I’m in love with Juliet Stevenson’s voice. Particularly married to Virginia Woolf’s words.
I first encountered the pairing while driving to Houston for a conference a couple of years ago and listening to A Room of One’s Own most of the way there. And then while walking around the Rice campus to view the school’s beauty and its outdoor art while Juliet Stevenson unrolled Virginia Woolf’s points about not walking on the grass and being barred from the library…
When I re-read those passages now, she isn’t walking on an imaginary campus my mind built from her own words, but on Rice’s lawns. And she’s burying Judith at the crossroads in The James Turrell “Twlight Epiphany” Skyspace and revealing a Mary on my way back out of town at the Rothko Chapel. But that’s a post I’m saving and have been working on for a while. It may never be just right, but I have to keep trying to capture the marriage of that voice, and those words, and these spaces.
But the point of this post is that I had no idea that Stevenson, basically, has done the audio for most of Woolf’s works. I thought it was a pairing I could return to in A Room but never experience again as that unrolling and unraveling and unfurling that enfolds and entangles and spins you into it instead of out. I stumbled onto the realization that I can have that experience again a few days ago when Audible reminded me I can’t hoard my credits and I was about to lose one and, by the way, would I like to try their 2-fo-1 mysteries special. There, as I was looking for a free book to go with my complete Sherlock Holmes read by Stephen Fry (who wouldn’t go there?), I saw Juliet Stevenson’s name and bought, on my delight in her voice alone, House of Names by Colm Tóbín. And then it occurred to me to search her name in Audible. And there they were.
I chose To the Lighthouse first.
And it was magic. Just like the first time.
I’d listened to a few twenty-minute chunks here and there—driving, dressing.
And then today came. And for some reason everything was just an inch off. Maybe even just a centimeter, but nothing was right. Nothing was good. No matter how much I got done, all that was left to do loomed over me and whispered and bore down and reminded me that I can be as productive as I want, I can get as much of my shit together as I want…
But it will never be enough. I can do all the things and still have done next to nothing [or so says the anxiety in such moments].
Too many things. Too many people needing things. Too many little things keeping me from the big. Too many big things to even know where to start. Too much. Too much. Entirely too much.
So I took a break. And I let Theadora outside and I followed her with a ball and I put my ear buds in and I turned Juliet on and I let Virginia—slowly, brilliantly, electrically—unfurl the Ramsay family and I threw the ball and Theadora raced after it and she came back and dropped it and the family lived and I threw the ball and the day dimmed a bit and the thoughts slowed and Juliet spun out the tale as easy and steady as the lighthouse light there (but not) and Theadora ran and dropped and I picked up the ball and threw and the words hummed through and into flesh and a whole world sketched itself into my backyard where Theadora ran and I threw and Juliet spun on and Virginia wove us through and into the ups and downs of the Ramsay family and from one moment to the next they were this way and another and that…
And so was I. From one moment to the next, Juliet slowed me down, saved me in fact—saved the day—and when my timer went off and Theadora’s ball session was over, Juliet and Virginia sent me back in to that room of my own in that house of my own (that’s how lucky I am) to get something, anything, one thing that turned in to many more, done.
And I thought, “I’m in love with Juliet Stevenson’s voice. I’m in awe of Virginia Woolf, full stop.”
And together, together they are magic. At least for me.
Juliet, Virginia, and Theodora! Hooray!
This is a statement of the poet/writer/artist’s condition: I thought it was a pairing I could return to in A Room but never experience again as that unrolling and unraveling and unfurling that enfolds and entangles and spins you into it instead of out.” Moments, by which I mean (perhaps) experiences of our deep connection with all things, cannot be captured or re-experienced in any words or images or colors or notes. The best art is that which leads others to welcome and seek such moments with the same hope/expectancy/love as the artist.
This is a statement of the human condition: “I can be as productive as I want, I can get as much of my shit together as I want… But I can’t.” Humans always think they can and will do more than they can or will. To be human is to imagine doing and being more than we can do or be. It is NOT giving up on being as productive as we want or getting as much of our shit together as we want or doing the big things. It’s imagining them and seeking them even though we know we have limits. Oh how I hate limits! Especially my own. Somehow we have to start with forgiving ourselves for falling short; then we grow (maybe) to know that we’re human and need no forgiveness for that.
More than 40 years ago, Grasshopper, I asked a wise man which of these ideas was more true: “I am what I know.” or “I am what I do.” Without so much as batting an eye, he replied, “Neither. The truth is, “I am what I am.” (This was, by the way, an exchange in a church context, and I have changed it up and distorted it a bit in the process of taking out the religious language.)
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I try to be kind to myself, but, as you know, it doesn’t always stick. A never-ending process. One helped along by the art, objects, people, offices, desks, sounds, loves (and so many so ons) we surround ourselves with. Dare I say, what/who we “curate” into our self-care?
After reading your comment, I changed the title to add Thea’s name because, duh, she was as much a part of the saving as the others. I’m being kind to myself in not kicking my own butt over leaving her out of it 😉