This morning I read in “Natural History” by Pliny the Elder, that Baltia is a large island in three days’ sail from the shores of Scythia. Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia are not an island, of course. But it’s tempting to imagine living on one. Even more so, on a small one. Is it a dream for run-aways or stayer-putters? Borrowing words from Daisy Johnson’s book Everything Under. I am probably a bit of both. I ran away once to stay where I stopped. Ever since I live on a kind of an island. Away, but right here.
A few years ago we moved to a riverside village called Krastciems here in Jūrmala or coast-village if translated. I haven’t boarded a plane for five years. On my last flight to Stockholm in August of 2014, to interview artist Antony Gormley, a butterfly boarded in Riga with me and landed in Stockholm. I returned.
My island is this land that I walk or ride each day. It is three miles wide – the distance from river Lielupe to the Baltic Sea. I would laugh in disbelief if you would tell me years ago that I’ll live in a village and walk the same paths each day. Yet here I am.
Our house is old. A local priest lived here more than hundred years ago. The whole village belonged to a church once. Parts of it still do. When my husband renovated a wall, facing west, to not let the freezing wind blow in the house during winter, he found pine needles and moss stuffed inside (along with mice skeletons), the way they insulated walls a century ago. The house has changed a bit since then. Growing like a coral reef. The second floor was built when my husband was a little boy. A boiler room for heating system was built after our first winter here. Many layers of history are present in geography of the architecture. Including that hole in the kitchen floor that waits for a day when we’ll be able to deal with it. House needs love. This house on an island between river and sea.
Place sucks you in like a rabbit hole. It seems right that the Sea Library was born exactly here. Only strange wonders can survive in this air. Only books can grow here on shelves with collected shells like apples in trees. I read in an Urban Dictionary a term island time: The time vacuum created by the ocean’s presence. Similar to stoner’s time, everything moves nice and slow. This carefree aura even has the ability to travel with islanders and can engulf you in their presence. I am not that carefree. I have two boys, three cats and almost 300 sea books to take care of. But still, the sea does bend time.
It’s a continual present here. Same paths, always different river, ever-changing sea. Never landlocked. Almost never out of time.
Books that postman brings on her yellow bicycle and stuffs in my yellow post box and readers who let me put these books in their hands, all are part of this enchanted land. I’m probably under a spell. I believe, Prospero hides somewhere and doesn’t let me go. But I do not mind. Why would I?