The Texture of a Day


 journal page – 8/7/07

Each day has its own texture, and I wear it like a cloak around my shoulders. Sometimes the fabric is woven from the remnants of the day before, but more often than not, I have managed in my sleep to unravel yesterday’s garment, and I start weaving again as I rise…

Today I found myself in front of William Holman Hunt’s painting, The Lady of Shalott, which is based on the poem by Alfred, Lord Tennyson. The poem tells the story of a woman who lives in a tower on the island of Shalott, on a river that leads to Camelot. She spends her days weaving a tapestry of the world outside her window, under a curse to view the landscape only by reflection through a mirror. Although she is happy to weave, she has come to realize that the outside world is full of love and beauty that she can never experience sequestered in her tower.


The Lady of Shalott
– William Holman Hunt (1827-1910)

One day as she is working at her loom, she hears the singing voice of gallant Sir Lancelot as he rides along the shore of the river and on impulse, turns to look directly through her window at him. At that moment, her tapestry begins to unravel and her mirror cracks. Fleeing her tower, she finds a boat in the river which she loosens from its moorings in order to float to Camelot where she can find life and love. She dies before she reaches her goal.


The Lady of Shalott
– John William Waterhouse (1849-1917)

There are numerous and diverse scholarly interpretations of Tennyson’s poem, ranging from reading it as a metaphor for the isolated artistic life to a statement on the role of women in Victorian society. The Pre-Raphaelite painters were attracted to the story for its Arthurian themes and depiction of tragic love. But today, Hunt’s painting of The Lady of Shalott reminded me of the importance of experiencing the fullness of the world and my life as I weave my own tapestry. Too often, I find myself adding or subtracting elements based on what I see in the mirrors others put in front of me. Sometimes those mirrors appear from the caverns of my distant past, and sometimes they’re bright, shiny new mirrors. Either way… the reflection is never as clear as the real thing.

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