The Call of Eldership – by Mary-Alice Arthur

It was May of 2010 and I was sitting on a hill, looking out over the Aegean, when the grandmother energy came for me in a way that I can’t explain.  I was attending a gathering called “Immersion” at Axladitsa-Avatakia, which lies in the southern tip of the Pelion Peninsula in Greece.  The gathering lasted for ten days, and I was with a group of others there, living in a yurt on the land, being an intentional community and focusing on Apprenticing to Mastery.

It was my second time on the land, which I’d already experienced as a place of challenge and initiation.  This time something new was happening – it felt like the muses were working with me, and stories kept pouring out.  The perfect stories, just at the right time.  It seemed all I had to do was to be present, to stay awake and to be willing to speak when the story came.  Soon after this began, I had the distinct sense that the grandmother energy also arrived and when one of the other attendees posted an Open Space session called “Tea with Grandma” I laughed out loud.

In the end there were three of us who were included in that wave of energy and I checked with the other women: “How old are you?”.  Since I have no family of my own, I have no measure of my age and stage in societal terms, but if I had had children, they would be old enough now to have children of their own and I might, indeed, be a grandmother. It seems that this energy doesn’t need a nuclear family to embody it.

Since that time I’ve continued to think about the grandmother energy – or “the great mother nurturing energy”, as a friend called it – and to ponder how it is linked with Eldership.  I sensed back then that Eldership is calling to come onto the planet in a different way now, and I began to wonder how that might manifest itself. Other experiences through my life had shown me that wisdom doesn’t depend on age.  My recent experiences have led me to think that Eldership doesn’t either.  I began to wonder what my dance with Eldership would be.

In November and December of last year, I met Ben and Mark, two of the originators of the Youth & Elders Project.  They told me about their intention to inquire into what is a mature society is and the plan sail the Baltic for a week in June. Eventually, sitting in a tea house in Copenhagen, I heard them say: “We feel better and more grounded when you’re around.  Will you come with us?”  How could I say no to such a clear invitation, despite lack of gear and worries about my own seaworthiness?

I entered the journey with the clear intention of supporting the hosting team and holding the edges for the group.  What I got in return was both the request for, and the honouring of, my own eldership.  I experienced the journey as a profound initiation into eldership and a deep dive into the holding and healing a group needs to take a journey of initiation.  Although I stepped into the Hosting Team with Ben, Mark and Erik, not being the project holder freed me up to concentrate on the journey itself.  The challenges were many:


  • What is it we are holding and hosting on the voyage?  What do we want to harvest at the end?  How will we know if we are successful?
  • How would the group process elements blend with being aboard a ship? What if we strike bad weather? How will the process continue if participants – and especially the hosting team – are seasick?
  • Living and working together in very limited space brings its own challenges – how will we deal with rubbing up against each other?  Can we become a functional community quickly enough? What does this say about life and our planet right now?
  • We come from very different backgrounds and will have different expectations of what the journey is about and what we need from it.  How will these be managed?  Can we be compassionate enough and curious enough with each other to create our inquiry in a pressure cooker?
  • Is there enough of everything?  Enough food, gear, seasickness support, time, space, energy, friendliness, community spirit, humour, grace, to get us through?

In this work I was reminded again and again that we can never know who has decided to attend an event and why.  Our ship carried stories of light and deep trauma, of joy and sorrow, of relationship and strain, of courage and despair, of newness and experience, of curiosity and hope.  I felt I was called to support the healing that is needed for any group to do its work well and with good heart.

Which also means attending to my own healing and my own practice. Anyone called into Eldership needs to be prepared to do the inner work it takes to be clear, to harvest your own experiences for wisdom and to let go what you think you know in order to be present.

And it was a gift to be present.  To be deeply present with the people, the ship and the sea.  Every day.  Even when we sailed into Hel (which is a port in Poland, by the way)! It was a journey of the heart, so much so, that one of our group was fitted with a pacemaker by the end of his trip.  I think that speaks volumes about the journey that all of humanity is on right now.  We are on a journey of the heart, whether we know it or not.

I saw clearly that eldership doesn’t depend on age and that when we are awake and aware as process holders, the call is to open the space to the one who holds the wisdom for that time, no matter who they are.  We often wondered how well we supported the intended inquiry: “What is it to be a youth?  What is it to be an elder?  How do we together steward the planet?”, but the truth is that this is not an inquiry that can be finished in a one week journey.  The journey is a gateway to the next part of the inquiry and it could happen at any time and in any place, and with whoever is present. Perhaps our call is to hold the gateway open and see where the path leads.

In whatever focus this conversation continues – inter-generational dialogue, indigenosity, sustainability, youth & elders, global community, stewardship, eldership – and in whatever forms – voyage, work project, event, conference, online forum – it is an inquiry that calls us to hold the vision and muster the courage to continue.

Reflections from a sailor


By Anna Hanschmidt,

One sailing ship called Lovis, 31 brave sailors, four countries, the wide field around the topic of youth and elders, seven days of crossing the Baltic sea. For me this sounds like an invitation for stories to be written. This was my thought from the very beginning when I entered the ship.

So then maties, let’s hoist the masts of life and sail into the seas of time…

…with 31 sailors being pre-sent in the future:


I want to share a story with you, yes with you, the one with open ears and an open heart to truly listen to these stories which are written by life. Forgive me if I might forget some parts of the story or if the story is leading you on some strange paths, you must know, I am an old lady and this story was told to me a long, long time ago by my grandmother. I hardly shared it with anyone before but now I know that you are the one who must listen to it.

Once upon a time in a village far, far away, there lived four brave friends who loved this world, the seas and to sail. The four friends knew each other for a long time, they were bound by the stories of life, their ability to observe and feel what was happening at this moment of life on our planet.

It is important for you to know, beloved one, is that at this time our planet was in a huge crisis – this is what we were told. In fact, only a few people knew that it was not the planet, but humanity that was in a crisis. – Yes, of course you know that there is no such a thing as a separation of us and the planet, that we are the planet and the planet is us, but in these times people found comfort in giving responsibility away and blaming others. This sounds strange doesn’t it?

Well, during this time of crisis the world had grown dark, heavy and scary. As in all crises, people lost themselves and forgot that crisis simply means „turning point“. Luckily these four people were among the few that knew this and so they explored the fields around this turning point, and on their explorations around the world a question found them: „What does it take to create next steps towards cultural maturity and stewardship of our planet?“.

As you know, sometimes a question is an invitation for a journey.

Questions carry half the answer in themselves and the friends found out very quickly that they were going to explore a deeper sense of steward-SHIP. This led to the idea of sharing some time on a sailing ship. As there is always a journey before the journey – a journey of thoughts and feelings – they started by exploring what might be connected to their huge question. They discussed who is really steering this ship, this planet; the young beings – the ones that have their whole lives in front of them, or the ones that have travelled the world on their feet and in their hearts. What the four discovered was that there might be a huge value in co-creation between Youth and Elders. Other questions were quickly born: “What does youth and what does eldership mean to you?”, “where is the ship that can carry us on the journey full of explorations?”

In this way it came to pass that they set sail on the good ship The Lovis. A little cherry, I told you stories about this ship before – it is the one that can sail through the gates of rainbows.

So they had a ship and now they needed a crew to sail with them to explore the dance in between the youth and elders and how this may connect to the bigger question concerning the stewardship and the maturing process of our planet.

28 brave sailors from all over the world heard the call of the question „What does youth and eldership mean to you“ and joined the voyage.

To me it seems that the question around the field of youth and elders was one of the most important questions of this time. Because in these former times we were in the middle of a shift- a shift from the I to the We, a shift from I am alone  to I am al-one with all the other living beings on this planet. In these times we learned again to listen, to accept everything how/what  it is, appreciate and love each other. Because of that, we needed the elders to remind us of what we once knew and the youth to bring this gift/knowledge  to the next generations.

Once they all entered the ship together, prepared their home for one week, they started to tell each other stories. Stories about who they are, what they are dreaming of and that most of them never sailed before. Which was fully okay, because they were all eager to learn it and there were three experienced and patient sailors on board with them. The journey of the 31 sailors started in the ancient harbour city Greifswald and on their way the sailors discovered beautiful places like Sassnitz, which since two of the of the sailors discovered a new animal species there is called Fleder-island, Ystad in Sweden, Tejn on Bornholm in Denmark, Christiansø which now that the hobbits came back home there is called hobbit-island, Hél, Gdynia and Gdansk in Poland.

You see little one, this was quite a journey, and naming all the places only shows the voyage one can see on a map. In truth there have been at least 30 journeys which only each person can tell you about. These journeys took part inside of each one of these brave sailors.

But now I’ll tell you this: I was on this ship as well.

Little one, it is late, and you should sleep very soon but maybe you want to listen to my Lovis story?

When I got invited by one of the four friends I said YES. Without knowing why. I just followed my intuition, you know this is this feeling that sometimes is tickling your belly from inside and somehow it always is a bit louder in its whispering voice then all the doubts. I heard the call of this journey. Maybe I was old enough to hear it and young enough to join them all on board of Lovis.

Said – done, in a summer long, long time ago I found myself on board of this ship.

At this point of my life I was carrying a lot of questions on my shoulders: „Where are we heading to as humankind?“, „how many wars still have to happen till we know that we cannot create peace with weapons?“, „how will somebody take me seriously if I am talking about the beauty of this world if there are still people starving?“

I was in love with the earth but so full of doubt at the same time. With all this in my heart and mind I joined the voyage.

During the next week I found even more questions. This is one thing I learned on the ship, beloved one: Good stories do not bring answers, they unfold the questions.

Most of the time we shared each other’s stories, and exchanged insights around some new questions. Questions like: What stories are emerging on this planet at the moment?“ „What is your story, why did you choose to be the one you are during this time here?“ „What is your next step, the hardest one you could take?“ „How can we support each other to take this step?“

I cannot give you answers to all these questions, I still do not have them. But I learned that it is not about „having the answers“it is about living the questions. What does it take to do so?

To listen. To listen and to accept everything that I am hearing. Listening to the others and to myself.

I experienced that I often skipped the part of listening to myself, but my dear, it is worth it to listen to your own stories. We all have a treasure box full of stories inside of us.

So what I brought home from this journey is that this turning point we did experience at this time of humanity on this planet will not destroy us – and you see, I was right with this feeling. I came home with the feeling that there are ways to live in peace together on this planet.

Why was I so sure about this, you ask? Well, I think that our journey has been a pure reflection of the situation of humankind at this very moment in time. It was a journey into the unknown, every day we did not know where were we going to end up at night, we had some ideas, we had a compass, but the wind was the one to decide. Just as we did not know at this time where this crisis was going to lead us.  There were stormy days, there were talks of how in- or exclusive our group of sailors was, what did the sailors need in order to sail into the same direction together, and in what direction we were sailing?

The journey was a story full of turning points, on a personal and a collective level. It was a journey towards transformation and towards new questions.

The time we shared together on Lovis was a time for storytellers, peace-makers, critical voices. It was a time for us human three marathons in a row? It was a time to claim a break, to sit down and talk.  It was a journey to invite the future by living the present.

Yes, my little one, it was a journey into the time you are living in right now.

So now, close your eyes and sleep well. Tomorrow I will listen to your story.

It’s a sunny Saturday in the Netherlands. I am sitting somewhere in the forest and have finished the story you just read. Almost one month passed since we had our first day on board of Lovis. Sometimes this journey feels so close and at the same time so far away. There are so many other stories to tell but for today this one might be enough.

At this point I want to say thank you to the amazing crew of Lovis ( ) , to our hosting team (Mary Alice Arthur, Benjamin Kafka, Mark Hessellund Beanland, Erik van Lennep), to all my lovely co-sailors and to all the ones that supported us with every kind of input towards this journey.

So, this is it for this moment. If you have any questions, suggestions or other kind of feedback/feed forward, feel free to contact us here: or visit us on Facebook:

Love, Anna



Participant’s Blog: Shirley Gallagher

My Introduciton blog

My name is Shirley Gallagher and i living in Cork this last 13 years but I am from Arranmore Island, Co Donegal, Ireland. As an islander, it is natural still to group together in youth and elders from 8 to 80. Emigration has always been part of our lives so community matters. As part of the diaspora it’s a great feeling to be welcomed home by family, friends and neighbours. We feel tragedies as one and we celebrate when we can.

I am trained as a scientist and have worked in industry for years. But business as usual practises and lip service on sustainable action got me motivated to walk the walk. As Gandhi said ‘ be the change you want to see in the world’.  I am an experienced event manager, diplomat and social media user.

Cooperative thinking and working is part of my makeup. I know I don’t have the answers but I am an excellent networker and have the ability to motivate others.  I was involved in the GREENWORKS Dept of Ed & Skills project that ran from 2010-11, training over 1700 jobseekers in green skills.  I am involved in future orchard trust ( . I am national coordinator for Ireland on national european cooperative movement – a LinkedIn group. I am involved in a sustainable island group ( that is focusing the island on becoming energy independent. I am also involved in research on natural insulation products.

I have included a picture of my vision of a sustainable dvelopment where anything is possible using teamwork and cooperation.  It is a drawing by the artist Anna Nielsen that was commisioned by me in 2010.

The project’s ethos is captured in this quote ‘The old believe everything; the middle-aged suspect everything; the young know everything.’ so we need everybody on board!

Dr Shirley Gallagher

Participant’s Blog: Anna Hanschmidt

I am sitting on the train from Amsterdam to Berlin, I see the landscapes fly by, I can see people around me, some are reading, smiling, others sleeping. – Sleeping. This sounds like a good plan, my body says. But my heart and my mind are so awake that I decided take this energy and write this text. At this moment I feel like I am travelling through worlds. Yesterday I co-facilitated with some of my colleagues from Knowmads International Business School an event about alternative education and now I am going back to Germany to sail away in 2 days with over 30 people from all over the world that I hardly know. But I can feel that there is a certain kind of unity in our heartbeats- we are all change makers, facilitators, finders, searchers and alive.

And we are youths and elders.

While sitting here, I am thinking of what brought me here, in this train, the brings me back home to then sail on Sunday till next Sunday with all these people from Germany to Poland. And here I want admit that there is no such thing as a rational reason for this. I just go with the flow, the feeling, the intuition- following the call. Sure, I red the homepage of  the youth and elders project from down till up and up till down- and all I felt was a voice inside myself that screamed „finally“. On this train ride I want to try to hear beyond this “finally“- so I invite you to sail in the waves of my thoughts and feeling about the words/topics/ … „youth“ and „eldership“ with me…

Youth: I guess, I am part of this. This time, this feeling, this Moment. Referring to my birthday I am 21 years , 9 months and 19 days old, some people say that this is quiet young, other say „you have still so much time“. But I ask myself, how can they say this? Does youth then mean „be confused today and start to live tomorrow?“ For me youth means: living the now. This is the only time I have to create myself, my life, my love. May be I can plan till tomorrow; dream till the day after tomorrow but life is calling me to live, now, now and now. Every now has a beginning and an end, all the starts and ends are connected by the infinity of time. Now the suns is shining on my nose, now the clouds are hiding the sun again. Youth for me is the awareness of the Now. It’s believing that a summer can last for a life time. It’s the trust on curiosity, it’s the trust that the wings will appear during I am falling. Whether I will fall on soft ground or learn to fly. Youth for me means:  now and  (n)ever.

Eldership: I would like to share a short story connected to this topic with you: When I was younger I used to climb the highest tress in the forest next to our house. I used to ran completely wild and free in our garden, I was swinging that high till the point of „and now I can fly“ I jumped, flew and fall. So I was sitting on the ground, tears were running down my cheeks . In a distance I saw my granny sitting on the balcony and I heard her say: Come, little one, come. And I stood up again, tried to run as fast a possible with a wounded knee. I stumbled up the stairs, into her flat and directly into her arms. And then I started to let all the tears flow. And she just hold me, whispering in my ears „everything will be fine anna, everything will be just fine. The pain goes away and tomorrow you will fly again.“

What Eldership means to me? That there is somebody who understands me, who can help me holding all my wildest adventures with me, that there is somebody who is letting me be. Eldership for me is deeply connected with patience. I found somebody who expressed almost exactly my thoughts of what I learned from some of the elders ( not olders!) I meet so far on this planet, Rainer Maria Rilke once wrote in the letters to a young poet:

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.” 

These are just little insights in my feelings towards eldership and youth. Well, this is what it is for now. Looking forward to get to know you all,

With bright and good feelings,


Participants’ Blog – Susanne Baberg

So, now I am almost off to get some maps and info material from OCHA before we leave, attend the Strategie group meeting (new strategy for Israel/Palestine in the Civil Peace Service for the next 3-5 years) get back home, free my cats of fleas, say good bye to some people and hopefully pack the relevant staff. The week has been so full and the organisation efforts of the last month for May’s Visa have taken quite some space too.

So so far, there has not been much time to get exited – besides the relief when getting some generous funding from Tim after all other efforts failed and my parents throwing in a bit, too. Then the crazy story of trying to take on of the elders from the groups I am working with…getting somebody exited, disappointing them, finally getting a visa appointment but now not having this somebody on board anymore, quickly checking with various people, yes, no, yes no…and then eventually the idea to take May. More diplomatic efforts to get her employers and mine to believe in this being a good idea, entering the visa drama and then yesterday…WE GOT IT!!!!

So I sincerely hope that we don’t miss our taxi, forget our passports or some other relevant stuff, get through the Israeli and Palestinian border terminals ok and find a good place to hang out in Amman until it’s time for the airport.

Thing is, the border closes at 1pm and we are leaving Amman Airport at 1.35 am…oh well.
So, concluding: I cannot find the words for how relieved we will be to get on board of the LOVIS and join you guys.

This has been a quite an adventure already with lots of wonderfully patient and supportive people alongside.

Reflections on the “Fortress Europe”

It seems May Hadweh and Susanne Baberg can join us from Palestine! This has been quite an odyssey – and unthinkable without support from many people. Right until now we were unsure if May Hadweh would be given a visa to enter the Schengen area. In fact it is very unusual to be granted a visa in so little time…

Helping to organise this – providing letter after letter, reading through long lists of requirements and rules, etc – has made me painfully aware of how unwelcoming Europe is towards most people on this planet. And also, how privileged I am not to have had to know about all these regulations, rules and borders so far…

For people with European passports the Mediterranean is a place for happy holidays at crowded beeches… for people trying to cross it coming from North Africa it is a high and extremely dangerous wall.

In solidarity with these people, the Lovis is sailing with eyes painted onto her bow- an old tradition that is very much alive in the Mediterranean. In solidarity with all people world wide who are striving to live their dream of freedom and of stepping into their potential – as we are.

Participant’s Blog: Sue Kafka-Ellis

I am excited about our voyage..and anxious. My experience, life has been so different and I am not at all confident that anything I have to say is of any interest. BUT as an artist , i am very happy to record and observe and of course if I can contribute, i will.

I grew up in a lonely situation, on a remote farm, then at 7 sent to a boarding school which I was unhappy in. University (CapeTown) was wonderful as were my subjects, Fine Art and English and I loved teaching them. I was always a protester, on the edge, against Apartheid and after all the environmental issues. I am delighted that so many people think so seriously about their role in society.

My experience as a retired person is that I can do as much as I can. The limitations being health largely and less money. So at present I have an exhibition(see

I look forward to meeting you all on Sunday,


Participant’s Blog: Diederik Saeijs

Waning Caterpillar moon


Aaniin Crew

This person is very exited to share in community with you, fish and bird, wave and wind the last quarter of this moon. When looking at some trees these suns one could see them filled with silky thread. The threads sometimes make big webs and clusters and sometimes there is just a lonely thread of body length or longer hanging from the top branch down. At the end they are bundled together with many: green yellowish caterpillars with a double line of black dots on their backs. They seem very vulnerable at first, although no person seems to want to feast on them. They are open. They are communicating. Any time a wind would get hold of them they form a new togetherness. With every moment of sunlight they are starting to feel new feelings and become someone yet unknown to themselves. Silent transformation. They have trust, they know although they have no idea. Who is steering the ship?

The ripple of their presence to their surroundings: the tree that is their vessel is surrounded by brother and sister trees and talks to them through her roots that she hosts these people and will take care of them. The other trees sing with tears of tanine to their friend. The tanine protects the other trees. All are in balance.

People say that today is the time for change, that the times we live in are times of big transformation. In fact, in nature not a single moment is the same. The environment is constantly changing, every being who is in balance evolving with the changes. Every person who tries to maintain a status quo will create and feel stress, when releasing control he might feel freedom as compensation. When looking for the change that is ‘needed’, we probably get fouled by ourselves first. There is no answer, no satisfaction. When being as a question, being an empty bowl, we might never know the change we want also, yet we would become it. The natural human being is present in all humans, because we are nature. The coats of behavior conditionings that people in the civilized world wear to protect from and control that natural wild person inside, are coats that mask fears, fear of change for one. Born from this trauma of removal from the natural world, many of those conditionings have become unconscious with time and with every new step into control one could find a new way to satisfy our addictions. One of the successes of the technical revolution. Yet, nature can never be stopped, grass will grow through meters of concrete. Also inside of us. However we might act against our true purpose in the wheel of life, we’ll feel the urge to reconnect. For that we just need to listen, just listen. Then guidance will always come. Every person, winged, finned, leafed, crawling, elemental, of any age or form can guide us at any moment in life. For sure any human person can be a guide, yet we need to acknowledge our Elders, native human beings in special. And acknowledge our children, and our parents, and our youth, and our adults, our seekers, our questers, our strangers and friends, for all of us bring gifts in whatever stage of life we are or become to be, and above all we need to acknowledge the different beings inside of us like feelings, dreams, inner child and ego. This person hopes for a collective dedication for healing our Selfs and the world, letting go of control and giving space for this wild child in all people.

Let us hang in the wind like the caterpillars, become our surroundings and be as a question together, without expectation of whom we might become, by just being who we become in the moment, being in balance. The trees that host us will ripple of our presence through the waters of our Mother, evaporate into the sky of our Father and drizzle down to nourish the growth of our Brothers and Sisters to become Child again. Becoming our surroundings with every step we take.


Heart to heart


Participant’s Blog: Trevor Seery

Hi Youth and Elders,

Getting very excited about this adventure now, cannot wait to meet every one.
I have attached a photo and some words about why I am joining this voyage.

I have wrote a small piece below, it may seem in some way pessimistic in its outlook, it is what first came to mind. I am an eternal optimist, although sometimes a frustrated one. if you want to include it on the blog, please do.

Why I joined this voyage:

“What is young and what is old or elder?, we define young and old by age and the external appearance of our skin and physical capability. In our present society young people from my point of view are not always listened to by elders and vice versa from young to old, I think this creates a barrier to listening and understanding each other. When someone retires, they may feel inadequate due to not having that one element of a job that made them feel a part of society. I think you never really retire, you just retreat from society a small bit. This retreat should not fully happen unless the person wants to, valuable experience and skills could so easily be introduced back into communities and in turn make elders included after retirement. From a young persons point of view, I dont think think there is enough involvement of younger people in the way their villages, towns and cities are developed. From teenage to young adults, young people are never really listened to seriously by some parts of our society. This may seem somewhat pessimistic but I have being at the blunt end of seeing and experiencing ageism from young to old and old to young. It worried and angered me to be told “What would I know?” when talking about certain issues. I want to learn from this voyage how to bridge the gap between the ages and the understanding and thus have young peoples ideas included in the way our society develops. I want to learn from other crew members experiences how their societies look on Youth and Elders and in turn look at the lessons from these conversations.”

Kind Regards,

Trevor Seery

Junior audit trainee IEMA (Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment)
Individual member – World Student Community for Sustainable Development

Participant’s Blog: Yuliya Stankevich

Yuliya Stankevich, Belarus:

Youth and elders. a group of people on the boat, aiming to challenge themselves and to learn.i feel exitement i haven’t felt for years, going to trust myself to the sea and proccess.

For me this project is to explore being Young or Elder not in terms of age, but regarding characteristics and roles – the more i try in my life, the more elder i feel; so with gaining more experience, becoming able to share and to mentor, but in the same time the quiestion for me is how in the same time to stay open and curious, to doubt and explore..