The sight of snowy owls brings bucket list into focus

  • By Sarri Gilman
  • Monday, February 27, 2012 4:21pm
  • Life

Living life each day, I find it easy to appreciate “the ordinary.” I see beauty in very small things. I don’t really dwell on things I don’t have or places I haven’t seen.

However, I do have a few closely held dreams to one day fulfill on this planet. The whole idea of a bucket list is about knowing what is just out of your view that you want to see, if at all possible, without going into debt.

I have to add that last part because I’m not willing to “pay anything” for my bucket list. Consider me a bargain bucket-lister. But whether or not you would be willing to sign a blank check for your bucket list, it is most important to really know what is on your list.

I had the extraordinary joy of actually seeing the No. 1 thing on my bucket list just a few days ago.

What shocked me was that my husband of 14 years did not know that snowy owls were at the very top of the list of things I want to see on this planet.

How is it possible?

I realized I never said my crazy bucket list aloud to him. I didn’t make a vision board and hang it on our fridge; I didn’t collect snowy owl trinkets and decorate the house in homage to snowy owls.

I kept my No. 1 desire deep inside, thinking one day I’m going to look for the snowy owl.

This is how one day never comes: No one knows it matters. I wasn’t able to claim that it mattered. Our world is filled with so much going on, it is hard to know, to truly know, our own thoughts with so much claiming our attention.

The most touching moments in my practice as a therapist is when a client says, “I always wanted to …” I can hear their heart speaking. It is like listening to someone unbury themselves.

It takes a great effort to find our inner bucket lists. It is so sad when someone postpones this because … (fill in the blank), not enough time, waiting until they retire. Sometimes that plan works, but some people run out of time earlier than they anticipated.

A series of happy coincidences led me to the snowy owls. I wasn’t suddenly determined to find them. I read the story in The Herald saying this was a big year for snowy owls and that they could be found at Boundary Bay, 30 minutes from the Canadian border.

My snowy owls practically came to me.

My husband and I followed the directions to Boundary Bay and we saw 25 snowy owls. I expected to have a hard time finding them. Sometimes we make things harder in our imagination than they actually are.

The owls were sitting on logs on the beach, just a few feet from the trail. It was shocking. I stood staring at their white-feathered, moon-shaped bodies and cried.

When we see something on our bucket list, it’s like finding a piece of our inner puzzle, I somehow just felt more complete, a puzzle piece found, because I had seen them. Now I understand the power of the bucket list.

Sarri Gilman is a freelance writer living on Whidbey Island and director of Leadership Snohomish County. Her column on living with meaning and purpose runs every other Tuesday in The Herald. You can email her at

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