A Clumsy Metaphor About the Sioux Falls

14,000 years ago, or so, a glacial ice sheet retreated, exposing an acre of billion-year-old quartz along what would eventually be called the Sioux River. Millennia passed — in other areas of the world, entire civilizations rose, fell, and were either forgotten or deified. Eventually, societies gathered around the newly formed Sioux Falls.

December 2023: A Clumsy Metaphor About the Sioux Falls

  • “Heaven” — Charly Bliss
  • “Punching Down” — George Clanton
  • “Aquemini” — Outkast
  • ”The $” — J Dilla
  • “All Mine” — Portishead
  • “Before You Gotta Go” — Courtney Barnett
  • “Children of the Empire” — Weyes Blood
  • “Murder, Tonight, In the Trailer Park” — Cowboy Junkies
  • “Dramamine” — Modest Mouse
  • “Guns in the Sky” — INXS
  • “Shake It Off” — Screaming Females
  • “A Little Samba” — Ugly Duckling
  • “Special K” — BLP KOSHER
  • “Forest Whitiker” — Brother Ali
  • “Blanket” — Twin Mill
  • “Bull in the Heather” — Sonic Youth
  • “LIFE ADMIN” — Jeff Rosenstock

Listen on Spotify. Listen on Apple Music.

But the river gave no mind. It continued to work. The quartz was further exposed. The rough corners and gouges created a mix of chaos and beauty that can only be replicated in this one spot. Moving forward, slowing only for freeze or drought. The good years are good years. The bad ones are bad. But the river keeps going no matter what.

I don’t think we fully understand the scope of 14,000 years. It sounds so short when compared to most geological timelines! For us, though — for humans, who are lucky to live just a small fraction of that time — 14,000 years is an eternity. Writing was first found 5,000 or so years ago. The entirety of post-Norman-Conquest English history isn’t even 1,000 years old yet. The falls were there for all of it. They had no idea, but they were there.

Which is to say — this last year? It pales in comparison. This year doesn’t hold a candle to some of the big ones — the really good ones, or the really bad ones. 2023 is just another year, in the grand scheme of things.

That’s a comfort, maybe. Or, maybe it’s the most dour thing you’ve ever read. I struggle to write about “Letting Things Go,” because I have a really hard time letting things go. I write these posts, these newsletters … I write them for me, really. To remind myself of the context of life — this month, specifically, to tell myself that 2023 wasn’t as bad as it feels. To sit inside, to pretend that I’m level-headed and in control of my emotions, to approximate some kind of emotional intelligence. So that when a year like this happens — when some hard things happen and it makes me sad — I can at least place it on a timeline. I can see how it weighs against everything else.

You can place your own pile of crises in this paragraph — your sadness and your sorrows — and it will read the same. For me, I can feel the weight of a mental health crisis, and I can wallow in the loss of a creative project, and I can struggle with the real charge of what I can only identify — with absolute disgust! — as my own personal midlife crisis, and I can look at them within the context of the world. My personal river, my personal falls, they happen independent of the world’s tragedies — the Palestines, the earthquakes, the ongoing wars.

The river continues to flow, continues to be chaotic and beautiful, continues to wear away at our lives, creating new cracks and fissures and crashing water flows. It doesn’t give a shit about which year this is. It’s unaware of the larger world but acutely focused on the self. It is still moving, like it has since before the falls were even there.

It’s a clumsy metaphor, sure. But it’s been a clumsy year. A hard year — personally, creatively, in our world. And it’s not going away — as much as we want to forget it, it’s still there. It’s part of what made our lives right now, and while we don’t have to accept it, we do have to acknowledge it. To let the calendar move forward, to put the year behind us — but also, to not forget that we’re the sum of all of our years. Even the bad ones.

I can’t end this there. Too dour, again! I hope you are doing well, dear reader. And I hope your next year shines as bright as it can. Thanks for sticking with me. I hope you like Jeff Rosenstock.

This was lovingly handwritten on December 30th, 2023