Getting to The Maze is half the fun.
The Maze is the western district of Canyonlands National Park. The Ranger station at Hans Flat is 50 miles from the nearest paved road. Think about that. Where can you go in this country that is 50 miles from the nearest paved road. Maybe Maine. Maybe North Dakota.
The Hans Flat Ranger Station is basically a small mobile home in the middle of nowhere. If you want to backpack into The Maze, you have to four-wheel it 30 more miles to the Overlook Trailhead. And then, although the trail down into the canyon is only a mile in length, it takes two hours to get to the bottom.
You have to lower your backpack by rope, shimmy down, lower your backpack down, and shimmy until you get to the bottom. It’s a task worth doing because it is beautiful, and remote, and physically challenging, and then there is the Harvest Scene, pictographs which are 3000 years old left by ancient peoples.
They call this district The Maze, well, because it’s about 175 square miles of canyons that form a maze. The first time I backpacked there I got lost. I had a compass and a topographical map. It’s just easy to get turned around. I learned to keep the Chocolate Drops in sight while I was there as a reference point. On a topographical map, these geological features look like chocolate drops. You need a map and a compass in The Maze.
As we face the new year, 2024 could feel a little bit like The Maze. It could be easy to get turned around and maybe even lost. We are standing at the Overlook, looking out over the next 12 months, 12 months of hidden springs and rock art and majestic buttes. We need a map.
Instead of making resolutions for 2024 maybe consider making a map. I love maps. My office is full of maps. What would a map of 2024 look like for you?
Maybe it’s time to consider yourself a Cartographer, or a map maker.
What would be the destination of my map?
My destination would lead to a stronger, kinder, healthier, wiser, fitter, socially more connected me and maybe a me with a better understanding of who I am and how I came to be me. This is a little lofty, but it is a map, or rather, my map.
On this map, there should be waypoints. These aren’t goals and objectives. Nope. None of that. They are reference points to let you know where you are and where you’re going. These are points on my map that will guide me to a place that I call Clarity. For me Clarity means paying attention in a new way, seeing things differently.
Clarity is a superpower, and it comes to those who take care of themselves physically, socially, intellectually, and spiritually or existentially.
My Waypoints to Clarity
My first waypoint is the Healthy Body, Healthy Mind Waypoint.
This waypoint on my map is all about taking care of my body. This past year I have walked almost every week and hiked almost every week. I’ve done hills. I’ve tried to do resistance training every year. I’m pretty consistent. But I’ve gotten a little lazy and I’ve avoided higher intensity workouts. So, I’m increasing the intensity of my workouts by adding one or two HIIT sessions each week. For those of you who aren’t familiar with HIIT workouts, these are high intensity interval training sessions. Typically, you schedule a 30-minute workout. Two minutes high intensity, two minutes low intensity. I have a rowing machine and recumbent-exercise bike. In order for me to find the place called Clarity, I’ll schedule a workout on each of these pieces of equipment each week. Also, I need to increase the intensity of my resistance workouts and make them more aerobic. So, with a help of my Garmin fitness watch, I’ll monitor my resistance workouts to ensure that my pulse stays in the aerobic area.
Clarity comes from a healthy body. What’s good for the heart is good for the brain.
I know I’m on the right trail to Clarity when I hike in the woods. Clarity comes from the trees, and the smells, and the hills, and the rain, and the Tufted Titmouse singing, and the squirrels playing throughout the woods.
I wasn’t able to ride my bike as much this past year, but I’m going to increase my bike rides to increase my clarity. There is something that happens on my rides through Parkland.
My second waypoint, the next reference point that directs me toward Clarity, has to do with food, but not just food, it has to do with eliminating things that create a cloudiness in my clarity. Here, I’m talking about sugar and alcohol.
Ok, if you eat sugar willy-nilly, are you off trail? Are you lost?? Maybe not in the short run but long-term, yes. Sugar amplifies inflammation, leading to cardiovascular disease, which increases your risk of stroke, and eventually dementia. So, ditch the sugar except for special occasions.
And then, there is alcohol. I have broken-up and made-up with alcohol many, many times this year. You cannot read any serious studies about alcohol, and not be concerned about the negative effects on your health from consuming even a little alcohol. One drink affects my sleep, which affects my clarity. This past year, I was diagnosed with hyperuricemia, which is one of the causes of gout. As one medical professional said to me, “It’s the alcohol, dummy.” On my map to Clarity, I have written in a waypoint, called abstinence, circled it, and decided that it can take me one step closer to being able to see things differently in 2024.
The third waypoint has to do with reading and writing about folk tales. If you’re reading this, you are aware of my blogs on aging. Folk tales have lots of wisdom for aging or clarity. I plan to read and reflect on 30 to 50 folk tales from various sources, mostly Grimms Fairytales, and share them in my blog and eventually in an eBook.
The fourth waypoint is people. There is a proverb in Hebrew Scriptures that says that people can sharpen each other the same way that iron sharpens iron.
Being around people will sharpen me and take me to Clarity. I don’t have lots of friends. Most of them are liberals. It’s probably because I’m a liberal. No-brainer, I’m a social worker. But I have friends and family members that voted for Trump. I love them and if I’m headed to Clarity, I need them to help me when I’ve lost my way.
Clarity comes from a diversity of ideas and opinions and not from ideological isolation.
Talk to your friends and family. Listen to your friends and family. Learn from them. Learn to see things differently through them. Find new friends that can guide you to Clarity.
Those are a few the of the waypoints that are on the map that I am drawing. I’m a cartographer. I’ll add a few more as I get into 2024. It’s my map. I can plan some excursions. I can have a layover or two.
When I’m done this year, it’s my hope that I am either closer to or I’ve arrived at a place called Clarity.
To read more entries in the Healthy Aging series, click here.