This is the view from our living room window. The purple flowers grow on a bush called a princess plant. It looks more like a tree, but you realize it’s a bush because sometimes it will get too high for its support system and topple over. Like everything in our yard, it’s incredibly hardy, and prolific. (Note added a day or so later: Were I to write a story about a princess, I’d want her to be like this plant. Gets up when she topples over, hardy, prolific, looks good in purple. I’d like my sons to be that way too.)
There are a lot of people who spend a lot of time and money on their yards (which they then call a garden), but we are not one of them. We just let our yard do what it does and get somebody to lop things off every once in a while. One of the most wonderful things about living in the Bay Area is that the sorts of things that grow here like weeds are astonishingly lovely: bougainvillea (that’s what’s on the header of my blog), star jasmine, Meyer lemons. It’s a sort of Garden of Eden, the snakes being things like traffic, the high cost of living and the occasional earthquake.
The photo reminds me that I never really sit in our living room and read, although it’s a very comfortable place to do that. (My six year old son plays under this window every day of the year. He has a complex game of action figures going on at all times and he talks to himself. It’s soothing to hear him at work, like listening to a stream.)
I used to read on the train to work (I read War and Peace on my commute, and Anna Karenina, and tons of Dickens and Thackery and Trollope and Anne Tyler and things I don’t even remember now.) But then I started to use that time to write and I never really did make a consistent reading time to replace the one I’d given over to writing.
It’s wonderfully clear from reading Virginia Woolf’s diaries that she had a time (I think it was the evening) set aside just for reading. She treated it as a necessary part of the writing life, in part because she made money writing reviews, but also because she just liked to read. I like that about her.
I know it’s a digression, but Woolf’s diaries also made me realize that the only reason she can be such an icon in America, a writer virtually a saint, is because we don’t really have the same sense of class the English do. She had her blind spots about class, and the diary entries about the women who helped in her house are exemplars of the huge divide between the upper and lower classes in England. It’s tragic in a way that such a perceptive writer wasn’t able to see the people who worked for her as real people, but instead wrote about them as types, unpleasant types.
The diaries are, nevertheless, a wonderful inspiration for creating a life where writing is not only possible, but really pleasurable. That’s one of my hopes for this week, to get a little more reading done — to finish Barchester Towers and start Suite Francaise. And to write, of course.