What makes the music of Autumn's End? Also, Hades + Persephone.
Whenever the solstice comes into view, I’m reminded of the last two lines of a poem by Sarah Williams, describing Galileo’s parting words to his pupil:
Though my soul may set in darkness, it will rise in perfect light; I have loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night.
There is a deep, deep trust in this time - walking into the darkness, carrying the light and warmth in the closest, smallest parts of our hearts- until we welcome back the light. I think there are a great many reasons why human beings are inherently afraid of the dark, and so eager to welcome back the light - but I’ve learned in my process of re-wilding my own life, darkness gets a bad wrap. Snacking on the writings of Adrienne Maree Brown (something I relish and adore), I discovered her love letter to darkness and yelled “YES, THIS. THANK YOU DARKNESS!” outloud.
For all of its negative connotations, the darkness offers the richest room for growth. Thinking of soil and seeds, the goddess and the womb, the ocean and its depths, and the star stuff scattered across the known universe, darkness is where life - and light- begins.
It’s no wonder that the love between Persephone and Hades has always fascinated me. It’s often told as kidnapping, but I’ve always harbored some belief that the story was more fated - their unlikely yet cosmic connection makes so much sense when we consider the vitality that darkness holds. New growth requires rest and regeneration. Manifesting requires an offering, a letting go.
As the maiden Persephone walks into the darkness with death, her mother, Demeter, is transformed by time and grief into the crone. Her medicine in the winter months is more mysterious, more severe, and harder to grasp. Beauty and fecundity are replaced by barrenness, starkness, isolation. We know that for all the glorious richness and beauty that happens on the surface, we’re only as rich and true as our perennial hope, our resilience, and our trust in the coming light.
I know this feels like a birdwalk (I mean, if you don’t know me by now…), but i’m getting somewhere, I promise.
The songs we share in Autumn’s End are a reflection of so many aspects of the journey into-and out of - the longest and darkest nights. It’s no accident that these are all love songs, in a way- told from various perspectives- swallowed up whole, walking away, staring out the window. What I wish I could’ve offered myself through the darkest nights over the past ten years, navigating these experiences! I’d like to think that I was a quiet voice in my own head when I was heartbroken as a 16-year-old, or 22-year-old, even a year ago. Time is bendy, so it’s possible! Any way, a word on these songs:
Keep Your Silver Shined is quite possibly my favorite song that I’ve ever written. Until now, I’ve always been vague - even fibbed, about the origins of this one, because it feels so powerful to me. It’s hard to share, because it might be one of the first medicine songs I ever caught, for myself. It’s a song about the kind of love that scares you - which is the only kind of love worthwhile, in my opinion. This waxes amorous, but I don’t think the notion is limited to a romantic kind of love at all.
This one is a sort of exploration of that Hades-Persephone kind of love, which seems to be the one I’m drawn to. I have a penchant for the dramatic, but I also live on those edges and extremes. Some scholar might consider this fan fiction, but I am fascinated by the possiblilty that Persephone longed to be swallowed up by the underworld, to feel something that wasn’t warm and perfect and unchanging. Hades made her an equal- a perennial life-energy made whole in her duties as the Queen of Death. Some part of me knows that her growth and evolution into a Goddess (beyond the limited parameters of her sheltered happily ever after) was borne of her surrendering to darkness, and shadow, and hunger. No mud, no lotus.
It’s an exploration of all the things we would do, or could do - for better or worse - for love. What happens when we look toward some future building from the urgency of our desire and devotion, and take a step back: to say yes without losing ourselves? What does it mean to give your whole self to a person, as a lover, a mother, a teacher, and remain intact? I’m never sure if this is possible. I’ve spent a great deal of time healing from being shattered by people who’ve taken advantage of my heart, and running- lonely, aimlessly, ruinously- from the possibility of love, for fear of what it does to me. I’m growing out of that habit, but it’s painful and takes time. This song was the start of the adventure of standing still and vulnerable- not falling headfirst, not drawing first blood, not backing away from what could be. Good morning, love.
Frame is simply the experience of mourning a love that’s over while you’re still inside it. Walking through rooms and moments with ghosts of what was, and what might’ve been, and trying to live in real time. I had the strange experience of walking through a space I’d occupied during a difficult relationship, years later, and was surprised at how much pain, and tired heartbreak was resurrected moving between rooms. I recalled with such clarity the way that I live inside relationships for months after they’ve already destroyed itself - and many parts of me. my bedroom and kitchen felt claustrophobic and crowded when there were only two of us- trapped with who we were and who we wished we could be.
I used to scoop samples out of bodies of water wherever I went, to see how things settled and stratified, when they found a bit of stillness and time. I think my memory functions in the same way - a neat bottle sample of messy, tidal experience. After some time has passed I can see what is out salient in my experience- what wisdom lands on top. When things are disturbed by some event, it offers another means to inventory the experience. So much was stirred up for me, and it really moved me, the way that, all these years later, it was still so hard to discern the precious bits through all the silt.
Back to ‘Frame:’ When we walk through a threshold, choosing ourselves over something that is harming us, it’s amazing how inextricably the cause of our pain occupies those memories. I might make a decision and cross some heretofore unknown line, transformed by some deep hurt and will to live, but the whatever caused me to suffer in the first place will always be there, framing the threshold.
Little Things is an exploration of my own habit to plane on the surface, allowing meretricious objects and detrius to take the place of meaningful connections and moments. It’s a recounting of the ways we take for granted the moments of beauty and brightness in our every day lives, especially in love. How we fixate on trivialities, or lose ourselves in our covetousness of something or someone else. If we’re not careful, we find ourselves buried in the clutter of the junk drawer, and the little resentments we refuse to let go of. For me, a restless kind of sadness, brooding and inconsolable, has often taken me out of my experiences, later returning to dig myself out of the artifacts of time lost.
I wonder how many of us have found ourselves cleaning out our drawers, counting the days we’ve forfeit not noticing our own aliveness. The way that little resentments, junk and dust overwhelm and swallow people whole terrifies me. Sometimes I’m overcome with an urgent and desperate need to throw everything I own away, for fear I’ve lost my body and my mind in kitchen accessories and hotel pens. I’ve certainly lost track of people I love in this way. I guess I harbor a secret hope the writing a song creates accountability - like a mindfulness gatha - maybe I’ll stop looking out the window or accumulating long enough to love you as you are, and let go when it’s time- if only I can sing it.
I am perennially grateful for songwriting as a tool to practice in tandem with the changing light, and seasons. I am an eager student of the darkness, slowly learning it’s power and mystery and potential for healing and regeneration. Happy to unwind my assumptions and reservations, leaning into depth, and rest and quiet to teach me - taking a break from bursting heat and overgrowth and ‘productivity’ have never appealed to me more. I’ve written really simple version of my solstice practice, which I’ll share in a separate post- it’s a base platform which I use to build an intention and ritual for the Winter Solstice and Vernal Equinox…. it’s also a handy starting place for a new moon practice, if that’s something you’re interested in.
I’d love to hear your thoughts, comments, questions, etc - what a time to be alive. It feels almost too rich gift, to move through the longest night and welcome the sun’s returning, and have time yet with the darkness. It’s all star stuff, when I think about it. Happy Solstice. Thanks to the tender, loving darkness. Long live the light.
P.S. - if you want to check out a sweet and beautiful Hades+Persephone fan fiction, I recommend Lore Olympus… it’s a graphic novel for grownup romantics like me.