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An Open Letter to the Aliens: Please Help Us

Humans have failed; is it time for alien saviors to descend?

Dear Aliens,

Just yesterday, the Pentagon revealed what many of us already suspected: that you exist and you've been orbiting our planet for many years. Who knows how many civilian reports of your passage through our cosmos have been real, only to be written off as hallucinations by the close-minded?

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CULTURE

Maisie Williams, AOC, and the Growth of the "Plant Girl"

Or, why we should all probably start gardens.

Recently I've noticed that a significant percentage of the women I look up to seem to own a lot of plants.

There also seems to be a clear overlap between women who have overcome difficulties to find happiness and women who own and care for huge rooms of green, glorious ferns, shoots, and sprawling palms.

This New Year's Eve, Maisie Williams added herself to the list when she posted about her newfound love for gardening.

"2020 will probably be filled with more days spent tending our pot plant children which sounds perfect to me," she wrote in an inspiring Instagram post, which also detailed her journey into the land of self-love and self-actualization. (I don't think she was talking about *that* kind of pot, but the message is overall quite inspiring).

One of my all-time idols, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, is also open about her plants (and how they connect to her own growth). The congresswoman has spoken out about how her gardening hobby is a form of "self-care" and "mindfulness," and in one Instagram story, she wrote, "I feel like plants are a great accountability partner because they literally die if you don't take time to tend to yourself and to them."

GND Gardening - @ocasio2018

The examples go on and on. Sex-positive activist and artist Favianna Rodriguez also has a lot to say about the benefits of gardening. In a post about how her life has changed a year after leaving an abusive relationship, she wrote, "I focused on unlearning my patterns and creating new practices and ways of being. The most powerful thing I did was to shift my attention to doing things for myself, like having plants, having a garden, masturbating much more and adopting a plant based diet. By shifting towards ways I could love myself, either through my own body or my environment, I was learning new ways of being."

What I notice about many plant-loving women is that their love of plants seems to coincide with a personal growth trajectory, a movement towards internal healing and taking up space. This doesn't seem like a coincidence.

The Plant Girl: The New VSCO Girl, or Something More?

I've heard whispers of a "plant-girl" prototype around social media, which makes me worried that plant-owning has or will just become another act of performative wellness—like Kylie Jenner lips or fitbloggers. It's already been connected to millennials, whom the New York Times recently accused of "opting to fill their voids — both decorative and emotional — with houseplants." Even worse, it might become a new version of the #VSCOGirl stereotype, a meaningless term that somehow became yet another way of putting down teen girls on the Internet.

Still, something about all the posts tagged #plantgirl feel—if not outside of Instagram capitalism and media commodification then, at the least, not streamlined to fit into it. A lot of them are grainy and slightly out of focus. They seem to be taken by people whose phones don't capture everything in magical high-definition. Different from the cabin or van-bloggers, plant-tenders seem less focused on external beauty, more focused on internal growth, small moments and reclaiming stolen space.

Certainly this work is not easy. Being a plant girl seems like a lot of effort—just like being AOC is certainly a lot of work, or finding self-love after a childhood spent on Game of Thrones is probably also a moderate amount of work. But maybe that's the point. Plants yield a little oxygen, a little greenery, sometimes a little nourishment; they don't provide the immediate thrill that so many of us are conditioned to seek out in our daily lives, and instead require repetitive yet careful attention. There is no end-point to their growth. In a world where we're all constantly seeking that dopamine rush of success, maybe plants could be part of the antidote.

I'm sure that men and people of all genders could benefit greatly from plant-growing; the "plant girl" or "plant lady" archetype doesn't necessarily have to be gendered. Also, many plant-growers don't use social media, or have been growing plants for generations, of course.

But I'm interested in that specific intersection between healing and femininity and coming-of-age in the twenty-first century, because I think survival during this time might be found at some crossroads between these things. If plants aren't the key, they might be vital hints.

Gardening: An Old Trick for Modern Times

The fact that gardening is beneficial for your health is not news, and indeed, it's been proven many times that the benefits of plant-keeping are innumerable. Gardening can work as a counter to the toxicity of modern life in so many ways—for example, the simple act of putting your hands in soil can be a valuable balm for the monotony of the cubicle life. "When you sit at a desk all day, there's something about literally putting your hands in the dirt, digging and actually creating something that's really beautiful," said seasoned gardener Gillian Aldrich.

Gardening can also combat attention fatigue that stems from our overwhelming 24/7 news cycle. In a world where we're constantly asked to devote our total attention to flickering stories and images, the persistence of a steadfast potted plant can be immensely healing.

Growing A Jungle In My New York Apartmentwww.youtube.com

Gardening can also help alleviate symptoms of depression, dementia, bipolar disorder, and much more, according to a multitude of studies. If you've got an outdoor garden, the benefits of spending time outside are countless.

But indoor houseplants can also be vital in terms of removing toxins from the air and even boosting your mood. One recent study even found that women who live their lives surrounded by plants lived significantly longer and had better mental health than those who did not. And horticulture therapy, a practice that uses gardening as a form of healing, has been used for hundreds of years, and has helped everyone from returning veterans to hospice patients to suffering communities.

Of course, plants have been used as medicine since ancient times. Though the scientific community is just waking up to the benefits of things like psychedelics and the importance of the mind-body connection, this is age-old knowledge.

Many people who do use psychedelics report feeling a deep, profound connection to nature, and some even report that they can hear plants speaking while on the drug. While growing your own plants isn't the same as actually communing with them, many people have long believed that plants can interact with humans on subconscious levels, realigning negative wavelengths just as they convert carbon into oxygen and sunlight into energy.

Secret life of Plants 1978 www.youtube.com


We All Need to Start Gardens

Not all of us can be Maisie Williams or AOC, and not all of us can suddenly change our lives and start gardens and suddenly heal.

Personally, I know I'm not yet ready to be a plant mom. I'm still too irresponsible to risk anything other than a few succulents. Also, plants are expensive, and require a certain amount of care and intuition that many people simply cannot afford in this day and age, even if they could gladly provide it.

But is it so stupid to imagine that this paradigm could change, and that in the future, more of us might have gardens? That more of us might live more sustainably? That more of us might be content with small victories, with tending to things rather than forcing them into doomed spirals of exponential growth? Is it stupid to imagine that someday, I might be a plant lady? Is it crazy to imagine that the planet could heal?

Maybe it is—maybe we're doomed—but then again, every forest starts with a single seed. I'm sure my desire to start a garden is really emblematic of a desire to take better care of myself and the world around me. I think it's connected to a fear of what's happened to the planet, as we can see in the Australian bushfires that are ripping apart the Australian continent, and a desire to ground myself in the beauty of the earth, if only to remember what matters now and then.

I think Hayley Heynderickx puts it best in the song "Oom Sha La La," off her debut LP, I Need to Start A Garden. "I'm tired of my mind getting heavy with mold," she sings, and then her voice shifts to a scream. "I need to start a garden." She shouts the last line over and over again as the music builds.

HALEY HEYNDERICKX - I Need To Start A Garden (2018) (Full Album) 🎵www.youtube.com

It's the sound of panic—and of hope, placed in the earth one seed at a time, with care and dedication, and in faith that someday, something might grow.

MUSIC

All the Lyrics on Big Thief's U.F.O.F.

Adrienne Lenker's lyrics are the sort that need to be read, reread, painted on your bedroom wall, tattooed on your forehead, and read again before you even begin to take in their full majesty.

Big Thief's sophomore release, Capacity, was a virtuosic album that spun family traumas into quiet, mystical hymns.

Their newest release, U.F.O.F., builds on that formula, winding complex melodies into cohesive, restrained folk songs to create music that sounds much more simple than it is.

While Capacity sulked in the shadows of the past, U.F.O.F. leaves that decayed house of memory walks out into the summer air, and turns its eyes to the sky. Its lyrics explore death, terminal illness, and the desire to escape or transcend the limits of human life and consciousness. Ultimately, the album is about the vast, unknowable things that flicker on the edges of ordinary reality and promise the existence of something beyond.

In some ways, U.F.O.F. seems like it's meant to be listened to in complete silence, perhaps played out on staticky speakers in an abandoned lakeside mansion. Pensive, abstract, and full of longing, it almost seems like a living thing, ready to be peeled apart, mulled over, and shaped to fit each listener's experiences. Though some of its earlier songs are jagged and abstract, the music in grows more and more powerful and pleasing to the ear as the album progresses.

One highlight is "Terminal Paradise," a song that starts softly but builds up to a rustle of bell-like tones and jingling guitar patterns. The track feels somewhat like the stirrings of an early autumn wind, the scent of impending rain, or the breathless feeling of a plane taking off. "Jenni" is a powerful follow-up, a tangle of screaming guitar tones and slow drum beats.

The album's final track, "Magic Dealer," winds everything together. "I am the photograph in you, still as the moment we're lying in right now," whispers the band's lead singer, Adrienne Lenker. That lyric could encapsulate all of U.F.O.F., which, for all its winding rhythms and secret passageways, never feels rushed or urgent. Instead, it feels sort of like lying in someone's arms and ignoring the entire world, feeling the persistent chill of an impending ending, trying to hold onto a moment as it rushes away.

Despite the beauty of its music, the album is truly remarkable because of the quality of its lyrics. Lenker shines more lyrically than vocally on U.F.O.F. She has an uncanny talent for putting breathtaking words in strategic places—a silkworm here, you have wings of gold/you will never grow old there, a crystal between quotidian descriptions of suburban nights. In her ability to make pure poetry sound effortless and genuine, Lenker may be one of the closest lyricists to Leonard Cohen that we have today.

Despite their beauty, the lyrics are sometimes inaudible, at times so wispy that even quiet guitar plucking buries them. Perhaps that's on purpose—maybe this album is more about the music, especially since Lenker's solo album, abysskiss, allowed her words to take center stage. Maybe it was meant to be this way, designed so only certain phrases make it out of the fray, so fragments of poetry appear like lamplights on a misty road.

Though sometimes the lyrics are unintelligible, they are so heart-stoppingly gorgeous that it would be a shame for them to go unnoticed. So, without further ado, here are the lyrics to every song on U.F.O.F. (with my personal favorites in bold).

Contact

[Verse 1]

Jodi
Please turn the pages for me
You seem so free
You know I'm barely, barely

[Verse 2]
Wrap me in silk
I want to drink your milk
You hold the key
You know I'm barely, barely

[Verse 3]
Parker Lake Beach
All of the sunnys swimming
I wanna see
To feel my body sinking, sinking

[Verse 4]
She gives me gills
Helps me forgive the pills
She makes me sing
She is both dreamer and dream
And dream, and dream, and dream


UFOF

Big Thief - UFOF (Official Audio) www.youtube.com


[Verse 1]
To my UFO friend
Goodbye, goodbye
Like a seed in the wind
She's taking up root in the sky

See her flickering
Her system won't even try
To defend and ripen
In the radio action

[Chorus]
She'll never return again
Polarize, polarize
The seasons will bend
There will soon be proof
That there is no alien
Just a system of truth and lies
The reason, the language
And the law of attraction

[Verse 2]
Just like a bad dream
You'll disappear
Another map turns blue
Mirror on mirror
And I imagine you
Taking me outta here
To deepen our love
It isn't even a fraction

[Chorus]
Switch to another lens
The last sunlight
I don't need any other friends
The best kiss I ever had is the flickering
Of the water so clear and bright
To leap in, my skin
And I could feel the reaction

[Chorus}
Just like a bad dream
You'll disappear
Another map turns blue
Mirror on mirror
And I imagine you
Taking me outta here
To deepen our love
It isn't even a fraction


Cattails

Big Thief - Cattails (Official Audio) www.youtube.com

[Verse 1]

And the clusters fell like an empty bell
Meteor shower at the motel
Where the empty space is a saving grace
Making good time and doing well
Still the question sings like Saturn's rings
Maybe she knows and she won't tell

Caroline, Caroline
I never could leave you to struggle
Hold the line, hold the line
I'll be there on the double
In time, in time
Everyone does see trouble

[Chorus]
And you don't need to know why when you cry
You don't need to know why
You don't need to know why when you cry

[Verse 2]
Violet's eyes, Violet plays
Going back home to the Great Lakes
Where the cattail sways
With the lonesome loon
Riding that train in late June

[Chorus]
With the windows wide by my side
With the windows wide
With the windows wide by my side

[Verse 3]
And the clusters fell like an empty bell
Meteor shower at the motel
Where the empty space is a saving grace
Making good time and doing well
Still the question sings like Saturn's rings
Maybe she knows and she won't tell

[Chorus]
But you don't need to know why when you cry
You don't need to know why
You don't need to know why when you cry

[Verse 4]
And I find you there in your country flair
Middle of the river in a lawn chair
With your wrinkled hands and your silver hair
Leaving here soon and you know where
To where the cattail sways with the lonesome loon
You'll be riding that train in late June

[Chorus]
With the windows wide by your side
With the windows wide
With the windows wide by your side
You don't need to know why
You don't need to know why when you cry


Open Desert


[Verse 1]
Vacant angel, crimson light
Darkened eyelash, darkened eye
The white light of the living room
Leaking through the crack in the door
There was never need for more
Things we're meant to understand

Crawling closer to your hand

[Chorus]
To the poison image
Brave surrender
Kiss the water

[Verse 2]
After all my teeth are gone
After all the blood is drawn
The white light of the waiting room
Leaking through the crack in the door

[Chorus]
Through the poison image
Brave surrender
Kiss the water

[Outro]
Through the mirror, mountain view
She has one green, one eye blue
I can see her smiling through
The white light of the living room
Leaking through the crack in the door
The white light of the living room
Leaking through the crack in the door
There was never need for more
Things we're meant to understand


Orange


[Verse 1]

Orange is the color of my love
Fragile orange wind in the garden
Fragile means that I can hear her flesh
Crying little rivers in her forearm
Fragile is that I mourn her death
As our limbs are twisting in her bedroom

[Chorus]
Lies, lies, lies
Lies in her eyes
Lies, lies, lies
Lies in her eyes

[Verse 2]
She tells me to close and count to ten
As she wanders freely through the forest
Can I close and open once again?
The question that I seek for reassurance
[Chorus]
Lies, lies, lies
Lies in her eyes
Lies, lies, lies
Lies in her eyes

[Verse 3]
Hound dogs crowing at the stars above
Pigeons fall like snowflakes at the border
She kneels down and holds the frozen dove
Moon drips like water from her shoulder

[Chorus]
Flies, flies, flies
Flies from her eyes
Flies, flies, flies
Flies from her eyes

[Outro]
Orange is the color of my love
Fragile orange wind in the garden
Fragile means that I can hear her flesh
Crying little rivers in her forearm
Fragile is that I mourn her death
As our limbs are twisting in her bedroom


Century

Big Thief - Century (Official Audio) www.youtube.com

[Verse 1]
Dogs eyes in the headlights of the driveway
Cool autumn rain
Bugs died on your windshield on the freeway
Wonder if you'll be the same
Centuries flower

[Chorus]
And we have the same power
We have the same power
We have the same power
We have the same power

[Verse 2]
Moth flies in the window of the kitchen
You hang up your coat
Cold lips and gold eyes listen
There's something that I want you to know
Turn on the shower

[Chorus]
'Cause we have the same power
We have the same power
We have the same power
We have the same power

[Verse 3]
No resolution, no circling dove
Still caught in the jaw of confusion
Don't know what I'd do for love
But stay another hour

[Chorus]
'Cause we have the same power
We have the same power
We have the same power
We have the same power


Strange


[Verse 1]

Doesn't it seem strange
Searching for a hidden page
The fairy's cage
Coming of true age
Leave the costume on the stage
The silkworm's rage
Iridescent thread, beautiful and dead
Billions of worms were boiled to make the bed

[Chorus]
Strange, see the luna moth cry
Lime green tears through the fruit bat's eyes

[Verse 2]
Scatter and destroy
Every power you enjoy
To lay with the void
Twirling of the dime, splitting of the mind
Drawing constellations 'til the stars align

[Chorus]
Strange, see the luna moth cry (Cry)
Lime green tears through the fruit bat's eyes (Eyes)

[Outro]
You have wings of gold
You will never grow old
And turquoise lungs
You have never been young
You have wings of gold
You will never grow old
And turquoise lungs
You have never been young
The silkworm's rage
Iridescent thread, beautiful and dead
Billions of worms were boiled to make the bed
Strange, see the luna moth cry
Lime green tears through the fruit bat's eyes


terminal paradise


[Verse 1]
Driving through the night
Rings of crystal, crystal light
Every gulp of the warm suburb air
Betsy's auburn, auburn hair
[Refrain]

Ooh, ooh

[Verse 2]
Drive into New York with me
How she keeps me calm
Street lights, boys and poison palms

[Refrain]
Ooh, ooh

[Bridge]
Drive into New York with me
Big lights in the city
[Refrain]
Ooh, ooh
Ooh, ooh
Ooh, ooh

See my death become a trail
And the trail leads to a flower
I will blossom in your sail
Every dreamed and waking hour


Jenni


[Verse 1]
Too hot to breathe
Too hot to breathe

Too hot to breathe

[Chorus]
Jenni's in my room
Jenni's in my room
Jenni's in my room

[Verse 2]
Her skin so bare
The fragrant air
Her vacant eye

[Chorus]
Jenni's in my room
Jenni's in my room
Jenni's in my room

[Verse 3]
The signal swarms
The portal forms
She calls me through

[Chorus]
Jenni's in my room
Jenni's in my room
Jenni's in my room


Magic Dealer

[Verse 1]

Starve, magic mirror
I thought the crumbs of your life wouldn't dry
It hurts to see clearer

Falling like needles, the passage of time

[Chorus]
Would it hurt, would it hurt to be nearer?
Heaven is stitching across me
My chest is the crossing
The blood is parting all the time, but I don't mind

[Verse 2]
Carve magic dealer
Bring me the company I couldn't buy
As I go cleaner
Falling like needles, the passage of time

[Chorus]
Would it help, would it help to go deeper?
I am the photograph in you
The photograph in you
Still as the moment we're lying in right now
Starve, magic mirror
I thought the crumbs of your life wouldn't dry
It hurts to see clearer
Falling like needles, the passage of time


Eden Arielle Gordon is a writer and musician from New York. Follow her on Twitter @edenarielmusic.


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