words + photo + playlist: Zoë Madonna
I become more of a hermit in the winter. I think that’s true for many people in areas that experience winter. I’m still as restless as ever, but I don’t find my usually extroverted self compelled or even wanting to be social most of the time. Midwinter, dark season, is Hermit time. Time for reading lots of books, and cat cuddles when my cat feels like giving them, and winter cleaning and listening to music on the train alone and listening to music in my room alone and staring at the clouds.
As a kid, I was told many times that my feelings were too much for other people, and when I couldn’t connect with other people, I looked for connection in music - listening, playing, and discovering it. I devoured it. When I didn’t have the words to express how I was feeling, I found a song for it, and those songs helped me make my own words.
The Hermit represents introspection and solitude. It can represent a period of retreat, a forty days (or maybe forty hours) in the desert. Time to go within. Look towards the light and you will find the truth you seek.
Hermits break taboos. In the Smith-Waite Tarot, that’s represented with a cloak and a staff and a long beard, a marker of the ascetic loner. In our hyper-social, hyper-connected present, or workplaces that demand everyday networking and strict adherence to routines of self-promotion, the Hermit breaks the rules. The Hermit turns their phone off, sets their notifications to mute, and doesn’t answer emails. It invites us to slow down enough to absorb what is around us and offered to us, the things we don't see when we rush through life.
In the spirit of the Hermit, these are songs I like to listen to on my own.
Don’t Bother They’re Here - Stars of the Lid
A song for sun-blind winter days when you’d rather be inside but something is calling you to leave the safety of your nest; at least you have the bus ride, or the walk, or the drive, to savor some slow last minutes to yourself.
Solitude Standing - Suzanne Vega
A song for late night summertime wanders, in a small town where your house is hotter than the night breeze and too many people know your name.
Mouth Log - Sidney Gish
A song for sitting alone, meditating on imperfection, and asking yourself how many times harsher you are on yourself re: your own imperfections than you are on anyone else.
I Wish I Was the Moon - Neko Case
A song for the moment that something or someone you used to turn to for self-care no longer feels like a respite, and you can’t find the reset button in the dark.
Awakened, He Heard Only Silence - Hammock
A song for boarding a train at an unholy hour, falling asleep in your seat, and awaking to a peach-colored sky gently illuminating the relics of an old city’s past.
Adeline - Alt-J
A song for days when attempting any movement feels like trying to sprint underwater.
Grey Water - Them Are Us Too
A song for nights when you want to be alone, but be extra about being alone.
Mercury - Sufjan Stevens, James McAlister, Nico Muhly, Bryce Dessner
A song for when I want to run off with it all, drifting away feeling like a planet spinning through the void, cradled in the holographic arms of glowing solar currents.
An Ending (Ascent) - Brian Eno
A song for when it’s time to go. Whatever it is, you can’t take it with you.