hey everyone, thanks for following me here over to my new home, Anxiety Shark now powered by Ghost! Apologies that there were some issues with transferring over and emails not going out, but I think things are sorted now and hopefully we're off and running!
It's snowing right now in the life outside my window, has been since the early hours of the morning as the sun rose and turned a shade like dirty chalk, filtered through heavy clouds and the descending winter. Truth be told, I'm sad that Bowie and I missed the snow this morning on our walk. Rounds completed well before the day decided what it might deliver, when it was dark and cold and lonely save for a single man smoking a cigarette who watched Bowie sniff a half-frozen lawn in desperate search for the best little spot of grass to poop on.
I have missed the snow because the snow feels like home. Your mileage will vary on a love of snow in the winter months, as mine often does too. I grew up in the Yukon, my decades spent living there have left a lot of memories of the snow and the cold in my bones and you would think I would be done with all of this. And to be honest I often am. This morning though it feels like something different. Something peaceful.
I'm almost done the rough draft of my first book. I talk about this often enough that it feels like an elaborate lie I have been upholding for a very long time, but it's true that the contract for it is real and so was the deadline I'm only a little late delivering on. I wrote the word Friday down on my to-do for the week yesterday and I believe that means Friday is the day I will pass it off to someone else to read for the first time.
The book is called The Dad Rock That Made Me a Woman, coming ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ from the American Music Series at the University of Texas press. It's a memoir told in essays about the music that helped form me as I grew into the life I have now. Essays about The National and Wilco and Neko Case and Julien Baker. To name a few. If you've read my work long enough this will all feel familiar.
Yesterday I had a little panic attack about the whole thing.
I eventually have to let someone else read it, a necessary evil of the process. Let someone sift through the work and find what works and what doesn't, the errors beyond spelling and grammatical mistakes that I make all the time. Even, and especially, in newsletters. I have to let someone else read through a recollection of memories that are often hard to recall, half-buried truths dug up and put on display, and I have to know that not all of what I wrote works at all. Some of these memories are not worth recounting. I have to tell myself that it's not that I'm bad, it's that the structure doesn't work yet and that is what editing is there for.
I have a hot pink sticky note on my computer that I am looking at right now with the words the first drafts job is to be a first draft scrawled like a secret in my own barely legible handwriting. I wrote this for myself. Sometimes I even believe it.
I had a little panic attack because I have lived a great distance from a lot of these memories and now I am going through them all again and making peace with a past I cannot change. And you would think after all this time I would be comfortable with people perceiving me in my work but something about the 65,000 (and climbing) word count of a life as remembered in the music that conjures memories feels different.
But it is snowing outside right now and it feels like home, it feels like peace has been made in ways I did not expect and I feel warm in the vision of so much cold.
I'm listening to music that feels warm to offset the cold, that feels smooth and silken, finding comfort in memories as they settle clearly into their places. There's a new Waxahatchee single, "Right Back To It", which means there will be a new Waxahatchee record and there is already so much to look ahead to this year. I have long been a fan of Katie Crutchfield's work, leading back to P.S Elliot, the band she formed with her twin sister Allison. Allison who has released a series of records with Swearin', a band I wish every band took notes and nudges from sometimes. Sometimes you hear a band and you just want everything else to be removed from your memory so you could be left with just this one perfect thing.
Two things, I guess. I want to be left with St Cloud.
Katie Crutchfield released St Cloud in 2020, and the formula for what a Waxahatchee record might be changed in an instant. Suddenly the tempo had shifted in her work, found tones and shades of something different that felt warm and familiar. Americana and roots and country, songs that felt like long lost photographs of memories you had long forgotten were ever real. It was also the first record written after Crutchfield had gotten sober, around the time I had done the same. It's a record that feels like venturing into the difficult process of coming to know yourself in the face of unfiltered thought. How to know who you are when there are no masks left to hide behind.
With "Right Back To It", it feels like something peaceful has snuck up on Crutchfield. Her voice perfectly tempered with the pairing of Wednesday's MJ Lenderman, providing guitars and harmonies in perfect pairing with Crutchfield's voice; haunting and tender, sweet and soft and textured and inviting. On St Cloud it felt like Crutchfield was seeking answers to something within herself, and here it's easy to imagine the surprise at finding them.
There is something in this that feels like the extension of sobriety over a length of time, this process of getting to you know yourself, a knowing born of digging through fields of half-remembered truths. This process of getting older and the surprise at finding peace you never imagined as new years turn over that people will promise you is real that feels so impossible to imagine arriving at. I'm 41 now, and maybe this is what is the difficult part about processing so many younger memories. Who even was this person who was able to be a child, a teenager, an adult in her 20s so eager to be right, an adult in her late 20s so perfectly flawed. A woman in her 30s falling apart. How to balance all of these people with peaceful resolution for the supports they contributed to the grand structure of this life.
On "Right Back To It" it's easy to imagine Crutchfield in this place. Haunted by difficult times one can never escape but wistful for the surprising peace we find in the present amidst so much turmoil. Haunted by ghosts we are glad to find wandering the halls as they change and age in time. There's perfect comfort in the plucking of a banjo, steady drums and gentle guitars floating under Crutchfield and Lenderman's voices. Something warm and inviting, calling you back to life and inviting you to sit and feel the sun on your face, a perfect breeze through your hair that flows past you into the vast unkowable places we have left behind.
Crutchfield never feels like she lets complacency in, it's easy to display comfort as something flat and tasteless. Rather, she sings to a life that feels hard earned and uneasy at times, but sweet and gentle all the same. The truth hiding in knowing things will never be perfect and that imperfection is the closest thing to real we will ever get. Letting the difficult and challenging roads behind provide the tools we need for those yet to come.
But you just settle in
Like a song with no end
If I can keep up
We'll get right back to it
Something in "Right Back To It" feels perfectly like home. At peace but not saccharine or overwrought, a peace we all deserve to hold in our hearts and the rare occasions we allow ourselves to feel it. Even today, as the snow falls and the hard memories live in words on a page. There is a home here for us to feel comforted within, haunted by the ghosts of so many years past who ask only we grant a little grace to the memories of younger lives that delivered us to this imperfect place of great comfort.