A Letter to Virginia Woolf

Dear Ms. Woolf,

I have a room of my own and it is crowded. Crowded with books, furniture, pictures, pencils and paper. My room is full of ideas. I guard my room closely, carefully. I fill it with peonies, poetry and photographs. My room is small: an old closet in my old house. Chipped paint on the walls and a bare, warped wooden floor. A sloped ceiling and a small latched window. I sit in my room and read. And listen. And think. And write. My shelves are full of women: Bishop, Moore, Dove and Hull. You. I open them, breathe them in, admire their genius. They are alive. Waiting.

But my room is lonely, as I’m sure you always knew. I cannot stay here forever, alone crafting, scratching out words beneath your watchful gaze. The silence presses down. Hard. At times, I am not worthy of this room. At times I am not worthy of the women that line my shelves.

At times, I am ashamed.

I am ashamed of my lack of focus. I am ashamed of the time spent away from my room. Ashamed of what I cannot write. Ashamed that I cannot write. But I am trying.

And at last, your final note, your last note to Leonard before you walked into the river, pockets full of stones, always brings me to tears. Love even in despair. You taught me that.


Virginia Woolf’s final note to her husband before her suicide on March 28, 1941:

Dearest, I feel certain that I am going mad again. I feel we can’t go through another of those terrible times. And I shan’t recover this time. I begin to hear voices, and I can’t concentrate. So I am doing what seems the best thing to do. You have given me the greatest possible happiness. You have been in every way all that anyone could be. I don’t think two people could have been happier ’till this terrible disease came. I can’t fight any longer. I know that I am spoiling your life, that without me you could work. And you will I know. You see I cannot even write this properly. I can’t read. What I want to say is that I owe you all the happiness of my life to you. You have been entirely patient with me and incredibly good. I want to say that–everybody knows it. If anybody could have saved me it would have been you. Everything has gone from me but the certainty of your goodness. I can’t go on spoiling you life any longer. I don’t think two people could have been happier than we have been. V.

A clip from the 2002 film The Hours based off of the 1998 novel of the same name by Michael Cunningham.

A Room of One’s Own

A long winter it was here in Indiana. A very long winter but now it is May. My peonies are blooming and I am on break until June 5th. The spring semester ended last Tuesday, and I spent the following days decompressing and organizing. Today, I took an hour and cleaned off my desk and made my workspace workable (it looked liked a paper factory threw up in here before) and then I decided I wanted to blog. And read. And write.

I wanted to.

As is evidenced by my blog, a hefty stack of New Yorkers, a long que on my Kindle Fire and my empty writing journals, I have not wanted to do any of these things since about February. For shame, but there’s not point in dwelling on the past.


After I spent some time cleaning up my little office area, I went outside, cut some peonies, returned to my office and read the first two chapters of A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf. I’ve read this book before, but it’s been awhile and I picked up a used copy at a yard sale last year, so I figured I’d dive right in. I like Woolf. I like her wit and her honesty. Brutal honesty. I like how she remarks, after being snubbed by two different men while visiting Oxbridge:

It is a curious fact that novelists have a way of making us believe that luncheon parties are invariably memorable for something very witty that was said. or something very wise that was done. But they seldom spare a word for what was eaten. 

I also love her beautifully descriptive images:

It was the time between the lights when colours undergo their intensification and purples and golds burn in windowpanes like the beat of an excitable heart. 

But most of all I admire her for passages like this:

Women have served all these centuries as looking glasses possessing the magic and delicious power of reflecting the figure of a man at twice its natural size. Without that power probably the earth would still be swamp and jungle. 

So here’s to a summer of reading, gardens, yoga, fresh food and words.

My own little room.