Reading Virginia Woolf at a wrestling meet

img_2510I spent Saturday morning as I have many a wintry Saturday morning this year: driving to a wrestling meet in some new corner of Pennsylvania. This week's was in Atglen, a rather rustic place about an hour from my house. I snapped these pictures of the frosty fields and silos. We saw an Amish buggy while driving through town. Sometimes it seems that the smaller the town, the bigger a deal sports turn out to be. There were a lot of women in "Wrestling Mom" t-shirts walking the halls of Octorara Middle School.

I can't say I'm tempted to sport such a shirt, though this winter has taught me quite a bit about a sport I knew nothing of save for what I'd read in the novels of John Irving. My 7-year-old is quite into it. I like watching him. His matches have taught me much about his personality. He fights hard. He wins a fair amount, but when he loses, the matches go all 3 minutes and come down to just a point or two. Wrestling has a performance intensity to it in a way that many team sports don't. It is just you and your opponent, grappling hand to hand with all eyes on you. I have been pleasantly surprised -- and proud -- of his composure.

However, each of his matches is 3 minutes or less. He had four on Saturday, and normally he has 3 or so. So this is about 10 minutes of action, and I was on site from 7:45 a.m. to 11:45 a.m. Even allowing for post-match chatter (and snack purchasing) and watching a few of his teammates that I know, this leaves quite a bit of space.

So I pull out my phone, which has the Kindle app. I have read 14 books so far in 2017, thanks to time at wrestling practice, wrestling meets, and karate classes (for the 9- and 5-year-old). This week I finally made it through A Room of One's Own, Virginia Woolf's musings on women and fiction. I have read many of her novels, and love her prose, and so of course I enjoyed this book too. She is so funny, so light at times, which makes her lifelong battle with her demons (ending in that river) all the more tragic. I have been pondering her more quotable lines: "Intellectual freedom depends upon material things." And of course the passage leading to the title: "A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction." Woolf suggested a lock on the door and 500 pounds a year. I have seen various calculations for this in current U.S. dollars, and some people put it higher, but the general thought is that it's not much over $40,000, if that. Enough to provide life's necessities, and thus allow for mental space.

It's an interesting thought. I'm not sure it would cover basic necessities and childcare and child upkeep for multiple kids, but Woolf didn't have children (neither did many of the pioneering women writers she cites). Overall, though, I took her admonitions to the young women of 1928 as a challenge to me. I like writing fiction, and longer meatier stuff in general, and it is always easier not to. But I do have a room of my own. I should make good use of it. In other words, buckle down and get to work.

img_2525In other news: We went to the Orchid Show at Longwood Gardens on Sunday. The kids were not exactly good, but the flowers were beautiful -- a lovely touch of color in that greenhouse in the middle of bleak winter. This morning my 9-year-old calculated that there are 6 weeks until the spring equinox. Already the light lasts longer. Time marches on.

Speaking of time marching on, I have been cleaning out my desk drawers and my office in general. This has required something of an archaeological approach. Given that I got the desk in 2008, and moved it without cleaning it out in 2011, there's a lot of interesting stuff in there (to be honest, I stuffed a lot of files from my previous desks in there in 2008!). I found my college roommate's senior thesis, which is a book of poetry. It is still excellent -- and brought back many memories of her, and the stories she told me. I also found a running journal that I kept from spring 2007 to spring 2012. That was through 3 pregnancies and I recorded miles, and notes, and my weights as I was tracking the rise and fall. I had forgotten I was that detailed for five whole years. It brings back memories of many runs too.

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6 Responses to Reading Virginia Woolf at a wrestling meet


  1. Ruth says:

    Kids’ sports practices and meets – oh, I got a LOT of reading, knitting, and crocheting accomplished at those events! I used to run laps at my daughter’s tennis matches, too.

    • @Ruth – I went to the gym during warm-up during a wrestling meet that was near one branch of our Y a few weeks ago. It was efficient, though I was slightly worried about missing one of the matches. I walked in just as it was starting. So probably running laps around the neighborhood would work – in future years I’ll know where these places all are and can figure out good running routes.

  2. Sherrell says:

    Any suggestions on how to create a room/space of one’s own in a small apartment? No spare rooms I can use…currently utilizing the built in desk in the kitchen but I’m struggling to find a way to make it a comfortable “me space”

    • @Sherrell- good question. I think the key thing about it being a room of its own is that other people aren’t going to interrupt you and demand things from you (that’s writing in the sitting room that she laments). So to make it a room of your own, kick everyone out of the apartment. Maybe create some ritual for it being work time. Light a candle, put on instrumental music, something like that.

  3. I think that it is important for women to have some time and space for themselves. My wife does it all the time and she managed to cultivate immense love within herself that she has so much more to give to other people.

  4. Kathy says:

    This post brings back memories of Little League practices and games. I found reading magazines or catalogs, and handwriting letters to be my best in-between-the-action activities in that pre-smartphone dark age. Now that my son is an adult, I do miss watching him play sports.

    I’m also smiling at your desk archaeology–I’ve been cleaning out my office for the past month…where does all the paper come from? Surely I’m not printing/copying/clipping all these articles?!

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