I warned my daughter Katie, the other day, that I would be blogging about my “bucket list” for the next month. “I’m not dying,” I assured her. “It’s just…well, I’m doing this A to Z blogging thing, and I wanted a theme that was flexible.” Remember me saying that if I were given only six months to live, I probably wouldn’t actually do any of the million things I want to do before I kick the bucket, because I’d be standing there like a deer caught in the headlights, trying to figure out which to do first?

Apparently, that works even if I’m just imagining what I want to do before I die. I start judging and prioritizing and thinking, “Well, fine, no one has time to do everything in the world, so pick the top ten!” And nothing, absolutely nothing, comes into my head.

This afternoon, I was stuck on B. That doesn’t bode well for the rest of the month, but the truth is, after looking over my initial list, it read sort of like a fantasy vacation, not a “bucket list.”

“Any ideas for B?” I asked Katie. And clearly, the leaf didn’t fall far from the tree.

“Bali?” she ventured.

I think she could hear me sigh right through Facebook. Sure, Bali sounds like a cool place. But it’s probably not really on my top ten, or even my semi-immediate twenty-six, truth be told. It’s too much like Maldives, where there’s this really cool undersea restaurant that may or may not make it onto my…

“BASE jumping,” she suggested. Did I mention the child’s got a sense of humor? I’m suddenly hearing this as the soundtrack to my demise:

Katie knows that skydiving and base jumping aren’t even on my list and probably never will be, though the parasailing is a blast and a ride on the Vomit Comet is a distinct possibility along those lines. Between the two…

“Bali’s a possibility…” I say. “But I have a lot of travel on there already. I feel very boring.” I expect her to remind me that it’s my list, and I can be boring if I want to be. But we both know I’m not really dying, here, and the list should be at least a little more entertaining for the rest of you.

“Burning man,” she types. “Bee keeping.” Maybe not that entertaining.

I contemplate my choices. It’s then that my priorities start to come (weirdly) into focus. “Bee keeping… Is it bad, much as I hate bees, I’d rather try base jumping or keeping bees than do Burning–”


“–ooh!!! YES! Learn to play the bagpipes!”


“I actually took lessons once! Sucked at it, but yes. Thank you!!”

“No problem. I’m good at the alphabet.”

I seem to recall teaching you some of it… “Those damned grace notes in Amazing Grace about defeated me,” I confess to my daughter, the music grad. “I never even got to the bag part, just the chanter.” In truth, I missed a great opportunity; my teacher was an amazing piper:

It’s not my failures my daughter latches onto. “You mean after one lesson? Man, you’re every music teachers dream student…”

“ONE? More like 5.”

“Oh. Pardon me. 5.”

And they say you can’t hear sarcasm in text messages. “How long was it supposed to take?”

I never got to the bagpipes – just managed the melody on the chanter. It was a beautiful instrument, though, an ebony chanter that Iain MacPherson loaned to me while I figured out if I really wanted to study the pipes long enough to invest in the parts on my own. It’s not an easy instrument, and you have to master the chanter before you add in the added complication of bellows, a small sheep, drones… I let myself be defeated by a few grace notes. Clearly I wasn’t cut out for it, and nothing’s changed since then. But I wouldn’t mind giving it a go – just for the experience – with a full set of bagpipes. Preferably while standing on the grounds of a small castle in the Scottish highlands. Afterwards, I’ll shop for a wool tartan skirt and sash. And try haggis. A properly made haggis. I learned an offally important lesson about things like that, with my adventures in tripe.

Next up: Learn to play the Balalaika. I actually do have one of those.


Holly Jahangiri is the author of Trockle; A Puppy, Not a Guppy; Innocents & Demons; and A New Leaf for Lyle. You can find her books on Amazon at For more information on her children's books, please visit
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20 thoughts on “Bagpipes”

    1. Really? Now that’s an interesting image! I tend to conjure up visions of misty green mountains and a lone piper in full regalia… I’d actually like a bagpiper to play at my funeral (although that’s kind of silly, since I won’t be there to enjoy it when the time comes – so better to have it on my bucket list, eh?)

  1. I had to chuckle at several of the “B” suggestions, but when you hit that darned “All About the Bass” reference I choked. I just finally got that earworm eradicated a couple of weeks ago, and now it’s back. Guess I’ll be doing a bit of singing today…or maybe just listening to the new Garth Brooks CD will help.

    I never had the desire to play the bagpipes, but did take guitar lessons for a while. I’d like to try that again, and maybe learn some drum cadences like they play in marching bands. I like that.
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    1. I wanted to learn to play guitar, but by the time I signed up for lessons, holding and playing it was painful due to compressed discs in my neck. It was just an awkward position, and I never really got it. I’m pretty sure the balalaika would be the same way. I’m content to just enjoy listening to my daughter play violin or piano.

  2. Great topic and love the conversation with your daughter. I haven’t had the desire to learn the bagpipes. Maybe another musical instrument…Good luck on your challenge!

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