What does a 15th-century illuminated manuscript of “The Canterbury Tales” have in common with an “Old Mission Brand” label from a crate of oranges?

An article in the New York Times about the Huntington Library in San Marino, Calif., began: What does a 15th-century illuminated manuscript of “The Canterbury Tales” have in common with an “Old Mission Brand” label from a crate of oranges? What is the connection between the novelist Thackeray’s 1853 drawing of a black girl in South Carolina and plantings meant to echo the famed Chinese gardens of Suzhou? … it goes on to insert a bit of the library’s history, its wealthy endowment and extraordinary attendance records. And apparently the Huntington Library includes grounds of 207 acres of Botanical Gardens, art and research holdings of seemingly disparate likes of Shakespeare’s First Folio and a circa-1623 shopping list of the Countess of Huntingdon. The article focuses on the current ‘exhibition’s “reimagining” of the research library [which] is meant to lure visitors who may not be drawn to 15th-century incunabula. It values relevance. It intends to show the library as democratized, localized, personalized.’

And since I’d be in the tribe that is indeed drawn to 15c incunabula, I began fantasizing about a trip from Maine to California. There are five weeks to get to San Marino to take in this ‘re-imagined’ exhibition, but it’s not going to happen. Holidays, Jack’s college applications are due (of which he is independently on top of, but still…), preping new classes for next semester, and oh yeah, the cost…

So another time. This is a vital place that will still be fulfilling its mission when I can eventually get there. Junîpero Serra and the Legacies of the California Missions and Crossing the Alps: Artistic Exchange and the Printed Image in Renaissance Europe will be down…. but still, later will be alright.

I’ve been meaning to start a list of big to-dos anyway and there is even a draft  to post in this blog called ‘before I die’ (yeah, it’s only a working title). In a few years both our kids will be in college, time will open up, focus can be towards what next, and learning yesterday about William Drenttel’s passing somehow broke my heart. (He and Jessica had been to DesignInquiry in the early ’00’s, their kids became fast friends with ours for the week, and I have since followed their vital work.)

While shopping at Longfellow Books the day before yesterday I saw a fat spine that read: 1000 Places to See Before you Die. I made a decision to not pick it up because even though 1000 is a lot, why is their 1000 my 1000? And is it only places and now experiences? And Oh God, wasn’t making a list of to-do’s before I die too first-world and self-serving? …obviously I was spiraling so I walked over to browse the memoir section for a present for my sister-in-law who is writing one…

Last night a friend mentioned wanting to take a boat building class. He said every year he thinks of this. Of course I said do it. Do It.

So how about now. Today. Let’s start This List together with like-minds, colleagues and friends who have something in common (you). Other listing parameters might include money is no object (there’s always a way around this, because really, our in-common lives are about translating, documenting, making, and creatively ‘doing’ so we can design work-arounds with satisfaction I’m sure) and let’s pretend we’re totally able bodied to do whatever, and yes, we have the time. So the ability  to actually even hike the Appalachian Trail when I (if I) retire shouldn’t matter. Just write it down.

So I’ll start, in no special order:

Visit the Huntington Library, Hike the Appalachian Trail as a through hiker (finish the 4Kft. White Mountain Club mountains first), Visit the Egyptian Wing at the Met for a Whole Day (again), read Moby Dick and Learn What the Fuss is All About,

And I’m not going to research to confirm that ‘Bucket List’ comes from ‘kicking the bucket’. This list will just be called The List. Capital T, Capital L. Never in all caps.



  1. Beautiful essay. Your writing is especially timely and longing and urgent for this reader.

    P.S. “The Big Read”–if you want to dive in for even a few chapters–is a series of podcasts that sport a different reader for each chapter of Moby Dick. All over the place in every way possible, and a great way to read the book. I didn’t really know what the fuss was about and now I have a glimpse, even though I do miss a LOT by listening and not being able to pause over just a crazy detail. http://www.mobydickbigread.com/

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