Sunday, January 18, 2009

Slipping from society to thoughts & Woolf’s “Kew Gardens”

Ok, I must first open this “blog”—the word is unreal to me, it’s not even part of my vocabulary and I won’t own it. Writing a blog and at points posting on forums or boards is odd to me. So, yes, this is a big deal. I will mark it with how I feel Virginia Woolf’s work “Kew Gardens” can reflect the occurrences of my life—perhaps everyone’s life.
Anyway, life has taken a weird change since my nephew has returned to NYC. He is just 6 years old. Among other things, he is vivacious and outwardly social but surprisingly very introverted. He never wants to go to sleep or nap for he says “I want to stay awake for the rest of my life.” ODD!!! Unless you have a complex condition (narcolepsy…), who doesn’t like to sleep?
So … outwardly social but introverted. He can repeat whole episodes of Spongebob or Dora or any of the cartoons he watches when you and he are in the midst of conversation or when he does not feel in the mood to talk to anyone. During these episodes, he is alone with his thoughts and is free to reenact the scenes from the shows. He can mimic the facial expressions and body language, on top of the lines, of the characters. He can retreat into the protection of his thoughts in a flash. He will introduce himself to a stranger, “Hey there, Buddy! My name is ---- What’s up,” pause to portray a feeling of genuine interest, and then undertake a circuitous path of escape from the intruder(s) to reenact his scenes.
Now, that brings me to “Kew Gardens.” I find that in this short story voices and one’s presence are tangible but ethereal. People come and go in the gardens:
[men, women, and children] wavered and sought shade beneath the trees,
dissolving like drops of water in the yellow and green atmosphere, staining it
faintly with red and blue […] but their voices went wavering from them as if
they were flames lolling in the thick waxen bodies of candles. Voices, yes,
voices, wordless voices, breaking the silence suddenly with such depth […]
breaking the silence? But there was no silence […] one within another the city
murmured; on the top of which the voices cried aloud and the petals of myriads
of flowers flashed their colours into the air.
Voices emit from waxy husks to dissolve in the air or hang languidly over the city. The snail has “veins” and a clearer and simple aim, which is to cross, but the trotting humans are described with less vigor and likeableness than the snail. The humans imprint a “stain,” a presence that touches the garden but is washed away with time and the colors of nature like the red, blue, or yellow flowers and the penetrable sunlight. The visitors have a dissoluble presence that lingers mostly in their thoughts while transmitting to the outside world as an indistinguishable gesture. The secrets the old man gathers from the flowers as he stoops to listen or the young man’s decision to take tea elsewhere are examples of gestures that remain mysterious to the outside world, to their companions. The humans seem to retreat into nature and away from the “motor omnibuses” and mechanical turns of their city as we retreat, today, into technology, our ipods or iphones or blackberries or TVs and in the case of my nephew, our TV shows. We are constantly escaping the outside world. I listen to my ipod to escape having people talk to me in the train station or boredom because I would rather not converse or be too involved in people’s weird conversations with one another—I also read a book to avoid these things. However, this is my way of escaping for my nephew the preference is to reenact shows and, still yet, other people have other preferences. Right?

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