I was in my late 20’s when I developed a strange fantasy about getting old. I wanted to be a *crone in a cabin in the woods. I can’t be sure, but I think this notion came from reading Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison. If I remember that iconic novel correctly, the character Pilate is an old woman who lives in a cabin in the woods, wears combat boots and carries a shotgun. She collects healing herbs and might practice voodoo, although the revenge she takes upon her daughter Reba’s attacker is very much grounded in the real world of a knife. Doesn’t mean there wasn’t some hoodoo involved, though.
Why I wanted to be a crone in the woods at that early stage in my life I do not know. At the time I was into wearing high heels and going dancing! But I was an avid reader who could immerse myself in a character in a good book. I didn’t want to be a crone at that age; I just imagined it for my future, like wrinkles. I pictured tall trees and a creek like the ones I grew up around. I’d commune with the wildlife. I’d trade in my heels for those combat boots when my arches wore out.
The image of the crone in the woods stayed with me into my 30’s even as I moved from one boring apartment to the next. Eventually I finished graduate school and began to earn more money, and my houses got bigger and nicer. Guest bedrooms, en suite baths, walk-in closets. Outdoor patios and BBQ grills and eventually even a pool. I enjoyed that last house in the foothills outside Los Angeles for twenty years. Yet the idea of the crone cabin never completely left me.
Eventually I faced what many older people do, health challenges and a desire to retire. I knew I would find it harder to afford and maintain my pool home into old age. I started this most recent leg of my life’s journey with a move to Sacramento to be near my younger sister. And as I started thinking about my housing alternatives, it hit me:
My crone cabin! Was it time?
I delved eagerly into my old fantasy. Almost immediately it began to break down.
Sacramento may be the “city of trees,” but I’d be unlikely to find bona fide woods in the state capitol. In the surrounding area maybe, but I couldn’t leave my sister after she was so excited about having me nearby.
Cabins often have archaic plumbing and electrical work. There was no point in giving up a house I couldn’t maintain for a cabin I couldn’t maintain.
I really enjoy having friends stay overnight (or longer). Cabins don’t always have guest quarters.
I could live with just a fireplace in a warm state like California, but I lovelovelove my air conditioning in summer. A/C is not really a cabin kind of feature.
Lastly, my pool home had really spoiled me. But I have yet to see a cabin in the woods with a pool.
The fantasy of living in my crone cabin was disappearing like woodsmoke up a chimney.
Wondering where I’d finally end up, I perused real estate listings. Finally I resigned myself to zeroing in on condominiums that looked as boring as the apartments of my twenties, just cleaner. I sighed with disappointment every time I looked at those condo boxes with their neat hedges.
And then I happened upon one listing that caught my eye. A blue lagoon!? With trees and foliage and ducks!? Where was this? Turned out it’s in Sacramento about 20 minutes from my sister’s apartment. Built in 1974, it’s a bit “rustic.” But I felt drawn to the place, so much so that I began to watch for units to come up for sale. Here a single; no, way too small. There a one-bedroom; no, I really want a guest room. A two-bedroom, OK; but that one’s not on the water. I’d about given up when a two-bedroom facing the lagoon finally appeared.
I went to see it. It needed some work. But it had the guest bed and my beloved A/C. My deck would be right on that blue water, on the shady wooded side of the complex. The complex also had several swimming pools.
Rustic … trees … wildlife … creek … swimming … wait a minute.
Just like that, I realized that I didn’t have to give up my fantasy: this could be my crone cabin in the woods … only this one would have a pool!
One month after spotting this listing, and after haggling price with the seller whom my realtor called “delusional and insane,” I’m now actually in my “cabin.” I have combat boots, although since COVID I lean more toward flip-flops (either way, they’re not high heels). I won’t say whether I own a shotgun or just collect healing herbs. I will confess that I’m upgrading the place so that it isn’t quite so “rustic.” The air conditioning works, and the guest bedroom already has a guest.
Best of all, the trees whisper in the breeze. The lagoon is populated by koi and mallards with broods of spring ducklings. I’ve now also seen a turtle and the great blue heron who visits periodically. And today I’m going to a Happy Hour at the pool with some other residents.
Somehow I think that 5:00 in my fantasy crone cabin would have been a far more solitary affair.
So cheers! Salud! L’chaim!
*Crone: Someone I know really objected to my use of the term crone. He looked it up and found references to evil, malevolence, and even dead rotting flesh. That’s not the crone of my fantasy! And frankly, it may be more of a male interpretation, as women who are past their sexual prime are sometimes dismissed or even vilified by men. As I explained to him, there is another definition that I believe women are more inclined to embrace – that of the wise woman. The elder of depth and experience who can see what others can’t. Which may sometimes include seeing through the bullshit of the so-called stronger sex, especially when it applies to us wise women.
And by the way, it’s not a given that a crone is no longer sexual. She may have a gray-bearded mountain man who regularly pays her cabin a visit.
Update: At the Happy Hour, I’d spent some time chatting with my neighbor when she said to me, “I know why we ended up here: I have things to learn from you.” She’s decades younger, cute, sexy, fun – and quite disabled. Yet she wore a bikini to the Happy Hour because “someone needs to!” She reminds me of my younger self, when I was the Wild Child rather than the Wise Woman.
So who knows? Maybe a crone still has things to learn, or re-learn, from a younger woman, too.
(This is the third in a series about my later-in-life move from SoCal to NoCal. To read in order, see On the Move During COVID-19 and then The Movable Pandemic.)