As we turn the calendar page toward the new year, I think about what our friend, Dick Griffith, who is 92-years-old says:
“Life is like a bicycle. If you stop moving, you tip over.”
Movement must be the key to his longevity since he has walked or skied 10,000 miles across Alaska and the Canadian Arctic. His last race of the Alaska Wilderness Classic – a grueling 150-mile trek that only a handful of competitors finish each year – was at the age of 81. (See more of his story at www.CanyonsandIce.com.)
Dick doesn’t believe in New Year’s resolutions and neither do I – not anymore. For me, not only was a resolution a reminder of some personal shortcomings, the inability to keep a promise to myself only generated more regret. Resolutions never worked, in part, I think, because they were not affirming in any way.
That doesn’t change the desire to start a new year with healthier habits and improved ways of looking at the world.
Like the new year, fresh starts can be fun and full of promise, (unlike resolutions that seem to eventually call for absolution). With the lengthening daylight, energy also returns and it’s a great time of year to get outside and move.
Movement is key to my own physical and mental health. When I injured my knee this past summer and couldn’t hike the usual miles, I found myself deep in the doldrums. We wait all through the long winter to do the summer things that we love, and there I was stuck at home. Just getting the chores done was a disheartening trial of slow gimping. The physical therapist I saw was encouraging, however, and gave me specific exercises to get back on the trail. It’s important to keep moving, he said. It turns out that my self-designed regimen to strengthen a bum knee was only making things worse. It helped to get some coaching.
Meanwhile, now that I’m gratefully back on the trail and we have some snow, cross-country skiing beckons. I’m amazed every time I strap on skis and glide out onto freshly groomed trails. There’s no lift ticket to buy and no lines to stand in. Anchorage and Mat-Su have great options for cross-country skiing. Some of the groomed trails in Birchwood and at the Government Peak Recreation Area are lit for nighttime skiing. Backcountry skiing options are endless.
During the years I lived in Eagle River, my favorite place to ski was on the river itself. By the light of the moon, I once encountered a lone wolf, its form distinctly lanky and wild. I was beyond thrilled to see this icon of the wild as it slipped silently among the alders and disappeared.
Now, living closer to Hatcher Pass, we are just a ten-minute drive to the top of the hill. When conditions allow, Independence Mine trails and Archangel Road are groomed and maintained for skiing. I love that these mountain trails are not lit. Here the moon and northern lights gleam without the intrusion of human-generated electricity. From either of these two groomed areas or the Gold Mint trail, you can strike out on your own. Avalanches can be a real danger, however, so be sure to check Hatcher Pass avalanche conditions at https://hpavalanche.org/. For ski trail conditions in Hatcher Pass, Chugiak, and around Anchorage, check out www.snowio.com.
Although I am not making any resolutions for the new year, I am looking forward to moving more.
Dick Griffith says he wishes he could still ski and hike the long miles he used to, yet he still gardens in summer, walks where he can, and goes twice weekly to Tai Chi classes. I think he would agree that life is by definition always in motion.
Yesterday afternoon, when I got home from Anchorage, the dogs looked as bedraggled by boredom as I felt from a long day indoors and in the car. As much for them as myself, I grabbed my skis and headed up the hill. Their eyes brightened and their pink tongues lolled in anticipation of an excursion. Feeling the cold breeze on my face, breathing deep, and watching our pups porpoise playfully through deep snow melted away any lingering doldrums. It was a cheerful end to the day.
As for new intentions, well, here’s to many uplifting moments of movement in the months ahead!
In good health, to you and yours, Happy New Year!