Friday, March 29, 2013

Catching Up With Bucket Lists


Bucket lists are supposed to hang around necks of those climbing the hills of old age - like amulets of accomplishment or lack of.  

Rapeling in Jackson Hole
GREENLAND'S BEAUTY
Now I hear those hardly passed the legal age of beer drinking talking about bucket lists and I ruffle a bit. They’ve got a lifetime - if they don’t mess themselves up with drugs, alcohol, abusive and violent activities. They have plenty of time to toughen up those calf muscles and span the lungs to be able to get to the base camp of Mt. Everest while still under 30.  Or ski down Denali  or climb Kilimanjaro or windsurf around Cape of Good Hope, or kayak through the silent frozen waters of Antarctica while penguins compete in diving contests off their favorite overhangs or to trek through swamps to save the elephant from ivory thieves.  Youth can do the triathlon, the marathon, the excruciating 100 mile Barkley Marathon in east Tennessee or attempt to beat records set by Parnelli Jones, Michael Jordan, Barry Bonds, Tiger Woods and  Kobe Bryant  and that guy  who jumped from Outer Space, Felix Baumgartner. They have time on their side.

Tony Allen - my hero!
Oh, there are lesser bucket things we might want to do such as meeting a favorite celebrity. Mine would include Whoopie Goldberg, Hilary Clinton, Ellen Degeneres - women with a voice, or Deangelo Williams and Tim Tebow as football stories, Shane Battier and LeBron James as basketball phenomenon (I already have a friendship with Tony Allen, one of my heros; ) and then there’s wisdom with grace in chat with  Morgan Freeman or Merrill Streep.  There are inner bucket lists to prove “I can”, bucket lists to boost a lagging ego, bucket lists to let me know I’m still functioning even though I’m over 70. There are things one forgot to do or never thought one could do (or maybe didn’t want to do when young ) like dining at French Laundry with 10 kinds of wines (if you can afford it) or be a clown in Cirque du Soleil, or have my novel and poetry published and or - back in the day - be on Oprah’s show to advocate for juvenile delinquents.  I wish I had hung onto study long enough to earn a Ph.D. I wish through God’s mercy I could save children from the nightmares of Foster Care and abuse, or at least facilitate a change in their favor. 

GO GRIZZLIES!
There are challenges that seem crazy. I thrive in aerial yoga (inversion and restorative) and will take any blessing someone feels I need. Since 2008 I’ve worn a red string around my neck from a blessing or protection given by the Lama Geshi from Pangboche, Nepal, on the way to Everest Base Camp.  I’ve tried the trapeze but still have bungee  jumping and taking a class with the Bandaloup Group of San Francisco, - they who dance off buildings -  but I learned no matter how fit or old you are, if you put one foot in front of the other, and if you have an encourager who won’t let your faith drop, you can accomplish anything. And that’s how I trod on on two sides of Mt. Everest, and circumnavigated Mt. Kailash (hardest thing I ever did) to have my sins forgiven once and for all.  My cheerleader on these challenges has been the great adventurer Jim Williams of Wyoming. If there is a book about Everest, he’s in it. 

AERIAL YOGA
Now we embark on another adventure in lower altitudes. Maybe I will see and feel and weep where  in the 1960s-70s so many of our military sent to Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos  gave their lives for our freedom. I’ve done this kind of thing before.  I had to step across the Berlin Wall and that strategic Cold War line that divided our Berlin from Communist Berlin,. As a teenager, my youthful mind survived constant fear of a war if either the American or the Communist East German dared to step across that line first. No one did, thank God, but being able to step across that painted line was quite an experience for me. We had no bomb shelter, just a basement and I thought the atom bomb was pointed at our house every day of my teen years. On that trip with my late husband in 1991, we visited the newly opened Poland and St Petersburg (finally I wandered through the Hermitage to find the great Rembrandt painting of The Prodigal Son that made me weep), and even Moscow which was not robotic and cold and frightening but filled with incredible treasures in the Kremlin, even though it was only two years after the great Wall came down. We even stopped in Finland, a no man’s land, and I was able to experience a sauna and purchase an Icon from Bulgaria.  It’s fascinating how the denied, the hidden, the unknown in its simplest form can carry us to far places. Jerusalem does that too, walking the streets with a cross over your shoulders, peeking at Jesus’ prison chapel through bars, getting a mud bath from the waters of the Dead Sea, taking a vino at Cana, looking into the empty marble tomb of our Savior.

SAY A LITTLE PRAYER
On this current “safari”, I hope to see and be where the Vietnam War took place, and climb the hills where US bombers dropped their loads over Laotian caves hiding Laotian guerillas, and  to see where refugees climbed up to helicopters atop the Saigon US Embassy from the fruitless nightmare loss to guerrilla warfare. (I hope you saw Miss Saigon on Broadway). I also want to crawl through Angkor Wat’s ancient stones, to walk around the huge reclining gold Buddha in Bangkok after putting 108 coins in 108 pots for the 108 Books of Buddhism; to raise a salute to the lady with orchids in her hair who brought democracy to Burma (Myanmar) and to see what labor in a poppy field and a rice field resemble from under a pyramid straw hat. I won’t pass up a chance to stroke a tiger and ride an elephant and drink coconut water through a straw from a freshly hatcheted coconut. We will watch women weave silk, visit orphanages, chat with professors and leaders who try to give dignity to women and children and see what sort of punishment system is adhered to for youth in trouble.  I cannot leave behind the issues of juvenile justice which occupy my life at Juvenile Court and in Foster Care Reviews.

GOOD OLE DAYS
Having been a 60s hippy, a protestor, a female burning bras, a “Hair” person hoping for love, peace and happiness in tie-dyed cotton gowns, a person aiming to knock down the doors  of racism, prejudice, inequality and abuse  by singing “Let The Sun Shine” In and hugging my neighbor, I never understood Vietnam and the violence it caused on our own streets. Adults seemed to fear young people.  There was one blunder after another as our boys warred and worked for freedom for the French and South Vietnam. We were told Communism was on our doorstep and this was our enemy. After troops were withdrawn and some POWs were left behind, everything went back to where it was in the first place and the North Koreans got what they wanted, South Korea, although no one really won. Too much life was destroyed.  

I remember it was a time when religion couldn’t keep up with the issues confronting us each day yet our youth were trying to hold up simple principles predicated by Jesus Christ. Most authority figures were narrow minded,  shocked, horrified by questions and didn’t like another vista of what the Bible said to young people.  Was it too easy? Were we too radical? Did we have to lose John Kennedy, Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. to bust our souls so that reason and a change in policy could squeeze in? The 1960s were amazing. Probably the most active decade in history. Change happened and new routes toward reason and hope  began to flower. We could love one another.  We couldn’t or wouldn’t go back to where we had been, but we could certainly dance on the bees wings and find a new way to hold on. And we are still here. Thank you God.