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Eating Up “The Waves” by Virginia Woolf

Virginia Woolf’s The Waves is just a really long, complicated poem. By which I mean, I didn’t completely understand it, but it sounded really nice.

It follows six friends through their lives, from childhood until death, and is narrated by each of them in turn, in strange, trance-like streams of subconsciousness. These streams of sub-consciousness are told entirely using direct dialogue that does not seem as though it is actually being spoken. Breaking up chunks of this ‘dialogue’ are chunks of narration that describe the scenery, the waves and the sun on its journey through the sky, which mirrors our heroes’ and heroines’ journeys through life.

The words and sentences ebb and flow together like the streams of consciousness that Woolf alters between. But where waves can be messy, her tight prose weaved seamlessly together like the cotton threads in a gauzy, flowing scarf.

But, to write up another comparison, my experience with the book was kind of the opposite of how one views a pointillist painting. From far away, seeing it as a whole, it becomes a blur of metaphors and symbols that I can’t grasp. But up close, in one little sentence at the top of a page, a phrase a few paragraphs down, an excerpt later on, I bit into delicious morsels of truth.

Obviously there was a whole feast of truths and ideas, covered in brilliance sauce. But, for a little not-yet-an-English-major like me, the morsels were all I could get at. All I could appreciate. They were sweet champagne, bubbling over in seductive flutes, that anyone might sip. The rest was a deep red wine with notes of this and that, which my inexperienced palate couldn’t yet detect.

But I’m learning that that’s okay. I’m young, I don’t have to know and understand and appreciate every nuance in every piece of literature I read. I can take and enjoy my morsels and come back for a second plate of more substantial dishes later. Because the sumptuous spreads laid out in books never spoil. And you can come back later for seconds and thirds and even fourths. And what you gain from this kind of face-stuffing goes to your brain not your hips.

Thoughts on Time

In the style of The Waves by Virginia Woolf. Kind of.

Times plods on. It rushes, it streams onwards. An era, a year, a day that’s passed will never be again. Ever. Except for its shadowy vision that exists in the minds of its survivors, its victors. When they pass, when their memories are lost, it’s gone. Except for in the words that have attempted to capture it. But even it cannot fully live in those words as it lived in its time.

It is 6:03 pm on Tuesday March 5, 2013. It will never be this date and time again. Even as I write this, that moment disappears. Now it’s 6:05. And the hands of my watch move along, even as my fingers caress this keyboard. They’ll look the same in a mere twelve hours, but a different number will occupy the circle where the date resides. Everything — the rotation of the earth, the hue of the sky, my level of consciousness — will be changed. Except fo the position of the minute- and hour-hands on my dainty rose gold watch.

I will never have this moment in my head and hands and lungs again. There. It is gone. It has passed on to be hazed in the land of memory. It is replaced by a new moment, which will pass on in the next moment’s birth.

Every minute, every second a piece of my youth is buried without a eulogy. I am also reborn, each moment, older and wiser or younger and acting foolish. Just for the moment. And each moment is a choice. Often nothing changes between moments. They are fluid. They pass without informing me. But still, a piece of my life becomes the past, to make room for the present and future. If I learn from it, and release it, and let it.

And time slides on. It doesn’t notice this, any of this, because time cannot notice. It just slips and slides onwards, forwards, backwards. Into infinitude. Whatever that is.

And what about us. Me and you. Do we notice? We can, because we are not time. How do we spend these moments that we’ll never live through again? We choose how to spend each moment. And even when we do not choose, that is a choice. It is 6:28. 6:29. And now it’s dinnertime.

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