Life, Change, and Mrs. Dalloway’s Flowers by Susan Woodring

Life is change.

Surely you’ve heard that before, and probably more than once. Probably, you’ve heard it so many times, it has ceased to mean much to you. It is perhaps the truest cliché in all of human history. It’s true on the most basic biological level. Human life is the exchange of good air for bad. The circulation of blood—swapping out oxygen-depleted blood for oxygen-rich blood—is what keeps our cells alive. New cells replace old ones. We grow taller, fatter, more wrinkled, paler, darker, splotchier. We shrink. Our hair grows. It falls out. Life is change.

It’s also true on a broader level. The evolution of a life, brought about by a million small changes both outside of our control—chance encounters, car accidents, the actions and choices of others—and within our control—our own actions. We pursue degrees, jobs, partners. We raise our children. We lose things. We produce things. We grow. We fail. We make our choices.

The weather changes. The political climate. The economy. Technology. Trends. Even our language changes…is changing as I write this blog post, as you read it.

To understand how pervasive change is, we might try to imagine its opposite, stasis. In order for stasis to happen, opposing forces have to be balanced perfectly. Such a state is, well, impossible.

As writers and readers of all sorts of literature, we deal in change. As readers, we anticipate change—cheering on the protagonist, fearing for her, hoping—and as writers, we pursue change. We put our ears to the ground and listen for it.

Life is change, both in real life and in our literary estimations.

So, when we begin, let us begin with change. Let it begin to rain. Let the rain drive the mother and son into the museum where the bomb will explode, the mother will die, and the boy will steal a priceless painting. Allow another orphan boy, from a different time and place entirely, to stumble upon the escaped convict in the graveyard. Let it snow the morning our heroine is born so that there might be trouble with the doctor finding his way home. Let that trouble ripple outward, throughout the girl’s life so that she might grow up to assassinate Hitler. Let Holden Caulfield be expelled from school. Let it happen on a Thursday. If Mrs. Dalloway wants to buy the flowers herself today, let her. Follow this tiny change in her routine, see where her lark takes her, and where it takes us.

Susan Woodring
Susan Woodring

Susan Woodring is the author of the novel, Goliath (St. Martin’s Press, 2012) and a short story collection, Springtime on Mars (Press 53, 2008).  Her short fiction has appeared in The Cupboard, Passages North, turnrow, Literary Mama and Surreal South, among other anthologies and literary magazines. Her short fiction was shortlisted for Best American Non-Required Reading 2008 and Best American Short Stories 2010. Susan currently lives in the foothills of North Carolina where she writes and homeschools her two children.



Read All Columns by Susan Woodring
Goliath by Susan Woodring
Goliath by Susan Woodring
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