11 September 2012

Autumn's Winds

The temperature today reached ninety degrees again: this has been a regular event since August. But over the past few days the winds have begun to blow autumnally. The trees, distressed from the summer’s extreme heat and persistent drought, have begun to drop their leaves. I don’t know what Fall array we will experience this year: there are trees along the highway that have already reached their peak autumn colors and it is not yet autumn by the calendar.
I am re-reading Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse. I feel warmly wrapped in the beauty of her prose. Listen, (for I think the words must be heard):  “Loveliness and stillness clasped hands in the bedroom, and among the shrouded jugs and sheeted chairs even the prying of the wind, and the soft nose of the clammy sea airs, rubbing, snuffling, iterating, and reiterating their questions“Will you fade? Will you perish?”scarcely disturbed the peace, the indifference, the air of pure integrity, as if the question they asked scarcely need that they should answer: we remain.” I am not sure who asks the questions. If it is loveliness and stillness who poses the questions then the answer comes from the shrouded jugs and sheeted chairs and even the wind and sea airs, and though they need not do so, then it is loveliness and stillness that answer, “We remain.” But if the question stems from the shrouded jugs and sheeted chairs and even the wind and sea airs, then what remains is the integrity, the peace and indifference of those things: “we remain.” The rhythms of her sentence here, even the rhyme embedded within it, is itself loveliness. It remains.
But the integrity of the silence depends on the absence of human beings, and the entrance of Mrs. McNab is a welcome disturbance to the incorruptible innocence of the silence. Mrs. McNab is the coarse, simple and practical human being, “tearing the veil of silence with hand that had stood in the wash-tub . . . came as directed.” And as Mrs. McNab lurches about in her effort to ready the home for its visitors, she represents some “incorrigible hope . . .” that as she restores life to the home she restores hope to it as well. “Visions of joy there must have been at the wash-tub, say with her children (yet two had been base-born and one had deserted her), at the public-house, drinking; turning over scraps in her drawers. Some cleavage of the dark there must have been, some channel in the depths of obscurity through which light enough issued to twist her face grinning in the glass” and make her sing. Mrs. McNab appears here the primal energy of life.
How comforting to be enveloped in this prose that moves with the rhythm of thought and considers the rhythms and meaning of life. As Moby Dick is not about whales, neither is To the Lighthouse about rowboat excursions.
I wonder: Is there in the cat’s vocabulary an equivalent for ‘thank-you?’ I came out here tonight having earlier fed the black cat dinner. S/he was laying in the shade napping, but as I came to the cabin door the cat roused and meowed. It no longer runs at my approach, though it will not come close enough to be touched. But its greeting this evening seemed to this human the cat version of ‘thank-you.’ And then s/he put her head back down on her front paws and returned to her sleep.


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