Emma said she would set up the lawn chair herself.
For no one was there in the morning; parents off to work and brother holed up upstairs somewhere. How sad, thought Emma, for it was a beautiful day — the first of true springtime, as if sunlight kissed the ground below.
And queer! The shadows changed so quickly. Only a week ago they lay in blues and grays, and now! The richest browns and greens. Like summer in the city, in her private park, looking, young as she was, like earth’s child sent to dance among the flowering weeds; crawling, at three, perhaps four, through the neighbor’s garden, delighted, for the stone plaque read “There are fairies in this garden.” Little flits of lavender among the brown and green. Perhaps, a fairy. Fairies—so fantastical, hiding just for her to find amid the garden, she believed; a fairy —could it be —perhaps more than one, she remembered.
She carried the lawn chair from the shed, aware, suddenly, of her weakness (her skinny arms protested as she lifted). How lovely, still, to be young and able, carrying the lawn chair and setting it upon the grass. The sun beat down on worn wood, her private haven; she was almost twenty now, her legs tan and more nimble, agile, than they ever would be again. How strange —one feels the precipice of childhood so close (but that might be her mind, she knew, dramatic as her mother said) before adulthood. She bent the legs of the lawn chair so they lay properly and perpendicular, hearing a creak of the joints, tired and reluctant since winter. She fastened the head board and perched, listening, on the front of the chair before her inevitable recline. Her neighbors voices, muffled. She craned her head towards them, aware of course of the detriments of eavesdropping but more aware of the hot spring day, of life. Whispered stories of torrid affairs, the same allure as fairies — how full of life! How full of life!
For it was the end of her teenage years. Relentless though it was; over, and with it the uncompromising school day, over and over, sucking the love out of learning; the assembly of young women dressed alike — the same — because that was the way and now the boys were looking; or Christopher, with his calculating distance, her acute awareness of him; never again. Her friends were here and there, lovely, women she chose to spend her time with; indeed, who were her greatest companions, who pushed her, who loathed the same things she did. Funny, she thought, how loathing can bring people together; it was a delicious passion, that she suppressed, of course, usually, but sometimes let escape, let cultivate in the bottom of her chest with an absurd satisfaction.
A butterfly flew around the blue wood of the house, crossed under the bough of her favorite tree, the one she’d marked, when they’d moved, as her own, for it swished and laughed in the wind like the trees in her city park; Mr. Ballard used to cut the leaves that overhung, so the sun always shone through. Now the sun was moving in the sky, and the shadow of the branches stretched in front of her. There! Again the butterfly, flitting from tree to ground, barely visible against the blue of the house and the periwinkle sky, lavender against light blue, but there, resting briefly on a weed by the foot of the lawn chair, the rickety one that might break, sooner or later; but she’d be gone by then, out of the house and starting her life.
The butterfly lighted on her forefinger, a momentary lapse in movement, wings parted to reveal it’s slender body, delicate, how she wanted to keep it —enclosed between her hands, perhaps a fairy; perfect silliness she knew, for it was a butterfly, lovely, but a butterfly. Oh if she could see it just once more! She thought, the butterfly flying up and away, perhaps she could have kept it longer. She stood up and moved the lawn chair, which was halfway shadowed by the tree now, so late in the day, more directly into the sun, and sat back down. She had the oddest sense of stillness, being lonesome, not a girl, a daughter yes but not a girl, no more family dinners every friday with the rest of them, no more family (but of course she was still a daughter, just not primarily, not as often).
Did it matter, then, she asked herself, pushing herself up on the warm arms of the lawn chair, that she no longer saw the fairy; that the house would go on without her, her family, the tree, planted while she left so soon; did she begrudge the tree; or did it not assuage her fears, her sense of balancing on the tip of the unknown, it’s sturdiness, planted firmly, a sense of comfort and security, her life, herself.
In this piece I tried to mimic the style of Virginia Woolf, both in syntax/diction etc. and more abstractly in subject matter (big existential type subjects and tiny details all interspersed). I think I was pretty successful given that the goal was to write like one of the greatest authors of all time, but I definitely had trouble keeping it even somewhat linear. I also had difficulty with writing big ideas without sounding pretentious or insincere, and how to talk about the past versus the present clearly. For example, when I’m talking about the park in the city where the girl sees the fairies, that’s when she’s very young, and the rest of it takes place when her family has moved, she’s nineteen and living (presumably for the last time) in her parents house, and is sitting on a lawn chair in her backyard. I think it increased my understanding of Mrs. Dalloway in that I really studied her writing technique and was able to notice the actual writing tools Woolf used to keep the whole thing in a stream-of-consciousness style that had beautiful flow. For example, the syntax was very varied, a long sentence filled with semi colons followed by a short interjection, the long sentence acting as the memory or train of thought and the interjection as the sort of start back to reality.