Thursday, January 20, 2011

Buckets & Wishes & Crossroads #2

When I left you yesterday, Eberle & I were thinking about trips to visit the Mississippi Delta & Nevada & other points east & west.  As I explored the concept of “bucket list,” travel was a big theme.  In today’s conclusion, travel only is mentioned in the final entry, but that’s an important one.

As I mentioned yesterday, I’d love to hear comments about your own fulfillment lists or “bucket” lists as you will.  I’m also curious as to how your lists may have evolved.  I for one know there are items on the list the past two days that wouldn’t have been there a few years back—as well as items that I would have included then that don’t seem so important now.

There’s also a song by the great Townes Van Zandt at the end—the title for item 10 comes from his composition “The Catfish Song.”

6)    IT’S GREEK TO ME: In my youth, I had quite a bit of potential as a philologist, as the British term it.  I was accomplished in French, had a solid background in Latin & became absorbed in classical Greek.  I also studied Old English (Anglo-Saxon) & loved translating the poetry of both that robust language & Greek.  Sadly, I’ve let all these go completely except for French, where I can still hold my own as a poetry translator (tho I’d no longer have much capacity as a speaker).  But I’d like to get back into these languages, especially Greek—& I sometimes hear the call of the great Anglo-Saxon poets, too!

7)    'LET ME IN - LET ME IN!': I think of myself as a well-read fellow—a pretty good swath of “the great books,” as well as fairly extensive forays into some of literature’s more obscure corners.  But I suppose most of us have a weak spot, & mine is the 19th century.  I have a good grasp of the Romantic poets, & a pretty solid footing in Dickens (whose writing I love); I also have read most of Wilkie-Collins (to go a bit toward the obscure, not to say, bizarre, side), but there are a number of “big” 19th century novels that I’ve neglected—none bigger than the novel from which the quote is taken, Wuthering Heights.  Considering that Eberle read this novel annually for years, I think I must take it up, & soon!

8)    THE PIANO HAS BEEN DRINKING, NOT ME: I don’t think as much about performers as people I have to see before I shuffle off this mortal coil, but there have been performers I regret missing—Townes Van Zandt is definitely one of those, as is Dave Van Ronk.  I’ve never seen Tom Waits perform, & considering what a huge influence his music has had on my life, that’s an omission I’d like to set to rights before either Tom or I fade away.

9)    SMOKESTACK LIGHTNIN’: The railroad features prominently on this list, & not least of my wishes is to get back to the N-scale model railroad Eberle & I started in the winter of 09-10.  Right now, the project is in limbo for any number of reasons, not least of which is our current constrained economic circumstances.  But I have to have faith that this will improve, & both Eberle & I have been excited about this project.  Saty tuned!

10)    YOU’LL NEED ALL YOUR MEMORIES: I’m ending on a serious note—a item that combines the possible with the unlikely.  A Facebook friend has been suggesting off & on that a few of us make a pilgrimage back to Charlottesville, the scene of our 1980s MFA adventures—“pilgrimage” is my word, not hers.  I came to the decision very recently that I do want to do this, tho again, for economic reasons, it’s not a possibility in the near future.  My time in Charlottesville was formative, & like any formative experience, it had its share of turmoil & wounds, as well as moments of creative joy.  I was part of a creative community the likes of which I won't experience again, at least in terms of people gathered together in one place. 

I returned to Charlottesville once, in 1996, but I think at the time I was still keeping the experiences I’d had in the 80s at arm’s length (at least).  For a variety of reasons, I believe I’m more prepared to be in that environment & maybe find some healing & resolution.

Related to this, there are friends from my past—some from Charlottesville & some from even further back—that I would really like to see in this world (the only world I know of).  I’ve been so fortunate over the past few years to re-connect with a number of old friends, some of whom I got the chance to see on my cross-country trip last year.  I think there’s a good chance that I’ll see more of these old friends along my road—in at least one case, I’m hopeful that will happen before too many months go by.  But there are a handful of people who have been very important to me who are no longer a part of my life.  In one case, the separation goes back to the late 1970s.  I would love to see these people, but I realize in some cases, the possibility of this is slight. 

In yesterday’s post I mentioned that one of the points of the so called “bucket list” is a sense of being “completed.”  A part of me says: "how can I be completed if I don’t somehow have a chance to see these people who were so important to me, but who left my life under problematic circumstances."  Perhaps the answer is that there is no completeness without some heartache.  At least that’s what I tell myself today—my opinion may be different tomorrow.  But the truth is, however any list does or doesn't work out, overall my life has been & continues to be a gift.

PHOTO: The Blue Moon Diner in Charlottesville—repository of many memories, both for good & ill.


  1. Hmmmm... My own "bucket list" is mostly places I want to go to, like Newfoundland, Dartmoor, and the Hebrides. And trails I'd like to hike, like the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine and the Southwest Coast Trail in Cornwall and Devon. With camera, of course!

  2. John, as Roy says, with camera! From yesterday I didn't mention spending more time in New Mexico (the Taos area) which has become a nice destination for us in summer. If I were to pick a sea side town in which to stay for a while I think it would be Brunswick, GA. Nice wetlands there to enjoy birds and there are lots of golf courses on which to play.
    As far as my list "evolving", I would say it only changes as I learn more; but my life is happy now. I don't want to change anything... just enjoy what I have. After two previous attempts at a happy fulfilling relationship I found one at age 56 (your age) and 8 years later it is even better. Before this the top of my "bucket list" would have been to be happy. Now it is to hope to remain so.

  3. Hi Roy & Lizzy:

    Roy: If you saw part one, that's more the travel section. Boy, I'd love to see what you could do with a camera in the places you mention!

    Lizzy: Oh, yes, I'm not in Roy's league with a camera, but I always travel with one. Interesting points about your list evolving. I fear I have the "never quite satisfied" gene--Eberle ascribes this to my Irish descent, fwiw--but I'm so glad that you have found real happiness!

  4. John. Haworth, the home of the Brontes, is only a few miles from here. You can walk there via a dozen pubs. Come on over.

  5. I've never taken a cross-country trip, so that's one of my travel wishes. I liked that you mentioned train trips too, because I'm toying with that idea as well, reading about Amtrak routes and schedules and seeing which places I go with it. I also love hiking, and have this dream trip in my mind involving the Pacific northwest, Yukon Territory and Alaska.

    Also good luck with your other explorations and resolutions (that would be so wonderful if at some point you could put up translations of Anglo-Saxon poetry here). As for 19th century, read George Eliot's Middlemarch :) Also there's an American author I've been reading more of recently, Mary E. Wilkins Freeman; her stories are often interesting, sharp, powerful, sometimes deeply disturbing, with well-written characters.

  6. Hi Alan & HKatz

    Alan: Whatever happens, I very much appreciate the thought behind your comment. Thanks!

    HKatz: Glad you found it enjoyable, & glad to hear about some of your plans as well. I will confess to not having read Middlemarch (tho I have read Silas Marner), & I'm not familiar with Freeman--thanks for the tip!

  7. John, coincidentally, Kevin's sister gave us the movie, "The Bucket List" at Christmastime. We wouldn't have bought or rented it for ourselves, but out of a sort of sense of obligation, watched it over the holidays. I'm not a big Jack Nicholson fan, by any means, but the film certainly had its merits.

    Your list is so much more ambitious than any I would put together. (Do I detect some resolution behind many of the travel decisions?)

    I loved, "The Moonstone", by the way and yes, you must read "Wuthering Heights".

    I will definitely give my own "bucket list" some serious consideration.


  8. Not sure I have much of a bucket list. I thought I had, until undertook just now to write it.

    I once aspired to climb all the Munros in Scotland (peaks over 3000 feet high - there's just under 300 of them). However, I stalled a few years ago at about 75. I then decided I wasn't a "completist" and wasn't going to slog up big green lumps for the sake of a list! (Many of the hills are breathtaking though, and I'd gladly slog up them for the sheer joy of it).

    I would like to play the piano a lot better/more, but I know just how much hard slog is involved!

    I do want to go back to the Norfolk Broads (waterways in Norfolk, UK) in a cabin cruiser. I spent holidays there as a child. In fact, I'd quite like to spend some time "messing about in boats" generally.

    I also fancy setting up and operating a successful amateur radio "moonbounce" station.

    As for long 19th century novels, I've been half way through Middlemarch for a while now. I'll have to get stuck into it again...
    I have to say I havent read any to compare with Moby Dick.

    Thinking about it, perhaps having a longer bucket list would do me good. I'll have to think.

  9. Hi Kat & Dominic

    Kat: Sorry to be so late in responding. I've never seen the movie. I was a huge fan of Nicholson early on--Five Easy Pieces & The Last Detail, for instance, but at a certain point I believe he became a parody of himself. Resolution?--will FB message on that soon!

    Dominic: Well, considering that I went into a major funk after doing this post, perhaps the "bucket list" is really best avoided! I'm torn between an urge for completism & seeing it as a questionable motivation, but hope you have happy slogging. The piano is a good instrument to know, but I find myself that I hardly ever play it & really don't miss it. Of course it's way more versatile than a guitar or banjo, but it just can't get the sound I hear. The radio station sounds like a great idea!


Thanks for stopping by & sharing your thoughts. Please do note, however, that this blog no longer accepts anonymous comments. All comments are moderated. Thanks for your patience.