The look of love
Is in your eyes
The look your smile can’t disguise
The look of love
Is saying so much more
Than just words could ever say
And what my heart has heard
Well it takes my breath away
Perhaps one of our most secret hopes is to be really seen for ourselves? Perversely of course, the complexity of human relationships often works to ‘defend’ ourselves from the scrutinising gaze of others. Woolf had a life-long antipathy to mirrors and found the experience of being seen profoundly unsettling. Yet her mature novels seem deeply involved in the possibility of being glimpsed, as we are, for brief yet singular moments. And these moments take on a transcendence that endures.
In To The Lighthouse, the first page describes the ageless pleasure of a six year old boy cutting up ‘things’.
‘James Ramsay, sitting on the floor cutting out pictures from the illustrated catalogue of the Army and Navy Stores, endowed the picture of a refrigerator as his mother spoke with heavenly bliss. It was fringed with joy. the wheelbarrow, the lawnmower, the sound of poplar trees, leaves whitening before the rain, rooks cawing…..all these were so coloured and distinguished in his mind that he already had his private code, his secret language…’
The brilliance of Woolf here is that the feelings of the child suffuse all the narrative. The narrative follows the progression of his evolving and euphoric feeling, underlined and instigated by the fact that he is sat close by his mother whom he adores and who adores him. And it is this adoration that combines with james’s own interior world to make the passage peculiarly tender and significant. For it is the gaze of his mother that allows the child’s imaginative freedom, for her affirmative ‘holding’ of his being, engenders here a creative resourcefulness.
A loving gaze can change worlds. Here the empowerment of the six year old boy is palpable. Each ‘pulse’ of the narrative reflects the very pulse of his relationship with his mother.
The narrative thus ‘radiates’ the mindfulness of James as he follows his scissors around each picture. Each picture is thus a gift of love. Mrs Ramsay sees him both as he is at the moment and through the prism of time, as he might be. Perhaps only love can have this transformative affect? For we really get the sense here that James is both within and without time simultaneously and that this is dependent on the look of love that emanates from his enraptured mother.
And this is a look and a moment that will haunt both mother and child forever; an eternal connection from one ostensibly small particle of time.
Carol Ann Duffy 15 ideas!
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