Sultan’s Seal: Sea Library

Childhood drawing by Anna Iltnere. A house by the river with blooming water lilies

Before going to sleep I walk down to the river for a swim. With my nostrils slightly above water, I watch the ducks moving among the water lilies. The lips of invisible fish blow circles into the surface on the other side. Cut grass and cold dew stick to my bare feet as I walk back. I wash them away, kiss my boys goodnight and climb into bed to read and to dream.

If I wake up before the others, I push my bike out of the garage and cycle to the morning sea, three miles away. It’s a gulf, to be honest, but we still call it the sea, the Baltic Sea, a tiny inner pocket of the Atlantic Ocean — where it hides what’s dearest, I imagine. There’s almost no salt in the Baltic Sea, they say, but my tongue still tastes it on my lips and my skin  when I leave gravity behind with my clothes on the shore and surrender my body to the waves. When I’m dressed again, I explore the white sand with my fingertips and put a couple of stranded splinters, tiny dark brown pieces of driftwood, in my pocket, stamp souvenirs from my own little journeys traversing same paths every day. I am a sea librarian now.

My world had never been as small as in the last five years, living in Jūrmala, a resort city here in Latvia. We don’t even live in the city, but in a riverside village, outside the city centre. It’s almost like being on an island. And yet, my world is as large as ever. Because of books and because of the sea.

I haven’t boarded a plane in 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 disappeared in the blue of the Stockholm sky. I returned. Having zigzagged through the world for years, spreading the meaning of flight too thin, I had to cocoon myself before I finally found my own fucking wings.

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