"How will you go about finding that thing the nature of which is totally unknown to you?" I carried Meno's question around with me for years and then, when everything was going wrong, friends came bearing stories, one after another, and they seemed to provide, if not answers, at least milestones and signposts. Out of the blue, May sent me a long passage by Virginia Woolf she'd copied in round black letters on thick unlined paper. It was about a mother and wife alone at the end of the day: "For now she need not think about anybody. She could be herself, by herself. And that was what now she often felt the need of - to think; well not even to think. To be silent; to be alone. All the being and the doing, expansive, glittering, vocal, evaporated; and one shrunk, with a sense of solemnity, to being oneself, a wedge-shaped core of darkness, something invisible to others. Although she continued to knit, and sat upright, it was thus that she felt herself; and this self having shed its attachments was free for the strangest adventures. When life sank down for a moment, the range of experience seemed limitless . . . Beneath it is all dark, it is all spreading, it is unfathomably deep; but now and again we rise to the surface and that is what you see us by. Her horizon seemed to her limitless."
That passage from To the Lighthouse echoed something of Woolf's I already knew, her essay about walking that declared, "As we step out of the house on a fine evening between four and six, we shed the self our friends know us by and become part of that vast republican army of anonymous trampers, whose society is so agreeable after the solitude of one's room . . . Into each of these lives one could penetrate a little way, far enough to give one the illusion that one is not tethered to a single mind, but can put on briefly for a few minutes the bodies and minds of others."
- Rebecca Solnit