This song was inspired by documentaries, which makes sense as it's the most autobiographical track on the album. I wanted it to sound like it could be on the soundtrack for the Ken Burns miniseries The Civil War, which I watched with my parents as a kid. It's a song about America, and family, and grief, and the reference felt appropriate.
The lyrics are both a narration of a trip my younger sister and I took to the National Mall and a musing on my parents' divorce. My parents split up when I was 27, and it's strange when your family breaks apart after you're already grown. I didn't feel affected by it at first, or maybe it was that as an adult I didn't feel that I was allowed to be affected.
Each verse is about a different monument: first the Lincoln Memorial, then the Vietnam Wall, and then the White House. As my sister and I walked through the park, we realized that although our mother comes from a military family (her grandfather, father, and brother all fought overseas in various wars), we knew almost nothing about their service. I felt detached from my personal history, and adrift among the pieces of what used to be my nuclear family. I see that sense of detachment in the relationships I make now - I don't trust people to tell me the truth, and I never expect them to stay.
The title comes from a photographic/film technique that emphasizes the contrast between light and shadow. It's a reference both to the effect of the national mall after dark and the fact that try as I might, I can not divide my personal history into good and bad, black and white.
This one is my mother's favorite.