In response: Money

Two Woolf readers respond to the theme …

The Burning Question

Short work of nonfiction by Marie Hélène Prosper

It is alarmingly dark in my dream.

I try to grasp the blackness before me when all at once bills of money materialize, in tens, twenties or more, and come flying towards me from all directions. All the money I possess. I reach out and grab handfuls from all around, piling the bills on the ground. I strike a match and throw it over the whole thing, onto this heap that contains my material worth, my life savings, my security. I watch as fire catches; a small piece crackles, sparks a flame and sends tinsels flitting about in the air. I am astonished by the finality of my act as I look on and it all burns to ashes.

I feel emotions rise and swell then, as my night-world of dreams recedes and vanishes along with my slow climb back to full consciousness. That is when realisation kicks in: Money is burnable waste. A pile of cash can go up in smoke in seconds, at once obliterating all the time and toil expended in its acquisition. Such a thing cannot be undone!

Now comes the question: If material wealth can be so easily destroyed, what riches in my life are not?

Squashed Chanel by @libby_ol



Poem by Claire Doble

There’s money all around this town
But not a lot for me
It’s sleeping in the Dolder Grand,
floating on the Zürichsee

What’s a lot? I hear you ask
You seem comfortably off
Money’s like sleep, I reply
You never have enough

I enjoy wealth’s spoils and feasts;
health, safety, life that’s light
I work hard for it as well,
but do I have the right

to take for granted all that’s here
Just because … it is?
I guess you can’t buy knowledge
of how the other half lives

Money’s funny—both more and less
Than what it represents
My time but not my effort
Dollars but not sense

So here’s the rub, somewhere between
Dollars, francs and euros
It’s a money-driven land, this Schweiz
And that’s why, I suppose:

I spend too much on everything
I never seem to save a thing
And yet I do not sink, but swim
the tides of money, out and in.


Notes from the Unexpected: Zürich’s one and only lake speaks up

by D.B. Miller

On certain days, it’s uncanny: the turquoise shallows, cobalt drop and unrelenting shimmer for as far as the neck can crane. The Mediterranean, you could swear it—with a squint and some imagination, maybe even a cove around St. Tropez. Toss in a few gulls and those Boesch motorboats that cost as much as a watch, and you’re living the dream.


Except the dream is right here, in a landlocked country, fertilizing the shores and giving the lucky people who live on them something to look at. On this, the locals and transient folk agree: Zürisee is the city’s crowning asset. Once an international trade route, today a playground, but still: 88 square kilometers of alpine aqua pura are reason enough to be proud, if not a bit punchy.

Because some have the nerve to call it small—but tell that to the gent who couldn’t quite get to shore on a morning swim. While it was traumatic for that poor girl, wading into his corpse at the Badi, he had to go! When you’re classified as potable, you have a reputation to uphold.

And is “banana-shaped” really the best the guide books can do? Show me the banana that can hike up rents, wow UNESCO and host spaghetti-themed cruises without irony. Show me any fruit that can turn from green to purple to steel in an hour, creeping to the edges like silence or a thousand little blades.

Mix it up, keep them guessing, show them who’s boss. Kick up the surf and blame the boats. Turn up the temp and call out the fleas. For every record-breaking heatwave, there’s ice in living memory. For every preening swan, a coot squeaks like bicycle brakes and never gets the bread. The banks that now teem with people once swarmed with disease. Come in, the water’s fine, but the parent who loses sight of a child for one second ages five years.

Postcards lie, but nature doesn’t. You just keep moving—east to west, glacier to river, liquid to cloud, surface to floor. You’re more than a pretty picture: you’re as deep as the darkness 136 meters down. So the next time your eye skips over the void to gaze at the twinkling hills, remember: lights seem brighter when they’re mirrored in black.


DB Miller is a writer of short stories and essays, along with an occasional Tweet @DBMillerWriter

Gallery of Zürisee images from @libby_ol‘s Instagram.

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Seedling’s Muse

A meditation on ‘Adaptation’, by Sherida Deeprose

She is a wildflower, clothing the naked earth, covering it with her own brand of beauty, thrusting down into parched earth, seeking the rain’s drops below the surface. In the most unexpected places, she blooms. When no one is looking.

No coddled seedling nor hothouse flower wilting in drought, but an unstoppable weed. Harsh sun, flooding rains, rocky soil don’t deter her. She bursts up, resilient and hardy, adapting to this particular patch of earth. A nomad, she has floated in and put down her roots, thriving against all odds.

crocusWrestle with her, crush her underfoot, poison her, neglect her. Wrench her out and leave her for dead. Still, she will sprout her way up and out, springing—like a weed. Creativity is opportunistic, taking root in depleted soil. She soothes the bare patches of life, helps us find nurture in depths we avoid. She’s a wilder force than we can control. With routine, structure and technique we provide the garden, but the seeds we plant might not be the ones that bloom. We till the soil, let the seeds die, and wait. Most likely we’ll reap fruit we didn’t know we had sown—wanton seedlings rising from the compost of our lives.

One dew-sparkled morning she’ll surprise us with a blossom that intoxicates even the bees. We’ll cry out in delight, plucking the flower and blowing her seeds to the wind.

Sherida Deeprose is a Canadian writer based in Zürich.

Shamelessly serendipitous

Iida Ruishalme

We went for a stroll with Albert. It was such a romantic night by the lake—just me and Albert hand in hand, gazing at the water lilies trembling on the moon bridge.

Confused yet?

I have bewildered many readers before learning, among other things, that in English, ‘we go with person x’ never implies a headcount of two, and that a moon bridge isn’t an English concept at all. Continue reading