I don’t think I can overstate how meaningful this song is to Sarah and I. Originally we wrote it for our wedding and just called it “Binary.” Later, when we were gigging with Beth Kinderman, we wanted to do a cover of Shenandoah and realized they were in the same key and sort of slotted them together. And that only gave the song more meaning.
There’s a lot in here that just IS my relationship with Sarah. “The inevitable draw of gravity’s pull” sums things up fairly well. We met one day and were friends soon after and became thereby inextricably bound. Sarah is essential to me, to my life, and the pull that is between us is far stronger than any gravity you could name. And I think we knew, even then at the start, that there was an inevitability to us, that whatever path we took in life or whatever happened, we were going to be there beside each other.
We really are a binary system, in orbit around one another, and the only end for us was to become one stable unit. You can’t measure me without her, or her without me. We can’t BE without the other. And, in the end, if and when we go down, we’ll go down together. Because I became who I am with her, and she became herself with me. The me that exists now only exists because of her.
Also, yay for a song where I got to talk about quantum particles!
The line “It is said that we’re all a soul split in two and fallen from space” actually comes from an oversimplification of a story from Plato about the first humans. The myth was that the first humans were created by splitting a prior being with a whole bunch of extra limbs and bits in half, and that those halves would search for each other in order to find true peace. And there is something, well, not literal, but something to the idea that I, at least, spent all of my life before Sarah looking for Sarah. Looking exactly for her, in every way. She’s exactly 5 weeks and 12 hours older than me, and we joke that because I’m younger I was clearly born into the world already waiting for her to find me.
But it wasn’t always easy. There were lots of things that made life difficult. When not at college, we were physically divided by distance. Either way, we were navigating being with a person of the same gender in a society that was not always friendly (and sometimes was downright hostile), and that was very painful for us. And we both sometimes suffer with depression or anxiety, in different ways, and that made it feel like we were together, but separated by a great chasm or a pane of glass that kept us from being able to reach one another.
“Shenandoah” started as our song about being parted by the river, about not being together in the same state during school vacations. But it became about all the things in the world that threatened what we had found. It was about being pulled apart by forces not under our control, either internal or external. About inevitably knowing that we would be separated again, that days would come when we couldn’t find one another through the haze of our brains being unkind. That we would spend our lives sometimes right next to one another, and yet very alone.
But in the end, neither of us is going anywhere. In the end, “I’ll take my love across your rolling waters.” In the end, we’ll carry each other through those tough times. In the end, whatever the future brings, we’ll walk into it together, side by side.
Wherever Sarah is for the rest of her days, I will be standing there.
*Please note that this entry has been backdated. Basically, the summer got completely away from me AND I lost access to posting on the site from the reliable computer I’d been using — and posting via smartphone is not as elegant as it sounds. So, to make up for it, I’ve retroactively put this entry here. Hopefully this won’t become an annual trend!