As further proof that the most inspiring and joyous of art is often born of the most dire and dour of experiences, I give you Patti Digh and the magnificent, powerful, astonishing collection of stories she has written on her blog, 37 Days, and compiled as a book, Life Is a Verb: 37 Days to Wake Up, Be Mindful and Live Intentionally.
The project began when Digh's beloved stepfather was diagnosed with lung cancer, and died a mere 37 days from diagnosis. She devoted herself to him in that slim slice of time, then devoted her time from that moment on to answering, both in words and actions, what she would do were she herself given a mere 37 days to live. The mother of two young daughters, her own answer was both simple and profound: share what she would want her daughters to know, about herself and about what she'd learned it took to lead a happy and loving life.
The result is sublime. No, "sublime" is overused and inadequate: the result is an astonishing, rich, gorgeous collection of beautifully written essays that simultaneously make me want to keep reading (faster! faster!) and throw down the book and have at it myself. They're livable lessons that don't feel preachy, complex ideas rendered wondrously clear.
And delight. This is a book chock-full of delight, serendipity and joy. It is a book you want to eat, almost, and a movement you want to be a part of. Passionate readers from all over started sending Digh artwork and stories of their own, and much of the art contained in the book was created by fans and friends of the 37 Days blog. (You can check out the Flickr pool to see samples.)
For those of you who like this sort of thing, there are also exercises to help you dive in yourself, both immediate, actionable stuff and longer-term project-type exercises. For me, the stories, wonderful, wonderful stories, are more than enough, all by themselves.
- Buy Patti Digh's Life Is a Verb on Amazon
- Read Patti Digh's blog, 37 Days
- Watch the illustrated video: "Why 37 Days?"
- View the 37 Days Challenge image pool on Flickr