This my excavation and today is Kumran
Everything that happens is from now on
These lines open “re: stacks,” the final song on Bon Iver’s debut, For Emma, Forever Ago. Kumran (usually spelled “Qumran”) is the site where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in 1947. It symbolizes a personal catharsis for Justin Vernon, the band’s sole member; Vernon retreated to his father’s Wisconsin log cabin for three months to record the album, chop wood, and generally be alone. He explains the Kumran metaphor himself here:
When they found them it changed the whole course of Christianity, whether people wanted to know it or not. A lot of people chose to ignore it, a lot of people decided to run with it, and for many people it destroyed their faith, so I think I was just looking at it as a metaphor for whatever happens after that is new shit.
The song also hints at a slow shedding of the skin, rather than a complete catharsis. In the last verse, Vernon sings:
This is not the sound of a new man or crispy realization
It’s the sound of the unlocking and the lift away
Your love will be safe with me
It’s not a “crispy realization” or a click of a lock in the door — a clean break from the past. In the final line he says that some of the past’s love will continue with him, like a pendant or a memory that won’t fade.
Not convinced? Vernon’s mom, Justine Vernon (real name, we assume), totally agrees. In this very adorable feature featuring several “indie rock moms” she says, “To me, it is not about getting over things and moving forward, it is about going through the sadness, taking some of it with you and being made whole because of it. I cry every time I listen to it.”
What’s good enough for Mrs. Vernon is good enough for us.