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Pickle Me This

August 28, 2007

Nothing on earth can equal

Curtis is moving to Ireland, and he wants us to come visit him. Last night he told us that in the new flat “we’ll have a spare bedroom”. And there was something in his “we”– I had to get down To the Lighthouse and get Virginia Woolf to explain:

“‘We went to look for Minta’s brooch,’ he said, sitting down by her. ‘We’ — that was enough. She knew from the effort, the rise his voice to surmount a difficult word that it was the first time he had said ‘we’. ‘We’ did this, ‘we’ did that. They’ll say that all their lives, she thought…”

It was the second time in the past while that I’ve needed Virginia Woolf to sum up love– in June, you might remember, I read this passage from The Voyage Out at Bronwyn’s wedding, and nothing has ever been more appropriate. And Mrs. Ramsay was able to describe what made Curtis’s “we” so significant, far more succinctly than I ever could have. I love the relevance of VW’s words, not long from a century after they were written. A room full of ordinary people, ordinary conversation on a Sunday night, and that Virginia Woolf mattered there. It surprises people, I think, what she knew about love. What she knew about joy.

What then, for the whole story? How do we reconcile that beautiful passage from The Voyage Out with what happened to Rachel? Paul Rayley’s “we” with what happened to “the Rayleys”? With what happened to Mrs. Ramsay? Should the inevitable darkness in Woolf’s work necessarily obliterate the light? I like to think not. Yes, Woolf is dangerous out of context, but there is nothing wrong with pushing the darkness back sometimes– this is what life is. This is what hope is.

Hope is moving away to Ireland on the trail of a girl, and even knowing what I know, twentieth century aside and all, I look forward to hearing Curtis say “we” all our lives. To Bronwyn and Alex, and the refreshingly solid ordinariness of their love, whose power can bring tears to my eyes. It is seeing the world all around us, and venturing forth anyway, and hope is, surely, as Woolf knew, a most heroic act.

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