A friend e-mailed a series of pictures—older people each looking into a train window seeing a reflection of themself but a younger self. Touching, but after reading Winter’s Graces I’d like to know what Susan Avery Stewart thinks of these shots. I suspect that she would prefer it if the person reflected were the exact person looking out. Likely both would have a contented countenance. Her advice to the backward-looking folks—embrace the now, look forward to the future, and don’t ache for what’s gone before. Stewart, who is embracing her own eighth decade, uses her memoir to encourage and lead others to reach this place.
Stewart’s declared audience is women “in their fifties and sixties who are dreading what lies on the far side of midlife.” When in her early fifties, a workshop leader observed that an experience she had shared with the group was “a wonderful crone story.” What!?
Suddenly, she realized the inevitability of her own aging.
While those of in midlife may be the target audience, the author stresses that all ages, and both men and women will find much of value in later life. As a Crone past her own midlife—I can attest to that.
The journey she presents can be graceful as the name of the book implies. Using the ancient mythological notion of the Graces as patrons of various pleasures, Stewart offers eleven Graces of Winter, ranging from the pleasures of Creativity (my favorite) to Remembrance and Contentment. To counter too much Contentment, Necessary Fierceness also tells her story.
It is these stories from around the globe—from the Ozark Mountains to India to the Netherlands to Haiti and points between—that intrigue me. They bring the message from these wise crones that life can be full. Along with each story, Stewart offers reflections, many showing her own Jungian training and suggestions for enhancing the reader’s own growth. As well, she shares her own journey through the transition: how both her research and her life are unfolding.
Is this book timely? The answer to that question is a clear and emphatic “Yes!” On this day, as I am writing this review, the New York Times observes that an Op-Ed article celebrating the “resilience and joie de vivre of older women” was among the most-emailed articles of the previous week.