I have always loved reading women's love letters to each other (Lateblooming clue #256).
Virginia and Vita are, of course, the reigning queens of love letters. Whether or not they ever consummated their relationship quickly becomes irrelevant when you read their correspondence. Passion, tenderness, ecstasy and pain unfold in the exquisitely intimate letters they wrote to each other.
I read their letters in my early 20s. They had a profound effect on me--the letters imprinted themselves on my heart. How could these two fiercely independent women have touched each other so profoundly? How could they have reached the most vulnerable place in each other, and then cradled it in the words they mailed back and forth? It was the first time I understood what intimacy might look like. It was also a stunning realization of how far away I was from anything remotely like that. I was newly married, living a very straight, conventional life--focused on my marriage, my career, and eventually on having children. Woolf and Sackville-West lived in what seemed like a fairy tale world to me. The Bloomsbury group of the early 20s was an intensely intellectual circle of talented, courageous people living their lives by following their hearts. I was far too terrified of my heart to even acknowledge its existence.
It has taken me over 25 years since first reading those letters to begin to open up my heart. And while it remains to be seen whether I will find that kind of intimacy before I die, I have just begun to find the joy--and the pain--of opening to the possibilities of love.
Sometimes I think wistfully of all that I have missed by not hearing my heart all those years ago. But most of the time, I think about how lucky I am to have arrived here in my middle age--perhaps just old enough to realize how great this gift really is.