Talking with Mary Fogarty

Originally published 2002
Update 2014: Sorry everyone, but Mary's site seems to be down and I have no other updated info for her. Enjoy the interview for what it is.

Interview with Mary Fogarty by Kara L.C. Jones

Q: What is CronesUnlimited?

Mary: CronesUnlimited is a web site used to promote the wise stories, poetic songs and essays of energetic elders, who have shed stereotypes and ego desires. Since young people so often lack good mentors, CronesUnlimited hopes to honor such leaders and mentors, who stand in their own truth and are ready to re-ignite curiosity and empower others, by cooperatively publishing
their life-long experiences.

CronesUnlimited believes that only elders acquainted with the shadow self can help others appreciate the challenges, opportunities and possibilities that come with diversity. By confronting death, darkness and depression the human spirit is transformed. Only through emotional maturity and spiritual insight can we fully appreciate the roles we play as partners in the creation of a greater whole.


Q: What is "A Crone's Crossing"?

Mary: A Crone's Crossing is a 200 page collection of national and international award winning prose, poetry and essays by Mary Fogarty. "I was put to the test," she says, "but it never came in the form I expected. I invited teachers, mentors, spiritual guides and healers of my community, wise Crones and Sages in their own right, to assist me with the writing of this book.

Dr. Greg Candela, a professor of creative writing at the University of New Mexico for the past 30 years, writes in his review, "Driven by powerful passion and imagery-grounded in person and place, A Crone's Crossing, is an American book. However, before this generation of women, the lone figure,
the wanderer, the orphan with no past, the powerful individual, had been, almost exclusively, a male figure. Like Walt Whitman, however, Mary Fogarty is a pioneer: vigorous, innovative, inclusive, and a tireless self-promoter. In this context, Ms. Fogarty is a woman recreating herself-from the nurturing, self-effacing mother and wife into an independent artist.

"Like the typical American male hero/artist, Ms. Fogarty is a rebel against authority, an outsider. Unlike that male hero/artist, she draws strength not only from what she is capable of doing, but also from her past, memories that abide and must be rediscovered and raised from the dead. For Mary Fogarty, that past resides most strongly in her Polish Babka, Grandmother Valeria. As she told me, 'I frequently visited Babka; throughout my childhood in Wisconsin, I wanted to know what she knew.'

"The author also represents the journey of this most populous of American generations into its aging; her writing, then, addresses the rediscovery of her grandmother at a time when she is a grandmother.

"To conclude, Mary Fogarty, among the new American "women as artists," does not, cannot take her journey of re-creation alone. I invite you to take another look at the cover photo. Then, take this journey, women and men, with the author. You will find, I think, that the vividly rendered details from Mary Fogarty's Polish-American and Midwestern roots, her tentative and tenacious femininity, and the power of her words will resonate. Who takes up this book, takes a woman."


Q: How did you get started as a writer?

Mary: I have been writing since the fifth grade. Often at the risk of getting whacked, I hid under my bed quilts with a flash light to write thoughts in my journal about my experiences. For me writing was a way to handle inner turmoil and create fantasy worlds.


Q: What is your mission with CronesUnlimited?

Mary: The mission of CronesUnlimited is to honor mature authors (men and woman) by offering a creative vehicle for self-expression. Crones Unlimited, a cooperative press, publishes the writings of extraordinary elders who have lived fully and powerfully. Their writings are crowned with ageless wisdom and achievements that can transform everyday experiences into a resonating voice, which speaks to the radiant body/mind of others.


Q: What do you mean when you say "Crones" and "Sages"?

Mary: Crones in this case does not mean "withered old hags," but "hagias," a Greek word for 'holy ones' or 'crowned ones' who served their communities as mentors, teachers and spiritual guides. Crones, Sages, Noble Elders are different names used to refer to the emotional maturity and spiritual
insights that come with long-living. Wisdom Keepers, as Navahos call their elders, achieve a state-of-knowing through those small, necessary deaths—career failures, divorce, the loss of a loved one—that become opportunities for rebirth.


Q: Was there a Crone or Sage who influenced your artistic or personal life, who modeled for you what it meant to mentor others and raise awareness about Crones and Sages?

Mary: Absolutely. My Polish Babka, Grandma Valeria, at 17 years of age came to the United States in the 1890s on a rusty old tanker from Gdansk, Poland. "I leave all I know," she said in broken English. "I leave my family cause not want to marry Polish Pig." She did not have a formal education, but Babka was strong willed and very street wise. As a child I remember wanting to look magical like my Babka, project a commanding fury, know what she knew.

In my book, A Crone's Crossing I wrote a poem for Babka called "There's a Crone in My Kitchen." It received a Poet Laureate Award by Cader Publishing, Ltd. in Spring, March, 2000. An excerpt from the poem starts:

"You do not have to be like your mother.
You are not destined to act like the women
before you. More than beauty,
inherit their strength, and resilience.
Become the person you decide."


Q: How do all your artistic processes, writing sculpting painting, contribute or combine to create the visions you have for CronesUnlimited and for your own personal artistic path?

Mary: Maybe it is the process more than the end-result that I find noteworthy. Growing up during the social upheavals of the 1960s, I married and toured the United States, Europe, Brazil, Poland, Finland, Australia and New Zealand. My exposure to a rich variety of cultures as an exchange student and later as a world traveler provided opportunities to discover my own vehicles for self-expression as a writer, sculptress and painter.

I often invited graduated Crones and Sages into my life who encouraged me to embrace challenge. Adding challenge to my adventurous spirit, I learned about the power, joy and fulfillment that comes from mastering diversity. Through Crones Unlimited, I want to offer that kind of power, joy and fulfillment to others and to help them find their own creative path, their own unique spirit.


Q: Our Kota site started after the death of my son. My mother and many other elders have been of great comfort to me since his death. My mom and I were both comforted to find organizations like AGAST for the support of bereaved grandparents. Do you find that raising awareness about CronesUnlimited is putting you in touch with other elders who are doing support work, too?

Mary: Oh, indeed. One of the strongest figures is Dr. Gregory Candela, the professor I mentioned earlier who wrote a review on my book, A Crone's Crossing. As a dedicated teacher, Dr. Candela, has mentored and turned lives around with his ability to teach, empower and make others re-think and re-invent themselves.

You are another person, Kara L.C. Jones, Dakota's Mommy, who has impressed me as one who has found a powerful vehicle for LOVE. Ultimately our ability to serve others comes back a thousand fold in different forms. Supporting, empowering and serving others comes back as ADMIRATION, the greatest currency we can give and receive from each other.

In one of my poems I write:

Know that who I am,
lives in your LISTENING,
your authentic ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS and
in your respectful ADMIRATION.

ADMIRATION is the most
sought after income in the universe.
The admiration we attract to ourselves,
is the truest measure of our existence.


Q: Again in our Kota experience after the death of my son, I found this huge breakdown in communication with my husband's mother and with my own grandmother. They both had come from a generation where you "picked up yourself by your boot straps and went on, never talked about the child again, had another as soon as possible" etc. They still cannot accept that we named our company after our son so that we could keep his name alive to us. Do you find in your work with CronesUnlimited that many people feel isolated from generation to generation?

Mary: On some levels, Kara, we can isolate ourselves by choosing not to let go or to move on. Maybe your husband's mother and your own grandmother simply wanted you to get past the pain of loss so that you could do what you are doing now. My Babka was a "pick yourself up" generation. I thought she did not understand, but with a mischievious smile and her willfull way she did.

To answer your question: Yes, people feel isolated from generation to generation, because so often the young choose their own paths, prefer to learn their own lessons, and are not open to or willing to hear or listen to the advise of elders. Sometimes it is simply a breakdown an ability to listen and to communicate well on both sides. Maybe that is why history so often repeats itself?

In fact, one of my poems from my book, Passions, is about a mother who grieves for a son she knows is with her for only a short time. This work won international recognition from Writers' International Forum.

I believe this work speaks to all generations; mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, daughters, sons, grandmothers, grandfathers. As the mother in this poem points out, when "—a journey into the light of your own heart begins, the journey itself becomes its own reward."

Shh! A Child is Passing Through

When evening falls and the daylight fades,
I put my child to sleep.
For a moment I stand next to his bed, close my eyes,
see his smile and hear his laughter.
I thank God I’ve had him for one more day.
Like most moms who love their children,
I long to tell my story because my son,
has something special to share.

Justin is all boy.
He lives with his Father and me
in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Like any five-year-old, he rides his tricycle,
sings and dances about,
and sometimes gets into mischief with Chocolate,
a neighbor’s brown lab.

At birth Justin had a defect that left his intestines suspended
outside of his body.
Several operations corrected the fault,
but other complications made it difficult
for his small body to function normally.
As parents we fear our son
has come to visit us for only a short time.

One day when Grandpa Ben came to visit,
Justin sat at the dinner table
where the family had gathered to pray.
"Bless this milk and this bread," he started,
"and bless me special if I wet my bed.
Make my family good like Grandpa Ben
and fix cousin Tony’s cold.
Put hair on Uncle Harry’s head
and make the thunder stop when it rains.
Bless my mom and my dad
and let myself always belong to me.
Let everybody in my family matter.
Thank you God. Amen."

Before he had finished his prayer,
everyone at the dinner table sat in silence with tearful eyes.
Wise beyond his years,
Justin possesses a gift for touching people in ways
that bring strong adults to an understanding
of love for themselves and for others.
Last week Justin went to the hospital
with me for my yearly physical.
Being a curious child, he tried to enter another room.
"Stay away from that room," I cried.
Not paying attention, he entered the room anyway.
On the other side,
a child younger than Justin stood starring in the shadows.
He was bald.
Justin looked around and saw
that all the children in the room were bald.
He had entered the Lovelace Cancer Ward
where children were being treated with chemotherapy.

It didn’t take long for Justin to make friends.
With his bright red truck under his arm,
he walked up to one of the children and touched his head.
"We have the same kind of hair cut," he said with a smile.
Then Justin walked up to another boy without hair.
He looked into his eyes and turned to me,
"I think that boy wants my red truck," he said.

"But it’s your favorite toy," I reminded.
Justin handed the red truck to the boy and turned to me,
"It’s okay, mom, he needs the truck more than I do."

When I watch my child,
I learn that there is no better time for him than right now.
The only day in which he can begin his journey is today,
because for Justin it will never stop being today.

Once away from home and returning to Albuquerque,
Justin sat next to me on the plane.
As we approached the airport, I said,
"Look Justin all those lights on the ground are people living in
their homes."

Justin started to pray.
Embarrassed by his loud words,
I tried to quiet my child, but he continued.
"Please, dear God, protect all those people on the ground and
keep them safe.
Teach them to be happy no matter what."

When he finished with his prayer,
the passenger next to Justin began to clap,
then another passenger clapped
and before long more passengers joined in.
As the plane came in for a landing
I felt like we had just taken a flight without wings.
It was as if my child knew that once
a journey into the light of your own heart begins,
the journey itself becomes its own reward.


Q: How did you learn the business of your art? How do you find your balance between the creation of art and business of art?

Mary: Truth be told I am still learning the 'business of my art'. But each day I meet people like yourself, Kara, that help me expand this business of publishing and promoting. I have to admit that I am thoroughly enjoying this E-mail interview. It gives me an opportunity to answer questions from
another point-of-view.

Because I am creative and a risk taker, I do not see a discrepancy between creativity in writing, sculpting and painting versus creativity as an entrepreneur in publishing.


Q: Where are you in your artistic and writing career today?

Mary: In three years I have published four books, selling over 400 copies of each book locally. I am hoping that soon I will hear from Small Press Distributors in Berkeley, CA who will help me promote my books nationally. With a distributor I can place my best sellers in bookstores across the nation.


Q: You mentioned doing readings with another author, a local professor. Who is he and what is the book that CronesUnlimited published for him?

Mary: As I mentioned earlier, Dr. Gregory Candela holds a doctorate in American literature and is a Master Teacher at the University of New Mexico—Valencia Campus. I published his first book of poetry, Surfing New Mexico. This book is filled with poems about the spirit of New Mexico and the native people and was well received at local bookstores in Albuquerque. As mutual 'hams' we
complimented each other. Greg played his guitar and drums to the readings of our poems. Our audiences loved the performance and we got high on being playful and outrageous.


Q: Who is the creator of that fabulous drawing that makes the backdrop of the CronesUnlimited website (see the CroneUnlimited logo at the top of this article!)?

Mary: Thank you, Kara. I have received many good comments on that drawing. I created that CRONE as part of my logo for Crones Unlimited. My web designer, Beth Halmayr, managed to put the drawing on a blue haze background. A stunning special effect. The poem that goes along with this logo just won Fourth Place in a national poetry contest.

The Crowned Ones

From a seed hidden deep in fertile forests,
a legacy grows to tower
over the world of earth and flesh,
a wispy shadow rising to wholeness—
S(he) is Crone, keeper of crossroads.


Q: What do you mean by "shadow self" and can you offer a few words of guidance for readers who might be scared to look at that shadow self?

Mary: It takes COURAGE to look at wounds from our past that have caused hurt, anger, rage, guilt and dysfunctional behavior. All humans have a shadow side, a side that we like to tuck under the rug or glaze over by pretending it doesn't exist. Psychologists like Phil McGraw on the Oprah Show or Claire Estes who wrote Women Who Run With Wolves encourage people to get in touch with their real self, their authentic self. We start by getting real about our shadow side, accepting our humanness, forgiving ourselves and growing from our mistakes. Only by getting real can we create a clearing for ourselves and others to be more free, extraordinary, loving and powerful.


Q: What is your vision for CronesUnlimited? What do you see for your art and for the website in 5 years, 10 years, 20?

Mary: As a society, we often treat aging as an enemy to the death. Millions of dollars are spent annually in the U.S. to lift faces, busts and butts, to tuck tummies and to pop energy pills. But as individuals tried, the glory one finds comes not from investments in looking good, but from how well past losses, past wounds have been handled.

For me Cronehood is a time to reflect upon my crowning as a time to put the vanities of social life into the background. Breaking through negative cultural images, I want others to portray Cronehood as a time to greet the stranger in their mirror. Aging, should be a time to enjoy solitude, to give back ones heart to itself and to feast on ones creations. When I am fully engaged in sculpting, painting or writing, I am not conscious of my chronological age.

I want to invite healthy vital elders to get out of their rocking chairs and dare to reinvent themselves. Create! Create! Create! CronesUnlimited offers one vehicle—Writing and Inspirational Reading.

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