Sunday 29 August 2021

Virginia Woolf, To the lighthouse, on Castle Island

Eleven years later we take a while to recognise our camping spot, as if it needed to come forward from its past, or we from ours, till we knew where the tent went, where the fire spot must be, in a hollow with a grassy edge, for sitting and looking southwest, seals looking too, at us, we suppose. We pitched the tent, found mushrooms and a thick green net for carrying wood. Meanwhile a small east wind was getting up, so there was the question of a sheltered place to sit, or lie, or read, or not. Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse. In this case the Fastnet Rock coming and going in the haze. 

I found a hot spot and stretched out. Reading Virginia Woolf on Castle Island, re-reading sentences and paragraphs, settling the layers, closing your eyes: no greater pleasure.

.... it was a relief when they went to bed. For now she did not need to think about anybody. She could be herself, by herself. And that was what now she often felt the need of — to think; well not even to think. To be silent; to be alone. All the being and the doing, expansive, glittering, vocal, evaporated; and one shrunk, with a sense of solemnity, to being oneself, a wedge-shaped core of darkness, something invisible to others.

Later we walked to the other side of the island where the ruined houses (west) stand, and, among the sheep and gorse and ghostly lazy beds, we had a conversation I'm sure we've had before, about what this island, those islands, could or should become, their swansong, perhaps. We are solitary shapemakers. I don't know the word for people who imagine looking out of empty frameless windows in roofless buildings facing southeast, but there must be one. As there must be a word for people who re-read Virginia Woolf and sit, like Mrs Ramsay knitting reddish-brown socks for the lighthousekeeper's son, in case the weather is calm enough to go out there next day.

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