Sunday, 14 February 2016

Longing for Summer

“Throw over your man, and we’ll go to Hampton Court and dine on the river together and walk in the garden in the moonlight and come home late and have a bottle of wine and get tipsy, and I’ll tell you all the things I have in my head, millions, myriads.”

Virginia Woolf wrote this in a love letter to Vita Sackville-West in 1927. Given that it’s Valentine’s Day, it would be easy to focus on the ‘love letter’ aspect – and, if there’s anything that would make ideal solo V-day reading in bed with a cup of coffee, it’s probably their communications. I mean, when better (hmm, or perhaps when worse, depending on circumstance) to think about Vita’s missive where she wrote, “I just miss you, in a quite simple desperate human way. You, with all your undumb letters, would never write so elementary a phrase as that.” To go one step further, one could reach for Orlando - that dazzling, outrageously wonderful book that’s part paean to Vita, part romp through bodies, clothes, centuries, and historical figures. To return to this specific letter though, when I first read it I was struck by their relationship, but perhaps more so by how much I craved an evening like the one described by Woolf (tempestuous affair optional added extra).  

It encompasses so many things I adore: food, stretching evenings, wine, conversation, good company, a sense of potential extending ever further outward. I want those millions and myriads, the delirious freedom of abandoning everything for dinner and tipsy talk.

I think it struck me keenly because recently I’ve been longing for summer. I’ve never experienced it with quite this bittersweet urgency before. Probably because I’d never before had a summer quite like the last one, so sweetly full of hot afternoons, wine at sunset looking over the fields, long swims in the river, skinny-dipping at midnight, 7am walks to the canal with dew still on the grass, sitting in my room in the twilight with the windows open and a record playing, bare legs, warm skin, the satisfaction of having nothing urgent to do. A time full with brilliant people and places.

Lots of hours spent outside reading too. I can still distinctly recall carrying a stool out into the scrappy yard of last year's student house in Oxford, plonking it down among the weeds, and then discovering wild strawberries to eat by the handful while I sat and flicked through my book. Back at my family home among the hills I had one of the best/ most pretentious (you can choose) evenings, involving a stack of poetry books and enough candles and lanterns to let me scrutinize the pages outside in the dark. When it began pouring, I took shelter under our tree house: relishing the sudden smell of sharp, green, rain-damped grass.

In all actuality, the parts I’m describing distill down to a few weeks and events that are easy to string together to assemble a whole. They’re selective snippets: speckles of glitter. It was also a summer of uncertainty, change, and a lot of self-revelation. Easy to gloss in retrospect (isn’t that always the case?) But perhaps I value those memories all the more because they did take place in the context of this strange, brilliant, odd, unsure time. They’re that little bit more luminous for it.

It’s very easy to idealise times and seasons not presently in front of you (something I wrote about a while ago). Especially easy to crave summer when stepping outside the front door currently requires thick tights, gloves, and a bulky coat. Even easier, in the face of looming exams, to sink back into thinking about days that were free to be structured as pleased. But the next one will roll around soon enough, with another set of possibilities and surprises (and I have a feeling that this particular summer is going to be FULL of them). If they involve invitations to “dine on the river”, well, then all the better..

In the meantime though, I have plenty to keep me occupied. I might not be able to float around parks wearing tiny shorts, but I can relish all the thinking, reading, writing, boundary pushing and flickers of new creative projects presently on the go. The last month has (surprise, surprise!) been brimming with Virginia Woolf, dissertation writing, and the odd night of escaping to London to dance. Maybe this time, in its own way, will become another pocket of recollection I’ll look back on fondly. In fact, I’m sure of it.

Talking of next summer – I saw a proof copy of Notes on Being Teenage for the first time the other day! You can see me looking ever-so-gleeful with it here. Lots of the summer is going to be taken up with all sorts of exciting things surrounding that. I can’t wait. 
Photos above were taken in Sweden last year, during our family summer holiday. Everything I’m wearing is second hand. Some more combinations of saunas-and-cold-lakes soon wouldn’t go amiss, either.


Emily said...

Those letters make my heart skip every single time I come across them. They're just so perfectly beautiful. In fact, I'm writing a song about Virginia at the moment which was rather spontaneously spurred on when I stumbled across excerpts form the letters again on tumblr. There's something about them that always feels so fresh and full and beautiful, no matter how many times I read those lines... It really is the perfect thing to pair with a post about a longing for summer.

And I am much the same - I idealise summer despite the reality of Australian summers being harsh and unforgiving. It's February, the hottest month, and I find myself looking longingly at all my sweaters and wool skirts. This outfit is very lovely too. In fact I've just realised that as I write I am wearing a shirt similarly tied at my waist...!


Ivana Split said...

Yes, those love letters must be a joy to read. Isn't it interesting how love makes us all alike? the instictive, the intellectual, the wild and the timid (not that we can be all those things at once) all become so alike when they fall in love. It is almost like magic.

When it comes to reading letters by famous authors, I always get this gulity feeling, like I've learned too much or read something that I shouldn't have read, something that is altogether too private. I never felt it more intensely than when I read Kafka's letters to Milena....Not that that guilty feeling could ever stop me from reading what some of my favourite authors wrote. It is a sort of addiction when one gets so wrapped up in someone's writings...and isn't that sort of what love feels like?

It must be wonderful seeing that first copy of Notes on Being Teenage....congrats once again!!!

These Summer photographs are look so beautiful and free!

Beth Reeves said...

Your writing is so beautiful. I'm jealous of the moments you are picturing as you write it and your ability to recount them so eloquently. I too am craving summer and I have high hopes for the one to come. Bring on the long evenings and the blazing sun.
Beth x


What fond memories to keep embedded in your mind --- I'm sure it was pure bliss actually seeing a copy of your book (in the flesh, so to speak). Well done. These images are lovely, but subtle enough to visualise one escaping into summery afternoons, with wine and good company, of course. Hmm, London nights out dancing? Now, you've made me think about my younger days. :)

Alyssa G said...

These photos are beautiful and I love your writing!
xx Alyssa

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