The Lonesome Valley

the lonesome valley

the promised land

the echoes and silence

the outstretched hand

hang on for just as long as you can

and then fall, fall, fall

the empty vessel 

the broken cup

the dwindling candle

the sudden stop

sow in the spring, gather your crop

and then drop, drop, drop

the lovely arms

the beam of light

the heart-shaped bone

the constant plight

armed to the teeth, prepare to fight

and then lose, lose, lose

the drop in the bucket

second to last

the unspooling ribbon

the future past

oh but your human hand to clasp

oh but your human hand to clasp

As people familiar with my work will already know, I am a bit preoccupied with the concept of death. Anybody's death, but my own in particular. And it comes out all over the place. It has almost become a running gag in my family - any time I want to show my parents a new song, they sit forward to listen, bright-eyed, giving each other sidelong glances until they inevitably hear the death-reference they were waiting for and laugh appreciatively. "Ho ho ho! Zoë and her existential dread, it shall never get old!" It's true that most of my songs have a death reference in them (Deathference? Could that be a thing?) but this song is particularly and especially death-y.  

From July 2015 until July 2016, my role at my Day Job was that of team manager - I had 17 direct reports. That is, people I had to manage and get to do their jobs. I attended many meetings about many topics that were bewildering and often stupefyingly boring. I listened to many people have many feelings about why they were not able to fulfill the most fundamental requirements of their roles (i.e. present yourself at work). I learned a great deal about my own aptitudes and capabilities and I also learned (from a fresh new perspective!) that human life is but the briefest flicker of light in the otherwise obsidian gulf of spacetime. To put it more directly, the stress and frustration I experienced at work made me feel like I was wasting my life. My outlet, as per the uszj, was songwriting. 

I wrote these lyrics in the late summer of 2015, when I was trapped in a two-day long workshop held in an air-conditioned, fluorescent conference room with no windows. Does it not all make sense now? Do the words not carry with them the memory of that airless cell? I am much happier at work these days, hallelujah for that, but songs like this remind me that we get one shot at doing this human life, so we'd better spend as much of it as possible making out and eating avocados.