September 19, 2008
I've been reading Patti Digh's work forever.
Well, that's what it feels like. The deep and immediate sense of recognition I felt when I first stumbled across her online essays made it easy to forget that they hadn't always been there. Turns out it's only since sometime in 2005. And I didn't leave a comment until 2006, can you imagine? I was just checking in every Monday and feeling grateful.
I can't remember now who first recommended 37days to me, but Patti had me hooked from the get-go. I was moved by the story behind her blog's title. I was enchanted and inspired by her stories, and in awe of her ability to find the perfect photographic illustrations. I was humbled by her powerful writing. And grateful, so grateful, for her ability to listen and learn and tell us the stories, for her willingness to share parts of her life's journey, stumbles and all, with not just her beloved daughters, but with we total strangers.
Except that as time went on, we felt less and less like strangers. The tribe of folks who found in Patti Digh a storyteller whose stories we needed to hear started to feel a sense of community and connection. At one point Donna Miller, another reader of 37days, sent Patti a piece of art she'd been inspired to create. Inspired in turn, Patti decided to encourage us all to go for it, and a literary barn-raising was born.
Anyone who wanted to try to create art was assigned an essay. I'm not a visual artist, but I so wanted to be a part of the fun that I pushed through my fear and asked for an assignment. The essay I got, "Signal Your Turns," uses Patti's aging car as a teaching tool. As the granddaughter of a chauffeur and an old car essayist myself, I desperately wanted to live up to challenge. But I was scared. (Did I mention I'm not a visual artist? Or at least that I don't usually think of myself that way?) My friends helpfully told me to quit fussing and make something, already. Finally I decided on submitting a modified photograph, using our son as a model. I used graphics programs I'd never used before and was quite tickled to be able to use my favorite shade of yellow for the lettering of my image. Which you can see on page 194 of the book. (Go buy it. Buy several, actually, because as soon as you read Patti's essays and the 100+ amazing pieces of art that accompany them, you're going to think of several friends who need to have this book in their hands before the week is out.)
Patti's book is a record of the transformative power of love; as she wrote her way to the advice she would want to leave for her daughters if she weren't there to give it, she began to see the ways in which the advice could be applied to her here-and-now life. Say yes. Be generous. Speak up. Love more. Trust yourself. Slow down.
Please tune in Sunday when Patti arrives here at But Wait, There's More! for a stop on her fabulous Life Is A Verb Blog Tour!