Vanishing Light

This is the moment when the thinness of life first opens into view for Rachel Vinrace. Rachel is a single, 24-year old, British ingénue at the center of Viginia Woolf’s early work, The Voyage Out, a story of self-discovery. She is sitting alone in a busy fictional South American port hotel, guest of her aunt and uncle, her first time abroad following a sheltered life in London, and listening to the jumble of disconnected sounds surrounding her. She is tapping her finger on the arm of a chair to help center herself, but she is suddenly struck by the enormity of a life—her life—coming to an end. And she thinks, “Life, what was that? It was only a light passing over the surface and vanishing, as in time she would vanish…”

“Her dissolution became so complete,” Woolf writes, “that she could not raise her finger any more, and sat perfectly still, listening and looking always at the same spot. It became stranger and stranger. She was overcome with awe that things should exist at all…. She forgot that she had any fingers to raise…. The things that existed were so immense and so desolate…”

“Life, what was that? It was only a light passing over the surface and vanishing.”

 Virginia Woolf, a moment still.

2020, ICM, Photo-Composite, L.A., Hopewell