An extra hour...

An old pencil drawing from the dark ages… on BFK in a triangle sketchbook I made.

An old pencil drawing from the dark ages… on BFK in a triangle sketchbook I made.

Palmer, Alaska has a current population around 7,000 ish so imagine how modest the population was in the dark ages when I was young. The Dark Ages used to be the ten centuries prior to the Renaissance. Now the Dark Ages is reclassified as anything before Apple. Palmer is located in the Matanuska-Susitna valley, the Tigris and Euphrates of The Last Frontier. The 43 mile drive from Palmer to Anchorage on Highway 1 is about 45 minutes on a good day. Before Sam Hill’s revolutionary vision of paved roads made it to the Far North, the trek between Palmer and Anchorage seemed interminable. Of course, it was Much Longer the reverse direction.

Now, Highway 1 runs north and south while the moose still run east and west. The ineffective merger creates confusion for moose and drivers alike. Add snow and it’s a 3-D, real time Dodgem. On any given day, part of the scenery is at least one car whose driver lost. Even in good weather, Alces Americanus may unexpectedly become a new hood ornament.

Ted Pyrah commuted almost three decades from Palmer to teach in the Culinary Department at University of Alaska at Anchorage - in addition to running a farm, now the largest U-Pick in the Mat-Su valley. In a passing comment about his morning, Ted shared one idea that’s stuck with me and changed how I view personal time and contribution. Thank you, Ted.

He told me he built in an hour every day specifically to be available to help people in trouble along the road during his drive to or from work. He said if he didn’t need the time he had a whole unplanned hour available every day.

People need help at the most inconvenient times. If we’ve allotted time to help into our schedule, we have the time available. Yes, sometimes the incident doesn’t fit the agenda, however, it all works out. We really do have all the time we need.

Footnote: On a serious note, Moose are one of the most dangerous animals on the planet and may cause serious injury or death in altercations or collisions. Moose kills are given to the first-up organization or individual on a roster to harvest the meat. Alaska is not keeping up with the rest of the world by installing animal overpasses. Overpasses attempt to alleviate human and animal suffering, however, it hasn’t yet been determined who will teach moose to use them. The animals were here first.

The Planner

I’ve had a perfectly nice planner for some years now. Trim. Elegant. Professional looking with a luxurious red leather cover and inserts I buy every year to record the white rabbit experiences of life.

Last night, I bought a new one. An inexpensive department store variety. The kind a parent uses to keep track of the children’s activities. There’s a column for each day of the week and the bottom of each column is divided into four spaces. I guess any more children and two planners would be necessary.

Instead of inserting pictures of the kids under the plastic front cover, I slipped in my visioning pictures and inscribed my name beneath them. Not as classy as a red leather one. It does, however, have a certain energetic clout. Every time I pick up the planner, the photographs remind me of where I’m going with my life, spiritually, mentally, physically, emotionally and financially.

The four spaces at the bottom of each weekly column are labeled Child Weekly Plan. It gives me a space to track my “children”. The screenplay I want to complete by 1 May. The amount of time I spend on my health and fitness to enable investment in greater creative efforts. Daily visits with a spiritual discipline to return the harvest of peace and security. As I look at the visual space, the amount of time for mundania like day job appointments and haircuts is reduced by half. The balance of the space is wide open to receive my intention. Running three projects concurrently seems to be enough at one time.

I left one of the spaces for family and friends. The planner was a heads up to tend important relationships. Just as our goals and visions won’t come to fruition without persistent attention, our relationships will not thrive without care. I am reminded to connect regularly with the people who are important to me.

When I was at college, there was a professor whose home was an hour drive from the school. I went by his office without an appointment for clarification on some assignment and he reassured me by relating he built in an hour every day for such occurrences. He said someone was always in the ditch in the winter and dedicating an hour of his day let him know he had the time to stop and help on the way into work. If everyone managed to stay on the road he had even more time for people who dropped in. I’ve tried to implement his philosophy into my time management.

By checking in with myself and my goals on a daily basis I have the perspective to set or change priorities. Most importantly, I know when I need to build a space for myself to enjoy life. I know it’s important to set aside time to cultivate friendships or be available for an impromptu play date with my new neighbor. And remember the last time I did nothing to schedule more of it.

The best thing about this planner is that it offers child wisdom on each page. One of the pearls is: “Some people can tell what time it is by looking at the sun. But I have never been able to make out the numbers”. I think that is a great place to start in the process of “managing” our lives and our time.

There’s a great Guthrie song lyric ~ “Blow up the tv, throw away the paper…”

      When people come to see me about faltering creative enthusiasm, I usually recommend a news fast for at least six weeks if not permanently.  I tell them to turn off all media stimulus – tv, radio, and throw out the newspaper.  My premise is that if we disconnect ourselves from the iron lung of the media telling us how to breathe we will take imaginative breath more freely on our own. We will begin to think for ourselves and find a center of peace from which to gift ourselves with inspired effort.
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