Monday, January 21, 2008


Rev Martin Luther King Jr, originally uploaded by Buddy Stone.

I've never really had the urge to write a special post commemorating a federal holiday, but today (which by some mysterious process turned into yesterday about forty-five minutes ago) I did.

It's probably because recently I've been thinking a lot about Martin Luther King. In fact, I've thought about him so much I couldn't fit all the things I wanted to say about him into one post. I've thought about him in a personal way; and I've thought about him for the work that consumed his life. His life long war against invisibility--not for himself, because he was likely to be seen no matter what--but for others.

But as I just proved, a day can turn into a yesterday so quickly that you never get a chance to write the things you want to write, or say the things you intend to say--or damn, even do the laundry.

It was a good day though--so good that when I went to the pharmacy to pick up my prescriptions, I decided to saunter around the mall a little. I was just going to go to one store, but before I knew it, I had walked through the entire marketplace.

I bought myself some new underwear in rainbow colors, and a pair of fake Uggs for twenty-five dollars. I ran into some people I knew and stopped to talk.

They seemed surprised to see me out walking around, but they were too polite to say so, and I was too polite to tell them to stop looking at me like a ghost. After a while, we all forgot how wondrous it was to be alive and walking around the mall shopping for underwear on a federal holiday, and just talked.

Then, as I used to do when going to the mall was not a noteworthy accomplishment, I stopped at B & N for a mocha latte. I got tired before I finished it, but it still tasted good.

At the front of the store was a whole table of books about longevity. Foods to eat. Exercises to do. Thoughts to think. I used to love books like that, and I don't doubt they're full of marvelous advice. But today I walked past them, feeling kind of wistful for my old self. The self that believed those books could somehow save me.

The trouble is I ate the secret foods, did the work-outs, thought the thoughts, took the cleansing breaths, and I still got sick.

Maybe I put too much faith in those things before. Maybe I saw those books as talismans. Maybe I believed that if I just found the right one, I could live forever--or for a hundred years, which felt like forever when I first started reading about eating seeds and breathing deeply and living with gratitude.

Don't get me wrong; I'm still for healthy living and yoga and running for miles along the beach, and saying thank you whenever you get the chance. I just don't think of longevity as something I can buy at B & N anymore. Nor is it quite such a preoccupation.

Even though I have every longing--and these days, every hope--of writing more books and celebrating more anniversaries and seeing my grandchildren grow to be sturdy adults, I see things differently now.

Now, like MLK, I just want to do the work I have in me to do, and give whatever I have in me to give, however small and humble it might be.

More tomorrow...or is it today?


floots said...

couldn't agree more
my agenda for today - learn a reggae number and write a poem
when today turns into tomorrow - get better at both
thank you for you and all of us :)

Lynne Griffin and Amy MacKinnon said...

Patry, death has always lived around the corner from me. Once, we even brushed against one another on what I expected to be a perfectly predictable day.

It does make for a certain urgency to live better. By better, I don't mean eating the right foods or finding religion. Instead it's a desire to leave this world the best part of myself. I try every day and every day I fail, but some days I succeed, too.

I think you know that you've succeeded as well. Your family, your friends, and your writing are you gifts to us. Thank you.

Amy MacKinnon

Crockhead said...

Thanks for reminding us again of the joys of everyday life.

Marilyn said...

Beautiful, Patry. How quickly these days fly by for all of us...what a beautiful reminder to grab hold of them when we have the chance. Much love.

Anonymous said...

Nice, Patry. Really, really excellent.

Anonymous said...

beautiful. i want the same, "to do the work I have in me to do"


i beati said...

Did you see the show on Tv last night called Colorblind I'm sure you can look it up Splendid - an entire class in Detroit taught by a black man who made them think. "If I knew the world would go to pieces tomorrow, I'd still plant my apple tree today"-- sandy kessler lymphoma

i beati said...

Dr Martin Luther King said the apple tree quote not I...

Ric said...

Beautiful, Patry, simply beautiful.

Johnny Carson had a comment about all the studies showing what is good for you and what is bad for you - "When they're all done, they'll discover the best thing for breakfast is a beer and a cigarette."

Just because you get dealt a bad hand, doesn't mean you still can't play.

Chris Eldin said...

I hope it's okay to post a message. I saw your link on John Elder Robison's blog.
Your postings are beautiful. I now have a new word to think about 'non-compliant.'

I will be sending positive vibes your way...


Lisa said...

This reminds me of when my father was sick. There were people who were getting upset about things said, not said, what was appropriate, what was not and somehow the mantra "we're all doing the best we can" came into my head. It's never left me. I was delighted to have the image of you sauntering :)

Fred Garber said... just keep cranking out these great posts! There is one good book on immortality that I would say that you might like. It is Fup by Jim Dodge. I bought it because on the back cover Gary Snyder said that it was a good book. I read it and it was . Very short book. A novella. It is about a young guy living with with his moonshining grandfather. There are ducks and a wild boar in the book. I read the book around twenty years ago and and it cured me of something....I don't remember what but it has not come back yet. But I still have a problem with gas.

Patry Francis said...

floots: A reggae number and a poem, and that gorgeous landscape around you. Sounds like a perfect day.

Amy: I don't know the details of your experience, but somehow it comes through in your writing--and perhaps even more in your generosity to friends.

Amishlaw: Who would have thought I'd find a trip to the mall to buy underwear so enjoyable

Marilyn: Grabbing hold here...Good to think of you doing the same in CA.

Susan: I always love it when you leave a comment.

kyra: I have every faith in you!

sandy: Thanks for sharing that marvelous quote! I hadn't heard it before.

Ric: I don't know about the beer and cigarettes, but these days, I frequently have caffeine and chocolate for breakfast. Studies say it's health

Chursch lady: I always love to meet new friends--especially from John Elder Robison's blog! And especially people who are intrigued by the word

lisa: It's a good mantra--the kind of wisdom that comes up in hard times, don't you think?

Fred: If Gary Snyder recommended it, and it cured you of something you can no longer remember, I think I better check this book out!

Larramie said...

Patry, the women stunned to see you in the mall yesterday were given the gifts of your strength and bliss. You're seizing the day with "No Kick"...a great reminder to us all.

Maryanne Stahl said...


I'd love to run into you at the mall! Well, not run into, come across, meet, hug, talk.

btw, I too recommend ANY book with ducks in it.


Judy Merrill Larsen said...

Patry, what a beautiful message. Your words "I just want to do the work I have in me to do, and give whatever I have in me to give" are so wise and so true--and much too easily forgotten.

Thanks for the timely reminder.

Stay warm.

robin andrea said...

Patry, despite the shelves of self-help books, secret diets and life-affirming mantras, I think there's really only this, our desire to be good whole people on a whirling planet in space. Facing what is inevitable, relishing what is not, and loving every minute of it all. You are a role model of what it means to be eloquently human.

rdl said...

i think i read/have some of those books. :D
can' wait for your next work to come out!

liz elayne lamoreux said...

i haven't visited this corner of blog world for far too long...and i come here tonight and read your last few posts. and i take a deep breath and remember to live, to live, to live and take another breath and live some more.

sending you much peace and light...

Sky said...

such an important post for us all. so much in life i have taken for granted, patry. so much i see now with different eyes. unlike you i did not do the right things to take care of me. aside from worrying about the repercussions which i now face, i feel so guilty that i have let myself down in many ways. i have to let that go and focus now on healing myself in spirit and body, move forward, and live.

Therese Fowler said...

It's just so, Patry.

And so nicely put.


The Curmudgeon said...

Just catching up -- hadn't visited in awhile -- read several posts down but let me just comment here:

You remember the cliche, that which doesn't kill us only makes us stronger?

(*conspiratorial tone here*)

It's true, isn't it?

Leah said...

(((sending hugs and love your way, patry))) your writing is beautiful and touching, as always.

Patry Francis said...

Larramie: My grandfather would be so pleased to hear how far the term "no kick" has spread! Thanks for remembering.

maryanne: Someday we will run into each other! I have faith. (Hopefully, it's NOT at the mall, but if it is, that's okay, too!)

Judy: You are an example of doing exactly that. Your work has so much heart.

Robin: Speaking of eloquence, you say this more beautifully than I could.

r: We probably passed a few of them back and forth!

Liz: SO good to see you again. Yes, LIVE, LIVE, LIVE--you and me both.

Sky: I was good at some things, but one thing I didn't do was go to the doctor until I'd been living with pain for four months. Afterwards, I, too, felt guilty for my negligence. I'll always feel grateful that my doctor told me to totally forget that and move forward positively. That's what you're doing now. Keep on going! Guilt helps no one...

more later...

Patry Francis said...

Therese: Thank you!

Curmudgeon: I can hear that conspiratorial tone all the way from Chicago. Why are those cliches always so damn true?

Anonymous said...

What a joy it would be to meet you unexpectdly whilst wandering in a mall. I like to think we would sit in some little coffee shop and sip latte together and talk of living and writing, family and friends.

I'm sending you a million tomorrows wrapped in pure light.

paris parfait said...

That's one thing about writing - everything else can disappear while one is in the middle of it - and before you know it, the day has flown and you didn't accomplish half of what you'd planned. But never mind, you've done the important thing, which is to write. And your writing is a gift with which your readers are blessed! Thank you, Patry. And thanks for the nod to MLK, who worked hard all his life so that others would benefit. xo

Anonymous said...

Oh, Patry. You really know how to make a person feel welcome. This is one of your great gifts.

Mary Sheehan Winn said...

Wonderfully said. I was just thinking the same thing reading the I Ching book in the library. I feel differently now about the magic bullet because I know there isn't one. I'd rather call it maturity than age but either way, I suddenly realized I'm not bulletproof.
Sorry for being absentee on the blog but my thoughts have been with you.
Live, Laugh Love. That's all there is.

Sustenance Scout said...

Patry, I failed to check earlier this week to see what indeed you did write about MLK. Should've known.... :) And I read this after an amazing post about hope on Carleen's Pajama Gardener blog. What a way to put things into perspective toward the end of a zany week. Hugs from Denver, K.

Kim Smith said...

Hey Patry, (did you know if you move the letters in your name around you get Party? :) -- You do not know me from Adam, but I am just another writer person slogging through the day, doing what I love to do(write) and feeling the emotions you are putting out here. It has got to be really something to examine every facet of life down to the trip to the mall. I hear ya, friend. I do.

Yanno, there was an old song that had a line to the effect of, "what if God were one of us? Just a slob like one of us?" and I think you sort of answered this, because you have to live life one moment at a time. Everyone does. We can't not live, regardless of what we face. It goes on.

So from one writer to another, I send you love, best well-wishes there ever was, and thanks for being so honest, so open in your travels.

Oh yeah, and that's part of the journey too, right? Sharing !
hugs, Kim

Carleen Brice said...

My husband and I were just talking about America's obsession with the illusion that there's some way to stave off death forever.

We can't, of course, but rainbow colored underpants and a mocha latte is sure a great way to spend one of the precious days we get! I'm so happy for you that you got that day!!

Anonymous said...

I've been reading your blog for over a year and never posted. Perhaps I foolishly felt weird as a writer wannabe leaving a comment on a real writer's blog. I don't know. But I suppose I should get over it.

Your blog (and my friend Kathryn at Mindful Life) helped inspire me on blogging and I thank you. You're in my thoughts and I'm glad you're still blogging. Keep writing.

Anonymous said...

Ah, your last two sentences really got me. So full of truth.

Continued good vibes to you, Patry.

Patry Francis said...

easy: I hope we DO get to meet in that coffee shop, but even if we don't, I'm so happy we've shared so many virtual cups of caffeine here on line.

tara: I started off writing that I didn't have time to write--and see where it led? I guess it proves that it's always worthwhile to BEGIN.

susan: Now if I could only learn to make brownies as good as yours, I might make my guests at home feel equally warm and happy...

Mary: Hope to see you in person soon for a little bit of that living, loving and laughing you're so good at.

k: Thanks for the reminder to check out Carleen's blog. I got bogged down with medical appointments this week, but will make it a point to get there today.

kim smith: I always loved that song about God and the bus...So happy to meet you!

Carleen: Focusing on how we "spend the days we do get" as you eloquently put it is what it's all about, isn't it?

marta: I'm so happy to hear your voice. After having spent most of my life thinking of myself as a writer wannabe, I now realize there was no such thing. If you're committed to writing, you're as real as they get!

kg: From your blog and e-mails, I can feel you living out those two sentences.

Amber said...



Edie Ramer said...

Patry, I was the same way. I exercised, walked, meditated, ate right, took vitamins ... and I got breast cancer. I've been cancer free for 7 1/2 years, but I don't believe in blaming the victim. I still believe in eating healthy and all that other stuff, but illness can happen to anyone.

I'm sending you healing thoughts and prayers, and hope you have a great launch day for your books.

Patry Francis said...

Amber: Thank you!

Edie: I LOVE to hear stories like yours--and lately, I"ve been hearing a lot of them. In a lot of ways, I understand where "blaming the victim" comes from; it gives people a sense of control, a sense that it can't happen to them. But in the end, it's a complex disease with complex causes, including genetics, the environment, and factors we don't understand yet.

Anonymous said...

Oh YUM Patry. Yum, yum, yum. And thank you.

w/love, Deb