There’s a lyric in this song that goes something like this: “you’re in milwaukee off your feet.” Bon Iver is celebrated and reviled by about a 50/50 split in the sample population I’ve encountered in the state of Wisconsin. Celebrated because, hello, Justin Vernon is from Wisconsin AND I wrote and recorded all of For Emma, Forever Ago in a cabin Up North. But before I had any concept of this Wisconsin pride and any notion of just how far up north you have to go to be Up North, I heard Holocene and I heard Bon Iver.
The album came out in the summer, I was riding the Metra to work and seriously mulling over how anyone could ever dislike Bon Iver (it’s a little slow, it’s kind of mopey, it’s all echo-y and it’s not exactly crank-it-up-and-get-fired-up music). It’s more for days like this — slow and golden — meant for rumination and not doing a whole lot. As I watched the same scenery I had watched over years of trundling to an from Chicago from the suburbs, something about Milwaukee had stuck in my craw. It was a line worthy of noting because I had been to Milwaukee once before, I had sat on a porch there in my favorite sweatshirt that I would eventually lose in a college bar, spent a strange night with a strange person and in the morning understood what rejection really tasted like. (It tastes like a pack of cigarettes and my Jetta, listening to all of Hot Fuss exceptionally loud).
After the initial listen, I forgot about the album. It wasn’t fitting the character I was trying to portray at the time. But Bon Iver appeared once more when I had to grow up in a big fucking hurry. It also reappeared when I came to live in the state of Wisconsin, not just recall it. It has become the music of commonality for me, an expression of creativity, pulsating warmth and a place of comfort. Perhaps it’s because I also did a lot of yoga to For Emma, Forever Ago, who can say? Now that Milwaukee is my home, and I literally have my feet up on this sunny Febuary Sunday, I am again ruminating.
There is a pot of chicken stock on the stove. I am heating up the apartment again making a surprise for a very dear friend of mine. And I am considering the film I just watched, Jeff, Who Lives At Home. I won’t tell you what happened in the film, because it would ruin the poignancy of watching it, but I will tell you it’s the best movie I’ve seen since 180 Degrees South (and that’s saying something!) because of its metaphorical resonance.
I bared-all to someone I really care about on Friday. And I think I may have fucked everything up. Because love is scary. Honesty is scary. Life is scary. But what I am learning about myself in this particular person, is that my worst fear is no longer a fear. My worst fear was that after the afore-mentioned grow up in a big fucking hurry instance, was that I would not change. I would not become more than that person. I sat on Miss Arizona’s childhood bedroom floor with Miss Chicago — my pillars of strength and oldest souls — and in stunned, disengaged disbelief proclaiming that I was afraid of being doomed to this version of myself that felt like a stranger to me. I know in my bones I am more than that person. Since then I have learned how to start over, how to truss a chicken and how to love with my whole self.
This is terrifying. For me. And most likely for everyone else involved.
Yoga, being a life-long writer, artist (loose term), and lover of life, I notice everything. I notice that your headphones are on the chair in your bedroom, you forgot to cut the vent in the back of your blazer and that Louie has put a few more irreparable snags in my couch. The composite of my life experience has also taught me that karma is very real; you have to cultivate it, you have to share it, and you have to appreciate all that you have every single moment you have whatever you have.
It is my humble opinion that most people practice this, but not too many people just let these words come flying out of their mouths at all times. I am one of these people. I am intense. I cannot live my life any other way.
I know how to numb the world. I’ve seen it take people apart, bone by bone. I’ve also seen the practice of being completely invested backfire and people get hurt by other people and by life itself. I would rather live my life with pain and loss and longing than not live it at all because I fear pain and loss and longing themselves. What’s unnoticed is pain and loss and longing are best friends with pure joy, gratitude and love. I’ve found that when you open yourself up to feeling everything — separately and together — anything is possible.
Often, we look at movies and say ‘they’re just movies,’ and often we read books and say ‘they’re just stories,’ and both of these are undeniably true (ahem, Carrie Bradshaw. All of her). But all fiction, all concepts and imaginations and ideas grow up from real life. Anything is possible. Living your life like a story is possible because people have been doing it since the dawn of time and writing it down and retelling it and changing the way some details appear. That’s when it becomes fiction because for all you know Oscar Wao actually had some mad game! Living your fullest life is completely possible: you simply have to determine where the story will start.