Thursday, July 31, 2008

What if I Had Just 37 Days?

(Please visit Patti Digh at 37 Days to read what others have written in answer to this question, and to learn of its origins, and of course to read Patti's own wonderful work.)

Here is what I think: that I would have to wade in the ocean one more time. Here is what I cannot know: that I won’t be stung by a jellyfish or step on something sharp. Or eat a bad bit of fish and spend Days 6 through 9 in serious gastric distress.

I would call my favorite people in from near and far, to gather them around me one more time. Here is what I cannot know: that they may all be away for the summer, or not answering email, or on sabbatical, or enjoying radio silence.

Or they may be too broke to travel. I can’t know.

And more:

I can’t know that the basement won’t flood on Day 22, or the dying elm in the back yard won’t pick Day 9 to collapse across the garage.

I can’t know that Mom may die on Day 14, her own 37 days begun two weeks before mine.

The best poem I will ever write may emerge on Day 4. Or it might have been written last year, and sits now in a notebook, awaiting rediscovery. It may wait forever.

I can’t know.

On Day 31 I may drive to the store for cat litter, and wait through two traffic light cycles in order to make my left turn. I may try to not be annoyed at the delay, the ever-so-slight delay that results in my crossing paths with an old friend – someone I had forgotten about, someone I had not called to gather around me. She is coming out of the store as I am going in, and she is delighted to see me, and we stop to talk.

Thirty minutes later, we are still talking.

The encounter fills my heart with great joy. Had I not sat so long at the traffic light, I might have missed her. Had I sent someone else for cat litter – how mundane a chore, with only one week to live! – I would have missed her for sure.

I can’t know.

The ants may ruin my picnic. A hummingbird may grace it. Day 26. The car may get a flat. The car may get me to a Patti Griffin concert. Day 13.

There is a fat check in the mail for me. It will arrive on Day 38.

There is a shape in the clouds: it looks like a bunny. Do you see it? Look now, before it’s gone.


  1. I landed here and have really been enjoying reading through your archives. Wonderful thoughts here. Yes, we have to just live and remember to enjoy things as they turn out. So much to see and do and appreciate, right in front of us in the everyday. Take care!

  2. i'm visiting from 37days and i love this post. i am a fellow ohioan as well, and i can relate to being blue in a red state! i've been working on my own essay and i really enjoy reading all the others being written. you shine a light of reality on the subject that i had not considered before. we can plan to use the time we have left in whatever fun and beautiful way we desire, but we never know what is coming next that will change the plan. no different from our ordinary everyday existence. thank you for your insight.

  3. Thank you both for visiting, and for leaving your kind comments. And Jylene, while we don't actually share a state (I'm next door to you, in Indiana) we do share a river, and ain't that a metaphor for life?

  4. I bounced over here from 37days so I could let you know how much I enjoy your writing style -thoughtful, creative, true. You truly paint a picture with your words - which is a gift. I'll be back to read more of your thoughts and reflections on life. Take care.

  5. Dear PS--
    Really loved this post. I loved how you honor the unexpected and wove it into the cloth. My experience tells me that we can't pace and space our dying days any better than we can do so on days when we don't know we're dying.

    So the message must be that all the unexpected encounters (with people, animals, plants, etc) can keep us awake and alive and without expectation if we let them.

    Thanks for your consistent reminder that that is exactly what our work really is!

    You're a gem--

  6. I came here after you wrote a comment on the Imagination Tribe ning site about my green book.

    I am enjoying your writing so much - and this piece is exquisite both in the thoughts expressed, and in the actual expression. Amazing. Thank you.

  7. Debbie, thanks so much for stopping by.

    Beth, you are always very kind and encouraging, thank you!

    Cally, I'm glad you popped over from IT.



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