Bucket List Blues

I have a guilty confession to make – over the past few weeks, I’ve read the entire series of Outlander books by Diana Gabaldon, complete in all their historical/fantastical bodice-ripping flummerous glory. Why? Well, at the top of my bucket list of walks, I’d like to try to do the walk from John O’Groats in Scotland

to Land’s End in England, and in thinking about Scotland and the Highlands, I thought of the Outlander TV series now running on Netflix which is a favourite of my wife, and that made me think about the Outlander books themselves. And in reading the books, which are set partially in Scotland and partially in the US at the time of the American Revolutionary War, and involve characters who are Loyalists to the Crown, I thought of another bucket list walk, to retrace the steps of my ancestors who were Loyalists who had to leave upstate New York to make their way into Canada near Fort Erie

and thence along the Talbot Trail to Essex County in south-west Ontario, where I was eventually born.

Bucket lists, I think, are as much about imagination as they are about actual plans, and whatever is on your list reflects the kind of person you see yourself as. Having a bucket list composed of famous works of art to view in person, or golf courses to play, famous restaurants to visit, or journeys to take, then the fact that your list includes such things says a lot about who you are and what you value.

And in my case, my bucket list is about walks and treks (no surprise), and mostly it reflects long multi-day journeys through places redolent of history. Sometimes that history is of countries and nations and peoples, sometimes it’s about the history of the towns and cities and villages I’d pass through, and sometimes it’s the history of myself and my family. In many cases, that history is personal, because I’ve visited many of these places before and they’ve touched a chord within me which I’d like to rekindle.

Amongst the many frustrations of COVID is the sense of plans on hold, of being stuck on pause and unable to hit play. When I retired, in January 2020, I had set out in my mind a series of walks that would slowly work down my bucket list. I fully expected to have crossed several off my list this past year, and instead there’s just been a gloomy sense of waiting and waiting and waiting, with no clear vision of when I can get back to that program.

It’s a first world problem to be sure, and many people would like to have the luxury of even contemplating a bucket list in the first place. I can’t, with any sense of morality, consider myself hard done by. So I sit and I wait and I walk around the neighbourhood and I read things like Outlander and dream of Scottish highlands.

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