As another birthday arrives in my world, I recall a hike I took in spring, with the trilliums fading from white to purple, wearing the color with the grace of an aging lady. “When I am old I shall wear purple…” Jenny Joseph’s famed poetic line about elderly freedom of expression came to mind, applying as much to trilliums as humanity. Through the trilliums, the land spoke to me: Take comfort: your life may finish with your deepest beauty. I recall having a conversation later that day about how blues great John Lee Hooker did his best work as he neared his eighties. And I will only be fifty-three.
More days have passed since that hike, but the sentiments haven’t. The land speaks to me again. Aging is growth. Time is an essential element of inner expansion. I’m comforted by this voice, and know that one of the endless things to celebrate is that, no matter the illusions of the heavily marketed youth culture, getting older is a process of becoming happier, not only for me, but for most of those I know. We settle. Our gnarls become as beautiful as those of the elder oaks. Yes, our branches will someday fall and block the trail. But we will become the trail that way, too, adding to its life so that others can take their arduous walks while we are newly free to rest.
Last weekend I was hiking once more, peacefully thinking of my aging, when I saw a butterfly on a daisy. Excited, I drew my camera close, and began to celebrate it through the lens. Then I noticed that though the butterfly was moving, it was not moving as expected. Its wings were a touch tattered, and with no flutter to their motion. The butterfly was beyond its passing, its composition with the daisy arranged by a spider who was making a meal of the recently departed. The spider was the one orchestrating the butterfly’s motion. I was momentarily taken aback, before realizing that the beauty of the dance was undiminished. Like the fallen branches lining the trail, the butterfly too was still graceful beyond its passing. It was still contributing to the beauty of the earth. I thought to myself, may I achieve the same. May we all.