Before I’m Dead list

Hello to you others who will also be Dead (Yes, this is a threat).

author at glacier

(Me at Pereto Morino Glacier, Argentina. Fake smile.)

All of us have made one of these lists at one time or another, or intended to. Yours may be called Life Goals or Bucket List but those titles are not desperate enough for me. Especially Bucket List. That sounds like a namby-pamby playing in a sandbox. Or, god forbid, advice from a Life Coach at 90$/hour.

Me, I need to have an apocalyptic prognostic of imminent Hellfire, Doom, and Destruction to get me moving. An I Will Peel Off your Skin, (wait, that might feel good, like a snake shedding, or a day at the spa) an I Will Pluck Out Your Eyes and an I Will Hammer a Nail Up Your Nostil (though for some, this is a side show), an I Will Stick a Gerbil up your Anus (up for debate-pleasure of pain?)  threat to get me motivated. Luckily, I can conjure up these relatively easily. And inspire them in others.

Last week I happened upon  a noon-hour call-in show on Procrastination. I was expecting the Wine Guy call-in, so Man, was this depressing! There were three categories of callers: those paralyzed with despair; those numb in resignation; and those madcap in desperation. All lives unlived. Addictions, family banishment, suicides, each with procrastination at the root. Before this radio show, I had viewed procrastination as a more mild infirmity, like chewing your fingers nails. Now I know procrastination to be very dangerous. Very dangerous. It must be faced Head On lest a life of regret and resentment is most certain. (See how I am selfishly making this apocalyptic here, but it is true! I heard it on the radio from an Expert.)

The radio Expert said procrastination is a gene. (Is this true? Do they really know this or is it like with all brain sciences, nobody knows ‘for sure’ but let’s experiment with lethal psychotropics to see what happens. ) Supposedly, both procrastination and impulsivity stem from the same gene. I think this is great.  At least something is getting done! Even if it is coming at ya like Mike Tyson.

So with all of this in mind, I am going to create a Before I’m Dead list before your very eyes and hope that it sparks my impulsivity. My Life Coach (ok, it’s just me in a life coach costume. The pay is good) told me to make my goals public. This puts the pressure on by declaring my dreams to the world. Nothing like universal shame. (Or, at least the 3 of us who read this blog- Hi Mom and Dad)

You might be surprised by my goals, for however calamitous the catalysts are, this list is quite ordinary, perhaps undignified. I do believe good living resides in the smallest things. There’s no bungee jumping or Everest climbing or dolphin-swimming. (These are for photo ops: see below). There is no promise of happiness in an external goal, right?

This will, of course, be a forever work-in-progress. I’ll start with just a few and try to make them real for me, not a list of what I think might impress you (especially you, Mom and Dad-though you seem easily impressed). I’m trying to write them quickly here, without too much planning.

If you want, check back to this blog to see what I’ve added (or crossed off!) and PLEASE add a few of yours in the comments. Then, if there are any good ones, I can steal them for my own and claim copyright.


  • Play in a sandbox as an adult with as much joy and unrestrained abandonment as a child (see namby-pamby above). Same goes for a wading pool and pretty well everything else where I’m self-conscious being ‘me’
  • Sleep solid through the night and wake up rested and eager to start the day- if only once
  • Create something– even just one tiny thing– that is beautiful that causes someone to remark: “That changed me.”
  • Take a 10-day walk moving as slowly as I can
  • Talk with as many strangers as is possible in one lifetime
  • Tell the truth (or at least the one I am experiencing) and nothing but the truth for one full day and be ok with the consequences
  • Have access to a cabin in the woods on a river, location top secret
  • Choose to care for this body before it is too late
  • Write every day
  • Come to terms with time and its passing (ok, this one is lofty)
  • Let people go (another lofty one)
  • Get rid of f*cking junk everywhere around me and keep only things I need and I love
  • Really listen to people instead of planning what I’m going to say next that might be funny or smart
  • Care for old unhappy men



Mierdes et Flores. On walking.

(Be forewarned: this is a dirty post. Some discerning readers may even call it shitty.)


Here we are, you and me, together – all of us, really, even those you and I don’t like – travelling along our little trail. For the sake of sounding insightful (and at great risk of sounding corny), I’m going to say that at the beginning of the trail is a cave and at the end is a cave. Both dark and mysterious places. There are some who claim to be Cavers, to know that darkness, but I’d say we all know the same: nothing. We all start and end at the same place.

Our trail is not linear. Sometimes we find it on a map. It is marked, it is well-trodden. Other times, we can’t see any markings. We tear up the darn map, or others kindly/not-so-kindly tear it up for us. For our own good, for their own good. No matter, it is torn up.    Ho ho! Sometimes we off-road, forge new trails.

Today, I am plain lost (of Mind), looking for Meaning. I know, there are those who say you are never lost, you just don’t recognize the trail, Dodo! I am uncertain of what to believe. That’s why I appear to Not Be Moving at times. Some say you will have a more satisfying life if you go about convincing yourself that everything has a purpose, moreso, a Meaning, even the ugly, especially The Ugly.

On this early Spring day, on this urban river trail at the base of an exclusive golf course, there is only shit, dog shit clambering out of the melting snow. The Great Melt when the snow that once blanketed the dirty world in white, making it clean and fresh and Pure, now reveals itself as merely a thin veneer over months of dog shit, candy rappers, used condoms.                                                                                                                                         Within 20 minutes of the trailhead, I found over 40 piles of poop, two of which I stepped in. How rude! How inhumane of dog-owners! Hang them! Wrap the shit in newspaper, place it on their porches, set it on fire and ring the doorbell!


My sign says: “Dog owners. Get your shit together. Unwalkable…” 

The trail markings here have words: Beware of flying golf balls, a diversion designed to trick hapless walkers to look up when the real stinking danger is below.


This is the Cutten Trail, land that once belonged to Arthur Cutten who made a fortune betting on wheat in the Thirties, a fortune never uncovered, a fortuned rumoured to be buried here in this dirt and dog shit. (Hence, the occasional sighting of those middle-aged Metal Detector Men who have strayed from their beachside habitat.)

Along all trails lie both mierda et flores. (I’m showing off my cosmopolitanism here with these Spanish words because that is how trail walking was explained to me by a girl, a Pelegrina as we called each other,  who I met on the Camino trail in Spain twelve years ago. She walked this ridiculously long, madly famous path (as many have since Medieval times) searching for Answers of Great Concern. Would she continue walking with her fireman husband, or would she leave him for the shoe salesman in Valencia?  I was asking the same question about my partner back in Canada, but the decision was more difficult as I had No Shoe Salesman. (And I was mostly the problem). There was that hunky buck-toothed Brazilian pilgrim on Day 8 who waved me back on the trail from whence I have strayed-  surely a Sign, this was The One, my life-changer. But he was of a different mind, resulting in embarrassment and sangria.)

Mierda et Flores. Flowers and shit.


Here are a few flowers I recall over my years of walking the Cutton Trail: The Spoon Tree, The Message in the Bottle and The (butterfly-stomach) Hand Holding.

Number One: The Spoon Tree.                                                                                                       Some wood nymph hung a dozen mismatched Grandma silver spoons on the branches of a tree. They called to walkers by clinking  in the wind. Old spoons of Real Silver, eventually pinched, one at a time until there was none, likely pinched by students for their dorm rooms at the University on the hill. (Students: forever the scapegoat.)

Number Two: The Message in the Bootle.                                                                             Another time, I followed a rogue trail down to the marshy riverside where tucked beneath the exposed root of a Willow tree was a Jam Jar. In it was a lined piece of paper torn from a notebook with These Words:                                                                                                        You are loved.                                                                                                                                          I wanted to take this love letter with me to make it mine, Mine Alone, a Special Message for Special Me, but there are a thousand special mes for whom this message is also written, so it must be left where it was found.

Number Three: The (butterfly stomach) Hand Holding.                                          Long long ago, in another me, a Barefooted Boy slipped his hand into mine on a morning hang-over walk. It was so exciting I nearly threw up. Nothing came of it, it was never spoken about, he found another Special Me, yet the feeling is still alive in me today. Is it for the boy?


One good thing is, if you look for it, there is always worse shit. Once, on a Night Walk, I found a pair of men’s underwear, extra-large, full of human shit just off the trails’ edge. A drunken accident? Illness-induced, a desperate act of a hiker, a homeless man, a student heading to an exam who literally shit his pants?

Or was it another love letter for Special Me, in disguise? (See above, the Ugly has it’s meaning, too. One man’s trash, etc… ) Is this a reminder of our shared humanity: we are all Vulnerable? You, me and the stranger, too.

Merdes et Flores. Don’t flowers grow in shit?

Everything in everything. They are the same. The joy in the suffering, the suffering in the joy. Can’t you see the pretty colours in these pictures? When you don’t look too closely? Or when you look really closely?