816 North Opinion

David Knopf —A bucket’s too small for this list

I don’t like the idea of a bucket list.

If I have a list of things I want to do before my mortal coil permanently loses its spring, I want a steamer trunk, a trash can on wheels or a 55-gallon drum.

For me, a list implies a discrete number — kind of like a grocery visit where you cross off Kibbles ’n’ Bits, tuna in water and finely shredded mozzarella cheese.

My list is constantly changing, and not because I’m greedy, afraid to die or worried about ending this ride with regrets.

If there’s something I want to see or do, I obsess over it until it’s done.

For example, there was that fixation I had on taking a photo of hay bales that left big shadows. The light had to be just right and the composition simple, so I thought about it for maybe six months, to and from work — a 45-minute ride in an area with far more round hay bales than people.

This fall, I finally saw some nice bales with equally nice shadows and, unexpectedly, one in front of a nice row of trees with leaves nicely changing color.

As you might expect, I stopped the car, took the photo and erased “take a hay bale photo” from my list of Major Hoots in This Lifetime.

It was one of those two-for-one occasions, too. Not only did I get the shot I wanted, I came up with a sentence using the word “nice” or a variation of “nice” four times.

Who’d have thought to put


on a bucket list?

It was serendipity, and that’s exactly why a fixed list and small bucket don’t cut it. Once the hay bale was done, something new — probably two or three new things — popped up to replace it.

For example, I’ve been meaning to watch the sun gradually rise over the Missouri River at this turnoff on the way to work. It’s a detour from my usual route. I haven’t convinced myself it’s OK to do it, but I eventually will.

Then there’s Scott’s Bargain Barn, kind of a “you never know what you’ll find” surplus establishment along the road between Richmond and Excelsior Springs, in Wood Heights (Population: Not a Whole Lot).

No matter what they’re selling — some of that stuff’s probably been there since Ernest Hemingway was a cub reporter — the place always smells likes tires, an aroma I like about as much as gasoline, the underside of a dog’s paw or a just-opened jar of salad peppers.

The point is that for every thing I want to do and eventually accomplish, something new emerges. And to be completely honest, things pop up even when I haven’t scratched something off my list.

I must be lucky, simply because so many of the things I want are as simple as finding out why this place across from the Bargain Barn is called Old Mule Farm Crafts. Was it really once a mule farm? Were all the mules old? Was it an old-age home for retired working mules?

I’m just not the kind of person who needs to climb Mount McKinley, sky dive into the Grand Canyon or go on a safari for fulfillment.

There’s nothing wrong with things of greater magnitude, but I’ve got my hands full just trying to fit my hodgepodge of simple pleasures in a trashcan or 55-gallon drum. If I had to use a bucket, there’d be holes in the bottom in no time.