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The treasures that lie ahead

I am not a visual artist in any way. If I were to be really corny about it, I might say that I paint pictures with words, but that’s annoying even to me. Still, every December, just a day or two after Christmas, I start in on my one annual art project—my Treasure Map. Nowadays, people call these Vision Boards, but when I started making mine at least 20 years ago, Treasure Map seemed fitting. I suppose the idea was that somewhere in there was the treasure I would find in the year ahead.

Because I’m a word person, I start my Treasure Map process by writing in my journal or even just on a piece of paper. It’s more an end-of-the-year assessment, I suppose, but with an eye toward what I would like to focus on during the next 12 months. This coming year will be my first full year of not working (at least not officially working), so I’m looking forward to dreaming about possibilities I’ve never completely considered. I'm starting by making a More/Less List, thinking about the things I would like to see more of in 2016 and what I'd like less of, as well. My Treasure Map will highlight the former.

Once I’ve kind of settled on what, specifically, I want to concentrate on this year, I get out the gigantic stack of magazines and catalogs I’ve been saving all year. If I’ve been a particularly compulsive cleaner in recent months, I may have forgotten the Treasure Map project and tossed all my old Food and Wine magazines and Pottery Barn catalogs into the recycling bin, but I can always find a friend who still has some. Then I sit in front of the television for an evening and just tear out pictures I like. It’s funny, but during this part of the process I don’t think a lot about my goals. I just find words and photos that resonate with me in some way.

By the end of the evening, I have a huge pile of pages and I’m usually exhausted from bending over the coffee table, so I wait until the next night to get started with the board itself. I just use poster board from Target or the grocery store. I used to stress over what color I wanted until I realized that I never leave any part of the surface uncovered, so the color doesn’t matter. Completely unconsciously, I realized a few years ago that I kind of divide the board into fourths or fifths. One section might be loosely focused on travel, while others are heavy on food and fitness, writing, and house and home.

Then, glue stick in hand, I start attaching paper to board. I’ve made a few mistakes over the years and have had to start over but, for the most part, it quickly takes on a life of its own, so much so that when I look at it the next morning, I feel as if it almost made itself. No matter what the year or what the focus, I always absolutely love the result. When it’s done, I carefully remove last year’s map from above my desk, place it in the closet (I can’t seem to let myself toss these!) and put up the new one. Each year’s map is much more informative and helpful than the actual calendar, urging me in lovely, colorful words and pictures to focus on writing, to take risks, to slow down, to remember to travel and eat well, to run and lift weights and to keep on loving my wonderful partner. A year of treasures to spur me on every single day.

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