A few people have asked me what’s on my bucket list this year. When I was a kid, about once a year, I would compile a list of things I wanted to do, though I never knew to call it a bucket list until I saw that trailer for that Morgan Freeman movie. Learn a new instrument, master a new language, travel to Timbuktu, become an astronaut, go skydiving. No matter how ridiculous or feasible the dreams were, I would write them down in hopes that I would someday accomplish them.
This year, my bucket list for 2010 (in the event that I kick the bucket sometime in 2010) is simple: record an album, plant a garden, learn how to surf, and fall in love.
The first three are well on their way and it’s only April.
The fourth one, well… we’ll see about that.
The garden I’ve been working on is nothing elaborate, just some herbs, vegetables and one lemon tree. I remember when they lived in New York, my grandma planted all kinds of fruits, vegetables and flowers right in their backyard in Queens. I was amazed at the large cucumbers and squashes that would be bigger than me. And when we lived in New Jersey, as a kid, I raised bell peppers, tomatoes and peanuts in a large garden bed in our backyard. It’s been a good fifteen years since that garden, but watching Food Inc. back in January sparked my interest in not only buying local and organically grown food, but raising some of my own as well.
I only started planting seeds and plants a couple of weeks ago, but I already feel like I’ve learned a lot (thanks, Google. And Robin Koogle). In the process I’ve become one of those people who actually goes to Home Depot multiple times a week (yikes). I’ve learned which different plants require different amounts of sunlight and water; I’ve learned how to thin seedlings; I’ve learned how to transplant seedlings (well, we’ll see how successful that is later); I’ve learned that allowing the water to drain through the soil and out the bottom is actually really crucial (and you may kill your mint if it’s not properly drained… yeah…); I’ve learned that cucumbers will strain to find sunlight if you don’t give them enough QT with the sun and that they may become weak from doing so; I’ve learned that orchids don’t actually need direct sunlight or watering–a little shade and spray in the face and base will do; I’ve learned that come flowering time, I will have to probably help pollinate my lemon blossoms if I want some lemonade (or delicious sweet tea) down the line).
I’ve only tried surfing once so far, and most of the time, I was spending hanging out on the board, trying to acclimate myself to the choppy water, learning to relax, balance myself, paddle out, sit up and turn around to wait for that perfect wave. I haven’t been successful at standing up yet, but I hope that a few more times out (and maybe a surfing lesson or two) will remedy that.
I’m realizing that in both of these ventures, I am putting myself at the mercy of the natural elements. With gardening, I can read all the books I want, google all the websites I can, and care for and cover these plants the best I can, but ultimately I am not the one making the plant grow. It’s the plant + water + soil + sunlight that is initiating the process of photosynthesis, of converting light energy into food and growth and life. Although I may help create the best possible conditions for new life and new growth, I myself am not the one causing it to happen.
With surfing, I can learn all the right techniques, how to understand the waves in terms of sets, how to watch for the breaking surf, how to pop-up, how to stand and balance myself, how to fall properly. And all of that knowledge is necessary if I am going to learn how to do this right. But ultimately, I am not the one making myself move. I’m the one being carried along by the wave.
So much lately, I’ve been thinking in terms of this careful balance between my action and my will and this idea of a loss of control. Where I can try my hardest, and perfect my technique, and yes, these things will maximize the conditions so I can achieve the best possible result… But that final triumph, that final click and completion, is ultimately something higher than myself.
And maybe that’s the point.
In one sense, I do have control. I am responsible for my actions, and action (or inaction) often result in certain consequences. But at the end of the day, the final beauty is that I ultimately do not control things. It’s this mysterious marriage of my own free will and external things (sovereignty of God?) and the choices of other people) beyond my control. There’s something incredibly terrifying but also really freeing about that reality.
Through the prophet Isaiah, the Lord speaks to the people of Israel:
“‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,’ declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than Your ways and My thoughts than Your thoughts.
For as the rain and snow come down from heaven, and do not return without watering the earth and making it bear and sprout, and furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; It will not return to Me empty, without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it (Isaiah 55:8-11).”
This gives me hope. I will strive the best I can, and likely fail a thousand times in the process (be it gardening, surfing, music or relationships), but God’s mercy and power and Spirit will remain. And He is the One who will ultimately do it.
So 2010, you haven’t been the greatest year in my book, but so far, I’m trusting the trajectory.
Here’s to the bucket list.