Aging, Menopause

Guest Post: The Crone and Her Familiars

A guest post by writer Frances Wood:

I grew up with dogs. Inherited a cat when I was in my 30s. Gave my heart away – forever – to a border collie named Zephyr who died of her old age when I was barely 50. And now that I have white hair and something of an attitude, I’ve adopted a parrot.

And not just any parrot: a rejected parrot; a rescue parrot. A gorgeous guy (see photo) who has enough attitude for a thousand menopausal women – which is sort of the definition of a parrot. Just like a lass approaching puberty, I was attracted by his beauty. A lumpy and land-bound human, I was envious of his wings. Being a literary type (remember Treasure Island?) I let my imagination wander in the direction of old-lady pirates. I mean, why not? Haven’t we all known old ladies who would have made marvelous pirates?

What I didn’t know – or perhaps don’t remember from my early reading – is that parrots don’t need humans to make themselves complete. Parrots are perfectly piratical all on their own.

It’s humans who need the dressing up. We need familiars: dogs to hug and share our secrets with when we are little; cats to scorn us when we’re older and maybe a tad too sure-of-ourselves; that one special pet who steals a heart away and then gives it back with love and memories; and a parrot to remind us what we really are.

Because this is something I’ve discovered in my crone age: we are small. Tiny, but infinite. Fortunate in that we possess the kinds of shoulders that are capable of bearing beauty.

Phoenix is the wonderful group I got Taji from. Like so many pet rescue societies, they do marvelous work.

Photo Above is Taji on his perch. Behind him is Rosemary, the main character in Becoming Rosemary, Frances Wood’s first novel.

Photo Below is a picture of Frances, taken when she visited her dad in California. To learn more about Frances and her writing, check out

13 thoughts on “Guest Post: The Crone and Her Familiars”

  1. Oh what a beautiful parrot! He is lucky to have found his forever home. And thank heavens for all the wonderful rescue groups. What would life be like without our furry or feathered friends.

    1. Thank you! He is gorgeous, isn’t he! And you are so right about the rescue groups. I can’t say too many nice things about Phoenix Landing. They not only pointed me in Taji’s direction (when I told them his cage would be next to my piano, they asked, quite seriously, if I had a concern about what kind of music he might prefer; turns out that he really likes hard rock, a heavy beat – I play more classical. But he’ll squack like a metronome, in perfect time, if I need it). And they offer classes for bird newbies to learn about parrot care and training. (Although I’m never quite sure who’s being trained here.) Their facebook page is Phoenix Landing – Fans of the Parrot Adoption Organization. Check them out. And admire the birds!

  2. I used to have an eclectus parrot and mine needed as much attention as a dog. He was very social and not fine on his own! So, I got him a girlfriend when I had my first child, who is now 15. I love parrots and I would have them again someday but for now my dog is keeping me busy enough! Glad you got an independent guy–he’s beautiful!

    1. I called my border collie my ‘third shoe’ because we spent so much time together. Taji and I just awakened from an afternoon nap, and now we’re going to have a snack, and then I’m going to cook, and he’s going to start reminding me that it’s nearing pistachio time – that big moment in the day when he gets a whole nut to himself. He has a special warble that means, “Serve me!” I won’t say that my pets actually help me write… But they’re always around when I get stuck on a plot point or word and need to talk it out to someone intelligent!

    1. Phoenix Landing is wonderful. The people are so caring and kind. I love people who are doing something important in the world. And the Phoenix Landing are doing something important.

  3. Do you think this is why so many of us hold on to old scrapbooks and yearbooks and such? Because they represent our “familiars”. Perhaps. I don’t know. But thank you for the wonderful post and making me think. And now to dig out old photo albums (NOT online photographs but the real things you can hold!).

    1. Rebecca, I’m currently in the midst of cleaning out my study closet, where I have all my scrapbooks and photo albums. Much of that closet is currently on my floor. So right now one of Taji’s ‘jobs’ is to watch over me from his perch while I sort out memorabilia that goes back to my infancy. And in one of those old photos is a mongrel named Tippy, who used to guard my pram. As my husband says, I am only happy when I have a ‘critter’ with whom to share my life.

      1. As am I. And so many of my childhood photos are of Buttons – my first pet but really my first best friend.

  4. Frances, Thanks for sharing Taji’s story. He’s certainly a handsome parrot, and I think he and Rosemary have similar expressions on their faces.

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