Patti Smith and my sickbed

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I crawled into a sickbed and was then wheeled into a hospital room where I would be waiting to take a few tests. It was quite embarrassing as I assessed my health condition to be stable. I was wasting the resource that could be useful and even crucial to genuine patients. A category I did not consider myself belonging to.

The doctors insisted that I undergo a thorough examination. They wanted to find out whether my worsening eye vision was caused by an unidentified neurological disease. 

Lying in the sickbed in that worn little room provided me with a strange sense of satisfaction, as if the mind was granted some unexpected yet much needed peace and freedom. I was blocked from the outside world, the routines and duties. The sickbed became my retreat. 

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A menu was offered, steamed salmon, beef stroganoff, cooked turkey were among the choices. I settled on steamed cod with broccoli and carrots. A tray of food and drink was brought to me by a nurse with a warm smile. “Enjoy your meal”, she said and left me alone. I ate with mixed feelings, still doubted whether I was qualified to be a recipient of such kindness and care the doctors and nurses showed me. 

I grabbed M Train from the cloth bag, a book I picked up from the “Recommended books” shelf at the university library. That would be something for me, I knew it instantly. What was that, a lonely coffee cup, a sense of cool sophistication, or the image of Patti Smith lost in thoughts? 

Some writers have the extraordinary ability to speak straight to the mind, and the heart. They caught my strangest ideas and most intense emotions, re-arranged and put them before me in an elegant manner, with a vocabulary I could only dream of. 

During the 3 day stay in the hospital, I fell in love with Patti Smith. Or should I put it differently, a connection was established between her and me. I was deeply moved by her honesty, her loss, her passionate love for her husband, her children, her brother, her friends and her fellow writers. Patti will always have a special place in my literary world. 

Throughout the journey, in retrospect, Patti recalled her visits of the graves of some great writers and poets. Among them, Sylvia Plath, Ryūnosuke Akutagawa, and Osamu Dasai.

When I was young, about 13 or 14 years old, I had a longing to visit the grave of my beloved artist, as if it was the only way to be close to her, who died when I was 11. She committed suicide. As I aged, more graves have been added to the list but the intensity of longings of this sort has somehow decreased. I did not accomplish any of them. Patti did. She journeyed all the way through, from America to England in the case of Sylvia Plath, and from America to Japan when visiting the graves of Ryūnosuke Akutagawa and Osamu Dasai. They all committed suicide. It struck me that there was a possible link. Virginia Woolf, and my beloved Taiwanese writer Sanmao. The common fate of these writers. Or was it pure coincidence? 

On those snowy winter mornings and evenings, she entered the cemeteries, washed the headstones, burned the incense, sat by them and then lost in her thoughts. 

– I walked to the ruins to an adjacent        field across Back Lane and quickly found her grave. 

I have come back, Sylvia, I whispered,   as if she’d been waiting (Smith 2015: 198-199).

I finished M Train in my sickbed and intended to give it a summary. It was a mess of vague images and loose words. I closed the book and lifted my head. The sky had again turned grey, it was raining. A sense of melancholy merged into something of a similar character left by Patti, a distant yet intense longing. The lonely coffee cup, the mute darkness, and Patti lost in thoughts. It all makes sense now, perfect sense. 

With love,

Isabelle ❤️

Some afterthoughts:

M Train is a book which is far more richer than visiting the graves. It’s about adventures, loss and love, and so much more. I have only managed to bring a fraction of this great piece to the post. Lying in my own bed now and suffering from terrible headache, a side effect of one of the medical tests I took last week, I think it is time to end the post and take a good rest. And then, all of a sudden, I dearly miss it, my sickbed. 

Author: Isabelle

Literature & language enthusiast 🇬🇧🇳🇴🇨🇳 Dedicated runner & passionate traveller 🏃‍♀️🏝 I am Isabelle and I live with my family in Oslo, Norway. I have three children, a girl and two boys. My educational background: Bachelor of International Marketing. Bachelor of English Language. I am currently doing my master's in English Language at University of Oslo.

62 thoughts on “Patti Smith and my sickbed”

  1. First of all,I hope you get better soon. And about the book. From what I could understand from what you said about it,I can understand the kind of impact you had with it. I will definitely be looking into this book. And I hope you feel better and write a lot more on your wonderful blog.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for the thoughtful words Andrew. It was a rather impulsive post. I’ve been lying in bed since Friday, the headache prevented me from doing all the usual things, quite frustrating. Then I wrote that post, combining the book with the sickbed. A summary of what I did the last few days, which was basically nothing 😊

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you Andrew. I will. Although it might not be visible on my profile photo, I’m actually quite strong physically. I’m a regular runner, and will be running as soon as the pain has eased. 🏃‍♀️👌

        Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you for the concern and thoughtful words, Neil. The results of the tests I took showed no sign of neurological disease. I’ve been transferred back to the eye surgeons. It’s now up to them to identify the problems, I suppose. It might as well be genetic. Best wishes to you too. Isabelle

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    1. Thank you so much for the thoughtful words. 😊 It’s been many pauses before I came to an end. Your writing is brilliant, and your wonderful adventures made me feel envious!

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  2. Hey Beautiful Isabelle. Gosh….I so hope You feel better soon. I am so sorry You are going through all of this. Please know You are in my heart and I am sending You SOOOO much Love and Light. This was a wonderful post. I will read that book. Patti Smith is beyond amazing….it makes sense that spending some time inside her thoughts would be a profoundly moving experience.

    I was not a fan of ‘Eat Pray Love’…I tried…it just wasn’t my cup of tea at all. But I LOVE the author, Elizabeth Gilbert. She gave a TED talk on the high rate of suicide of artistic people. It’s REALLY amazing. How over the years from the ancient Greeks to now the value of artists has dwindled unless they make a lot of money. And how utterly bewildering it is to suddenly be validated when that happens and what strange things that does to the psyche. It’s a brilliant, very loving talk. She’s absolutely raw, loving and candid. A friend of mine sent it to me at a low point….and wow. What a well studied, poignant slice of compassion it is. Interesting.

    And now I need to go add Patti Smith to my playlist today. 🤗💖☀️😊 Thank You so very much!!! Sending You this: 🤗☀️🐬🌸🦋🌼😀😊💐 times a million gazillion!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you dearest Katy, for sending me such an insightful comment. ❤️ You put me to deep thoughts. Yes I agree with you and I’ve been thinking about the issue myself, many times. Reflections were made but I haven’t come to any conclusions. I have a good friend who majored in English Literature and is exceptionally passionate about books. We touched on that subject a few years ago, and I joked with him. I said: “ be careful not to read too much, you might get mad, you know those writers….” He said something like “ yeah, that’s true.” The talk by Elizabeth Gilbert you referred to is so interesting and relevant. I’ll search for it. I’ll tell you more about Patti Smith in my email.
      Thank you so much for the thoughtful words, Katy, they mean a lot to me. A lot! Millions of hugs in return 🌸🌷💜😊😘

      Liked by 1 person

      1. A million hugs right back to You, Isabelle! I watched that talk years ago and think I’d like to revisit it. It’s really sweet. And I need to order that book from the library when I get out of blogland this evening. Patti Smith is such a genius and it would be so interesting to read that. Thank You and Cheers!!! ❤️😊🦋🌸🌷☀️!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Hey! I promise I’ll stop writing You! 🤣 But after shooting You that link to the talk last night…..I woke up this morning still loving it but knowing it’s not the one I heard. Just as poignant….I think. But it’s like an itch I can’t scratch…perhaps in my memory I’ve woven it around another talk and made them one and the same. Anyway….I will keep thinking. It’s on the back burner of my mind and hopefully I will remember what that talk was. Sending Huge Hugs and hopes that You and Yours are having an absolutely wonderful day (or night!!!)! 😊❤️☀️🦋💐

        Liked by 1 person

      3. I just listened to it Katy, the one you sent me last night. It was brilliant! Elizabeth Gilbert brought in new ideas about the issue of creativity that I’ve never thought about before. Very interesting interpretations of the concept of creative genius and arguments against the creative “self”. Something to be reflected on and ponder about. No worries Katy. This one is excellent, it has stimulated my thinking process effectively, no need to find the other one. Have read though both your lovely emails, will reply them properly later. Thank you so much for taking time to send me such wonderful emails and comments! You can’t imagine how much I appreciate it. Take care Katy and talk soon! 😊❤️🌸🌟🌷

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Right?!!! It gifts SOOOO much! I did end up looking a little more and finally gave up….but this one does the trick, for sure. 😊

        And please absolutely take Your time answering my emails! You have a life, 3 children and a lot on You plate! I’m seriously 100% fine with however long it takes. I promise! But am happy You liked them. Have a great one!!! ☀️💖🤗🦋💐

        Liked by 1 person

  3. It is such a heart-touching post.
    The connection between a writer and a reader is such a unique relationship. It is like a friend who is far from you but completely understands you. Sometimes you just want to call them and tell them how you feel so you start to read their book instead. I am not sure if it makes sense but this holds true for me.
    I hope you get well soon.
    Lots of love and prayers.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re so right littlemisssunshine. Our thoughts are not always understood by the people around us, even our closed ones. When a writer speaks my mind, it touches me deeply. At that moment, I know I’m understood, I’m no longer alone with my strange thoughts and weird emotions.
      I’m fine now, not as fit as a fiddle yet but will soon be.
      Thank you so much littlemisssunshine, for the lovely chat! Take care 🌸

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m fine, almost business as usual. Thank you so much for taking time to read and send me the thoughtful words. This post might look a bit dark although it wasn’t the impression I intended to give the readers. Just some reflections on that moment. Hope all is fine with you and the twins. Take care. 😊🌸

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Beautiful writing Isabelle! Sickness is wonderful in its own way; shows us when we moved from ease, to dis-ease. That wellness you felt was a choice to be at ease in the sickbed. A same feeling we can take with us anywhere, anytime. Loving this message and your blog!

    Ryan

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for the kind comment Ryan. Sickness turned into unexpected wellness. You put it perfectly, we should take the same feeling with us in other settings. The same approach towards the good and less good in life. Thank you again for taking time to read and comment on the post!

      Isabelle

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    1. I’m fine Basilike, thank you for the love and kiss. So much appreciated.

      M Train was my first encounter with Patti Smith, deeply touched. She’s a great poet and musician. When I read the book, she was actually holding a concert in Oslo (she was on a worldwide tour I believe). The nurse who treated me recognised her from the cover of the book and told me that she was at her concert last night. What a coincidence! She said that Patti was so cool, a brilliant performer despite her age (she was born in 1946 and will turn 72 in December)

      I know. I mean visiting the graves of favourite writers and poets. I understand that. I do.

      Always lovely to have a chat with you Basilike. Hope all is fine with you. Take care. Lots of hugs in return.

      Liked by 1 person

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