“A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write,” wrote Virginia Woolf. She described this as the “great problem.”
Thirteen years ago, two women, within a canyon of red stone and brush, each with copies of Virginia Woolf’s book, “A Room of Her Own,” conspired to bring together a community of women writers (a room) and a vision to finance creative expression with literary awards (money).
Two years ago, I entered the ‘room’ they birthed, A Room of Her Own (AROHO) Writer’s Retreat in Ghost Ranch, New Mexico. The seven-day retreat was the longest stretch I had been away from my husband and children. It was a declaration to my family but mostly to myself that my writing was important and required space all to itself. My ‘room’ to write was as expansive as the New Mexican sky. The expansion remains and is expressed in the hours I devote to writing.
Recently, I was named the AROHO Gift of Freedom, Creative Nonfiction Finalist. The award money addresses the second half of the “great problem,” described by Virginia. The award will partially support research of my current book project, “Eat Less Water, ” and serve as a catalyst for future awards.
March 28, marks the seventy-second anniversary of Virginia Woolf’s death. On that fateful day she stuffed her pockets with heavy rocks and entered the water of the Ouse River to her death. Her weighted body was carried within the Ouse for several days until recovered. Reflecting on her death reminded me of a conversation I had with my eldest daughter.
“Where do we go when we die?,” she asked.
“Some people believe your spirit goes to heaven,” I answered.
“Do you believe that?” she asked.
“I believe when we die we return to the source,” she looked at me confused. This was too much for a nine year old to understand. I tried to find another way to explain. “It’s as if we are each tiny drops of water. If I let a drop of water fall into a river you can’t see it anymore. It hasn’t disappeared; it spreads and takes a different form.”
“Does that mean when we die we become a river?”
“I believe we return to the source like a drop of water returns to a river.”
I am grateful to Virginia Woolf’s legacy that spills beyond the constraints of her years lived. The long string of words, sentences, stories and books she wrote in her lifetime continue to breathe with new vitality. They spread and take new forms; like a writer’s retreat in Ghost Ranch or a woman inspired to write her own stories in a room of her own. Each act reminds us that Virginia Woolf hasn’t died; she became a river.