The Bucket List

I finally saw the movie “The Bucket List” a few months back. We’ve been aware of the idea of a bucket list since the movie came out in 2007. I never thought much about it, life flows like a river up here in Montana, and we do what we want to do nearly every day, weather permitting. By its very nature, life here is often challenging and adventurous in its own right. On the other hand, sky-diving, deep sea diving, playing roulette in Monaco, grizzly bear hunting in Alaska… these are all worthy pursuits for those who want to say they did those things at least once. After all, what we do with our lives and how we live them go a long way in defining who we are. That can be a double-edged sword, however, for it’s often the case that “who we are” and “who others perceive us to be” is different. HOW different? That usually depends upon how grounded our self perception is.

Ideally, we would get toward the end of our lives (say 60 years old, maybe 70) with a good feeling of content and satisfaction for what we’ve accomplished, for what we’ve contributed. At that point, indulging oneself in an unexperienced adventure or two seems totally reasonable… if one is still able to do that thing at 60 or 70. Which is, of course, where the bucket list comes in. Just to make sure you know, the “bucket list” is a list of things you would like to do/experience before you kick the bucket.

A bucket list can be long or short. One can have a most adventurous life and still have a long bucket list. I’ve had a somewhat adventurous life and have a very short (and tame!) bucket list. B’s bucket list (& I’m surprised she even has one, given her very full life) is simply to travel and enjoy and taste every day. She is still very adventurous, is up for just about everything (or is that “down” for everything??) but doesn’t keep a list… she simply does things as they feel right to do. Gotta love that.

B pressed me for a bucket list, all in fun of course, earlier this year. I came up with almost nothing. Finally, through the fog appeared the fun possibilities of a cruise through the inland passage to Alaska, and overnight trip on a train, and a ride on a seaplane. Not very adventurous, to be sure, but those are things I have either never done or would like to do again. The overnight train ride? Easy. My first two years of life were spent largely on a train, as my dad worked as a special agent for the Union Pacific Railroad. The 3 of us spent a lot of time on trains between Kansas City and Ogden, Utah, just so Mom and Dad could have more time together. The sounds of a railroad car rolling down the tracks remains one of the sweetest sounds I know, and is probably tied in to all sorts of psychological strangeness. Doesn’t matter… I love it, and would dearly love to experience it again.

The Alaskan trip? Actually, I can take it or leave it. Having stood on the tops of mountains in Montana, floated her rivers, wandered her forests, meditated in her high mountain meadows of wildflowers, fished her streams, I have my doubts as to how much better Alaska might be. My mom said once, upon returning from a vacation up there, “It’s a big Montana.” Yes, the mosquitoes are bigger up there, yes, there is more and bigger of everything up there, but that returns us to the same old nagging question… how much is enough? Turns out Montana is plenty enough for me. Matter of fact, Montana and Buddhism are the two primary teachers in helping me understand and practice the concept of “enough.” My undying thanks and gratitude to them both.

So. A seaplane ride?? Oh yes! And the more I thought about it, the more delicious the idea became. I’ve always loved airplanes anyway, so a flight that involved taking off in the water and landing in the water was one of those new, different, first-time experiences that bucket listers talk about. I think B was somewhat amused at my growing enthusiasm, but it turned out she gave us both a ride in a seaplane for my 70th birthday last April.

What a kick, what a thrill! I strongly recommend you do a few things on your bucket list while you can. I not only thoroughly enjoyed it, but I videoed it and made a 10-minute movie out of it, so I could relive it from time to time. It was actually even more fun than I expected, very much like my first sailing experience… all your senses are alive, you are totally in the moment whether you want to be or not, and that’s a nice result in itself. Do I suddenly feel like a big adventurer, who has done everything and been everywhere? Hell no. Many people commute on seaplanes 5 days a week. People fly into remote lakes and rivers deep in the Alaskan Wilderness all the time. Okay… maybe a feeling of accomplishment? Perhaps a touch, but mostly knowing how it felt, how it was, how I was during the experience. I think that everything we experience teaches us a little bit more about ourselves. For me, the flight in the seaplane was better than I imagined, and I have a good imagination. So there was the thrill factor. When you’re 70, anything that provides the thrill factor, and is reasonably safe, is worth doing. The only thing I can think of that I do that has a dangerous factor to it is snowmobiling. And I usually have control over that factor… to a point.

So, does an occasional adventure/new experience keep us alive and vital? Hell yes! Not saying that adventures are necessary, but damn, they can sure do the job, especially when you might have been sitting around wondering if it’s all worth it or not, whether life is simply a static repetition of one day into the next… man, an adventure of any type will break up that line of thought in a hurry,

In that light, I want to share my adventure in a seaplane with you.  It was at the top of my bucket list, it was easy enough to do, and the experience was fantastic. I highly recommend that you visit or revisit your bucket list from time to time, see what’s possible and go do one of those things. After all, what is life but a rolling group of experiences. If we have the choice (and we do…) of choosing more good experiences than bad, then why wouldn’t we?? Take it one at a time, one more choice, one more adventure, and see how far you get. I’ll warn you right now, it could become addicting.

Steve Hulse

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