Fin in a Waste of Waters

"These moments of escape are not to be despised. They come too seldom....Leaning over this parapet I see far out a waste of water. A fin turns....I note under 'F.,' therefore, 'Fin in a waste of waters.' I, who am perpetually making notes in the margin of my mind for some final statement, make this mark, waiting for some winter's evening." (from Woolf's THE WAVES)

26 September 2006


"I feel like I haven't been doing anything," I recently lamented to my friend Rannier. "Why haven't you been doing anything?" He asked. "Well, I've been moving and going to Fulbright meetings and getting stuff for the new flat." "Well, that's something," he answered (logically). But I haven't been getting any work done - a different kind of something. I haven't been reading much; I haven't worked on the Joyce paper since I've been back; today, I finally sat down and slogged through a bunch of administrative grad application details (necessary evils), but those never make me feel as if I've accomplished anything. And I haven't been writing. Even this, as I look at it, is clumsy and complaining.

Last night, however, I did have the chance to return to some of my Woolf work - she is such a restorative source of deep female power for me (like her own Mrs. Ramsay); during my Joyce work (as much as I really do enjoy it, he is so male), I have to return again and again to Woolf, even in small doses - Joyce is the "arid scimitar," "the egotistical man" (Woolf's Mr. Ramsay); he is the egoistic writer (with Eliot and Lawrence) which Woolf consciously tried to avoid being; and his Stephen Dedalus or maybe even Bloom, the egoistic modern antihero, wandering the desolate streets of postwar cities. I return to her as if to a fountain.

And last night, I returned to one of her biographies to be reminded of how hard moving sometimes is, even to places that you love, places that mean adventure and experience and life. I think that it is the literal unsettling that is hard. Back in London, Rasheed and I had not exactly a schedule, nor a pattern, but we just fell naturally into our days, writing and reading, going places, or he'd work at Oxfam, and I'd set up in a cafe nearby. Then, it was living out of my suitcases in D.C. for just under a week. Then, Illinois for just over a month, this time, living mostly out of laundry baskets. I never really got to settle there: not enough time, plus the medical upset (though I think I came close to comfortable, judging by how hard it was to say goodbye to people). And then back to London for just under a week, and now back down to Brighton (and back up to London this weekend!).

So I returned to her last night. Her work, too, suffered during moves, even the move from Richmond (the suburb where she felt so stifled) to London (that lively thriving city where she longed to be), which I read about last night (and which I think I might identify with, though I do like Brighton). She, too, ceased to write during these and other stressful times in her life (helpful to remember when I think about my own health situation; to remind myself that it's sometimes okay if I give myself an hour, a day, a half-week off).

So I will continue writing day by day, and it will become easy again. But I must write daily, work daily. ("Break myself back in," I told Rannier.)

[A fun note of a completely different tone: Sussex offers these really cheap open language courses - only 110 pounds for a 20-week course! - so I'm going to brush up on my Spanish! They might offer more in the spring and summer...think I could make a good start in French or Italian? So excited!]


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