This passage is from The Children's Bach by Helen Garner

The edifice trembles.

Athena stops eating, though she still buys food and prepares it. Her clothes hang off her, but her husband’s and her children’s are still clean and ready. She starts to walk by herself at night, she can hardly wait to be out of the house, they cannot seize her attention once the sun has set, her eyes will wander away to the open door, and Dexter knows he is not invited. She comes back after they have gone to sleep, and yet wakes before them. Her sexual life is solitary: she comes to visions of meadows full of flowers, white ones floating like a cloud above tangled green stalks, or to visions of great machines, or of galleries, endless, with high deep windows and velvet curtains and noble pieces of furniture, leather-trimmed, Florentine galleries along which her disembodied consciousness progresses to a stately pulse.

A) Is "she comes to visions of meadows full of flowers" the same as "she has visions of meadows full of flowers"? or she imagines she is on meadows full of flowers?

B) Does "along which her disembodied consciousness progresses to a stately pulse" mean "along Florentine galleries her spiritual consciousness progresses to a stately rhythm?" (I think here pulse refer to rhythm of a great music)

  • 1
    What consideration have you given to the context of the phrases?
    – Spagirl
    Commented Jul 1, 2021 at 18:29
  • I edited my question and added my second guess. Commented Jul 1, 2021 at 19:11
  • 2
    Where are you coming up with the notion that 'visions' can mean 'eyes' or has anything to do with standing in front of something? Why do you think she is physically in a meadow or gallery? This is all the same sentence as 'Her sexual life is solitary: ' so think about the function of the colon. I think I've referred you to Wiktionary before, try looking up meanings there of the word 'come' which might be appropriate to the sentence's context.
    – Spagirl
    Commented Jul 2, 2021 at 13:46
  • 2
    Also, you keep talking about her 'walking' along galleries, the text clearly speaks of her 'disembodied consciousness', so you need to be interpreting the text in that light. Walking is something your body does, not your disembodied consciousness. Ask yourself what her body is doing while her consciousness wanders. Read the whole sentence.
    – Spagirl
    Commented Jul 2, 2021 at 16:06

1 Answer 1


Her sexual life is solitary:

This bit is important, it sets the context for the rest. 'Her sexual life is solitary'.

A solitary sexual life is one that does not include a partner, so it needs must include masturbation.

This clause is followed by a colon. So what is the colon doing?

Between independent clauses when the second explains or illustrates the first The colon is used to separate two independent clauses when the second explains or illustrates the first.


she comes

explains or illustrates her sexual life.

Wiktionary is a useful free, online dictionary. The definition it gives of the word 'come', which is relevant to a person's sexual life is:

(intransitive, vulgar, slang) To achieve orgasm; to cum; to ejaculate.

So now we know that she masturbates and orgasms.

The text which puzzles you is telling us what is in her mind as she does so; she orgasms to 'visions'. In the same way that people orgasm to pornography, she orgasms to visions of meadows and architecture.

Turning again to Wiktionary we can see that vision, as a noun can mean

Something imaginary one thinks one sees.


Something unreal or imaginary; a creation of fancy.

So as she masturbates to orgasm she conjures mental images and fantasies of being in the meadows and galleries. Her body is wherever it is that she is masturbating while her mind is in the fantasy locations.

The pulse may relate to her being aware of her own heart beat or to the rhythm of her masturbation activity.

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