Have you ever read the book Just Kid’s by Patti Smith? I read it years ago but it’s one of those books that sticks with you long after you’ve closed the back cover. In it, the renowned artist recounts her exceptional relationship with the photographer Robert Mapplethorpe as they navigate New York City, specifically the Chelsea Hotel, in the 60’s and 70’s. It is one of the most beautiful depictions of friendship I have ever read.
While the couple parted romantically, they remained close friends and it is clear they understood each other and each other’s art more than anyone else could. Truly artistic soul mates.
Recently, I stumbled upon the letter Patti wrote to Robert days before his untimely passing – a letter he was never able to read. It made my breath catch just as it had the first time I read it.
Often as I lie awake I wonder if you are also lying awake. Are you in pain, or feeling alone? You drew me from the darkest period of my young life, sharing with me the sacred mystery of what it is to be an artist. I learned to see through you and never compose a line or draw a curve that does not come from the knowledge I derived in our precious time together. Your work, coming from a fluid source, can be traced to the naked song of your youth. You spoke then of holding hands with God. Remember, through everything, you have always held that hand. Grip it hard, Robert, and don’t let it go.
The other afternoon, when you fell asleep on my shoulder, I drifted off, too. But before I did, it occurred to me looking around at all of your things and your work and going through years of your work in my mind, that of all your work, you are still your most beautiful. The most beautiful work of all.
Isn’t that so heartbreaking and extraordinary? What a lovely reminder to us all – amidst the pressures we encounter every day to do good and beautiful work, to create, and to leave something behind that’s bigger than us – that we can be the most beautiful work of all. That people will remember a smile or a kind ear or our unfaltering friendship before anything else.
Just something I’m sitting with and thinking about and wanted to share. xoxo
If you’ve never read Just Kids, I HIGHLY recommend picking it up.
Here’s a great interview Patti Smith did about Robert Mapplethorpe.
Looking for another great read? I recently finished Some Girls by Jillian Lauren and it’s a really fun and fascinating memoir. In it, Jillian Lauren often asks herself, “What would Patti Smith do?”
What do you think? What does Patti’s letter bring up for you? Let’s chat in the comments below. Love y’all!