered it. I put an ad in the paper and had over twenty responses. One offered cash if we could move out in two weeks. I said “No problem,” and got busy. I was happy and my soul sang. We headed South and stopped at the town of Summerland—the name seemed appropriate and we settled in. Within a month, I got hired at the local swimming pool and Rae got a job truck driving. After many years of breathing chlorine, standing on cold drafty decks and having a new pool manager I became unhappy again. I cried and my husband said “Quit.” What would I do? Using my inner guidance to figure out what would make me happy and earn a living was a process in itself. This story has been told a few times. I have noticed over the years that my voice of guidance is no longer loud. Sometimes it is a whisper, a knowingness, a thought, a book, some words someone else says. But guidance feels right in my body. When I hear myself complaining I know it is time for a change. I have no fear around change, for I know deep, deep down that I always will be looked after. I take each day in stride, and three times a week I race up and down the outdoor stair cases so that I can keep my heart strong and get in some fresh air to stay healthy. Life is filled to the max and every day offers new learning opportunities for me to become wiser as I continue to walk my path with heart.