My splendid friend Anna Pickard (and her dashing beloved, Bobbie) set off on a train journey around these United States a few weeks ago, and not content to just do something that’s on all of our life lists, she also turned it into a delightful Web 2.0 + epistolary adventure of Olde mashup with her Snailr Project. I love it when my friends do amazing things that I can brag about, don’t you? So of course I signed up to get own little mail-tweet goodness.


(Click over to Flickr to see the text transcribed)

What’s amazing to me about this postcard is how it stretches across a particular narrative divide in Anna and Bobbie’s trip, that is, the Train Crash. They were rumbling along through Louisiana when their Amtrak train struck a passing eighteen-wheeler, shearing it right in half. They were fine, most of the passengers were mostly fine, the driver of the truck was miraculously fine. But the character, A, that Anna so good-naturedly lacerates about his vegetable consumption, was taking photos and uploading them to twitter, and both Anna and Bobbie linked him and his accounts of the crash through their Twitter feeds. By the time I received the postcard, I was able to immediately identify who she was talking about because of this web/text mashup world.

I’m not sure Anna had any intention that A would be so included in her narrative after this card, but there you have it – narratives have a way of bringing back characters all on their own. And although the tweets about the crash reached me first, the card is on my fridge and is an altogether more interesting piece of ephemera. Two sides of a story.

I was thinking about Anna’s project as I watched all the photos trickle through from the Mighty Summit held last weekend in California. I won’t go into a whole long diplomatic summary of what Mighty Summit means or represents or who it affects, because you probably know and if you don’t, well, a tempest viewed from far enough away from the teacup just looks like a mirage.  I personally thought Broad Summit was fascinating, and I think Mighty Summit is, too.

But I was thinking about inspiration, and how the worst fallout I’ve noticed from Mighty Summit means we can easily miss the best possible takeaway from its existence. I get it. It was a public-facing event that not everyone was invited to attend, and it’s hard to see the spirit of something you’re feeling left out of. No, I don’t get free massages for sitting around with my friends and inspiring each other. That’s okay, though, because the muscles can get tense again but the ideas don’t fade from my grey matter. I’m inspired by Anna’s project and I’m inspired by the can-do, roll-up-your-sleeve Rosie Riveter attitudes I saw as the best cream skimmed off the top of Mighty Summit, across the blogs of the women who attended. And isn’t that a pretty good takeaway from something (two things really) that I didn’t even do myself?

I think there’s the risk that if we focus too much on what we, as a community of bloggers, didn’t get from not attending an exclusive event like Mighty Summit, we miss the chance to notice what we could get even without attending, which is the trickle-down puffs of inspiration and positive energy. Anna inspired me to think more about letter-writing, about the value we ascribe now to our written words because of scarcity. Mighty Summit made me look harder at my list, and think, what’s the purpose of this collection of ideas if I don’t approach each day (or, realistically, each year) as a chance to scratch a satisfying line through it?

So this year, the year that I am thirty, I am going to commit to five items on the list. One is a cheat, since I’m doing this anyway:

6. Spend New Year’s Eve on a beach.

(This year, my mother and brothers and our various partners are going to spend Christmas and New Year’s in Aruba. Before you get too jealous please realize that Christmas is going to be sort of sad this year and we made the collective decision that it’s better to be sad on a beach than anywhere else.)

Here are some other life list items I’m pretty sure I can reach August 31st, 2011, with some satisfying strikethroughs:

18. Ride a tandem bike.
41. Learn how to make perfect marinara sauce from scratch.
74. Help a friend with a project or ambition of theirs’.
98. Read Henry James and William Faulkner already, sheesh.

And I’m going to add one more, since #6 was such a gimme. This goes hand-in-hand with it, anyway:

87. Make gifts from scratch one Christmas.

And there’s another takeaway from Mighty Summit – we are not in anything alone. That’s why I put #74 on there this year. It’s not something I plan to only do once, and it’s maybe the most important (and self-referential) item on the list. But I know it’s something I can do this year.

If you can think of some way to help my list along (are you a chef that can teach me knife skills? a pianist that can show me how to play a jazz standard on the piano? want to help me throw a benefit party? most importantly for # 87, do you know how to craft?) then in the spirit of Mighty Summit, I’d love your help. Until then, I’ll be here, plucking away at my little pile of awesome to-dos, and being inspired by the people around me. So the question is, what awesome thing are you going to do this year?