Elderly Hawaii and East Coast Metaphors

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BY J. ARTHUR RATH III – I’m traveling from Waikiki to my old Upstate New York lakeside neighborhood to view flaming maples, collect memories, and rethink about Hawaii perspectives I placed at this essay’s end.

I’m visiting now because Nature reserves her most magnificent spectacle when the leaves are well past what, in conventional thinking, would be considered their prime.


When is “prime time?” Maybe it is later in life than you think.

I love maple trees even more than Hawaii’s radiantly blooming shower trees because their life cycle is so inspiring.  Even before its buds begin to swell, its youthful vigor is manifested in the rising sap and the sweet treasure it yields.  As the sun climbs higher in the sky above the mountains, the maple takes on its first tracery of green.

Hungrily, like a growing child, it eagerly feeds on the energy of the sun as its canopy of leaves becomes thicker, darker, more abundant, while its winged seeds sail forth to begin new lives: New Maples!  By the time the high sun of summer sheds its warmth, the maple has become a protective
adult, offering cooling shade to creatures at ground level and reassuring cover to those who nest in its branches.

A productive and satisfying life, to be sure.  But the best is yet to come.  In a world where humans tend to celebrate youth, Nature appears to celebrate age. (Maybe we should think more about that–in my case, it’s why I’m taking the trip back.)

Sometimes slowly, sometimes in one mighty explosion of color following a sudden frost, the maple is arrayed in a palette of sheer glory.

“The scarlet of the maples can shake me like a cry of bugles going by,” wrote Canadian poet Bliss Carmen.

The riotous colors of the autumn maple warm us and cheer us.  They may symbolize maturity, but they also speak of joy and fulfillment. What may have passed for beauty in months just gone by is now dazzlingly eclipsed by a crowning splendor that can only come with the fullness of time.

As John Donne wrote: “No spring nor summer beauty hath such grace as I have seen in one autumnal face.” Our lives have seasons in
Hawaii, too, and Donne‚s words apply to kupuna…and that’s and that’s where my thoughts lie.

Growing Older Happily

One of the rewards of growing old is that more time is available to enrich ourselves with values such as:

Awareness of the natural environment, the satisfaction of watching buds blossom, flowers bloom, clouds scurry across the sky, and birds fly.

Sensing a warm soaking rain that can be as satisfying as basking in the sun.  If one wants intellectual construction, there are many books on flowers and birds and geography at your local library.

Exploring  avenues of intellectual curiosity you could not explore during the hectic pace of daily existence.

Recalling the number of objects, or processes, and of relationships about which you have had time in the past for only fleeting speculation˜the time‚s now available.

Finding structure in fixing and sticking to the discipline of a daily routine.  Taking on community or other assignments that really interest you.

Making  a conscious effort to include young people in your circle of acquaintance˜expand beyond just the family.  Association with young people brings a refreshment of outlook˜an attention to their perspective, their concerns, their assault on life.

As we grow older, we gain time to acquire a new and different value system.  Nature may not change in Hawaii, but we can.

I believe we owe it to society to share the wisdom which may be distilled from experience and years of exposure to life.  (Just don’t expect or insist on uncritical acceptance of your wisdom.

Or that it will ever be printed or blogged.)  Being able to articulate is a fine skill, practice makes perfect.

Be accepting of the inevitable slow down of physical pace, but don’t wholly capitulate to it.

A stalwart religious faith enables one to view the next stage with confidence and even anticipation.

J. Arthur Rath chaired the National Energy and Aging Network, Washington, DC, and headed Rath Seniors‚ Research before returning to Hawaii, his original home.  He authored the new book “Being Menehune, My Journal,” amazon.com.