Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Autumn, Virginia

VanDusen Garden is a good place to look for the kind of scenery Virginia Woolf' describes at the beginning of  A Room of One's Own.  Across the water could be one of the willows she notices, weeping in "perpetual lamentation, their hair about their shoulders." 

And here is some of the fiery colour Woolf's narrator admires on the riverbank of the fictional town of  Oxbridge.
"To the right and left, bushes of some sort, golden and crimson, glowed with the colour, even it seemed burnt with the heat, of fire. On the further bank the willows wept in perpetual lamentation, their hair about their shoulders. The river reflected whatever it chose of sky and bridge and burning tree, and when the undergraduate had oared his boat through the reflections they closed again, completely, as if he had never been."

Virginia Woolf is known more for her interior consciousness than for her scenery, but she opens A Room of One's Own with this lovely description of a fine October day in Oxbridge -- a fictional combination of the venerable English colleges of Oxford and Cambridge. Her narrator is sitting on the banks of the river, surrounded by autumn colours, pondering a lecture she is to give about women and fiction. (She famously concludes: "A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.") I have just started reading the book -- shamefully, for the first time -- and am delighted it is conversational and readable, not the dull tract I had always feared. I was especially delighted because her opening setting -- October, water, glowing foliage -- made me feel right at home.

Another view of the water course at VanDusen. Perhaps Virginia is just a little further along the bank. 

This is a garden worker doing maintenance in the lake, not an undergraduate oaring along a romantic college river. But it's a boat, it's water, there are reflections -- close enough.

1 comment:

  1. I think I have to admit that I started "A Room of One's Own" but didn't finish it. I was probably about 20 yrs old. Perhaps I need to pick it up again.