Bucket of wishes

By Michelle Zirkle

Sand and seagulls were calling so I hopped on a flight to Fort Myers and tumbled onto the beach a little after midnight. The gulf coast of Florida was a new view for me and I needed one. School was slated to start the following week and I felt the need to let my spirit do some air surfing. Fort Myers wasn’t on my bucket list, but splashing in the Gulf of Mexico was, so I indulged the spontaneous child in me and played a bit.

While sprawled out on the lounge chair, breeze blowing, I made invisible lists. I projected words onto the clouds and watched the ideas drift away, one wish at a time. My to-do list, my should-do list, my dream-big list, even my evening itinerary list of where to eat and whether to jog as the sun yawned or sit and listen to the reggae band—all vanished with the mist. As the thoughts dissipated, I knew each one would return, but I longed to erase them permanently.

When my boys were tiny and money was tighter than the cap on a child-proof medicine bottle, I’d always identify a few items on my store list that I could manage without. I’d cross off the Doritos and mop refills—I wasn’t going to clean anyway. I marked out the paper plates—I’d wash the dishes. I skipped passed the perishable produce that no one in the house ate but me, but one item I always made sure to pick up. Toilet paper. It was a necessity.

Nestled beneath a palm tree, I wondered if I applied this basic technique to streamline my other lists, how much time I could free up by not having to participate in activities I felt no calling to be involved in? I wondered how many people had been hung by a noose and kicked the actual bucket beneath their feet long before they had expected to die—long before they’d reached into the bucket and pulled out a wish.

I had no doubt that the lists hovering on the very clouds I’d hung them on would drizzle back to me in the form of rain or snow—in the form of anxiety or sheer desire—in the form of a yearning too intense to ignore; yet too promising to be pervasive.

Knowing new lists would form didn’t prevent me from reveling in the moment—from observing each wave roll in and roll out—from pretending I could ride the sky waves with the egrets and hide like the sand crabs. I dove into the ocean, imagining each undone item on my list, each elusive experience, washing into the sea.

I licked the salt from my lips and twisted my toes deep into the wet sand. I imagined the endless voyages beyond the horizon and basked in the bliss of knowing that that moment was the only moment in which the freshness of life was ecstatic … and I was a part of it. Not a single memory or ambition was more important than the power of that present communion with all of nature.

Before I kick the bucket, I want to not only experience every bucket list event I get the hankering to do, but I want to bubble joy in each micro-moment—in each breeze—in each crystal tick-tock where baby birds burst through the old membrane and crack open the shell. I want to build my own sandcastle even if the tide will slurp it up in the A.M.

As the sun set through the swaying palm trees, the smell of fresh fish on my tongue, a heron waddled past my table and stood at attention as if to say, “This is all I ever have to do.” “Smart bird,” I thought as reggae tickled my ears with the promise of the unfolding dance—the dance with no wrong moves—the dance I will create the moves to only as the song progresses.


By Michelle Zirkle