APPROACHING A decade-turning birthday, I have decided to swap my bucket list for a bucket and spade. Sure, there are places I want to go and things I want to experience in the years ahead, but I think I need to focus more on my to-be list than my to-do one. So I’m going to the beach.
Taking a bucket and spade down to the sand seems to be one way of bringing life into perspective. There is something about being at the water’s edge that somehow puts things in place; maybe it’s because there we find that thin space between all that we can control and all that we cannot.
Behind us is the land we have tamed and shaped and used and reformed to suit us. It is a testimony to our being in charge of the horizon we have changed over the years through our own efforts. In front of us is the sea we have surfed and sailed but never subdued, only survived, stretching out into the distance that hasn’t changed since the beginning of time.
On my regular runs along the shore not far from where we live, I often find myself having to weave around people digging here, at the edge of the water, in what I have come to believe is both an active of defiance and an act of surrender.
It’s defiant in that it says, “This is all about me. I don’t care that this isn’t going to last forever; I’m going to build something and enjoy it briefly. The act of creation, its joy and delight, can never be washed away, even though evidence of it may be lost.”
I’m reminded that it can be worth doing something even if no one else witnesses it, even when there’s no memory. The moment is enough in itself.
It’s surrender in that it says, “This isn’t all about me. I know that the world is going to keep on turning unconcerned that my castles have crumbled and been carried away. What matters to me may be of no consequence to anyone else, and that’s okay.”
I’m reminded that I’m not the center of the universe, but that doesn’t need to stop me from enjoying my time and space in it. This sense of finitude and finality isn’t to be confused with futility; there is a difference between giving up on something and giving in to something.
I think I prefer a bucket and spade to a bucket list. Those tools represent a state rather than a goal, a place to live rather than somewhere to visit.
Photo credit: Dale Gillard via Foter.com/CC BY