Patti Smith is our lantern through the dark, and we thank her for bringing so much light to us moths. Her small memoir Woolgathering is like a book of proverbs, a manual on living.
The original Woolgathering came out in 1991, and this new expanded edition was released in 2011. It’s a book about remembering our roots, ancestors, stories, magic and connection with all life. It’s about becoming a misplaced Joan of Arc, and reconciling with existence thru omens in the clouds, which echo back:What do we do Great Barrymore? We stagger What shall we do simple monk? Be of good heart
Patti Smith gathers us into the gauzy realm of childhood, memory and imagination,“There was a hedge composed of great bushes framing my view. The hedge I regarded as sacred… skipping home, we’d salute all that charmed us.”
hedges, fields, hidden people, her brother and sister, owls, Indian rubies – these are Smith’s places of worship.
Woolgathering expels legends: an old ancient man who sells minnows by his shack outside the grave of his dead wife reveals the name of the tiny beings Smith hears whispering in the field and bush. These are the woolgatherers, he tells her. The story revolves around her connection with the woolgatherers, who ultimately give her wings.
The act of woolgathering is likened to Patti Smith’s lifelong ritual of collecting objects for her knapsack, found treasures imbued with jinn, and to Patti Smith’s great-grandmother, “through her I possessed the soul of the shepherdess, through her I was drawn to the dreamer’s life and I imagined tending a flock, gathering wool in a leather pouch, and contemplating the color of the clouds.”
These kind of sentences tingle our waters and keep us waking to bird song.
“I would gaze, gauge and just like that, be gone – vane aviation, flitting from earth to earth, unconscious of my awkward arms or wayward socks.”
Patti Smith is sensitive to the unspoken and unseen. She speaks to her dog with her heart silently, and the dog understands.
She brings us to child wonder, where we adore all life and look to the water, crows, and people with unifying love. Here we reclaim our connection to the stars, our original source, and see the best in all things, including ourselves. Woolgathering reminds us how to pray, to converse with the night sky, and to stay receptive to the mystery.
“Having my breath what more could I wish for. All of my being rose in pursuit. I had the advantage of the sky with its ability to become, in the twinkling of an eye, everything.”
Patti Smith is an interplanetary aviator and hero to many, yet she’s stayed true – humble, human, tender, lyrical. She’s stayed outside society, aligning herself with the earth, emotion, rocknroll, art, gandhi, ocean, the marginalized and the persecuted.
For our birthday in June, Patti Smith is coming out with a new album, Banga. We heard the single off it, April Fool, and it makes the rain.
Patti Smith doesn’t use gasoline, she loves bicycling and “gliding above the grass with recycled souls, tears, the babbling of children and crazy laughter.”