A Path Towards Joy
In February of 2020, just before the world had an inkling of what COVID 19 might be, my eldest sister, Patsy, sent an email to all her siblings to tell us she had ALS (or Lou Gerhig's disease as it is sometimes referred to here in the U.S.).
This disease is 100% fatal, with no known cause nor cure. In her email my sister explained that she might have years or merely months.
As someone who had practiced Buddhism for decades, Patsy informed us she was prepared for her last journey.
<----- Patsy in her garden
Patsy ended her email with this request:
And really, there’s nothing like a time limit to wake you up to an appreciation of all that is wonderful in this world. I’d love to hear from you, but please, let’s not spend a lot of time talking about my health. Send me a poem that moves you, or a link to some music you love, or a snapshot of something that brings you joy — whatever makes life worth living. Keep looking for joy wherever you find it, and share it with me when you can.
So, that is what we did. We took our broken hearts and went on with our daily lives with a mission to catalogue our joys and send them to her. This is a sampling of what I sent to her:
- A series of photographs from a walk in the woods
- Poems I came across
- A video of my cat wrestling with a small handbag
- A few of my favorite music selections
In August of 2020 I visited Patsy one last time, on Gabriola Island on the Western coast of Canada, at the house she built with help from friends.
<------ Patsy's home
In May of 2021 Patsy died peacefully in her home.
You can read Patsy's obituary HERE
For the next two months I didn't know what to do with the joys I found in life.
In June I emailed two dancers asking whether they might want be part of a residency I was applying for.
My application summary was this:
The project is an exploration of joy as described in Buddhist texts as “the pillars of joy”. Each artist will begin a journey towards defining the difference between happiness and joy with the definition of happiness as an emotion we experience, while joy is an attitude we can develop. The artistic journey is not for the artists to become Buddhists but for each artist to be the best version of themselves and to share this in the studio and ultimately, onstage.The response from the dancers was a resounding YES! We want to do this project.
We spent a few weeks in the studio just getting used to dancing in the air again.
In August we received funds from a New York City Artists Corps grant. We spent 8 weeks finding ways to translate our joys into movement and shared them in an informal studio showing.
Then we received a CUNY Dance Intitiative grant and ...
Now we have created an entire evening from this work that will premiere on Friday, April 1st.