dreaming in the shadows of the Sleeping Maiden

Mt. Tam glimpsed in the distance and cloaked in blue

I have to confess that at the end of this day – well, at least at the end of daylight – I was sitting here staring at the blank screen, wondering if I have anything left in me to post. Sitting directly across from me, the inner critic, dressed in her best crisply ironed suit, was about to launch herself into a serious bout of derisive laughter, the kind that she syncopates with slaps to her bony thighs in between sucking in sharp breaths, as she works herself up to giving that icy speech – very well written and argued, by the way – about the talentless hack that I am.

I had seen her in action too many times, so I got up while she was still in the giggling phase. I had in mind to tell her that she needs to work on the sneer a little harder, because it turned her lip a little too far down on the left side, wreaking havoc with the requirements of symmetry, but instead I wandered into the kitchen, opened a bottle of wine, poured myself a small glass, then walked over to my bookcase. I do this often when I am stuck. Not the wine, but the side trips to the bookcase. Generally, I pull down a book, any book, and open it up. I read whatever paragraph or stanza in a poem happens to be the middle of the page. It’s my muse’s way of having that glass of wine, I suppose.

The book I pulled down tonight was Virginia Woolf’s Moments of Being. Here is the paragraph that presented itself to me on the page to which I opened the book:

19th July 1939. I was forced to break off again, and rather suspect that these breaks will be the end of the memoir.

I was thinking about Stella as we crossed the Channel a month ago. I have not given her a thought since. The past only comes back when the present runs so smoothly that it is like the sliding surface of a deep river. Then one sees through the surface to the depths. In those moments I find one of my greatest satisfactions, not that I am thinking of the past; but that it then that I am living most fully in the present.

What are the odds of pulling down a book and opening it to a page and seeing a passage with the date July 19 on July 19, even if 73 years stand between those two markers of a the day and month? And what are the odds that I would get this kind of advice about what it takes to see through the surface just when I found myself blinded by the reflections in it?