… to enjoy learning from it.
So our first assignment was as follows:
Read Virginia Woolf’s essay Street Haunting. I recognize that this reading will likely be unusual for you since it is a literary essay written in the 1930s. I ask that you read at least the first five paragraphs several times–if not the entire essay. Then write your own version of “haunting.” Go walking or sit in a room or do some other activity. Pay attention to what you notice and what you remember and think about. Write half to a full page and bring it to our first class.
Woolf, V. (2014, December 22). Street haunting: A London adventure. In L. Woolf (Ed.), The death of the moth, and other essays. Retrieved from https://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/w/woolf/virginia/w91d/chapter5.html (Original work published 1930).
And here is my attempt at aping Adeline Virginia Woolf (1882-1941), and I thoroughly enjoyed the whole process, this is shaping up to be a great course…
Old Speckled Hen
Few people have ever felt as passionately about a can of beer as I do at this moment. Christmas dinner has been eaten, the vast array of dishes, cutlery and the best wine glasses have been washed and stashed away in their cupboards, until the next celebratory feast. The living room of our rented log house is dimly lit by a thousand festive light bulbs. The Christmas tree that: “Really didn’t look that big at the tree farm darling,” stands in its 20 foot glory in the corner of the room, competing for attention with the garish, rapid-fire light show of the television. The family are gathered, supine around the log fire. And it is the fire which hastens my desire for beer and seclusion. If the house were this warm in the summertime, the air-conditioning would be rumbling in the basement. It is in such circumstances that the oak-matured Old Speckled Hen, a pricey but worthwhile ale imported from my home country, becomes supremely desirable.
I pour the deep amber liquid, chilled to perfection, into my favourite glass. For some odd reason, the glass is greatly significant. Bought especially for me by my step-son, Daniel, at the Cheers Bar in Boston when we first traveled to North America, this glass adds to the pleasure of the beer. Pausing only to scoop up the recently printed copy of Virginia Woolf’s Street Haunting, I slip my feet into my boots, and head for the chill night air of the decking, which wraps around two sides of the first floor of the log house.
The hour is night and the season definitely winter, evidenced by the darkness in which the frozen trees sway like drunken behemoths, unsure of their footing on the slopes of the surrounding woods. As if further evidence were needed, the free-hanging thermometer registers minus two Celsius as it sways in the night breeze. The chill air is both sharp and a relief from the heat of the house. I breathe deeply and look out, straining to see the lake beyond the trees. I convince myself that I can see the reflection of stars on its surface as I head to one of two, white rocking chairs which face the trees and the water.
Seated now in the Adirondack rocker, I take a deep draft of the Old Speckled Hen, and let the glow of the alcohol wash through my body. Only with the aid of alcohol can I face the work of Leonard Woolf’s spouse once again. Mentally scarred from my first battle some years earlier, with the grating Clarissa Dalloway and her somewhat perverse admiration for a strangers suicide, I can only tolerate the upcoming pencil quest with the aid of alcohol. Virginia Woolf has demonstrated herself to not be my cup of tea, even if I liked tea. The thought amuses me as I lift my glass again, noting the ring of cool condensation which has formed on the arm of the rocking chair. I consider it an apposite opposite to Mr. Cummings’ brown kettle ring, burned into the carpet at the end of Woolf’s third paragraph.
As I drink again, it occurs to me that my so-called seclusion in the quiet nighttime of the wood, is actually none of the above. I am far from alone. The distant calls of irate geese on the Big Rideau Lake, the occasional disgruntled duck, and the eerie howling of coyotes parallel the ambient noise of London’s haunted streets. I raise the copy yet again… I will read more than a paragraph this time.