I keep lists of almost everything and have done so for
years.  I list things that I need
to do during the day, things I need to do over the week, and things I want to
do before a new year rolls in.  I
list groceries, guests, reading assignments, and influential people.  I make students write lists.  I keep a journal full of lists—things I
love, things I want to do, things that scare me a little.  I’ve never really considered any of
them a so-called “bucket list”; that sounds sort of morbid since it implies a
deadline.  My lists are technically
what I’d like to do while I’m still on this Earth, but for me, the lists are
more about life than death.  They
are all the things I want to do to live my life more fully.

This past spring in my online art journaling class, we were
asked to, very quickly, write down our top 25 things we love to do.  It’s a pretty interesting exercise,
because once I’d done it, I saw several patterns emerge.  My list looked something like this:

Trail running

Painting my toenails

My Jeep

Reading good books

A cup of coffee (or two) in the morning


Listening to the birds

Hummingbird feeders


Fires in the fireplace (or firepit)


Hot baths

Essential oils

Collard greens



Working in the garden

My blog

Art with Harper Lee and Isaac


Sitting by a creek


The smell of cow manure

Queen Anne’s Lace


Picking fresh fruit

Finger-painting and coloring


Writing and telling stories

Workouts with the high school kids


My journal

Writing letters


Trying new foods

Having a beer with Rob

Watching movies

John Wayne


Having my head rubbed

A cold river after a long run





Running in the snow or rain

Grilling out with friends


Coming home


Walking in fallen leaves

New school supplies





The patterns are obvious and probably not all that
shocking.  I’m sort of an open book
most of the time.  But the thing
that really struck me about this exercise is that it is a pretty good
indication of what is important to me.
Being outside, being active, being with my family and at home, being
creative and living simply are basic things that I rely on for my general
happiness and well-being.  If you’ve
never done this, I highly recommend it.
Even if everyone around you could have guessed exactly what is on your
list, you might see things you’d never thought about before.  It’s an excellent way of weeding out
what you thought was important but, in reality, didn’t make the cut.


The second list, and my favorite, is the “Top 25
Things I’d Like to Do But Haven’t Yet” list.  This is one that I’ve kept up for years, even before the
online art class.  Sometimes when I
go back and look at really old journals, it’s fun to see what was on my
list.  I like to see what my goals
were when I was 23, 30, even 35, and I really love seeing what I did and did
not accomplish from those lists.
It turns out that there are an amazing number of things that I have been
able to cross off.


My list from this past June:


Publish a book

Play the guitar

Sell a painting

Own my own business

Learn to dance

Play the violin

Perform in a play

Hike the AT for a month

Do a mission trip to Africa

Join the Peace Corp

Write for a religious publication

Teach art to children

Teach a creative writing class

Serve the homeless

Be a rock climber

Sing in front of an audience… and do it well  J

Backpack through Europe

Live in Scotland for a year

Do a mission trip in Appalachia

Learn to embroider better than I do now

Learn to sew

Take good photographs

Take a vegetarian cooking class

Teach yoga

Run an ultra

Complete a 12 or 24-hour race solo

Win an Academy Award (acting, screenwriting,

Overcome my fear of water

Raise chickens

Become a vegetarian

Make sushi


Obviously, I didn’t edit for plausibility.  I mean, the Peace Corp ship has sort of
sailed for me, but I’d say there’s a definite service theme running through
this list so that’s a pretty good indication of where my efforts should lie.  The point of this list, according to my
art journaling instructor, is to dream big.  I probably won’t live in Scotland for a year, but I could
definitely go there again.  And
there are most certainly some things I can do, some of which I’ve already crossed
off the list.


I ran an ultra, I’ve gone vegetarian (with the
sometimes exceptions of visiting other people’s homes), I learned to dive this
summer, and I’ve picked up my grandmother’s old guitar a few times (though it
sounds pretty bad).  Some of it is
also a work in progress.  I’m
painting more than ever, the book is still plugging along, I’m working on a
pretty crazy piece of embroidery, my yoga practice is improving, I’m dancing
more (although probably not any better) and I’ve been experimenting with
recipes from Vegetarian Times. 

Odds are I won’t win an Academy Award or sing in
front of an audience (well), but
it’s fun to think about secret, and sometimes silly, desires and
aspirations.  Otherwise, I’m afraid
I might sink into a very deep rut, and that is not what I want for myself or
for those around me.


If you’ve got a few minutes, make a list of your
own, either what you love or what you want or maybe both, and see what patterns
you find there.  It’s a powerful