By Diane Haynes Woodburn
Sexagenarian. In a few days, I’m joining the club. It does have a ring to it, doesn’t it? I imagine a dark, sleazy hangout in the industrial backstreets of lower Wailuku. “I won’t be home for dinner, dear. I’m going out with the girls . . . to Club Sexagenarian.” “That’s nice,” my husband answers. “Don’t be too late.”
If the club is true to its name, no one will be up too late, as we will all be 60-something. By 70 we join the septuagenarians, at 80 octogenarians, and if we make it to 90, we face the odd insult of becoming a nonagenarian. At 100 we are called centenarians (Beam me up, Scotty!), and past 110 we are supercentenarians. “Look! Up in the sky! It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s Supercentenarian!” I can’t wait to see the movie. Fade to Mel Brooks, in tights and cape.
But why wait to be 110 to be considered “super”? We live in Hawai‘i, where veneration for kupuna is ingrained by our host culture, and supported by the Eastern cultures that came later. This, balanced with opportunities to be young at heart simply by enjoying the beauty that surrounds us, makes Hawai‘i the best place in the world to celebrate sixty.
Particularly when that occasion translates into BIG PARTY! We borrowed the custom from Asian cultures that hold a special reverence for the sixtieth birthday, acknowledging the wisdom that maturity brings, and serving as a sort of welcome ceremony. The Japanese call it Kanreki, which translates as “return” and “calendar.” The Japanese calendar (like the Chinese, Korean and Vedic) is organized in sixty-year cycles. As we return to the sign under which we were born, life comes full circle. At sixty, a Japanese man is welcomed into second infancy; the Chinese welcome the beginning of a new life cycle. It is recognition that, at sixty, we can begin to reap the rewards of our life’s work. We aren’t getting old; we are beginning again. Super!
If you, too, are celebrating your second childhood, this issue is for you. Go directly to dessert. As anyone who spent childhood (or raised children) in the Islands knows, you haven’t experienced summer until you’ve slurped, crunched and giggled your way through a shave ice. Now we reveal where to find the very best! (No shame in dripping syrup down your shirt, or coming home with a blue tongue.)
Wanna take it up a notch? Get on a bike. Follow Shannon Wianecki as she peddles in the tracks of Lance Armstrong along the famed, serpentine road to Hana. It’s an eighty-nine-mile tour de force of verdant sea cliffs, rain forests alive with the sounds of swaying bamboo, and the sweet scent of wild ginger. It will renew your senses—and muscle memory.
Reclaiming our inner child is one way to celebrate our maturing years, but for many, sharing childhood memories and the knowledge we’ve gained is even more rewarding. I asked my friend Clifford Nae‘ole how Hawaiians measure age. “By wisdom gained and wisdom used,” he answered. “You are where you are because of what you did.” That philosophy shines in Catharine Lo’s story on Hui O Wa‘a Kaulua. Meet Snake Ah Hee, a member of the original crew of the voyaging canoe Hokule‘a, who is sharing his skill and knowledge of Hawai‘i’s ancient sailing methods with the youth of Lahaina.
So, buck up, my fellow sexagenarians. Getting old is a privilege, especially here in Hawai‘i. I am grateful to share these years with people I love, in a place I love, and I hope that, now and then, a little wisdom seeps through in the pages of Maui No Ka ‘Oi. Renewal also means planting the seeds for the next generation to nurture. How super is that?
A hui hou!