Do you have one? A bucket list? A list of those places or things that everyone touts as must see or do before kicking the bucket? (Which makes me wonder, is that how the term bucket list originated?) According to Merriam Webster Online, the answer is yes.) Although there have been times I’ve said those words, “it’s on my bucket list”, I really don’t have one. Yes, there are places I’d like to see: the rolling hills of Tuscany, Glacier National Park, and a pyramid or two; and there are things I might like to do like hiking the Grand Canyon rim to rim, but rather than focusing on a list of hopes and desires, I’ve come around to a new way of thinking. While it’s good to have wishes and dreams, I don’t want to lose sight of the amazing opportunities and blessings that have already come my way. Rather than a bucket list of wishes, I intend to fill my bucket to overflowing with gratitude.
Over Memorial Day weekend, Tom and I traveled down to the rolling grasslands of southern Arizona. In one short weekend, I have much to be thankful for:
- Breathing the scent of pine while hiking to the top of Ramsey Canyon.
- A deer standing on its hind legs, stretching to reach up to munch on the leaves of a tree.
- Viewing the Kartchner Caverns Throne Room and feeling my heart connect with the heart of Mother Earth.
- The small drop of cave water that plopped on my head – a blessing from the Earth Mother that made me smile.
- Cheeky Monkey wine from the Elgin Winery.
- Stumbling into the Cornucopia Café in Bisbee and enjoying a slice of gluten free toast with my salad.
- Dining al fresco at the Velvet Elvis in Patagonia.
- Javelinas, wild turkeys, and baby owls along Sonoita Creek.
- Birds, birds, and more birds!
- Tom’s patience while I struggled to keep up with him on the golf course.
- The Singing Wind Bookshop in Benson.
- Watching the sunset from the veranda of Rancho Milagro.
- Finding a wonderful pet sitter to watch over our “fur children”.
- The unbridled excitement of our pets when we returned home.
- Sleeping once again in our own bed.
- Family, family, family.
- Friends, friends, friends.
My gratitude bucket could go on and on and, as I sit here gazing out my window, I think I’ll add the sight of the little finches whirling and chattering about the bird feeder. I guess if I have to have a traditional bucket list, the only thing I’d wish for is a bigger bucket for all the things I’m thankful for.
The sport of shopping is something I never embraced, at least until now. Sure, when on vacation I enjoy perusing the little galleries and gift stores in whatever locale I am in and, yes, I always buy at least one thing. In the midst of my daily routines, however, I tend to shop only when I need something: blueberries, a new white blouse, or socks without holes. Shopping for essentials (even clothing) is a chore for me. I make a list and then play a game of Beat the Clock, whizzing down the aisles, throwing stuff into my cart lightening fast. Even when the parking lot is jammed, Tom is quite impressed with how fast I can get in and out of Costco.
This stems back to my childhood when my Grandma and Mom would team up on a Saturday afternoon and drag us all to the mall. These were not pleasure trips. No running, no touching, no spitting, no shoving, no screaming, no ice cream…how boring is that for a kid? Occasionally these expeditions would have a purpose, like new clothing for Easter, but that too, was horrible as I was always stuffed into some cupcake cute outfit that Gram and Mom liked, but I didn’t. If you want proof, check out those old Easter photos – I’m the one in the green dress, the frizzy Toni perm (but that’s another story), and the scowl on my face. Clothes shopping was the worst and this attitude continued all the way through high school when I was forced into a long, sleeveless Prom dress (green again) and a little rabbit stole that shed and left me spitting out tiny hairs all night.
The one good thing about brick and mortar shopping is that you only did it when YOU decided to do it. At some point, the stores figured out that they needed to cast a different line to reel us in and telemarketing was born. Sneaky bastards, they always waited until you were sitting down for dinner. They knew we’d answer for this was in the days before Caller ID and answering machines. Not answering could be life or death. You were in the dark and possibly missing out on a hot date, the latest gossip, or an invite to dinner at Gram’s on Sunday. Like a post-Civil War carpetbagger, the phone industry swooped in with machines that identified, answered and took messages. So in our wish to beat the telemarketers, we still spent money.
Needless to say, I was one of the first to embrace online shopping. Christmas gifts for twenty? No problem, snap! A wedding gift for a twice-removed cousin I only met once? Piece of cake! Shopping was now at my fingertips. I controlled when and what, or thought I did until this morning. Google decided a while back that I needed some organization to my incoming emails and began sorting them into Primary, Social, and Promotions. Today I pulled up my email: 5 messages in Primary; 3 in Social; and a whopping 23 in Promotions! That isn’t counting Spam! Later in the day I checked email again: 0 messages in Primary and Social and 4 in Promotions. If it weren’t for online shopping, I’d never get any email!
Now I have to admit, this is my fault. Anytime I buy something online, I usually ignore the little box next to the fine print. Check box if you do not wish to receive email promotions. At the time of purchase, I’m feeling pretty good. Most likely I got a bargain, crossed someone off my gift list, or unearthed a difficult-to-find item I wanted. Usually I think to myself, yeah, okay, I’d like to know when you’re having a sale. And, darn, if I don’t open up that latest email from Ann Taylor that shouts 40% off tops and tees! Not to mention all those recommendations from Amazon. The online marketers endeavored to turn me into a shopper that would make Grandma proud and they succeeded.
I spent a good bit of this morning unsubscribing although I hung on to a cherished few (I do love you Amazon). It might hurt a bit tomorrow when the Promotions tab is nearly empty…I’ll feel lonely and unloved…but in my heart I know this: they’ll figure out another way to get me.
Several years ago I read the Harvard study on aging which defined the differences between aging well and aging poorly. It wasn’t about how many miles you could still run or the number of crunches you could crank out, rather it centered on attitude. Crabby, complaining curmudgeons, even if they were in the best physical health, were found to be aging poorly while those folks who embraced life, met new people, shared their wisdom, and found joy in every day, despite any health challenges, were said to be aging well. It came down to attitude. At the ripe old age of 61, I believe attitude plays a big role in optimal well being, but I’ve found another factor that contributes to a life well lived: creativity.
The glorious thing about life is the ability to create. Whether it’s quilting, painting, sculpting clay, or taking pen to paper, creating something with your own hands and your own mind fuels purpose and provides reward. Think about the emotions that swept over you when you discovered you were becoming a mother or father; consider the swelling of pride when you prepare your food using vegetables from your own garden, or the joy of snuggling under your own handmade quilt for warmth. The things you create come from your heart. The things you create tell the world “this is who I am”.
Last night I was at the home of a friend, a quilter, although in truth, she is an artist of the highest caliber. Deb takes the time to sketch out her ideas, dyes and stains her own fabrics, pieces things together carefully, and “paints” with needle and thread. Her pieces are complex, vibrant, and stunning in their beauty. Before I learned Deb was raised on a ranch in Montana, the wildflowers and animals throughout her designs told me she was a child of nature. At exhibitions her work routinely takes first place, the greatest testament coming from her peers. It might take her a year to bring one idea to fruition and when complete, she gives it away, taking her reward in seeing the pleasure on the recipient’s face. As we explored her quilt room together, I admired more than her designs. I admired the light in her eyes and the flush of joy in her face as I praised her work. She is my age and for a moment, I wished I was more like her.
On the way home, Tom reached over and squeezed my hand. “When you were talking about your experiences on the ranch, talking about your book and writing, I watched your face. You were beautiful.” In that moment, I understood. Creativity, no matter what form it takes, is the spark that lights one’s soul and makes us luminous. Creativity is the key to sharing one’s soul. Deb may use need and thread while I use pen and paper, but we are actually cut from the same cloth. We both find pure joy in creating and even greater joy in sharing our creations.