Hi! I work at the library, but you may not have seen me since I work in the back selecting physical and digital materials for the library’s children collection. I love my job, but when I’m not doing that, I’m playing tabletop RPGs like Pathfinder. When I’m not doing that, I like to play, write and record music. I’ve been playing bass since about 16, guitar since 17 and pretending to sing since 18. There’s one song in particular I want to share with you.

The story of Passing begins in late January or early February of 2020; I don’t recall exactly when, I just remember that it was cold and dark. I remember laying on my cotton sheets under a warm comforter, feeling a chill touch any skin not buried inside a blanket burrito, wondering when the birds would begin singing again. I wanted warmth and brightness. So I hauled out my Gibson and puzzled through the chord progressions.

You can ask any creator and they will tell you, there are times when a project just comes together. For Passing the music was sort of like that, but the lyrics took time. The subject eluded me, and a final draft wasn’t finished until late March. Drawing on my love of books like Mr. Midshipman Hornblower and Patrick O’Brien’s Aubrey & Maturin novels, I pictured a large wooden sailing vessel. The intent was to write about people sailing on an uncertain sea together as an analogy to a romantic relationship.

It is a fact of life that hardship, difficulty and misunderstandings are ever present in our future; it’s simply a question of when. These instances easily induce panic because we navigate unknown waters and there is so much to fear in what we do not know. As I worked out my lyrics, COVID-19 hit Illinois in earnest. The shelter in place order went out. In the following weeks, I had some extra time to think. It occurred to me that the song I had just titled Passing applied to this situation far more than any relationship.

With this song, I tell the story of a crew struggling through a dangerous storm, crying out in fear as their little wooden world shook. By the third verse, they survive the storm but look ahead to see something that chills their bones: another storm. The narrator questions his friend/lover, whatever you prefer: “Will we sail this way forever more?” The answer is inevitably yes. Our lives are cycles of peace and hardship.

I know that’s a downer, but there is hope. We know things will eventually get better and we know we will grow through hardships. Whatever it is, the work will be difficult and stressful; afterwards, we will not be as we were. That’s ok. We might be better (however you measure better) or we might not. All that matters is that we persist and push forward, taking all necessary precautions of course. Stand six feet back, please and thank you. At the end of the song and at the end of the day, it’s all about that closing chorus. No matter how dark it gets, we can do this together and keep our light alive.

The Lyrics

Verse 1

It was late and we got tired.
The moon was full and the waves grew higher, and
wilder than I’ve seen before,
so we turned the bow away from shore.

Verse 2

And at dawn the sky turned red,
then clouds spilled in as the heavens bled
sheets of rain in rushing gales.
We sealed the ship and shortened sail.

Bridge 1

So, you and I
can hold on tight.
As lightning cracks black skies,
we steer through our cries.

Chorus 1

Baby, dear, I know you fear,
It’s always getting darker here,
but we can shield this candle from the wind.

Verse 3

The next day, the winds had died.
Our ship she groaned, her sails slack sighs
mixed with creaking from the ropes.
We looked ahead and near lost all hope.

Bridge 2

‘Cause you and I
must hold on tight.
As lightning caught our eyes,
We saw blackened skies.

Chorus 2

Baby dear, I know this shore…
You think we’ve gone this way before?
And will we sail it now forever more?

Chorus 1

Baby, dear, I know you fear,
It’s always getting darker here,
But we can shield this candle from the wind