Holding Onto Green:  A Perspective On Staying Young

I just came back from spending a few days in Tennessee and then Colorado with my youngest daughter.  While I was at her house in Nashville, I walked out into the yard and noticed two trees, same species at different stages of foliage; one tree was in full fall regalia while the other was still a verdant green. I was curious as to why two trees of the same type growing in the same proximity, and about the same size would be at different stages shedding their leaves.  Looking out over the ten acres of field and woods, the only other green I observed came from the fir trees that stood in a canopy of rows.  Evergreens have a waxy like substance on their needles which are really rolled up leaves, that retain moisture and allows photosynthesis to continue through the winter.  Why, then, did this one maple tree, hold onto the green leaves? 

Then it made me ponder why some people hold “onto their green?”  I don’t mean money in this instance, although I do wonder how some manage to amass a fortune.  I clearly do not hold onto my green in that respect; too many needy animals and cute grandkids! What I mean is,  how do some people manage to hold onto their youth?  One of my fellow church members, who is now in his mid-nineties, told me the way to stay youthful is to “never stop moving.”  He is a wonder with a still sharp mind and I admire him greatly.  I get that.  Almost everything printed by AARP, any number of Medicare Advantage Plans, the AMA and any other health related media say one of the secrets to longevity is exercise.  Keep moving.  Okay, but what about your mind?  Brain games, healthy eating and developing new skills such as learning to play a musical instrument all make the list of youth enhancing activities and habits as well. 

I had the opportunity to go with my daughter to a retreat in Colorado sponsored by The Worship Initiative based in Dallas, TX, focusing on songwriting for worship leaders throughout the United States.  There were about sixty young men and women present for the three day event filled with food, fellowship and fun in addition to collaboration on songs for their respective churches.  My daughter’s role was to engage the creative voices within each of them and stir their authentic spirits into writing something from the heart.  I came along as another workshop facilitator to add to my daughter’s experience.  Surrounded by young adults, at least twenty-five to thirty years younger than myself, I rediscovered an energy missing from my life since I retired from working in public schools almost five years ago.  I am not a songwriter, but when I offered words from my own writing experience, they listened and commented with a deep conviction.  It was as if they were thirsty and drinking from a well.  It was one of the most validating experiences of my life.  I wrote a poem with embedded rhyme and became known as the Granny Rapper or as one young man said, Hip Hop Granny!  Another group member started calling me Anne Lamott and asked if I would adopt him. 

I can’t recall when I have laughed as much or felt so alive!  And then, came the other side of the coin when I had to traipse up and down the foothills of Lost Valley Ranch to our cabin which was aptly named “Huff.”  The one just above us was “Puff.”  My daughter took a video recording of me huffing and puffing about half-way up the steps to the log sanctuary.  It was not a pretty sight.  I blamed my recent bout of Covid on my breathless journey, but it was a stark reminder of how out of shape I am. 

In my research as to why some trees stay green longer before they turn and drop their foliage, I didn’t find any specific answers.  However, I did realize that when a person fills their life with youthful connections and purposeful movement, they may succeed in “holding onto their green.”

Gwynn Wills is a former speech therapist, certified Amherst Writers and Artists workshop Affiliate and Leader and founder of The Calliope Writers Group. After growing up in Crawfordsville, her and her husband returned several years ago.