Friday 17 February
I meant to write about death, only life came breaking in as usual. I like, I see, to question people about death. I have taken it into my head that I shan't live till seventy. Suppose, I said to myself the other day, this pain over my heart suddenly wrung me out like a dish cloth and left me dead?- I was feeling sleepy, indifferent and calm; and so thought it didn't much matter, except for L. Then, some bird or light I daresay, or waking wider, set me off wishing to live - wishing chiefly to walk along the river and look at things.
- Virginia Woolf. Diary. 1922.
There, crouched in the grass, curled in an olive green ring, was a snake. Dead? No, choked with a toad in its mouth. The snake was unable to swallow; the toad was unable to die. A spasm made the ribs contract; blood oozed. It was birth the wrong way round - a monstrous inversion. So, raising his foot, he stamped on them. The mass crushed and slithered. The whitte canvas on his tennis shoe was bloodstained and sticky. But it was action. Action relieved him. He strode to the barn, with blood on his shoes.
- Virginia Woolf. Between The Acts. 1941.
I shot the Awakenings photographic series on the South Downs in East Sussex, inspired by Virginia Woolf’s diaries and fictional writings. The landscape is formed of rolling hills, cut in half by the chalky waters of the river Ouse. Through her writing, Woolf was able to describe both the beauty and violence of nature within a single sentence. In her book To The River, Olivia Laing, writing on Woolf’s connection to the land says Virginia “was acutely sensitive to the landscape, and her impressions of this chalky, watery valley pervade her work. Her solitary, often daily excursions seem to have formed an essential part of the writing process”.
Throughout her life, Woolf suffered through periods of depression and mania. On more than one occasion she was put through rest cure. Developed in the late 1800s for treatment of hysteria and other nervous illnesses, it involved long periods of enforced bed rest and isolation, with creative activities such as writing and needlework strictly prohibited. Fearing she may go mad again, Woolf drowned herself in the river Ouse in March 1941.