February 8th, 2011


The Bucket List

Just watched an absolutely fantastic movie on TV, "The Bucket List". Absolutely exquisite. I've never yet seen a bad movie with Morgan Freeman in it, mind, but still - even by those standards, exquisite. There's a page of quotes but it doesn't begin to convey the drama, the laughter, the pathos, the brilliance, the HEART of it all. I said to rdeck, after, "This is a snapshot of redemption."

If you haven't seen it, I unreservedly recommend it.

But... the "bucket list". The list of things to do before you die.

I had one, once, or something like to it. I was very very young. I actually owned the notepad in which I scribbled this thing down until very recently; I think it finally evaporated during my last big move, and perhaps that's as well. I am no longer very very young and that list no longer really applies to the person I am now. I barely remember what was on it - there are three things that I DO remember being there, and those three, I have done.

I've swum with dolphins. Not once, twice - once in Tahiti, once in Florida. And not only was it everything that I had ever believed it would be, it was more. So much more. It was... it was everything. EVERYTHING. It was looking into the eyes of another creature - another INTELLIGENCE - and knowing that you were being looked back at, and comprehended, and dammit, liked. One of "my" dolphins actually leaped out onto the wooden dock when I was kneeling there to give him his final treat before I left the place - leapt up, right out of the water, and tucked himself under my arm, in between the curve of it and my hip, and stayed there for a long moment before he flipped his tail and reversed back into his pool. He HUGGED ME. I was hugged by a dolphin. Dammit, I cried. Okay? I'll admit it. I cried. From complete and serene and unrepeateble and pure pure pure joy. I learned things about dolphins in the Tahiti centre where I went to play with them (this was part of the resort hotel that I had stayed at - I had a choice between Moorea and the fabled Bora Bora, but Moorea had the dolphins. No contest.) I learned that there are several species of them and that the classic Flipper with his impish "grin" is only one kind - but one of them had adopted an orphaned Pacific dolphin, a darker, sleeker cousin, a baby whose mother was just missing - the youngster was found drifting alone and close to death out in mid-ocean before he was brought back to the centre. Once there, he was fed every couple of hours by the dedicated staff... until one of the female bottle-nose dolphins (an entirely different SPECIES) took an interest in the matter. She adopted the orphan. She *began to produce milk for it*. It was the most miraculous thing I've ever seen, watching that baby and that adoptive momma frolic together in their pool and simply love one another. I kissed a dolphin on the nose. I heard the gurgle while vocalising and going under water - because their sounds are produced using air, just like ours are, and the effect when THEY go under water while "talking" is just the same blurlbling mess as you or I would make while doing the same thing. Yes, I've been fortunate to do this TWICE. And I can tell you from those experiences - if ever, EVER, you are offered the chance to do it yourself, pay whatever they ask. Look into the eyes of a dolphin and you will never be the same again.

I went skiing. On world-class terrains, no less. With a handful of weeks' experience in total, I decided to spend some time in Banff and go skiing in the Rockies. Banff has several ski terrains within reach; one of them has a base camp at a height where air becomes rarefied and then goes UP. I was living in New Zealand back then, sea level dontcha know, and all of a sudden I was up there where the gods can't breathe. I was there, also, during the coldest winter they'd had for thirty years (work it out, Fahrenheit people - the temperature outside was something like -30 CELSIUS. That's the temperature in the average domestic freezer. The downside was that you got off ski lifts frozen into a popsicle and had to go someplace to thaw out before you could be, um, bendable enough to actually ski anywhere at all. The upside is that all the sane people were staying home until the weather turned more clement so you basically had the slopes to yourself when you DID ski down. And oh my GOD was it marvellous. I skied down a "blue" slope (intermediate) because a companion thought I could handle it - me, a total green newbie! - and I did it without falling down once. I skied in a near white-out and was told I was a "trouper". I felt the wind in my face as I slalomed down a white slope and I felt like nothing would ever ever again stand in my way, that I could do anything at all, that I could fly. I did that. I am incredibly grateful for the experience.

The third thing... well... it was "write a book". We know what happened there, don't we. That one sort of got away with me and "A" book didn't seem to be enough. Isn't enough, even now. Will never be enough. I"ll always write. That wish... feels almost like cheating, because somehow I always knew that I'd do this thing.

But other things that I thought or wanted to do as a green young thing? Lost and forgotten, now.

There is probably a new bucket list in there somewhere if I care enough to start putting one together. I know I'd like to see Patagonia, and Brazil, and go beyond both the Arctic and the Antarctic circles and touch the ends of the earth. I'd like to see the Great Wall of China and the Terracotta army. I'd like to hug a wolf. I'd like to fly in a hot air balloon. I'd like to not just "write a book" but write something which will remain remembered after me when I go.

But most of all - and it sort of covers everything - I want to live, to have lived, a good life. A life that has touched other lives; a life that has allowed other lives to come in and touch it in turn. I want to share years of laughter and tears with people I love. I want to have my cat go to sleep in my lap, his throat fully open to me in a gesture of utter and complete trust, purring up a storm. I want to read good books. I want to share a glass of wine with somebody and toast a fine sunset. I want to watch snow fall as twilight descends. I want to see great actors perform on stage. I want stand mute with awe before something - a masterpiece of art, a great Siberian tiger, a piece of fabulous architecture, an astonishing waterfall,a beautiful mountain, the edge of the Pacific Ocean. I want to dream. I want dreams to come true.

I want to believe in love.

What's on your bucket list?...