The Bucket List I Never Made, Come True

Shackelford Island Ponies

The Bucket List I Never Made, Come True

By Jane Tawel

September 13, 2021

I have never made nor contemplated making a bucket list. I have absolutely nothing against making one, and I love to hear about other folks’ items on their bucket lists. I find them incredibly revelatory and hopeful. And of course, like everyone, I play the game of “someday, I would like to….”  or “before I die, I want to….”.  When a person’s dreams die, they aren’t just old, they are dead, no matter if a physical body indicates otherwise. As The Bard says, “we are such stuff as dreams are made on, and our little life is rounded with a sleep” – all too soon that sleep comes, so have at it with those Bucket Lists while ye may!

So, when I kick it, you won’t find a hidden Bucket List among my many pieces of revelatory, self-incriminating written logs. Then yesterday, something happened; and though I never went in search of greatness from a list of To Do’s Before Doom’s Day, a Bucket List item was thrust upon me. Shakespeare once more, said it first: “Some are born with Bucket Lists, some achieve their Bucket Lists, and some have Bucket Lists thrust upon them.”

I am visiting the beautiful (there is just no other word for the topography here) State of North Carolina where one of my darling daughters works and lives with my grand-furbies, Artemis and Apollo.  Apollo is up and awake with me right now, being the young whippersnapper that he is, and he is bouncing all over the house waiting for his mistress to get up and feed him. I am forbidden to feed him, and if he bites my finger in hunger or starts chewing on the cord of my laptop, I am supposed to somehow catch him and shove him in his little time-out cage until said darling daughter arises to give him his breakfast. It’s hard being a Grand-meow who can’t spoil her dear grand-furby, but, the wrath of an adult child is nothing to mess around with I have found, being four adult-children down at the count. I love them more than my own life, but I miss them when they were little tykes and all I had to do was hold them tight when they were upset or kiss them when they were sad or laugh along with them at some silly thing that never made sense in hindsight but was just a way to joy in the moment. Now I am a helpless old thing against the tides and times that they have inherited from me personally and from my generation in general and from all the good and bad we try to control in the world and in ourselves with various degrees of success and failure. May the sins of my children’s mother not be carried on to the third and fourth generation*, but may I be forgiven the consequences of my mea culpas in their lovely, much-loved lives and futures.

My children all have Bucket Lists. They don’t share a lot of the items with me and that is as it should be. Bucket Lists should not be made into common currency or YouTubes, Tik-Toks or even movies with famous actors filling in for real people. Bucket lists should have a few sharable items: I would like to visit New Zealand. I would like to finish a Marathon. Stuff like that. But mostly Bucket Lists should be those hidden, cherished, held-close desires of the heart that let us dream of what might be in a perfect world, personal and public. They should be full of items that let us imagine being something other than what we are today, with a hope and prayer of doing at least some of those things.  Most importantly, Bucket List dreams should be about being all that we imagine the Human Being is capable of doing and being, whatever that might mean to me, or you, or my child, or your friend. And the lovely thing about a Bucket List is mine doesn’t have to be at all like yours to be valid and important.  Bucket Lists just might be the most uncompromised by cultural, national, or religious symbol of the most personal / communal Dream-Worlds of Endless Life Possibilities ideas in existence. I mean, isn’t Heaven really, just another word for Bucket List? Isn’t Heaven is also just another symbol for that endless eternal ability to be and do everything that the human divine soul was created to be and do? Isn’t the ultimate Bucket List really just another form of desiring a glorious, godly, divine, and endlessly available and possibility-enhanced Eternal Life?

A Bucket List is not just about creating an amazing future though, as I found yesterday. It is also about our deepest selves’ broken pieces being a little bit patched up; our short-circuits reconnected. The items on a list about things we want to do before we kick the bucket, reveal what got broken, or subverted, or short-circuited or stopped just that little bit short of realization. A Bucket List is not just about what may happen but what should have happened. We like to imagine a better future when we can’t deal with the bad stuff in the past or the present, (another reason so many religions got the underprivileged, non-wielding Bucket List folks, like slaves or minorities, living for Heaven, instead of focusing on what could be done about the present problems in their lives).  Thinking about the fact that we are still alive enough to have hopes, dreams and desires – big ones, like the ones on a Bucket List – return us to the possibilities we imagined when we were children; when we still had dreams, when as children we envisioned an eternal future without any limitations. Our Bucket Lists are about finally going skydiving, because we dreamt of flying like Peter Pan, when we were children; or  we want to check off a safari, and riding an elephant, because we imagined as children that we were wild animals roaming the jungles. When we were young, we romped together in our imagined worlds of play and  in our freedom from soul-sucking jobs, or relationships that were hard, or physical ailments that meant we were unable to walk or move without pain, let alone check off our list the desire to surf Maui. Bucket Lists return us to not just hope for the future, or a belief we can fix something in the past, but also to at least for one minute, a joy in the fact, that “where there is life now, there is hope”. Bucket Lists are really about suddenly being present to ourselves as valuable, worth-while, dreaming, hoping, believing beings.

Yesterday my daughter and husband and I took a ferry to an island in North Carolina with a lighthouse. Seeing lighthouses is literally on my husband’s Bucket List, and we were able to check that off his personal list, with the help of his beloved daughter, by seeing two of the beautiful lighthouses that still operate today. Lighthouses were created to keep sailors and ships safe from the world’s dangerous waters and unforeseen shoals.  Maybe Bucket Lists do the same for people. 

On our way to the island yesterday, we passed Shackelford Banks. And as our captain, slowly passed by the banks, there they were — my eyes are tearing up as I write this, and remember it now– just as yesterday without anticipation, I found myself silently crying as I saw something that I immediately knew had been on my Bucket List without my ever understanding it was there. There in front of me were three wild Shackelford ponies, one a foal still gangly and unsure in the shallows.

When I was about eight years old, and my parents were a mess and going through a divorce that they never told their four kids about, and at a time I didn’t realize how what another relative was doing to me wasn’t appropriate, and my childhood seemed to be getting snatched away from me but I didn’t know it, my father, gave me a book called “Misty of Chincoteague”. It’s a famous children’s book by Marguerite Henry. You should read it if you still have a bit of child in your heart, or at least get it for a child you know and love. Later, when my dad let me choose a pinto pony for my own, he let me call it “Misty”. After a few years of my broken family being in a strange existence that isn’t about Bucket Lists at all, my mom remarried and moved us away and I rarely saw my dad and never saw Misty again. I guess she must have died, along with my own childhood.

Yesterday I saw those wild ponies, not on the Chincoteague of my youthful book-inspired dreams, but on Shackelford Island, while I sat next to the dreams I never knew I had – a husband of thirty-three years and one of my own dear, beloved children, grown to adulthood with her own shared and private dreams and Bucket List items. And the little girl I was, Janie Karen, came rushing up to meet me in the sight of those horses, and I realized: “I made it. I made it here to see this – to see them – to see Misty—after all these years. I did it. I made the dreams I never knew I had come true.”

And I checked off an item from the Bucket List I have never made:

#1: I will keep my childlike faith. I will continue to imagine and dream and look for the wild ponies in life, where ever they may appear.

“And it shall come to pass, that your young ones shall be divinely inspired; and your old ones shall dream dreams; and all will have the ability to plan the future with imagination and wisdom.” **

© Jane Tawel, September 2021

*Deuteronomy 5:9

** Joel 2:28 (paraphrased by me)

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A Bucket Full of Laughter

bucket

A Bucket Full of Laughter

Chapter 1: LOLing should not be abbreviated.

by Jane Tawel

July 20, 2015

When did I stop laughing so much? When did I lose the ability to laugh at myself? When did I stop trying to make other people laugh?  I remember my Grandma and Grandpa Gordon and my uncles and aunts and cousins, gathered, and there being seemingly endless days in which all we did from morning to night was laugh and laugh and laugh together. We laughed at each other, at ourselves, together at things, during board games, and slide shows, and walks, and boat rides, and snowball fights, and Christmas gift openings. Don’t you remember those few friends you’ve had, who whenever you were  together, you laughed  until tears came out your eyes or snot out of your nose? I remember giggle-fests with my kids as we lay in the big bed singing silly songs. My kids and I had lots of good laughs in the car, in the swimming pool, at the dinner table. When did we all  get so serious?

laughing  funny

There were times of course that I did used to be kinda’ mean when I was so keen on making the crowd giggle and guffaw, and though I don’t mean to be flippant, well, actually, maybe I should be,  but seriously, oops there I go again. But ridiculously,  I need to laugh more and help others find their way back to laughing as often as possible.  I love to laugh. You know the scene in “Mary Poppins”, you can sing along right now I bet.  I want to spend more time on the ceiling.

tooles

I have said it before and will say it again, if only we would stop robbing the story of God of its outrageous sense of humor. All great myths, all great literature,  have humor — irony, slapstick, word play, satire, etc.  And someone said recently that if only the Germans had had a sense of humor, they would have laughed that ridiculous little man off the stage.  John Lennon imagined a world where as Saint Rodney King said, “we all just got along”, but imagine a world where we laughed all  the naked emperors off the stage and put the comedians in charge instead.

gordie   lisa

I have found lately  that I not only have lost a large portion of my sense of humor, but I have lost a large portion of all five of the other senses.  I think this hit home on our recent trip to Bryce and Zion National Parks. When you vacation in a place where you are ripped away from all your normal busy work, and in a place where the sights  are beyond your wildest imaginings, then you become more aware of how turned off your senses are on a day by day basis.  It probably also helps that I am currently re-reading The Phantom Tollbooth — one of those children’s books best read by adults — like most truly classic  children’s books.  The Phantom Tollbooth at minimum is about a boy who has given up on learning because it is so boring and who is magically transported to a world in which the five senses as well as the use of words and numbers are anything but normal and boring.  The Phantom Tollbooth  is laugh out loud hilarious and also very philosophical and  illuminating in many “a-ha” ways.

I have set myself a bucket list goal and as you could guess if you know me, it is not like most of those lists that include things like sky diving (God forbid!) or safaris (I really need to remember to play the lottery before I can win it.)  My bucket list for today includes one item:

  1. Really see. Really listen. Really taste. Really touch. Really smell.

kids   bryce

I have two friends who recently helped me start to really listen.  I never ever get to see these two pals because one lives right up the street and one lives far away.  I found myself in the last week, being able to spend separate,  short, delightful times with both Janene Khanchalian, my neighbor, and Josh Long, my long-distance fellow English-geek friend. Both of these gifted me with intellectual stimulation, wisdom, interesting conversation, and spiritual insights but here is what I am treasuring in remembering our little moments in time together.  Both Janene and Josh have wonderful, explosive, unique, totally uninhibited, childlike, laughter attacks.  I found myself secretly sucking in and surreptitiously enjoying the sound of their laughter.  I had nothing to do with making them laugh, you understand, they were laughing at something inner, something they were saying about themselves or about life that “tickled” them.  In each case, it was like watching a small child open a gift and be surprised into explosive enchanted giggles.  “Ah, for me? How fantastic! Oh Goodie!”

Janene’s laugh starts like a little bark and then it’s as if the little laughter dog escapes from her mouth and goes yipping out into the atmosphere. She has a rather feminine rumble that follows the little bark, and I imagine Tom Bombadil sounds a bit like that, though deeper, when he laughs. When Janene chuckles, she sort of dips her head and then looks around hoping she might discover where the little laughter dog escaped to. There is an absolutely naive quality to Janene’s laugh that is like the purest, clearest water, and I found myself greedily drinking it in.

Josh has the most adorable elf-like demeanor and his laugh is like an attack of elven squiggles  all over his face. With Josh, it is as if something has invaded from the inside out and his eyes pop wide open in pure delight  as if he has no idea what is about to happen but he is pretty excited to experience this thing called laughter.   And then after the eyes register that something exciting is coming, his whole face has a sort of  “uh-oh, roller coaster  ahead!”  look. His mouth bursts open in cascading guffaws  held back only loosely by the most beatific but mischievous wide-hearted smile.  It is like a cavalry of clowns is riding all over his features. Victor Hugo may have been speaking of Josh, when he said, “Laughter is the sun that drives winter from the human face.” When Josh laughs, you feel like you have just watched a perfect summer day unfold in a human face. His infectious delight in whatever he is experiencing in the moment is a disease you desperately want to catch.

Both Josh and Janene seem absolutely caught off guard to find laughter exploding out of their mouths as if they didn’t plan it at all, but it’s a really pleasant surprise and they want to bring you in on it. They hope you will soon experience such a lovely moment. That’s the nice thing about both Janene and Josh.  They really have no idea what a gift their very present laughter is to the person with them. They are just being  who they are and neither has a single ounce of judgment towards the rather sensually disheveled,  over-thinking human who feels insecure and feeble in the space she’s been given. But their ha-ha-ha’s are  like the miniature shouts of Whoville, piercing through the iron veil of serious, thoughtful big people like me, and, who might one day like the Who’s, change the world, one gasping giggle at a time.

When I was separately with these two friends, I caught myself getting quiet and hoping to hear the sound of Josh and Janene’s laugher, and then I found I was really listening to something — not music, not a concert, not a show, not someone talking, not noise, — but just something in my world. And I was really listening and looking  for the first time in a long time. I was just using my senses without any thought or program or intentions but  just pure enjoyment. And  in just those wee moments of listening,  there was no guilt, no stress to get something done, no need to come to some agreement, to teach or learn, no time checks; there was  just being in the moment with a gorgeous sound. And my brain was pleasantly empty because my heart was beautifully  full.

Later,  I found myself wanting to hoard Josh and Janene  laughter and store it for later. Remember when you lived in cold climates and someone went to Florida for the Christmas break and they brought you back a can of sunshine?  I wished I could put Janene’s and Josh’s laughter in little cans, and open them as needed.  A little pick me up. A tonic. A reminder that life is good if we can laugh.

And sure enough, I have found myself over the past week, in solitude,(although I think once I was in line at Vons and started giggling before I put my non-crazy person face back on) — I find I am pulling out the memories of those particular and unique gifts of laughter and listening in my mind’s eye or rather mind’s ear, enjoying the feeling of being overcome by the memories of senses and the sound of laughter and of beatific faces alive in joy.

Kahlil Gibran  says rightly, “In the sweetness of friendship, let there be laughter, and the sharing of pleasures. For in the dew of little things, the heart finds its morning and is refreshed.”  Thank you Josh and Janene, and all my friends, and family, and children, and pets for refreshment in laughter. I owe you one. I owe you a lot. May your buckets fill with laughter and your days be full of really seeing, really hearing, really touching, tasting, and smelling– and really, really, really living.

clare and me laughing