I take the tagline of this site, “It is almost impossible that I should be here,” from the opening pages of Virginia Woolf’s incomplete memoir “A Sketch of the Past,” which appears in the posthumous volume Moments of Being: A Collection of Autobiographical Writing (1976, 1985). Woolf begins,
Two days ago—Sunday 16th April 1939 to be precise—[my sister] Nessa said that if I did not start writing my memoirs I should soon be too old. [. . .] As it happens that I am sick of writing Roger’s life, perhaps I will spend two or three mornings making a sketch. There are several difficulties. In the first place, the enormous number of things I can remember; in the second, the number of different ways in which memoirs can be written. As a great memoir reader, I know many different ways. But if I begin to go through them and to analyse them and their merits and faults, the mornings [. . .] will be gone. So without stopping to choose my way, in the sure and certain knowledge that it will find itself—or if not it will not matter—I begin: the first memory.
This was of red and purple flowers on a black ground—my mother’s dress; and she was sitting either in a train or in an omnibus, and I was on her lap. I therefore saw the flowers; and can still see the purple and red and blue, I think, against the black; they must have been anemones, I suppose. Perhaps we were going to St Ives; more probably, for from the light it must have been evening, we were coming back to London. But it is more convenient artistically to suppose that we were going to St Ives, for that will lead to my other memory, which also seems to be my first memory, and in fact it is the most important of all my memories. If life has a base that it stands upon, if it is a bowl that one fills and fills and fills—then my bowl without a doubt stands upon this memory. It is of lying half asleep, half awake, in bed in the nursery at St Ives. It is of hearing the waves breaking, one, two, one, two, and sending a splash of water over the beach; and then breaking, one, two, one, two, behind a yellow blind. It is of hearing the blind draw its little acorn across the floor as the wind blew the blind out. It is of lying and hearing this splash and seeing this light, and feeling, it is almost impossible that I should be here; of feeling the purest ecstasy I can conceive.
– Moments of Being, pp. 64-65, emphasis added
Why take this enigmatic phrase—”it is almost impossible that I should be here”—as the tagline of this site? And why rephrase Woolf’s title, “A Sketch of the Past,” as my own, “Sketching a Present”? Perhaps because composing these scraps and fragments “without stopping to choose my way” is my way of sketching a life as it is lived, a present as it passes. Perhaps because it feels “almost impossible that I should be here” sometimes, here in this life and in this world. Perhaps because it just feels right.