Let us love winter, for it is the spring of genius.
~ Pietro Aretino
It is winter in Oakland ~ there is no snow, there are no snow angels, no snowmen smiling in the front yard of the house with a white picket fence. Instead, there is rain ~ gray skies, and days and nights and yet more days of rain; and when there is a break in the rain, you walk gingerly along softened, drenched streets, quietly and softly under the hesitant sun, hoping you don't disturb the warm hazy rays or wake the rain gods ~ and you remember, quietly, alone, to yourself, to love the downpour because the glint of a squeaky-clean world is, maybe, almost, worth that feeling of nearly drowning.
or maybe that is just me ~ because I love the rain ~
This winter ~ now ~ I look forward to Monday and Wednesday nights when I listen to silly Spanish talk-radio on the drive home, to get in the mood for my Spanish conversation class ~ and to the solitary, dark drive home ~ headlights like two daggers cutting through the fog that wraps itself around the hilltop campus, gliding down steep rain-slicked streets, switching back to English ~ music, thoughts, words, alone in the car.
Tonight I caught up with NPR's All Songs Considered January 10th podcast ~ as usual, an eclectic and impressive line-up: Billie Holiday, The Magnetic Fields, The Jesus and Mary Chain, Peter Gabriel, Vampire Weekend, Fire on Fire....and right before the end, an epiphany in the form of a song, 'For Emma' (mp3), by Bon Iver (pronounced 'Bon Hiver', which is 'good winter' in French). When I heard the song, I was speeding along a dark highway, alone on a damp winter night; my mind swimming in cold murky thoughts ~ somehow, it was all lovely.
So of course I came home to read more about this Bon Iver person ~ real name Justin Vernon. I know all the Kool Kids, the bloggers and the internet stars, already know all this, but I learned tonight that Justin self-released his album last summer ~ and the album is the product of what sounds like an amazing solitary journey: four months time spent writing and recording in isolation last winter in his father's hunting cabin in the woods of Northwestern Wisconsin. If you don't know about this amazing album, read the hype at Reveille Magazine. (At the end of the article, there is a link where you can stream the entire album, which is due for a national re-release next month.)
When you hear the album you will agree that "all of his personal trouble, lack of perspective, heartache, longing, love, loss and guilt that had been stock piled over the course of the past six years, was suddenly purged into the form of song." God I wish I had that talent ~ to purge pain and produce instead something brilliant like this album, or even something simply lovely, or something quietly cataclysmic. ~~ I just had a déjà vu, like I've felt this before and written this before, even this part where I realize I'd felt and written this even before that ~ sigh, maybe the third time is the charm. ~ Justin Vernon chose isolation; he walked through its door. ...... But what do you do when isolation chooses you; when it opens the window to your soul, pulls you through it, then locks the door behind you? Where's the album that tells you that story?
On this album, Justin's lyrics on Stacks are pithy and potent ~ this man knows what he's feeling, what to say, and how to say it:
This my excavation and today is kumran
Everything that happens is from now on
This is pouring rain
This is paralyzed
Whatever could it be
That has brought me to this loss?
This is not the sound of a new man or crispy realization
It's the sound of the unlocking and the lift away
Your love will be
Safe with me
But my favorite is 'Skinny Love' (mp3), where Justin asks you:
Who will love you?
Who will fight?
Who will fall far behind?
~ because I am one of those people, maybe the only one in the entire world, who really believes that these are the questions that truly matter ~ because when someone allows themselves to really love you, and when you allow yourself to love them in return, then everything, everywhere, falls into place.