Bucket List

I’ve had — besides the cold from hell — occasion to think about the meaning of the word “adventure.” That led to my thinking about that thing I’ve never had, which is a bucket list. When I was a kid, my idea of adventure was to grow up to be either Lowell Thomas or T. E. Lawrence. For various very concrete reasons, neither was possible, but the idea of world travel = adventure stuck with me and when I was 30 it propelled me to the People’s Republic of China.

A lifetime is pretty short when it comes down to it (and it does and will). Last night I was thinking how lucky I’ve been to teach international students and how, over the years, the world has come to me. In China the world stopped being places and started being people. When that happens, it’s a major psychical shift. After that, the lodestones to my journeys were no longer things to see, but people to see and, oh god, yes. Sometimes the lodestone was luv’.

It’s good because THAT lodestone brought me into another vision of the world, one that I had the hubristic belief wouldn’t be any big change from the old U, S, of A but which is, in fact very different. It brought me to art and trains and incredible beauty I never expected and the love (not “luv'”) of new family and friends. When memories of adventures in a place involve the experiences you’ve shared with people you love, the adventures have depth.

One of those accidental adventures led me to realize a dream I’d also always cherished — of writing a really good novel. One lodestone led to another, to the coincidental opening into my own personal history and that of my blood family.

Through all of this I learned that adventure is an accident, that I couldn’t go looking for it, I could only go, and, if were lucky, it would find me. It would be beyond my expectation.

Meanwhile, “real” life went on and I found myself living in a California mountain town with some inherited money I used to repair a roof and build a shed as an art studio. None of that seemed like it was an adventure, not at all, but over the last few days I saw how, for so many years, precisely 71, I’ve been struggling to get here, to this beautiful wild place where I can paint and how the “adventures” were my painting teachers. That is adventure to me and perhaps it has always been. Maybe “I want to be an artist when I grow up” IS a “bucket list.”

13 thoughts on “Bucket List

  1. Never had a bucket list, never wanted one; though I guess riding across the country on a bike did hang out on a one-item list for about 45 years. I figure, if I’m concerned about crossing things off of a list, I might miss the adventure that is staring me in the face.

    • I feel the same way. My whole — and similar — bucket list was just to live in another country as different from the US as possible. I couldn’t believe my luck that it turned out to be China in 1982.

  2. Firstly, so sorry you’ve been poorly, and I can empathise completely as I’ve also had a hideous lurgy this week and it’s put me completely out of action. Gets annoying after a bit, doesn’t it? I hope you’re all better soon and I’m sending hugs and all good wishes across the big pond. ❤

    On the Bucket List concept, you've made some very interesting points here. It seems that you've achieved your bucket list, you just weren't clear what it was until you got there! 🙂 That's the best way to be if you ask me. If we all sat down and drew up a long list of things we really felt we needed or wanted to achieve in the short time we're here on Earth we'd be putting ourselves under pressure and setting ourselves up for disappointment. Besides, our wants and needs change as we get older, so things can be fluid rather than set in stone. Instead, I think you're exactly where you need to be right now (apart from the cold, of course!), and by the sounds of it, it's been a true adventure getting there, and along the way you had the experiences you needed to arm you for it. Well done, Martha, and get well soon. 🙂

  3. I for one am pleased that you are where you are doing what you do – and sharing these thoughts. My adventures (though they may not classify as adventurous) are of the small personal variety – raising 2 sons (a huge adventure in my opinion – and since I had no brothers was an eye-opener) and of course the miracles of working in research. Loved the George Harrison video – one of my favorites!

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