October 10, 2012

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

I had looked forward to reading Mrs. Dalloway in its entirety this past weekend while in transit to and from Santa Cruz, California for the wedding of a dear friend who I don't see nearly often enough. The last time I flew to the West Coast alone - some 12 years (!) ago - I devoured the first half of Clarissa Dalloway's day. The empty hours, sitting strapped to a seat, provided the perfect bubble for climbing inside the rhythm of Virginia Woolf's prose. During that long ago trip, however, I lost the ability to plunge into the flow of the language after closing the book upon arrival in Oregon.

The memory of my complete immersion in Clarissa's stream of consciousness has stayed with me over the years. I've attempted to read Mrs. Dalloway again from the beginning, countless times, without success. I'm convinced that a large block of uninterrupted time, free from distractions, is necessary to fully enter and be present in Clarissa's world. What better opportunity than another cross-country flight? Unfortunately, I was too tired to read properly and Mrs. Dalloway remains on my list of must-reads.

I could have read the book and enjoyed the plot and the characters, but Woolf's writing deserves more. Her prose begs to be savored, rolled across the palate, by a fully present reader. Sadly, I was too tired to be an attentive reader. With a little disappointment in my heart, I return Mrs. Dalloway, a bit more dog-eared and worn, to her spot on the shelf, where she will wait patiently for a special time to be read. Perhaps she deserves to be read in a more fitting environment than the sterility of air travel, such as sprawled on the bank of a creek or pond, illuminated by dappled sunlight filtering through the majestic canopy of an oak tree in full autumn splendor.

My bittersweet failure to to consume and be consumed by Mrs. Dalloway is somewhat tempered by my substitute in-flight activity. While those around me were wired to sounds and tapped away at laptops, tablets & phones, I knit in silence. I finally finished, minus weaving in the ends and blocking, my longest term unfinished object. (I can't remember when I started it - not a good sign.) It is now a 2x2 ribbed scarf, the first scarf I've made for myself, knit with a buttery soft Italian wool and cotton blend. And just in the nick of time, too, as the Hubbers needed to fire up the furnace in my absence. Oh how I look forward to the chilly days ahead.
A few words about the wedding trip. The weather was beautiful, the gathering of friends and family warm and welcoming, the ceremony on a bluff above the ocean was tender and sincere, a tear jerker with a dramatic sunset as a backdrop [3rd pic]. And what is it about the light in California? It is crystal clear and sharp. Every object stands out in perfect focus, each detail articulated. California light is photographer's dream (at least this photographer).

My final morning on the shore of the Pacific, I watched a fishing boat perform it's dance. Crazed seagulls circled the bright green vessel which towed a lone fisherman in a small boat. Bobbing heads clad in blaze orange caps hauled in the massive nets raised by the crane on board. From that final scene to my first morning back in Ohio. I was roused by the giant vacuum machine sounds of the farmer across the way harvesting the soy fields. Not knowing my farm machinery, I suppose the farmer could have been plowing the soy under to enrich the soil. But I prefer to think he was harvesting for the simple pleasure of the symmetry of food gathering sights.

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