My wife, Alane, and I returned home in the wee hours this “morning” after a week in Nevada and Utah. We spent most of our visit with two great friends who moved from Maryland to Utah a few years ago.

About ten years ago, the four of us began what became a series of annual vacations together in the southwestern US. For several years in a row, we enjoyed many long strenuous hikes, sometimes spending days exploring remote canyons.

There are few experiences that match hiking beyond the crowd of tourists and into lands where there are fewer people, then no people, then no footprints. Sometimes when the path itself disappeared, we made our own path.

On this most recent trip, our friends led us on a few hikes in and around Zion National Park, which is not far from their new home (where all they need to do to enjoy amazing views of mesas, buttes and canyons is to look outside!). The trip was abbreviated and we’re ten years older, so the hikes were shorter. Sometimes we were on the trail for no more than an hour.

After one of those hikes, I was relaxing in their home, when I noticed a magazine article called, The Value of an Hour – Painting Plein Air in Zion National Park. According to the author, Lyman Hafen, November 4, 2011 (tomorrow as I write this) is the annual “Quick-Draw” art event at Zion National Park.

At high noon, a group of artists will be given exactly 60 minutes to turn blank canvases into completed works of fine art. The artwork will be auctioned off for charity immediately after the brushes are put away. One hour to make work. Outdoors in the elements. While people watch.

As the article says, these are not quick-draw hobbyists. They are professional artists who normally take weeks or even months to complete a painting. Last year, witnesses were in awe by what the artists accomplished in the short amount of time.

Last night on the flight back to Maryland, I struggled to describe the benefit of the short hikes we took this week. The best I can do is borrow a quote from the article and apply it directly to our visit:

If you come, you will leave with a new appreciation for the value of an hour.”

This post is not about making time-limited art in Zion, or visiting the southwestern US, or hiking, or even going outside. It’s about the value of an hour, and our need to recognize and appreciate that value.

I hope that truth speaks to you, because the clock is ticking. It doesn’t accept excuses, and it doesn’t move backwards to allow for do-overs.

Let’s go make stuff as if our time here is short.