chasing the bucket list


Hang gliding over the Rockies? Starting the great American novel? Making apple pie from scratch?

Organizing your family photos? No, don’t do that in summer!

Otherwise no time like the present to tackle the bucket list. But the dream is just a dream and the pie is from a box if you don’t have apples and don’t go into the kitchen.

So in the spirit of bringing Mohammed to the mountain, I boarded a boat on the west coast of Iceland praying for a lucky break to see the biggest creature on earth, the largest animal that’s ever lived, twice the size of measly T-Rex, the most giant, the most king, the most behemoth of the behemoths and how often can  you use the word behemoth -- the sleek, elusive 100 foot, 200 ton blue whale in the frigid waters near the Arctic Circle because cold is its thing with all that warm blubber, and hopefully it will have some friends and relatives nearby.

The more behemoths the better. Behemoth. Behemoth. Behemoth. Once you say it, you can’t stop tickling your fancy of possibility. This isn’t your average Big Mac or Big Gulp.

Meaning if Big Blue is not on your bucket list, at least it should be on your list of possible body guards.

The tongue of the blue whale can weigh as much as an elephant. Their hearts can be the size of a car. In fact, you could park your SUV right in its mouth and pay nothing but some crusty krill -- size of a pinky finger! -- because these guys are crazy for tiny. Go figure.

So with big on my brain and tiny on theirs, a bit of seasickness medication in my belly, and the bucket list close to kicking the bucket time’s a wastin’, I don a whale-sized bright blue jumpsuit and shuffle onboard looking like my idol.

I wouldn’t do this for any other mammal.

As I wait, I think.

What is the bucket list, anyway, but a bunch of apple pies in the sky, self-delusional musings, imaginary if onlys? Do we ever think we’ll get through it all, and will we forgive ourselves if we don’t? At some point, don’t we realize we can’t go everywhere and do everything that life has to offer?

It’s both a relief and a bummer.

So what stays? Maybe the stuff we want bad enough, more achingly bad than the rest, and could actually make happen. Unless we think we’re too old or too nervous or too silly or too dumb.

How do we light a fire under the blubber?

Fortunately, as I meditate on these questions larger than the largest creature spanning the oceans, Big Blue is not contemplating its own navel -- about the size of a salad plate! -- but swimming in my general direction.

Success! And it even brings friends and family!

We saw four blue whales that day, though I can’t figure how the guides know it’s not the same one over and over. We watched their sleek bodies slip in and out of the waves, their flapping flukes rise and dip, their majestic sprays rain down upon the deep.

Not enough, in my naïve opinion, to know if it was Sue or Bill, though one Sue had a baby Suzie with her, which thrilled all of us to no end.  

I’ve never made a yeast bread from scratch, though I’ve always wanted to. Or taken a painting class. Or learned French like a real Frenchman or gone to bed whenever I wanted for days on end and not cared one twit about being off kilter with the whole wide world.

Not everything on the list requires a plane flight, seasick meds, and a lot of luck. Right?

So what’s next for you dreamers? Is it time to move some blubber?

July 28, 2019

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