Kick the Bucket (List) ... Why Wait?!

Like most people, The Mountain Farmgirl has a Bucket List a mile long! Some of the items on it will cost money, others just the time to do them, which – let’s face it -- is even more precious than the cash! Living life to the fullest, she looks forward to the future knowing they’ll all be checked off the list eventually … or WILL they? Read how and why Mountain Farmgirl Cathi Belcher is kicking her bucket list out the window, NOW!!! …

My friend Prescott is gone at the age of 23. Ed, another friend is having serious medical tests done this week. A business acquaintance just emailed me saying that her chemo treatments were going to prevent her from keeping an appointment this week. And I know a lot of people in Boston, some of them had been running the marathon, and none of them suspected what would await them at the finish line. So, ‘bottom line’? There are no guarantees, life is short and nothing is certain except change and uncertainty.

Now don’t get me wrong … I’m not a pessimist, and I’m not depressed. I’m just aware. Aware and wiser. It’s a coming-of-age / loss of innocence sort of bittersweet ‘knowing’ that the only time we really-truly-actually have is NOW.

Being a ‘planner’ and a ‘doer’ who works by lists, I fortunately do not have to cure myself of procrastination. That’s at least ONE thing that’s not a problem for me!  My lists are extensive, pretty awesome in my opinion, and full of everyday adventures. But there is also that Queen of all Lists, my Bucket List of future dreams! I’ve had one as long as I can remember.  When our oldest son was 10 and his Florida cousin Ryan spent a summer with us, my husband had them each make out a bucket list. They were precious! If only we all had such lists from childhood right up to this very day, to see how they (and we) have changed … that would certainly be very telling, right?!

As fast as I’ve crossed things off my list in my life, I’ve added others. Published writer, go up in a hot air balloon, speak at a Home School convention, live in a tipi, build an off-the-grid- post and beam house, own my own restaurant, have a husband and children, learn to play the dulcimer … I’ve had the opportunity to cross all these things, and many more off my list. And yet my current list is longer than all my previous ones put together! Future retirement (or as my pastor/friend Barb is calling it, ‘re”fire”ment’) is certainly going to be exciting and very busy indeed!

Or so we like to think. We sail through life under God’s grace, all of us thinking we’re in charge of our destinies, but none of us really knowing what waits ahead.  I believe in free will and that our decisions and actions have consequences that do indeed affect our lives, and that we can definitely create our own realites. But so do the free wills of others affect us, as we saw only too clearly at the Boston Marathon. The point is, it’s great to have a Bucket List with hopes, dreams and goals to aspire to. It’s just unrealistic to think that we’ll be able to get to them all  “some day” … The truth is that ‘someday’ may never come.

“But what if we didn’t have to wait until ‘someday’?”, I was thinking just the other day? Why feel like we have to wait?  What if we could experience that feeling of accomplishment that comes from, say, ‘hiking the Appalachian Trail’ right now? … which by the way, is one of about 50 pretty major things on my list.

Obviously, I’m not about to walk outside and cross that one off, even though the Trail is only about a mile or so from my back door here in the White Mountains. Commitments and responsibilities always take precedence over “luxuries” and “desires”, isn’t that the truth?  I have many hikes planned for this ‘bucket list’ of mine, and the AT is just one of them.  Our daughter and I have plans to hike Hadrian’s Wall in Scotland very soon … and there’s  El Camino del Santiago (“The Way”), a 500-mile pilgrimage that goes through parts of Spain and France. That’s on the list, too.  That one is relatively new to me, although when I told our daughter that we should consider adding it, she said it was already pretty high up on hers! (I discovered “The Way” one night through a DVD starring Martin Sheen and Emilio Estevez. Sheen (who played the father), was a busy dentist who “didn’t have time” to frivolously hike with his son on this deeply spiritual journey. However, when his son has a bad fall on the trail and unexpectedly dies, the meaning of life, responsibilities, and the concept of “time” suddenly take  on new proportions.  I won’t tell you what happens, because it is a wonderful film worth seeing. However, it started me thinking down a new path …


For my blog next time, I’d like for us farmgirls, myself included, to share some of the special things on our personal Bucket Lists and pick just one, that even in a small, every-day way we can start working on NOW. Today, however, I want to use some of the “walking” goals I have on my list as just an example to tell you about a new way of looking at life. This perception shift occurred to me the other day when I was  looking at how I could make some of life’s big “someday” goals part of my every day journey.

So back to walking … I’ve always loved to do it.  I think my dad instilled that in us kids when we were growing up, as we would take a walk to our ‘Climbing Tree’, an old elm up the road, almost every night after dinner. Many times we would continue on “around the block” … which was a big old rambling country block down what we called the “Scary Road”. I’ve been walking pretty much ever since!


Henry David Thoreau has a lot to say about walking, and wrote a wonderful essay about it. He refers to it ‘sauntering’ … the form of walking my husband likes to do. He likes a slow stroll, to smell the roses, observe life, and he’s teaching me how to appreciate it as well on our afternoon walks around the Jackson Village loop. I’m actually more of a Power Walker by nature; I walk with a purpose, and my early morning Prayer Walks are more of this variety.  Our old Quaker friend, Keith Smiley, who was an owner of the Mohonk Mountain House in New Paltz, NY where we used to spend much time, also wrote a lovely little book on Walking. It is such a wonderful form of exercise, a discipline as well as a form of meditation.

I’ve met many folks who have had the ‘walking’ bug, including one who was paralyzed from the waist down. His name was Bob Wieland, a Vietnam War veteran who lost his legs to a mortar mine in 1969. He ‘ran’ across America on his hands, taking 3 years, 8 months and six days to travel from coast to coast to raise awareness and money for war vets. I had the privilege of hearing him speak about the experience and shook hands while talking to him afterwards.  He was very inspiring. 

My husband and I went to college at Alfred University with Peter Jenkins, author of Walk Across America, and the sequel, The Way West. Peter lived right across the street from us on Ormsby Road and our dogs, both Alaskan Malamutes, had a few ‘misunderstandings’ with one another from time to time. After graduation, Peter, a photojournalist, and his dog Cooper set off from Alfred to see our vast country, and to write a wonderful account of it.

And then there was Peace Pilgrim, born Mildred Lisette Norman, whom I followed for many years. Peace Pilgrim was an American pacifist, vegetarian, and peace activist. Starting on January 1, 1953, she walked across the United States for 28 years until her death in 1981. She had no organizational backing, carried no money, and would not even ask for food or shelter. When she began her pilgrimage she had taken a vow to "remain a wanderer until mankind has learned the way of peace, walking until given shelter and fasting until given food." At the time of her death, she was crossing the United States for the seventh time. As a Quaker, I found her commitment and her actions fascinating because they meshed so well with one another.

My point is that walking, whether for a cause, an accomplishment or just  for the pure pleasure of it, has been a dream for many people, myself included. I do it every day, and I’m in really good shape. But unfortunately, life circumstances at the moment do not allow for crossing these major walking dreams off my Bucket List; they remain one of those “some day” aspirations. And with the uncertainties of life looming large at the moment, I don’t definitively know that I will actually do all or even any of them, though I have every intention to do so, and will give it one heck of a farmgirl try.

I can’t say that by my walking the Appalachian Trail, The Way or Hadrian’s Wall Path, that I have any of the philanthropic  goals of the folks I just mentioned above, but each of these journeys does have personal and spiritual  meaning for me. So I have been thinking about why these are on my Bucket List to begin with?


• Travel is one reason; I want to see parts of the world I’ve never been to.

• Meeting interesting people is another. But rather than feel I have to wait “until then” to experience travel and people, I can adjust the way I look at things and be aware that I am amazingly situated as an Innkeeper and writer already, meeting some of the most fascinating people from all over the world!  In fact, meeting a really interesting guest and her college son at my inn one day, who had just both returned from walking the Wall together, was how I heard about Hadrian’s Wall Path in the first place. In the reading I have done since about Scotland, for example, and the DVD collections about the country I have watched, I have had the ability to ‘know’ Scotland more deeply than  many people ever will! Certainly going there is important, and I WILL, but there is no need to feel like I am so far from crossing this off my Ultimate list!  My daughter and I have put a date of July 2015 on this, and I am fairly sure that it will happen.

• Spirituality is another thing that often happens while walking; coming to terms with my maker.  This often happens on long pilgrimages, but it can also happen while doing the dishes, so obviously it need not wait ‘until then’. I walk every day and can (and DO) have conversations with God. I don’t need to travel halfway across the globe to make that happen, and knowing this helps.

• Helping People. This is big for me, and I don’t know how hiking could further it as a goal, but I’m sure that opportunities would arise along the way that would allow me to show kindness to others. In the meantime, I am perfectly poised (we all are) to show kindness to people every single day, wherever our feet take us, and I vow to look for more ways today to do so.

• Accomplishment; saying “I did it!”. I mention this last, and although my list is in no particular order, if I were to be honest this one would probably be pretty high up on my list. I tend to be a Type-A sort of person; driven, ambitious, organized, obsessed and competitive … yeah, they describe me pretty well!  I like to achieve things that are not easily had, and I throw myself into them with a passion. Achievement is very important to me. What is easy to lose sight of, however, is that achievement comes in many forms. Saying that you hiked the Appalachian Trail carries some weight, while taking care of someone’s problem at my front desk doesn’t seem all that sexy sometimes!  And yet, my husband and I have enormous opportunities on a daily basis to help people in small ways that can translate into creating peace around us and changing our own little piece of the planet, if only we can see it that way. Making a phone call for someone, running to the store for another, giving someone a band-aid and a kind smile may not sound like grandiose things next to a 500-mile pilgrimage through ancient villages and mountains, but their impact can be HUGE. I (and all of us actually) should never lose sight of the fact that some of the littlest things we do have the biggest impact.

And so as I journey through life, I’m excited about some of the things on this ethereal Bucket List of mine; but I am trying to be aware that some of the most important items are not written down on it; I live them every day!   That being said, however, I’m revisiting my old friend of a Bucket List, crossing off the things that no longer hold my fascination and adding a few more that do. It is always important to hope and dream! Just as important is trying to attach a date to some of them, and working towards actually doing them.  The trick is not to lose sight that we are ALREADY doing many of them, just in a different form!

For next time, let’s take a look at our Bucket Lists, which will be as different as one of us is from another.  Let’s look at what wonders and adventures await.  In the meantime, what one thing that seems so far away from accomplishing, can you actually realize that you are doing already in another form if you just choose to look at it that way? In the end, it’s not the the grandiose events that we can impress others with that count, but how well we did our daily walks!
Mountain Bounty, Mountain Blessings from,
Cathi, The Mountain Farmgirl









By: Adrienne
On: 04/29/2013 09:11:51
What a great topic! My original bucket list from 1977 had one remaining item on it that was transferred to the new evolving list. In less than a month, I will complete all the items on the new list which included living a year cancer-free; help those who are still fighting cancer; lose at least 100 pounds (51 so far); learning to walk so I could leave the walker to use a cane and now walking poles; spend more time at the museums, science academies and zoo; and help feed the hungry. The one remaining item from the old and new lists is having Reba McIntire or Dolly Parton sing the song I wrote called "80-Proof Promises" about what it's like loving an alcoholic. It could happen. Now I need to get back to creating a new S.M.A.R.T. bucket list with items that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-Bound (no "someday I'll" goals). Prayers are on the way that you successfully achieve the items on your list!
By: Diana Henretty
On: 04/29/2013 12:54:21
Ahhhhhhh your pictures and thoughts are beautiful to me today as I start off on a
84 degree day here in the Ozarks.
I have a 17 yr. old dog, we both walk the edges of our property every evening
at the end of our day.
I started the walks to benefit him, little did I know the walks brought healing to my own soul.
We talk, laugh, and I pray along the way, and then stop at my new "secret garden" I made this spring, a place to be alone where the rest of the world cannot see me up on our hill, where it is filled with joy and beauty and peace.
When my dog and I started these walks together that he was not the only one that would benefit from them, and now each day I look forward to that time of the evening to see the sunsets, listen to the birds
singing their night songs, bringing joy to my heart every day.
Funny how the simple things become the most precious things in our lives.
Hugs from the Ozarks, Diana
By: Meredith Williams
On: 04/29/2013 13:22:48
Hi Cathi! I know this comment has nothing to do with your post but I felt compelled to tell you that my grandparents met while attending Alfred University, made their very best lifelong friends there, and had an incredible 58 married years together. They have both passed, my grandad "Campy" just a few years ago at the age of 98, and their marriage continues to be a blessing to my husband and I because of the great examples they set. Alfred must be a pretty special place!
By: Shery
On: 04/30/2013 07:01:52
A handful of farmgirl gal-pals and I managed to acquire old trailer campers over the course of last summer. We all were ready to glamp by summers end. So, *this* summer we would like to go glamping at least once a month. Being with dear friends in the great outdoors can be done in innumerable ways and glamping is the way we see it happening for us. From our camp sites, we can go on 'walkabout' and enjoy a number of other activities in the areas where we set up camp. That is one of my bucket list 2013 goals.

Loved your article; great reminder to sieze the day.
By: Debbie
On: 05/02/2013 19:07:28
Hello dear Cathi! This post really hit's home with me. You are so right... we really only do have today when you get right down to it. I find now that I'm 51 and at the age where cancer takes more of our loved one's each year I am reminded to sieze the day, every day and that's what I try to do...My bucket list is really about spending time with my loved ones. I'm making sure I spend time with each our ( fast growing teens) our children, my mom's, my hubby and dear friends. They are the real riches of my life... oh, and my flowers, and Max our little Corgi...And.. the Beach of course! Sure would love to get up North and meet you in 2013 or if you come to the Cape this summer you must let me know! You'll drive right by me on your way!
much love,
Deb ( your bloggin sis from the shoreines)

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Cathi Belcher

Cathi Belcher,
an old-fashioned farmgirl with a pioneer spirit, lives in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. As a “lifelong learner” in the “Live-Free-or-Die” state, she fiercely values self-reliance, independence, freedom, and fresh mountain air. Married to her childhood sweetheart of 40+ years (a few of them “uphill climbs”), she’s had plenty of time to reinvent herself. From museum curator, restaurant owner, homeschool mom/conference speaker, to post-and-beam house builder and entrepreneur, she’s also a multi-media artist, with an obsession for off-grid living and alternative housing. Cathi owns and operates a 32-room mountain lodge. Her specialty has evolved to include “hermit hospitality” at her rustic cabin in the mountains, where she offers weekend workshops of special interest to women.

“Mountains speak to my soul, and farming is an important part of my heritage. I want to pass on my love of these things to others through my writing. Living in the mountains has its own particular challenges, but I delight in turning them into opportunities from which we can all learn and grow.”

Column content copyright © 2010– Cathi Belcher. All rights reserved.

Mountain Bounty

“Keep close to Nature’s heart ... and break clear away once in awhile to climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods, to wash your spirit clean.”
– John Muir