I’ve just been listening to a podcast about the Dangerous Old Woman on Sounds True By Clarissa Pinkola Estes (CPE).

CPE describes the Dangerous Old Woman as one who goes where she wants, says what she wants and will speak her mind.  She is afraid of no-one, follows no rules, but listens to her own wisdom and experience.  She will invite you to follow her, but if you try so stop her, she will move you out of the way.

She is dangerous because she ignores societal norms and will speak her truth.  She will tell the emperor he is naked and not in new clothes, she will speak her mind without regard for who she will upset or the boundaries she crosses.

She will not be put in a box.

I love her!

CPE compares the Dangerous Old Woman to a tree and reflects on one of Jung’s archetypes (CPE is a Jungian Analyst).  The more she spoke the more I loved way the metaphor of the tree spoke to me.

The Dangerous Old Woman has deep roots, back into her history, her life, her people and her people’s people.  She can dig deep and draw on deep sources of sustenance.  The roots hold her firm in spite of the storms which may try to shake her.

The branches offer shelter for the animals and bugs which live in her and shade for those living on the ground below her.  The Dangerous Old Woman can shelter others and lend them her branches to climb up, to go higher, to lean against and rest and to hide in.

The leaves and the blossom and her creativity, her offering to the world, whether just words, or kindnesses, or love.  The older she gets the bigger her canopy, the more she creates.

The trunk has thickened over time.  The Dangerous Old Woman is no longer the willowy slender tree she was. Each year of experience has thickened her waist;  her trunk has become twisted and gnarled and yet so strong and solid,  The wisdom of each circle of her trunk, wraps around the previous layer, so nothing is forgotten and everything is built on.

The Dangerous Old Woman bears scars and breaks where people have leaned too heavily, where storms have broken her branches, where people have tried to carve into her and cut her down. And yet still she stands.


I love this idea of increasing in beauty and stature and strength in the same ways trees do.  That age in an accumulation of wisdom and knowing which can shelter and support us and others, rather than a diminution.

Dangerous Old Woman

I see these women as I look around me, my friends, my family, the women who inspire me in their books and creativity.

Elizabeth Gilbert wrote about her mother on her FaceBook page and I’m going to quote at length just because it so links into what CPE is saying and Elizabeth Gilbert says it so much better than I could:

‘This is a line my (73 year-old) mother said to me the other day, while she was issuing a gentle warning not to fall into the trap of letting your life get smaller as you get older.

She was talking about how frustrating she finds it that — somewhere around the age of 50 or 60 — she watched as so many of her peers stopped making goals and long-term plans for adventure and exploration in their lives. Instead, they began shutting down, and making their lives smaller, and their minds smaller, too. She got so weary of listening to them making self-deprecating jokes about how old they were, and how much their bodies hurt, and how bad their hearing and eyesight was getting… She felt they had surrendered to age far, far, far too soon. My mom said, “Nothing is more frustrating to me than listening to people who are still vital saying, ‘Well, at our age, you have to be careful…'”

No. She begs to differ. As you get older, there is no more time to be careful, and no more REASON to be careful — at least as my mom sees it. Instead, this is time to seize as much life and joy and adventure and learning and novelty as you possibly can. As my mom said, “I hate seeing people slide themselves into the grave far before their time. Death will come when it comes — but it’s crazy to sit around waiting for it. If you’re not dead yet, you’re not done yet.”

My mom thinks that everyone should have a five-year plan for their lives, and also a ten-year plan, and a twenty-year plan — and that every few years you have to revisit your plans to see if your goals and aspirations have changed…and that you should never stop making these plans, even as you age. (Especially as you age!) She has shared with me the travel she wants to do in the next 20 years, and work she wants to finish, the projects she wants to begin, the cultures she wants to explore, the people she wants to enjoy, her fitness goals…

It’s inspiring.

I have heard people speak of their lives as if they were finished at 30, done at 40, washed up at 50, too late to start over at 60, no more chances at 70…

But are you still here?

Then you aren’t done yet.

Don’t make your life smaller as the years pass. If it’s time to start over, then it’s time to start over. If you aren’t where you planned to be, then it’s time to make a new plan.

Today, I ask you all to share the most inspiring stories you know (from your own life, or the lives of others) about people who refused to be done yet, because they aren’t dead yet.

Rise up, everyone, and keep rising.

We are still here. There is much to be done and enjoyed.

Let’s go.


Onward indeed.  Thank you Clarissa, Elizabeth and the trees.

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