Cowboy Scenes and Emails from Patti Smith

Photo taken in Capitol Reef National Park, by Steve Dudley

It’s day eight on our road trip through Utah.  We ran into snow flurries this morning at Capitol Reef National Park. Now the sun is playing peekaboo, but it’s cold and windy. We settled in early at our motel in Torrey, Utah. 

The view out our window at the Red Sands Motel is classic cowboy western: big sky, purple mountains, pickup trucks, a barn, some cows in the mud, and a palomino horse in a timber corral. 

To me, it looks like a scene from a Sam Shepard story.

Sam Shepard comes to mind because I’ve been reading my emails from Patti Smith. Smith and Shepard were an item when they were young, and he was married. The fling didn’t last long, but they remained friends until he died. In fact, she edited his last book, Spy of the First Person, published posthumously.

Much to my surprise, I have become a huge fan of Patti Smith. This happened not because of a latent affinity for punk rock, but because she’s an amazing chronicler of creativity and emotion. 

This was first pointed out to me by Austin Kleon, who writes about Patti Smith in his books and his blog.

Then I read Smith’s first two memoirs, Just Kids and M Train. I didn’t just read them, I fell into them. She has led a Forrest Gump type of life, connecting with remarkable people and ideas and crafting with them a lifetime of inspiration, support, and ponderings. 

Her third memoir, The Year of the Monkey, came out a couple of years ago. I’ve been hesitant to read it because I don’t want to come to the end of her writing. 

Patti Smith, a writer, performer, and visual artist

So when Patti Smith announced that she was starting a newsletter, I hopped on it. I signed up for the free version, The Reader is My Notebook. Soon I went all in, becoming a paid subscriber to her serial subscription, The Melting

Now I get emails from Patti Smith a couple of times a week.

Today’s email–the one I was reading while looking out my motel window at the Sam Shepard scene–was about the music Smith listens to when she wants to dance away the blues.  It included a video of k.d. Lang singing Roy Orbison’s cover of “Crying,” and another video of Smith singing Neal Young’s “Helpless,” accompanied by her son on guitar. 

And that’s just the free content.

Patti Smith’s emails brighten my day.  I wait to read them until I have the time and creative space to devour her words and ideas. Her writing makes me feel glad all over again about reading, writing, creating, and living. 

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