One of my favorite writers, Lucius Shepard, is also a Facebook friend. He was recently in Nantes, France, and posted a little story on Facebook about the singer Patti Smith. He had seen her in the Seventies, wild and out of control, most likely messed up on drugs. The next time he saw her was just recently in Nantes, and he described her as a sixtyish lady in a long coat and boots, waiting in a hotel lobby, a smile on her face and bouncing on her toes. He lamented not catching her recent show, but said it didn’t matter, as ‘the little dance’ she did in the lobby had answered all his questions about her. “Patti Smith has survived her personal rock and roll and, as do some few survivors, has grown a pearl around the sadness that entails.”
That last line struck me as an incredibly beautiful piece of sentiment, and I couldn’t help but reflect on it throughout the day. Everyone has some measure of sadness in their lives, and most of us try to move beyond it, or dispel it, or drive it from our lives through whatever means we find at hand--perhaps religion for some, or drink or drugs for others, or sex, or baking or perhaps, for some, through art. But no matter what we do, that sadness never really leaves us, it just becomes a part of us, like a scar that tells the story of the roads that we have traveled.
The concept of “growing a pearl around it” is quite a powerful thought, for that’s what we, as writers, are hopefully doing when we take whatever measure of sadness is dealt us and turn it into something beautiful with words. I’ve had great sadness in my life at times, but I’ve never found a greater opiate than putting pen to page and turning those sour, ascorbic lemons into lemonade, or turning the painful, gritty grain of sand into a pearl, as Lucius so beautifully put it.
Such thoughts leave me feeling dreamy and poetic as I sit down for my daily writing session. All is well in the world, but somewhere, through the quantum throes of time, hurt lingers. And there is always room for another pearl....