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03 January 2006

Clear your own ground

If the desire to write is not accompanied by actual writing, then the desire must be not to write.” – Hugh Prather

Cake_with_candles_1I hope you won't mind this wee note to celebrate.

37days started a year ago today. It is the best job I never had.

It began as a simple promise to myself.

For years I made the usual New Year’s resolutions, including the one about writing every day, and yet for years I had to face the emptiness of those resolutions gone to envy, sometimes just a few weeks into a new year—all those journals stepped into and impossible to continue with so many days missing, the regret at the gaps too large to overcome, the "I'll try," not "I will."

Evidently those promises to myself were not enough to keep the pen moving or maybe the desire wasn't really to write, but to complain about not having the time or space or perfect conditions for writing. Or perhaps I hadn’t yet found the voice, the impetus for voice, or the place to stand while telling the story.

Serendipitously (as most things are), at a recent writers’ conference I took a most meaningful class taught by Sebastian Matthews, a poet and memoirist with a story to tell, a song for his father. Sometimes what we need to hear is right in front of us, I believe. Scheduled to take a different course during that hour, instead I found myself sitting in a circle of writers in his workshop, hearing what I needed to hear: his clarifying and compelling voice expressing the framing for these words, this writing, the work I had already begun unknowingly.

In fact, his voice and way of being in the world mirrored exquisitely the force behind these words this year—a meeting of pen and paper that could not have happened before, so perhaps I shouldn't rue its delay. “What is your occasion for speech?” he quietly asked the circle of bodies around him, the first in a series of provocative questions he asked us to consider:

“Who am I to tell this story?

What is my occasion for speech?

Where do I stand telling this story?

What ground do I need to clear?"

"Walk into the threshold of the story you’re already telling. Write about what you see. The reason for the telling is the story," he said. "We talk about needing to find our voice, but it’s not missing--it's just sometimes inaccessible.”

Writing_desk_and_chair_david_finck_1One year ago today--January 3, 2005--I woke up early and wrote a short essay, sending the first 37days by email to 20 friends. It wasn't planned; it just happened.

It now goes out every Monday by email to over 2,200 people in 28 countries (in addition to being posted on this blog site)—I’m unsure how many people read it online or where they live. (Where in the universe are you reading it from?)

Do numbers matter? Only if they tell you something.

What really matters is that at least for myself, I’m fulfilling the original purpose of these small wonderings:

“Write like hell, leave as much of myself behind for my two daughters as I could, let them know me and see me as a real person, not just a mother, leave with them for safe-keeping my thoughts and memories, fears and dreams, the histories of what I am and who my people are. Leave behind my thoughts about living the life, that 'one wild and precious life' that poet Mary Oliver speaks of. That's what I'd do with my 37 days. So, I'm beginning here.”

I hope it has fulfilled some purpose for you, too. Has it?

Please accept my thanks to you, dear reader, for your comments, encouragement, questions, insights, and for your very presence--which I both very much appreciate and also try to ignore so that the story I tell is the story I need to tell, not the one I think you want to hear.

I hope you'll help me celebrate my year of writing in some way that is meaningful to you. And I hope you'll continue to join me on the journey.

~*~ 37days: Do it Now Challenge ~*~

Clearing_1Examine your occasion for speech. Situate yourself in time and place. Clear your own ground.



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Congratultions on this anniversary. How lucky for us that you decided to start this blog. You know, if you'd really like to know who's visiting here, you could add a Frappr map. :) Here's to a stupendous second year.

I will celebrate by re-reading. Thanks for a marvelous year.


Both your writing and what you are writing about have been a big inspiration to me. Thank you!

Congratulations... a year already! Amazing!

Keep on keeping on!

You've made it a year now...Congratulations on a major milestone. I look forward to reading 37 days for years to come, as I find this a wonderful source of inspiration and renewal. Here's to your continued success, as we journey together, 37 days at a time!

I have found your blog just recently but already you have inspired me on such a deep level as to have altered my course in life. Thank you for your words!

Congratulations Patti. Thank you for sharing yourself and thoughts and experiences this way. I benefit tremendously with every reading (and re-reading). You continue to confirm and expand my life with 37days.

Patti: we have a mutual friend in one of the Marshall Sisters; I have heard stories of you and your escapades for years. Indeed, I received the 37days blog address as a gift from the Lovely Lady R. this summer, and I now devour it regularly and somewhat addictively.

In my own blithering and overly wordy online diary, I often refer others to yours; you have a disturbingly keen and nearly simultaneous sense of what I am thinking, and nearly always articulate it sooner - and better - than I ever could. To answer your question: one year later, I am reading you from Italy; you ARE indeed touching lives around the world. Thank you. I look forward to our paths crossing sometime in person - Waterford, Tuscany, or ... ???

Buon Anniversario!

Powerful words and conviction! I am inspired by what you had to say. I write letters for the same reason. My hope is that at my funeral the guests will arrive with a letter or two from me in their pockets sharing something I said that touched their lives in some way.

You've touched me as well. I feel that I have known your for at least twenty two years.
nobody, not even the rain, has such small hands

I resonate with all you have said here and blog for the same reason.

I'd come back just for the quotes alone.

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