Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Serendipity - Vita Sackville-West

How often does Vita Sackville-West come up in your life? Well, in mine she hasn't come up at all until the last week, and her name has popped up three times.

The first time was with a reference to her telling her "best friend," Virginia Woolf, "If I, who am the most fortunate of women, can ask, 'What is life for?' how can other people live at all?" While that's not the cheeriest of notions, Sackville-West was quite well respected. She was an English novelist who wrote, "The Edwardians" in 1930 and followed it with "All Passion Spent," which is considered her greatest work. (I use the quotes on "best friend" because they were apparently more than just friends.)

Now, this is one of those times when I could try to make you believe that I'm regularly reading Sackville-West's work, when I'm not enjoying a little light reading of Anna Karenia or something. But, honestly is the better policy I believe. I didn't know who she was. I think - maybe - I'd heard her name before - but I've never read anything she wrote and don't know much about her.

What is the opposite of "well read?" Would that be "ill read?"  I want to be well-read, and know lots of things about lots of things, but in reality I'm just muddling through like everyone else.

Of course, she has a wiki. I want a wiki. Is that the modern equivelant of Who's Who? But I digress...

When Sackville-West's name kept popping up I couldn't help but think about Carl Jung and serendipity. I remember the day I learned that word. I was in grade school and no doubt reading something that was far beyond my capability to understand and ran across the word. Just as the librarian, Mrs. Alberta Rascoe, had taught me, I went and looked it up in the dictionary. Of course, I didn't get the full Jungian philosophy behind it, but I knew it was a very cool concept.

One of the most interesting experiences I've had along those lines in recent years was one day when I had volunteers and in conversation, one of them mentioned when President Harding visited Hutchinson. She was a little girl and he gave her a penny. I listened to her story and went home a couple of hours later. My then boyfriend was visiting for the weekend and I asked what he had done that day. He said he'd just been driving around, looking at things. Then he says, "Why is there a statue of Warren G. Harding outside of town?"

OK... I don't know about you, but President Warren G. Harding doesn't just come up a lot in conversation in my daily life. In fact, I'm not sure he has ever come up - not even in the town where he visited many years earlier. Then he pops up twice in less than three hours. That's pretty unusual.

The fact that Vita Sackville-West has come up multiple times in the last few days makes me think maybe I better read some of her work. Is "All Passion Spent" something one can just pick up at the local bookstore? Or should I start with "The Edwardians?" Or yet something else?

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