After a grey morning, a swim in water at least two degrees cooler than last week, an unsettling encounter with the corpse of a shrew on the deck by my bedroom, I thought it might be time for a little divination, via A Writer’s Diary. I have the lovely Persephone Books edition, with Vanessa Bell’s endpapers, and this morning I looked at September 7th, 1924, as Virginia Woolf was working on the final pages of Mrs. Dalloway.
There I am now–at last at the party, which is to begin in the kitchen, and climb slowly upstairs. It is to be a most complicated, spirited, solid piece, knitting together everything and ending on three notes, at different stages of the staircase, each saying something to sum up Clarissa. Who shall say these things?
I’ve been thinking of parties lately. Will we have them again? Will friends drive up our gravel driveway, parking in the rough area we call Wood Lane, by the little vernal pool where flag irises grow and where the elk stand up to their knees in early summer, eating the green tops? Will we push tables together and drape them with cloth, setting them with plates and silver—our family silver combined with the junk store collection we bought in Falkland some years ago, along with a silver candelabra out of an Ian Tyson song:
Does the wind still blow In New Mexico?
Do the silver candelabras yet shine?
Is Kathrine still queen of El Paso?
Never to be yours, never to be mine.
Out of reach like the pale moon that shines,
On the road to Las Cruces.
I think it was 2014 that we drove on the high desert near Las Cruces and I kept singing the song, watching for cattle and cowboys and hoping to return to a landscape so deeply storied that I wanted to spend more time listening and taking the side-roads into dry arroyos:
The line of desire, seven strands of barbed wire,
Will hold back the on rushing tide.
Many dreams have been brought to the border…
Someone has brought out the old jar I filled with dragonfly lights and they flicker from the nest of ferns where the jar is nestled. Nick is a little drunk and his eyes are shining as he looks into mine. Listen, Alice, it’s the Old Country Fairytale. Let’s just dance and forget that a former friend came up our driveway with a knife. It’s hidden away now and she’s talking to Alex. There is a brief passage, near the end of the Fairytale, when Tom’s cello sobs with a low vibrato. We stop dancing and just hold each other, on the edge of the darkness. Tea-lights in their mason jars are golden, some glittering in a small firework of burning wax as they gutter out. The scent of burning cedar is intoxicating. I love watching the children around the fire, the girls dancing behind those in chairs, and the boys leaning on skinny legs to angle their marshmallow sticks over the glowing coals.