For the month of June, we asked all our writers to use a video in their piece.

Here’s one of my favorite music videos, which also happens to come courtesy of one of my favorite bands: “Ocean Breathes Salty” by Modest Mouse from their album Good News for People Who Love Bad News.

I’ve been a die-hard fan of Modest Mouse for well over twelve years now. The Moon and Antarctica will forever be one of my favorite albums (along with Neutral Milk Hotel’s In the Aeroplane Over the Sea), and Modest Mouse’s singer/lyricist Isaac Brock’s ennui and existential skepticism strikes a deep chord in every warbling album the band puts out.

To speak to “Ocean Breathes Salty” in particular, however, is no small task. Running off the success of their 2004 mainstream hit “Float On,” Modest Mouse followed up their hit with a less dance-y, more enigmatic single that seemed entirely different from the usual fare on VH1 and MTV that I secretly watched (to my parents’ disapproving eye) as a young teen.

What struck me first was the lyricism of the song itself:

“Ocean Breathes Salty”

Your body may be gone, I’m gonna carry you in. 
In my head, in my heart, in my soul. 
And maybe we’ll get lucky and we’ll both live again. 
Well I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know. Don’t think so. 

Well that is that and this is this. 
You tell me what you want and I’ll tell you what you get. 
You get away from me. You get away from me. 
Collected my belongings and I left the jail. 
Well thanks for the time, I needed to think a spell. 
I had to think awhile. I had to think awhile. 

The ocean breathes salty, won’t you carry it in? 
In your head, in your mouth, in your soul. 
And maybe we’ll get lucky and we’ll both grow old. 
Well I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know. I hope so. 

Well that is that and this is this. 
You tell me what you want and I’ll tell you what you get. 
You get away from me. You get away from me. 
Collected my belongings and I left the jail. 
Well thanks for the time, I needed to think a spell. 
I had to think awhile. I had to think awhile. 

Well that is that and this is this. 
Will you tell me what you saw and I’ll tell you what you missed, 
when the ocean met the sky. 
You missed when time and life shook hands and said goodbye. 
When the earth folded in on itself. 
And said “Good luck, for your sake I hope heaven and hell 
are really there, but I wouldn’t hold my breath.” 
You wasted life, why wouldn’t you waste death? 
You wasted life, why wouldn’t you waste death? 

The ocean breathes salty, won’t you carry it in? 
In your head, in your mouth, in your soul. 
The more we move ahead the more we’re stuck in rewind. 
Well I don’t mind. I don’t mind. How the hell could I mind? 

Well that is that and this is this. 
You tell me what you want and I’ll tell you what you get. 
You get away from me. You get away from me. 

Well that is that and this is this. 
Will you tell me what you saw and I’ll tell you what you missed, 
when the ocean met the sky. 
You wasted life, why wouldn’t you waste the afterlife?

The lyrics aside (genius as they are) have not stuck with me as much as the video itself. Growing up in a rural area of northern Michigan, I distinctly recall the wildlife and flowers growing in my backyard. While we never had the sunflowers as portrayed in the music video, we did have lilacs, a favorite of the baby bunnies seeking shelter in the bushes.

Alas, as all alases come, I found a baby rabbit with worms in its belly. It was wounded; it would not survive: my next door babysitter and I pulled out a shovel, both of us shedding tears, knowing what was coming next, and laid the animal to rest, blunt force of the shovel and all.

I was maybe only eight years old.

I realized, even then, the heartbreak of the situation. The killing of a life. The bunny a circumstantial victim of life’s outcome, its hardships, its injustice (and yet).

So on back.

Back to the music video.

Back to the lyrics that make the video all worthwhile.

It’s not that I’m expecting everyone to get this.

It’s not that I’m hoping everyone even wants to understand.

Oddly enough, what made this video all the more real for me was the moment when my son was given prescription eyeglasses. I, too, was prescribed eyeglasses at the age of ten, but Liam has had glasses since three. It may seem an inconsequential age division, but Modest Mouse’s “Ocean Breathes Salty” portrays the difference. My experience with eyeglasses pales in comparison to his, he who has had, in school pictures from preschool on, to wear his spectacles, helping him make sense of a spectacular world, aiding him even as (always as) he learns about life and death. In whatever lessons they come.

Believe me, “Ocean Breathes Salty” didn’t teach me these lessons. Being a father hasn’t taught me these lessons either.

But what has struck me most, what has stuck with me most, has been the loss portrayed in the video. The aching at work in that experience. The sadness, the living, of enduring through it all.

For what it’s worth, it may seem as if I’m wrapping up to the line “well that is that and this is this.” Despite all this, despite the lyrical cynicism, what sticks with me is the hope, the connection, the yearning, of a broken promise. Not merely a sense of “you wasted life why wouldn’t you waste the afterlife?” but something far greater, more hopeful, a sense of peace that surpasses even the utmost understanding.

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