Crying uncontrollably, I step out of the cinema and into the throngs of people in Leicester Square, London. My best friend from university is unnerved by my weeping. Why has the film Mrs Dalloway left me so bereft?
I was 26, navigating the new path of turning a longing for men into loving of them. But it wasn’t just about that. At the time I never quite knew why a period film would make me thunder with tears.
It took twenty-three years to discover why – when I read Michael Cunningham’s introduction to a new edition of Mrs. Dalloway.
Michael Cunningham knows: a moment is a lifetime.
There are no insignificant lives, only inadequate ways of looking at them. In “Mrs. Dalloway,” Woolf insists that a single, outwardly ordinary day in the life of a woman named Clarissa Dalloway, an outwardly rather ordinary person, contains just about everything one needs to know about human life.Michael Cunningham, excerpt from introduction to Mrs Dalloway, Vintage Press, 2021.
It’s only now that I realise why it had such an impact on me. We have one life to live. And every moment is not insignificant. Because we have so many moments in our lives, we take each for granted.
Even though we know things change, changes still catch us out. Good friends leave work, good neighbours move away, a favourite tree is cut down. Often it’s only in hindsight that we realise how happy we were – how happy we are.
What the Wayfarer Saw: moments in time.
I am thinking about this as I create these little vignettes for my exhibition at Goulburn Regional Art Gallery. I turn solitary moments into something permanent, something tangible, something we can hold on to.
But it’s an illusion, we can’t keep these moments, they pass us – and so we simply must live them, savour them. And this is where Jeanette Winterson makes an appearance.
“I have a theory that every time you make an important choice, the part of you left behind continues the other life you could have had.”Jeanette Winterson, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit
We can’t hold onto moments, but they go on forever. Moments last for all time, but are gone in a heartbeat.
What does this all mean? Simply that it’s now, now. We’ve got to live it. With gusto.
What the Wayfarer Saw opens 18 March 2022 at Goulburn Regional Art Gallery.