I don’t like the idea of a bucket list, with its emphasis on things to do before I “kick the bucket.” I want to be more spiritual, refined and literary when I contemplate life and death.

I do embrace the idea, nay the practice, of having goals and dreams. I know it is important to acknowledge the limited nature of our minutes on Earth. But buckets are not worthy receptacles for our life hopes, unless you own stock in the company that makes those fabulous orange sheetrock buckets for The Home Depot, so useful for picking up pine cones and other yard or household tasks. Daddy called them sheetrock buckets and that is what they will always be to me. We used them for mixing plaster and cement, but we sometimes used them as toilets when the electricity went out, and we always used them to collect the slops for the pigs.

I am more impractical. I want my dreams and desires to be inscribed on heavy, elegant paper in my most careful and artistic calligraphy. Silly, I know. I guess I could put my list in an old coffee can. I love coffee, but I would probably want to decorate the can somehow with washi tape, permanent markers and stickers.

I find it much more realistic to set down goals and dreams yearly, monthly and weekly rather than creating a vague list to accomplish “sometime in the future before I die.” If I want to travel somewhere, for example, then it would be best if I save weekly. If I want a better relationship with a relative, then I should call or visit weekly.

I tried to cross off an item from my list recently. I have long wanted to see the rugged coast of Maine, to thrill to the cold winds, the tall pines and the granite shores. But now that I have been, I cannot cross “visiting Maine” off my list. The trip only made me want to go back and to stay longer next time.

I won’t bore you with the highlights of my visit, the gardens, the food, the inns, the bridges, the crafts, but I will say that the visit changed me and my outlook on life, as Miriam Beard says travel should do: Certainly travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.

First, I climbed Cadillac Mountain, in Acadia National Park. I avoid heights, always, particularly driving up, onto, or over mountain passes. But I wasn’t driving. I was trapped in the navigator position. I tried not to show my fear and reluctance. I closed my eyes a great deal, but when we got to the top of the tallest mountain on the eastern seaboard, I set my feet, snuggled up to a giant supporting boulder, and beheld 360 degrees of magnificent forest, water and sky, well worth my shaky stance. It was unforgettable.

Second, I went lobstering with friends who have been living in Maine for many years. They have “recreational traps,” a boat and their house is right on Morgan Bay. They took us out and in my ignorance of how difficult it would be I managed to gather in a little more courage. Just wading out to the rubber dingy was a task that I hope to do better next time. We sped over gentle waves spotting seals, and eagles. We suffered silently the slinging seaweed and mud. I pretended I was not shaking with cold. I loved every moment of it, learning about the process, the strict rules, the lives of lobsters and lobstermen.

Third, I walked out onto Pemaquid Point. Right onto the rocks that the famous Pemaquid light shines out for sailors and fishermen. Well, let me be honest: I crawled out onto the rocks and half the time, my friend was holding me up. I definitely crawled and climbed back to softer dirt, but I had a moment there.

Thoreau reminds us that, it is not what you look at, but what you see. I certainly looked at beauty, but what I saw was people busy working together to preserve and maintain their natural resources. For example, at Maine Botanical Gardens I looked at 300 acres of cultivated color and granite and greenery, but what I saw was all the hardworking people who create and maintain the site. Fifteen full-time gardeners are assisted by over 200 volunteers.

I looked at buildings that said Redemption Center, thinking they were churches, and eventually realized that these were places where Mainers redeem their deposits for glass and plastic containers rather than litter.

I saw and understood a part of what Mainers do to enhance their part for the world.

And I was left knowing that my “bucket” list should expand to include dreams and desires for my own state. But I will start small. In my journal I will ask myself, how can I help make Butts County truly the Outdoor Capital of Georgia, a place as popular as Maine on the bucket lists of the world.

Cheryl Hilderbrand is a Jackson writer and educator. Email her at