Friday, October 15, 2010

The Secret Deposit of Exquisite Moments

In Virginia Woolf's novel, Mrs. Dalloway, the narrator describes how Clarissa Dalloway arrives home after running errands for her upcoming party and thinks that "moments like this are buds on the tree of life" and that in everyday life, "one must pay back from this secret deposit of exquisite moments."

When she is teased about how much she loves to give parties, Clarissa recognizes that, "What she liked simply was life."

Considering that I'm writing this post while in the middle of a full-fledged cooking extravaganza for a party I'm giving tomorrow afternoon, I obviously agree with Clarissa.

Parties are what we pay back to daily life from our secret deposit of exquisite moments.

I'm not talking, of course, about keggers or other alcohol-soaked events in which people end up in the back of police cars or lying unconscious on other people's lawns in the wee hours of the morning.  I'm also not talking about highbrow cocktail parties where everyone is dressed to impress (and usually unimpressive in every other category).

Instead, when she asks herself, "what did it mean to her, this thing she called life?", Mrs. Dalloway describes how, when she thinks of the people she knows, she "felt quite continuously a sense of their existence; and she felt what a waste; and she felt what a pity; and she felt if only they could be brought together; so she did it."

"It was an offering; to combine, to create."  An offering to life itself, a chance to overcome the inherent separation that marks our lives.

My neighbor down the street stopped by yesterday to see if I'd need extra chairs or another table.  My neighbor across the street called over to me to tell me not to worry, that the storm will clear everything up in time for good weather tomorrow.

Paying back to life from their own secret deposit of exquisite moments.


  1. Parties are ok. I wouldn't equate them to anything more than a social outreach, however. Filling the need to feel needed. Most people do not throw parties to give back to anyone but themselves.

    Your optimism is cool too, though.

  2. Thank you--most people only find pessimism cool, but I'm trying to give optimism a fair shake. :) I think good parties only accomplish small things, but they can bring out the good in people, and that's always worth doing. Even if everyone just goes home feeling like their own need to feel needed has been filled, that's something.


Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote, "Life is short, but there is always time for courtesy."