Sunday Opinion: The Bucket List

Buck rode his soft tail deuce Harley out to Harsens Island today with his friend Fred-the roundtrip trip took 5 hours.  Eggs Benedict for them at noon at a restaurant called Buck’s Good Food-how funny. A 120 miles round trip on a motorcycle-thank heavens I had to work. Twenty years ago, Buck had a dear friend and client with a cottage there; he would visit out there often.  The memories are good ones.  But today’s trip for him is more about what has changed in the past 20 years. There is a big house where Jerry’s cottage used to be.  The entire island looked much more tailored and city like-in a way, unrecognizeable. No more marshy fields and tiny cottages.   Only the Sans Souci bar and the marina look the same now as they do in his memory.  But he tells me he was glad he finally made the trip back, so he can take it off his bucket list.  Bucket list?

Apparently the bucket list, from the 2007 movie of the same name, is a list of those things you really want to do before you die. Everyone at the office knew of and had seen the movie-oh well, I do not get out much.  But I did love the idea of it. Some things I do throw myself at like I have 10 minutes to live; I get the concept. What do I want to do before I kick the bucket?  I have given this some thought.

 When I turned 50, it occurred to me that my own garden and landscape had taken a back seat to my work.  And that if I had the idea to make a garden of my own design, I needed to get going.  Nothing happens overnight in a landscape except the weeds.  Deciding  to take on my own landscape in a serious way implied a decision to stay put.  I have read no end of home and garden improvement columns that advise never to put any money into a property that cannot be recouped at sale time.  I have no interest in sale time-who knows when that might be.  I am interested in ther substance and quality of my life-every day, day to day.  I have no expectation that some other person should bear the financial burden for what brings joy into my life. But I understand how young people shy away from a substantial committment to a property that they may not recoup; more than likely, they will move out, up, or away.  But at 50, I knew if I wanted to bask in a garden I had given my heart and soul to at 80, I needed to bust to move.  Of course my bucket list is topped with a landscape and garden of my dreams-that line item on the bucket list is in progress.

What else would I really want to do before I kick the bucket?   OK, I would like to grow some decent stands of columbines, and have them come back lustily the following year. I would want peonies lined out and grown in rows like crops-every variety ever introduced that suited me.  The single rows, the double rows, the anemone flowered rows.  On my bucket list, an acre of fertile land devoted to raising peonies-just for me. 

Next on my list, a wildflower garden like I had 30 years ago.  How I miss that garden.  Violets of every description, anemone nemerosa, double bloodroot, the hybrid trout lily Pagoda, variegated solomon’s seal, scads of hepatica, trillium of every description, celandine poppy, European ginger,  and cyprepediums-the yellow, and of course, cyprepedium reginae-the queen of the slipper orchids. Thalictrums of every species, mayapples, hellebores, virginia bluebells, sweet woodriff, anemone blanda, -the whole and the best of those wild plants whose ephemeral beauty makes my heart beat faster. 

My bucket list has not much more on it, beyond this.  I have no need to climb Everest, appear on Oprah, or set a world record for speed.  Buck’s explanation of the bucket list made me realize that my list is wide and deep, but short and modest.  I have no need to be in Monaco for the formula one race, or climb Everest, or invent a reasonable process by which sea water could be converted to fresh water.  My bucket list is really pretty simple.  Any landscape in which I have a hand is my bucket list.

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