From Joanna Newsom’s interview with Tinymixtapes.com:
"There are actually three stories; as with almost all of my songs, there’s this recurring triumvirate structure that imposes itself without my even realizing it at first. The three subjects are always connected, but often in merely intuitive or symbolic ways. In this particular song, the most straightforward subject is my then-dog, Sadie, who passed on recently. She was a lovely white Labrador who liked nothing more in the whole world than to play fetch. And I’ve always been impatient about that; I’d look at the soggy pinecone dropped at my feet while I was trying to get into my car, and I’d say, “I’ll play with you later.”
The second subject of the song is a friend, my age, who was diagnosed with cancer. I remember marveling at the reaction of people around me, the way they sprung to action, finally articulated to her their love and appreciation, finally made those lunch dates they’d always talked about…and I sheepishly include myself in this phenomenon. It wasn’t disingenuous; it was just that our collective illusion, that we have forever to let someone know how loved she is, had been shattered.
The third subject is one of my most beloved friends, whom I’ve grown apart from. We had this sort of running argument, or a running series of disagreements founded on the same fundamental points of divergence, and if we had been close at that point, talking every day or whatnot, then those disagreements would have seemed like nothing. But because our correspondence had fallen behind, and we’d developed insecurities and bitterness, these disagreements became all-consuming; we fixated on them, let resentments build around them, let a silence build between us. And I remember just having my breath taken from me in one sickening moment when I paused one day to imagine what I’d do if this friend fell ill with cancer, like my other friend. I knew that I would fly to be with her, stay by her side forever if I had to, and revel in her extraordinary rarity, intelligence, kindness, forget all the shitty stupid petty small points of contention between us, because they were so insignificant in light of our own inevitable mortality.
So. Those are the basic subjects of the song. It’s about all sorts of things, but I guess the main story is about death, love, putting things off…”