By Charlotte Freccia ’19
This week, for my Creative Writing class, I was asked to write a love letter to any person, place, or thing. I hardly had to think a minute before what I love above all else came to me: my favorite band, Bon Iver, and Justin DeYarmond Edison Vernon, the amazing musician at its center.
Dear Justin DeYarmond Edison Vernon (Bon Iver),
I didn’t know how to address this letter. I am writing a love letter. I am writing a love letter to your band, Bon Iver, for which you are the figurehead and impetus and main creative apparatus. I’m sure you understand better than I do, better than anybody does, that it’s almost impossible to separate you, the person, in all of your divine melancholy and perception, from Bon Iver, the entity. I took a risk by addressing my letter to you, but beyond my hesitation there, I don’t know if it’s appropriate for me to call you by your full name. I don’t know if it’s okay for me to call you anything at all. My trepidation must come from the same place as comes that fear, for particularly devout Christians, of saying the name of their God directly rather than euphemistically. I am afraid as they are of sullying the name of that which is so great, so pristine, in a mouth profane and broken. And yet. Your name has slipped through my teeth so many times, as when people ask me my favorite band, or ask me what it is on this Earth that I love. Maybe one day, I dream, I’ll meet you, and you can tell me how you wish to be addressed. Maybe one day, I dream, I’ll meet you and I’ll hear you say my name.
I am writing a love letter to you because I am sometimes almost frightened by how intensely I react to your music and I wanted to try to break it down, rationalize it, ground it in reality by writing it all down and my writing came out more like an homage to you because, as already discussed, you are the person around which my favorite band revolves. It is probably impossible for me to overstate just how much I love your music. Bon Iver is like a religion to me. It is deeply, deeply spiritual, and if your voice is the altar upon which I worship for the rest of my life I imagine it will be enough to get me into heaven.
Being my favorite band, Bon Iver has been with me in the most important moments thus far in my short but eventful life. I played “Beth/Rest” as I lay still and solitary in between the sheets on the wrought-iron bed I slept in every night from ages eight to sixteen feeling ribbons of fear and release simultaneously spiral through my body moments after the first time I told somebody that I loved them and meant it, my phone still warm in my clenched hand. I played “Towers” as the plane took off and carried me away from the peaks and valleys and crystal-clear waters and the people that I loved in my beloved New Hampshire for an indefinite future in Ohio. I played “Blindsided” as I screamed and shook on the formica floor of the bathroom of a dormitory I had inhabited for only a week, with dried blood underneath my fingernails and the scent of cigarettes in my hair less a girl than a handful of broken glass on one night in which I thought that my world had surely ended.
Having been with me in these moments, the most intimate and profound of my life, when I listen to the woodsy, transcendent “For Emma, Forever Ago,” hold in my hands the physical manifestation of your art in its smooth, shiny, vinyl form, your words carved into its skin in indelible grooves, or your second self-titled LP “Bon Iver” which to me, in its jagged and distorted devastation, sounds and smells and feels like all I could ever want out of transcendence, I am filled with feeling from top of head to tip of toe, and it is often feeling so layered and dynamic and complex that it cannot be assigned a name but instead is taken as a sensation. If I could accurately put it into words, I would, but I can’t. All I can say is listening to Bon Iver is like being in the rain. And I love rain. And though rain can be punishing and miserable and the least convenient in the world…I love rain, and I know just how impossible it is to imagine a world in which rain does not fall and cry and punish and make us clean, give us feeling, breathe us life. I love rain.
And I love you.