Alone in the Woods

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Looking through photos of my summer, I see moment after moment of pure joy. Me grinning at the rim of the Rio Grande gorge. Me standing on a tree stump with my arms spread wide, Costilla Peak far behind me, bursting from the New Mexico soil. Me snuggled up and mugging for the camera with my boyfriend during a break on a rainy afternoon. My mouth wide open in surprise after my coworker unexpectedly latched himself onto my back. My camera managed to capture a meager fraction of my summer, but the joy contained in those moments overflows and fills my heart.

Today is like any other day in my life. There is worry, planning, stress, work, cooking food, cleaning dishes, routine, how will this fit into the schedule?, procrastination, solemn glances at the clock, self-punishment, unfocused thoughts buzzing around my head, and undedicated energy oozing from me in the form of thoughtless activity. This is like any other day in society. The crushing obligations, the inevitable disappointment, the deafening void of togetherness with others. It’s easy to get lost in daydreams of those long days in the backcountry, swathed in community and sun, the energy of freedom flowing fiercely through my veins. Back then, I wasn’t the worried, stressed, routined, solemn, unfocused, undedicated self that I am in the “real world”, the world of constant artificial stimulation, politics, schedules, cars, ignored text messages. It’s as if the world took the calm, joyous woman I was this summer and beat it into deformity.

But my summer mindset is still here in me, deep but not buried completely; its light shines out through the cracks of this brittle and fragile life I am being asked to lead. I remember how to have it.

I’m not content to sit idly by and watch the fat cells accumulate on my body, feel my stomach twist into an ever-permanent knot of tension, to let my teeth slowly be worn down through day after day of unconscious grinding, to let the insecurities run wild in my head.

I know these things as certain: I have a heart that beats and two legs to carry me, I am well-fed, I am healthy, and I have the love of a good man. If all else is lost, I have my dreams and my memories.

Now is the time, before the warmth in my heart dies with the leaves, to refocus and rededicate my energy on the pure matters of life. In the loneliness and isolation I feel here in Bloomington, over 500 miles from my partner and plunging headfirst into the depths of winter, there is the opportunity to grow into the person I naturally am, the calm, joyous woman who climbed mountains and ran rivers and became wild in the Rockies this summer. I was alone in the woods then, and I am alone in the woods now. If I wish to prosper then I must open my heart to be filled with this life, such as it is.

Last Week’s Music

Here’s a joke: remember when I said that “Last Week’s Music” was back? Hahahaha! Then didn’t post for three weeks!???? HAHAHAH!

Well, it’s no secret that this is ~my blog~ and I will post as I see fit, but I really was hoping to post more. I’ve been failing to use Blog as an outlet, and I MISS USING BLOG AS AN OUTLET and I miss writing here, and I have nine essays currently in various stages of assembly sitting in my Blog folder, I’ve just been so distracted that I’ve failed to actually finish. I’ve got a lot going on, what with 16 credit hours, massive life changes, and fruitful creative ventures. Blogging is falling out of my periphery, but for the best reasons! I’m developing as a human-american. I have healthy outlets! Healthy relationships! Who needs a blog anymore!

That all said, let’s get on to Last Week’s Music.

Lord Huron – Lonesome Dreams (2012)homepage_large.ff174002

I discovered Lord Huron through my colleague/friend/brother Maz, who is admirably beautiful in most life-related areas. So when I saw Lord Huron popping up in his Spotify feed I decided to give them a listen, and I got just about exactly what I expected from a band I found on Maz’s Spotify feed.

When Ben Schneider conceptualized Lord Huron in 2010, the idea was to produce music about a closer connection to earth and nature. He reverted creatively back to cowboy times, to times when humans were fearless and big-spirited and sepia, when outlaws were idolized in a kind of secret esteem. The album works perfectly on that level, piling on lines about freedom and brotherhood and the wonders of the frontier. The first track opens up with the big picture: “oh there’s a river that winds on forever / i’m gonna see where it leads / oh there’s a mountain that no man has mounted / i’m gonna stand on the peak”. Even the PR surrounding the album is eerily, beautifully out-of-place: the blurry, grainy photos feature Schneider & Co. in cowboy attire in various states of rebellion—playing guitar, standing on hills, handcuffed and on their knees next to a train track. It all adds to the undeniable artistry of the album. It’s more than music, it’s like Huron has branded outlaw freedom for the modern era.

The amazing thing about this album is that it manages to maintain its message of frontier-like freedom and it’s cowboy-outlaw mystique all while remaining modern. The sound is not at all time-appropriate to the era they are romanticizing, and in fact feels right at home in the cinematic alt-rock era of Arcade Fire. It manages to work in a few more worldly aspects than AF, and has a more organic feel than something like The Suburbs, and seems to flow much more naturally from the band than most of Arcade Fire’s music (no disrespect). In all, this album is right up my alley, not only for its message, but for the intricate way that Schneider & Co. has woven their message into the very nature of their music. They manage to explicitly encourage you to be free over an energizing beat and chamber vocals that shift you and make your heart pound with excitement and pure uncut joy. I realize that Lonesome Dreams may not be for everyone, but I definitely think the technical achievement here earns them a decent amount of respect.

Texas Is The Reason – Do You Know Who You Are? (1996/2013)texas_is_the_reason_do_you_know_who_you_are

Texas Is The Reason is one of those super-influential bands that everyone in my music scene in high school and early-college talked about that I just never got around to actually listening to. These were the days when 90s emo was just barely out of style and The Pirate Bay had not yet come into existence. This was a black-hole time of music when my only exposure was to whatever I could find on the radio and on MySpace. I have a seemingly endless list of bands like Texas Is The Reason and their contemporaries who I am slowly making my way through.

I’m glad I stumbled onto this album, though. It’s beautiful, and lyrically and musically comparable to Save The Day’s Through Being Cool*. The songs all follow a basic prototype: concise lyrics over long, heavy, melodic guitar progressions. Lyrically, it’s basic teenage-angst stuff. Frustration with girls, anxiety about adulthood, escapism, and so on. I feel like if I had discovered this album when I was younger, that it would have been seminal and important for me. Now, it feels like an emotional relic for me. I’m so disconnected from this part of my life right now that I have problems connecting to this album, and the feelings it instills in me make me uncomfortable. It makes me feel young and confused and anxious—it brings me right back.

This is an amazing album, and melodically it is extremely advanced for the genre and era. I think I need a little bit more distance between me and this era of my life, however, before I can fully appreciate it for what it is.

* I guess since Saves The Day was my first big 90s emo band, I compare every 90s emo band I hear to one of their albums, which is an admittedly unfair metric. Nevertheless, when listening to this album I oft drew comparisons.

That’s all I have for now. One of these days I’m finally going to publish the essay about Full Moon Fever by Tom Petty that I’ve been toying around with for the past few weeks. Something on the horizon…