Monday, August 31, 2015

Enraptured light: August 31, 2015

This is the last day of August, & like almost all of them of extaordinary beauty.  Each day is fine enough & hot enough for sitting out; but also full of wandering clouds; and that fading & rising of the light which so enraptures me in the downs: which I am always comparing to the light beneath an alabaster bowl.

Friday, 31 August, 1928
(D3 192)

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Easy August: August 30, 2015

Relaxing in Kensington Gardens

EVERYONE, especially in August, especially in England, can bring to mind the peculiar mood which follows a long day of exercise in the open air. The body is tired out; the mind washed smooth by countless gallons of fresh air, and for some reason everything seems dangerously simple, and the most complex and difficult decisions obvious and inevitable. There is something truly or falsely spiritual about this state, and it is one which if prolonged may easily lead to disaster.

Review of Beyond, by John Galsworthy. (30 August, 1917.)   
(CW 63;  E2 152)

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Sunflower Plaques: August 29, 2015

She was late.  She gave one look at the sunflower on the terra-cotta plaque.  That symbol of her girlish sentiment amused her grimly.  She had meant it to signify flowers, fields in the heart of London; but now it was cracked.    
The Years (95)

August 29, 1935, Woolf writes in her diary that she has been “doing the scene of Esther’s day with the usual pangs and ecstacies”  (D4 335).

Friday, August 28, 2015

Wood: August 28, 2015

Wood is a pleasant thing to think about. It comes from a tree; and trees grow, and we don't know how they grow. For years and years they grow, without paying any attention to us, in meadows, in forests, and by the side of rivers--all things one likes to think about. . . . I like to think of the tree itself:--first the close dry sensation of being wood; then the grinding of the storm; then the slow, delicious ooze of sap. I like to think of it, too, on winter's nights standing in the empty field with all leaves close-furled, nothing tender exposed to the iron bullets of the moon, a naked mast upon an earth that goes tumbling, tumbling, all night long. 

"The Mark on the Wall"
(CSF 88) 

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Proud Sunflowers: August 27, 2015

Photo courtesy of Mark Charney
[L]ilies, sacerdotal, ecclesiastical; flowers with prim cardboard collars tinged apricot and amber, all gently incline their heads to the breeze—all, with the exception of the heavy sunflower, who proudly acknowledges the sun at midday and perhaps at midnight rebuffs the moon. There they stand; and it is of these, the stillest, the most self-sufficient of all things that human beings have made companions; these that symbolise their passions, decorate their festivals, and lie (as if they knew sorrow) upon the pillows of the dead.

"On Being Ill"

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The Base of Life: August 26, 2015

Night Nursery at Talland House, 2003
If life has a base that it stands upon, if it is a bowl that one fills and fills and fills--then my bowl without a doubt stands upon this memory. It is of lying half asleep, half awake, in bed in the nursery at St Ives. It is of hearing the waves breaking, one, two, one, two, and sending a splash of water over the beach; and then breaking, one, two, one, two, behind a yellow blind. It is of hearing the blind draw its little acorn across the floor as the wind blew the blind out. It is of lying and hearing this splash and seeing this light, and feeling, it is almost impossible that I should be here; of feeling the purest ecstasy I can conceive.

“A Sketch of the Past”
(MOB 64-5)

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Who is Speaking? August 25, 2015

Photo courtesy of Susan Watts
But when the self speaks to the self, who is speaking? -- the entombed soul, the spirit driven in, in, in to the central catacomb; the self that took the veil and left the world--a coward perhaps, yet somehow beautiful, as it flits with its lantern restlessly up and down the dark corridors.

"An Unwritten Novel" (CSF 120)

Monday, August 24, 2015

The Terrace: August 24, 2015

Meanwhile Leonard and I have bought a field, including a view of the Asheham cement works. . . and we are making all sorts of ambitious schemes for terraces, gazebos, ponds, water lilies, fountains, carp, goldfish, statues of naked ladies, and figureheads of battleships reflected in shadowy lakes.

August  12, 1928
(L3 515-6)

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Wave in the Mind: August 23, 2015

Style is a very simple matter; it is all rhythm. Once you get that, you can't use the wrong words. But on the other hand here am I sitting after half the morning, crammed with ideas, and visions, and so on, and can't dislodge them, for lack of the right rhythm. Now this is very profound, what rhythm is, and goes far deeper than any words. A sight, an emotion, creates this wave in the mind, long before it makes words to fit it; and in writing (such is my present belief one has to recapture this, and set this working (which has nothing apprently to do with words) and then. as it breaks and tumbles in the mind, it makes words to fit it.  But no doubt I shall think differently next year.

Letter to Vita Sackville-West

March 16, 1926 (L3  247)

Saturday, August 22, 2015

The Wave and Whisper of the Garden: August 22, 2015

Oh, Mrs. Ramsay! She called out silently, to that essence which sat by the boat, that abstract one made of her, that woman in grey, as if to abuse her for having gone, and then having gone, come back again. It seemed so safe, thinking of her. Ghost, air, nothingness, a thing you could play with easily and safely at any time of day or night, she had been that, and then suddenly she put her hand out and wrung the heart thus. Suddenly, the empty drawing-room steps, the frill of the chair inside, the puppy tumbling on the terrace, the whole wave and whisper of the garden became like curves and arabesques flourishing around a centre of complete emptiness.

Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse (182)

Friday, August 21, 2015

Ray Strachey: August 21, 2015

Ray's hair stood up very vigorously on either side of the parting which lately she had made in the middle. Her bitterness at Oliver, whom she had loved, & did love, was perceptible--something tart about her; & as if some of the petals of what she hoped, as a girl, to be so yellow a sunflower--she was ambitious, self confident, was greedy & a little insensitive about 'fame'--as if these petals had withered & she cd. no longer be confident; was indeed disappointed, a little wounded, embittered; chiefly shown by her immense activity, as if always trying to get what she could not. And she grew so unwieldy; & cared so little for appearances; yet was envious, I guess, of the graces; & hadnt achieved altogether what her intention in disregarding the graces had been. I mean, she planned a great unconventional rough hewn figure; & it didnt altogether come off.

24 July, 1940  D5 (304

Thursday, August 20, 2015

A Sweeter Air: Aug 20, 2015

Not Southerwood, but sweet-smelling native plants in Santa Fe
There's a sweeter air outside-- how spicy, even on a still day, after the house-- and bushes of verbena and southernwood yield a leaf as one passes to be crushed and smelt. If we could see also what we can smell-- if, at this moment crushing the southernwood, I could go back through the long corridor of sunny mornings, boring my way through hundreds of Augusts, I should come in the end, passing a host of less-important figures, to no less a person than Queen Elizabeth herself. Whether some tinted waxwork is the foundation of my view, I do not know; but she always appears very distinctly in the same guise. She flaunts across the terrace superbly and a little stiffly like the peacock spreading its tail. 


Saturday, August 8, 2015

Woolf in Bloom will be off-line August 8-20.  Travelling where there is little or no access to Internet. 

Friday, August 7, 2015

August Rodmell: August 7, 2015

Back doors at Monk's House.
I have just written those august words, Rodmell, August 1931.  And its good, no better that I thought.  Who else in the whole of Sussex can say that? Weather all sorts; river running; boat swimming; loud speaker, camera, Electric Lights, fridgidaire – thus I run through those material blessings which one ought to say make no difference,  Yet they do – Heal beds too; my wide empty room to wake in; to go to bed  in crossing the garden by the pale flowers – the garden lit by our bright lights.
August 7, 1931 (D4 36)   

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Lily Pond: August 6, 2015

Lily Pond at Monk's House
The scullery maid, before the plates came out, was cooling her cheeks by the lily pond.

There had always been lilies there, self-sown from wind-dropped seed, floating red and white on the green plates of their leaves. Water, for hundreds of years, had silted down into the hollow, and lay there four or five feet deep over a black cushion of mud. Under the thick plate of green water, glazed in their self-centred world, fish swam--gold, splashed with white, streaked with black or silver.  Silently they manoeuvred in their water world, poised in the blue patch made by the sky, or shot silently to the edge where the grass, trembling, made a fringe of nodding shadow.  On the water-pavement spiders printed their delicate feet.  A grain fell and spiralled down; a petal fell, filled and sank.  At that the fleet of boat-shaped bodies paused; poised; equipped; mailed; then with a waver of undulation off they flashed.
Between the Acts (29)

Woolf registered trying to write about a lily pond  in Pointz Hall on Aug 4, 1938  (D5 159)

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Palace of Comfort: August 5, 2015

Lodge at Monk's House
Far the pleasantest memories, standing out like green weed on some civet grey pond, were the week ends here [at Monk's House]: the divine fresh week ends, with the hay cutting & the lights lambent; Leonard's new room, Hedgehog Hall a-building, & my lodge being made into the palace of comfort which it now is.  For I am now sitting here, oppressed by the Bank holiday atmosphere which gets into the wild country air, the lonely marshes, & makes the village seem smug and suburban,  The girls and men are playing stool ball; Leonard and Percy are making a pipe conduct water into the Pond.  It is a chocolate brown and lived in by small fish.

August 5, 1929 (D3 238)

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

The Great War: Aug 4, 2015

THAT a break must be made in every life when August 1914 is reached seems inevitable. But the fracture differs, according to what is broken, and Roger Fry was a man who lived many lives, the active, the contemplative, the public and the private. The war affected them all -- it was, he said, "like living in a bad dream". And the first shock was terrible. He had come to believe that a more civilised period in human life was beginning; now that hope seemed ended. "I hoped never to live to see this mad destruction of all that really counts in life. We were just beginning to be a little civilised and now it's all to begin over again. . . . Oh if only France would keep out and leave Slavs and Teutons to their infernal race hatreds! But we are all entrapped in the net of a heartless bureaucracy -- such are two exclamations in August 1914.
 Roger Fry 

World War I began August 4, 1914.

Monday, August 3, 2015

St. Ives Regatta: August 3, 2015

Sailboats from Talland House (in 2003, when there was still a view)

In those days St Ives, save for a few painters, had no visitors. Its customs were its own customs: in August there was the Regatta. . . . There were races for men, for boys; races for luggers, for pleasure boats. It was very gay, with the flags flying and the gun firing and the music of the St Ives Band coming from the Regatta boat across the water. A crowd collected in the Malakoff-- that octagonal space at the end of the terrace, which had been built, presumably, in the Crimean War, and was the only attempt that the town made at being a watering place. It had no pier; no parade; only this angular piece of ground with a few stone benches, upon which retired fishermen would sit in their blue jerseys, smoking and talking. Regatta Day -- always a fine day -- remains in my mind, and makes me think, what with its little flags and its little boats and its movement and the people dotted on the sand and on the water and the music coming over the water, of a French picture.
"A Sketch of the Past" (MOB  131)


Other Augusts: August 2, 2015

In the garden at Monk's House
The bomb did not fall. But during those seconds of suspense all thinking stopped. All feeling, save one dull dread, ceased. A nail fixed the whole being to one hard board. The emotion of fear and of hate is therefore sterile, unfertile. Directly that fear passes, the mind reaches out and instinctively revives itself by trying to create. Since the room is dark it can create only from memory. It reaches out to the memory of other Augusts--in Bayreuth, listening to Wagner; in Rome, walking over the Campagna; in London. Friends' voices come back. Scraps of poetry return. Each of those thoughts, even in memory, was far more positive, reviving, healing and creative than the dull dread made of fear and hate.   

“Thoughts on Peace in an Air Raid” (1940)

Saturday, August 1, 2015

The Garden and the Nursery: August 1, 2015

View up garden path towards nursery window at Talland House
Is it not possible -- I often wonder-- that things we have felt with great intensity have an existence independent of our minds; are in fact still in existence? And if so, will it not be possible, in time, that some device will be invented by which we can tap them? I see it -- the past - an avenue lying behind; a long ribbon of scenes, emotions. There at the end of the avenue still, are the garden and the nursery. Instead of remembering here a scene and there a sound, I shall fit a plug into the wall; and listen in to the past. I shall turn up August 1890. I feel that strong emotion must leave its trace; and it is only a question of discovering how we can get ourselves again attached to it, so that we shall be able to live our lives through from the start.
“A Sketch of the Past”  (MOB 67)