Editing the Bucket List

Nolan at Disney's Animal Kingdom Park, 2011

I worked on my bucket list a little bit this morning.  Its changes over the past six or so years reflect little accomplishment and a lot of mellowing out.  The thing about a list, you see, is that it is ever changing.

  • See my son graduate; live long enough to be a grandmother
  • Go trekking in the Himalayas Mongolia!!!!  Sleep in a yurt, ride those little horses and drink fermented mare’s milk
  • Remember my father every single day of my life and appreciate my mother every single day.
  • Ride a horse across some Godforsaken Western landscape…alone Teach my son to ride a horse; he can fish, shoot, hunt and play guitar.  Learning to ride is the only essential life-skill I think he should have that he has yet to master.
  • Raft the Snake River in Idaho Finish rafting the rest of the Chattooga after almost drowning there last year.
  • Fly over Alaska in a tiny little plane and then set it down somewhere to hunt moose  I’d settle for killing a really big whitetail
  • See a black bear in the wild  (in South Carolina)
  • Bungee jump—Well I did a bungee tower, not quite as high as a bungee jump, but close
  • Take my son and husband to the Outer Banks.
  • Read all the classic (again) from Beowulf to Jayne Eyre to Silas Marner to The Sun Also Rises to The World According to Garp
  • Run a marathon Not so important anymore.  I do want to do more triathlons, maybe up to Olympic Distance.
  • See Hamlet in an off-off Broadway play or college theater group; See Godspell again
  • Learn to scuba dive What was I thinking!?!
  • Go to a cooking school
  • Catch a rattlesnake Accomplished May 2009.  Pin and pick up a venomous snake with my hands Accomplished May 2010.  Catch an alligator (again)
  • Visit New Orleans during Mardi Gras; have coffee and beignets at the Café du Monde
  • Hang my clothes on a clothesline again, on  a regular basis.
  • Work a humanitarian mission, mission trip or field research project in a Third World nation
  • Deliver a calf again
  • Go to a tent revival and really get in the Spirit
  • Go to the Super Bowl!
  • Nude beach?  No, private beach, nude
  • Remember hearing my grandmother giggle
  • Have a really great garden again ; freeze and can things for winter
  • Finally see an Ivory-billed woodpecker  Should I can this?  I’ve made two attempts already that did not go well!!??
  • Take my son to Disney World Accomplished April 2011
  • Go to an Irish Pub and close the thing down, singing too loud
  • Learn to do basic carpentry, and minor to moderate home repair—or learn to sew, which is basically carpentry with cloth
  • Attend La Tomitina, that tomato-throwing festival in Spain
  • Run the Peachtree Road Race again  Set to do this a week from tomorrow.  Pray that I finish!
  • Walk through a street market in a Third World Country and not worry about what (or who) I am eating
  • See a Jimmy Buffett concert again with friends and family
  • Go to the Kentucky Derby  wear an outrageous hat and drink mint juleps
  • Finally get one of my book manuscripts published; I have  five languishing in drawers
  • Spend a month in Mexico, immersion-learning the language
  • Tour Switzerland with my mother (her ancestors came from there) Not looking too likely; her health is not great
  • Take my family on a tour of the American West—Rushmore, Devil’s Tower, Yellowstone.   I hear the Grand Canyon is nice.
  • A day at work where EVERYTHING goes right
  • Watch or re-watch all the movies that won Best Picture at the Academy Awards; Well, maybe not all of them; gotta figure some are boring.
  • And my ultimate:  hitch-hike, take a train, walk, ride a horse, sail, etc, etc, from here to Tierra del Fuego Paddle my kayak across the Okefenokee Swamp and ride my bicycle back (accomplishing my first “Century” on the bike and so much more!)

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Revisiting the List

Yesterday I was flummoxed by a simple question from a friend, “What’s on your bucket list?”

As a strange coincidence, I had  run across a hard copy of my list only two days before.  I glanced at it and realized with amusement that I had accomplished a couple of the things on the list.  I can check those babies off now.

But when the question was put to me, I drew a complete and total blank.  What exactly was on my list?  I couldn’t remember a blasted thing!  I struggled to remember, uh, maybe run a marathon, and, uh, maybe, uh raft the Chattooga?  And maybe bungee jumping was on it, but never skydiving?  I couldn’t even remember the things I had noted that I could check off.

Midlife is a strange time.

You are struggling to stay young and you know you are losing the battle day by day.  Your priorities change, and you wish you weren’t mellowing out quite so much.  It was plumb unsettling to know that I couldn’t even remember the things that seemed important to me only five or so years ago.   And it should be eye-opening to re-do the list and even comment on the previous list.

Here, for posterity’s sake, is my list from 2005 or ’06.   It is reprinted from Tidbits, The Best Little Paper Ever:

At Huntington Beach State Park a few weeks ago, I added another bird to my life list.  Birders, you see, keep a list of all the birds they’ve seen and identified in their lives.  They are meticulous about keeping this life list, and the Peterson Field Guide series conveniently provides a checklist in the field guide.  Though I always thought I’d eventually see a male painted bunting, it was anticlimactic when I unexpectedly encountered two of the most colorful birds on the continent visiting a feeder there at the state park.

This much anticipated sighting reminded me of another list I made, one made several years ago when I had an unexpected scare from a medical test.  Fearful that my test results would be bad, I made a list of all the things I wish I could do before I die.

Some of these things are poignant, almost sad.  Some are way out of reach.  Some are doable.  And some are mundane.

Here’s just part of my list:

  • See my son graduate
  • Go trekking in the Himalayas
  • Remember my father every single day of my life and appreciate my mother every single day.
  • Ride a horse across some Godforsaken Western landscape…alone
  • Raft the Snake River in Idaho
  • Fly over Alaska in a tiny little plane and then set it down somewhere to hunt moose
  • See a black bear in the wild
  • Read all the classic (again) from Beowulf to Jayne Eyre to Silas Marner to The Sun Also Rises to The World According to Garp
  • Run a marathon
  • See Hamlet in an off-off Broadway play or college theater group
  • Learn to scuba dive
  • Go to a cooking school
  • Visit New Orleans during Mardi Gras; have coffee and beignets at the Café du Monde
  • Work a humanitarian mission, mission trip or field research project in a Third World nation
  • Go to the Super Bowl!
  • Remember hearing my grandmother giggle
  • Finally see an Ivory-billed woodpecker
  • Take my son to Disney World
  • Go to an Irish Pub and close the thing down, singing too loud
  • Attend La Tomitina, that tomato-throwing festival in Spain
  • Run the Peachtree Road Race again
  • Walk through a street market in a Third World Country and not worry about what (or who) I am eating
  • Go to the Kentucky Derby
  • Spend a month in Mexico, immersion-learning the language
  • Tour Switzerland with my mother (her ancestors came from there)
  • Take my family on a tour of the American West
  • A day at work where EVERYTHING goes right
  • Watch or re-watch all the movies that won Best Picture at the Academy Awards
  • And my ultimate:  hitch-hike, take a train, walk, ride a horse, sail, etc, etc, from here to Tierra del Fuego

I’m proud to report that recently I checked off another of my life’s “to do list,” I swam-biked-ran my way to finish the Greenville Triathlon.

Do you have a life list?

Some things are for dreaming; some things are for doing.  But one thing’s for sure, life is as much of an adventure as you choose to make it.


“Learn to scuba dive?”  What the heck was I thinking? I don’t recall ever pondering it.  Snorkeling was fun, but scuba? Whassup with that?  And why wasn’t bungee jumping on the list?  And now we can trash can the trip from here to Tierra del Fuego.  What I want to do now is kayak solo across the Okefenokee Swamp and cycle back.  And the ivory-billed woodpecker, hmm, after one failed attempt at seeking them in Arkansas and one poor attempt in Florida, that one might have to go bye-bye, too.

We accomplished Disney two months ago and God willing, the Peachtree will be in the can on July 4, only two weeks away.

Looks like I need to re-do the list.  Stay tuned for an update.

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