The Sea Library: In Conversation with Anna Iltnere

Photo credit: Anna Iltnere

 
 
I believe it is always the simplest things and choosing your own journey, struggles and all, that hold the answer to a life well lived, a beautifully imperfect life. Putting our faith in the vastness of our imagination and in the solace and beauty of nature that brings out our softer, gentler and true side, and learning to spread our wings in our close surroundings could be the greatest journey of our lives.

One day, Anna Iltnere put her faith into her own dreams and created the Sea Library, a library of books about the sea, in her wooden cottage house by the Baltic Sea, and opened it to the whole world. And the whole world opened up to Anna. The Sea Library is not made up just of books, but of real life stories tied to the stories told in the books, and of stories woven together by Anna and all the people who enter her home or borrow books by mail. With her eye constantly drawn to the beauty and unknown of the sea and her mind constantly enriched by storytelling, Anna Iltnere has found beauty and enriched the lives of so many others. My conversation with her has been a great journey in itself and a gate to discovering not just a world of books, but your own individual world – it’s larger than the sea. And the world is your own blank map.

 

Photo credit: Anna Iltnere

 
 
What does reading do better than anything else?

In the culture of getting away and travelling far and fast or at least dreaming about it, reading is a form of arrival. It’s a different kind of vector. When my eyes sit on the soft paper, when I feel the weight of the book in my hand and turn the pages with my fingertips, I am here. I feel very anchored when I read. As if I am where I have to be. Some might say that reading is an act of escapism. I don’t believe in that. The words and sentences will get you to fantastic places, both emotionally and geographically, yes, but that’s not getting away. It’s arriving; at least for me.

I completely agree. And I feel the same about films. Escapism is a word I have often been reluctant to use when talking about the experience of watching films. And Jean Cocteau’s words come to mind, explaining why he didn’t understand the association between movies and escapism, “a fashionable term which implies that the audience is trying to get out of itself, while in fact beauty in all of its forms drives us back into ourselves and obliges us to find in our own souls the deep enrichment that frivolous people are determined to seek elsewhere.” Is there any particular book that had a profound influence on you, that you felt that it changed you?

Oh, I love that quote. For me, the book would be RISINGTIDEFALLINGSTAR by Philip Hoare. It came out when I turned 33. I bought it as a birthday gift. It crucified me and I resurrected anew. It is a dangerous read, I warn you, a very seductive voice which can alter the way how you experience the sea. When I finished it, I created social media accounts for sea books with an urge to share how good the RISINGTIDEFALLINGSTAR is and also all other books I had. A few months later I opened the Sea Library. In the following summer, I even learned to swim. I think that pretty much counts as a life-changing book.

I had abandoned social media for two years when I left my job because I didn’t want to share anything with anyone anymore except my family. I think I was tired. And thirsty for something else. I took the maternity pay and cocooned in our old wooden house on a peninsula between the river and the sea. I stopped scrolling and I even refrained from travelling. I became an old lady. Which behaved like a tomboy. I chose to sit still, to sprout roots from my swift feet. To observe nature around here and even to be bored to some extent. Boredom is foreplay to a rich imagination. It is a luxury to be bored, don’t you think? Then a day came when I knew that there is one thing that I wanted to share with others: stories about the sea.

I had a vivid dream one night that burglars had broken into our home to steal everything valuable. They carried out our sofa and armchairs, lamps, TV, Playstation, paintings and also books from the Sea Library. I just stood with my husband and sons and watched the surreal criminal procession. I felt like a Prospero about to lose his magic powers. “Remember / First to possess his books; for without them / He’s but a sot, as I am, nor hath not / One spirit to command,” as Shakespeare writes in The Tempest.

When the thieves were done and gone, I rushed inside the library to check if I still had a copy of RISINGTIDEFALLINGSTAR. It was still there, so in the dream I knew I can re-build the collection from scratch. Ironically, this is the only book that I have lost. A signed copy from Shakespeare & Company. I still believe it will return one day. Books take no shortcuts, they choose the long roads, always.
 
 

”I threw the big ideas away and just opened the doors
of our wooden house. On that day the Sea Library was born.”

 
 
I like that you mention boredom. I don’t know why people are so afraid of being bored. And I don’t understand parents who keep their children busy all the time afraid they might get bored otherwise. Boredom is not a bad thing. As you say, it is a foreplay for a rich imagination. Especially with children, they need time off, they need to let their minds free, to invent their own games and stories and to day-dream. How can they do that if we keep their minds engaged in all sorts of activities and come up with solutions for them all the time?

Yes, absolutely. Apart from letting my boys use all the gadgets they might need in the future (and already today), I make sure they are outside enough and that they are also bored from time to time. When the grumpy kicking-the-stones phase passes, they start to notice details, invent games and discover the world of insects and plants. They always come back rose-cheeked and smiling. It applies to me too!
 

Photo credit: Anna Iltnere

 
 
What does the sea mean to you?

Unprecedented freedom. Yet I didn’t discover that until I was 32 years old. It’s strange now to imagine living a life in Latvia, a country by the sea, without really noticing the sea. It was a nice place for sunny summer holidays. That’s all. We even moved with my husband from a city apartment to a wooden house in a seaside town when I was 28, but I still didn’t see the sea, the way I see it now.

When I turned 32, dad had a car crash. There’s a seaside rehabilitation centre here in Jūrmala, and it’s where he was transported after weeks in the hospital. I didn’t have a job, was pretty much lost in what I wanted to do, so I took long walks to visit him and after each visit I went down to the beach to unwind. As I stood there and looked at the sea, it felt strange. I started to see it. I noticed how huge the sea is, how very alive. How beautiful, too. And the sea didn’t care about me at all. So in the presence of the sea, I could finally give myself a break. I have to admit, I can’t really think when I am by the sea. The white noise in my ears, the immensity of the water in front of me, and here I am – an observer, I become eyes, ears and nostrils. The gaze and the sea is a theme that captivates me. I keep writing out sentences from books about eyes and the sea. Many watergazers have eyes in the colour of the sea…

I fell in love with that liberating feeling to just be alright. The Sea didn’t miraculously heal me, no. Dad didn’t become entirely healed either. The sea made me wonder, what does that really mean in life to be healed? Life is as unpredictable and beautiful as the sea itself. In the world of opposites I found another way. A new pocket opened here at the beach, full of imperfect pearls. A pocket where I was a human being with ancient wounds that didn’t need to be fixed, standing by the ancient sea and happy in a unique way. I didn’t care about so many things from that moment on. I knew I can pretty much do whatever I wanted from then on. And that’s what I did. The Sea re-made me. Imagined me.

How did the Sea Library come to life? What was it that made you open your own library and make it available to the whole world?

I am pushing a stroller with my toddler to the seaside and am reading a book about Sylvia Beach, the bookseller in Paris. She opened Shakespeare & Company and published the forbidden book, James Joyce’s Ulysses. It’s a lovely summer morning. I am 33. There’s a line in one of her letters: “I must have a bookstore. I must.” It struck me like lightning. Since dad’s car crash I had started to read about the sea a lot. The collection of books grew by itself – out of my curiosity how writers deal with this mysterious and mesmerizing body of water. On that morning I suddenly realised that I could do something about it! So it started as a fancy dream to have a bookstore by the sea with books about the sea. It took nearly a year before I realised that the first collected hundred books just had to be shared – I’m not a seller anyway. I threw the big ideas away and just opened the doors of our wooden house. On that day the Sea Library was born.

Are you still thinking about a bookstore?

If I had known right away that such a wondrous library was possible, I wouldn’t have wasted a moment. But who would have believed that a library like that could even exist? I love bookstores so much, but wouldn’t swap this strange library for anything else.

When three summers ago I announced that this private room with a few bookshelves, a desk and a couch is a library for anyone who needs it, things I couldn’t predict started to happen. I opened the library with closed eyes, to be honest. Who would dare to come, I wondered? My neighbour maybe? My mum, my sister? And if a stranger would come, should I trust them? Would she or he bring the books back? But I silenced this anxious mind and had faith. Soon I started to receive messages from people I didn’t know and who lived overseas: they wanted to give away books.

The Sea Library is three years old now with nearly 600 books on its shelves. Only half of them I have bought. I know, there are a lot more books in homes where avid readers live, but all these titles are about the sea and most of them have arrived with their own stories, not only the ones written on their pages. I am proud of my three-year-old toddler, a sea monster actually, growing fast and steady.

In the Sea Library there are nearly no rules to apply to readers and no rules to follow in building it. Here you can read the borrowed books as long as you need to and return them when you can. One reader returned two other books instead of the one I had lent. But it was a good deal – both were brilliant. I have received so many gifts, including seashells, drawings, prints and paintings, a little sliver from John Steinbeck’s boat, a mermaid’s purse – that to be generous in return is like breathing, like tides. Books have to be read. That’s the most important thing. If no one else reads them, I do. I see which copies haven’t been borrowed for too long, take them from a shelf and read at night. To my boys or to myself. “They are still. Once quick in the brains of men. Still: but an itch of death is in them, to tell me in my ear a maudlin tale, urge me to wreak their will,” as Joyce wrote in Ulysses. I scratch that itch. Scratch books behind their dog-ears.

The Sea Library cannot be tamed. It is something of a sea itself. In Moominpappa at Sea by Tove Jansson, Moominpappa tries to understand the sea. He makes observations, writes down facts, but in the end he remains very puzzled. “I understand the sea less than ever,” he says, “there’s no system or order in things at all.” His idea was to discover what secret rules the sea obeys. But he couldn’t find any. “The sea is all the time changing the way it behaves. It seems to do just what it likes.”

I never know what the sea will look like tomorrow morning here at Asari beach where I cycle as early as I can and how it will change an hour later when I am about to leave and look back over my shoulder. In the same way I don’t know what books will be sent here tomorrow, (except the ones I have ordered), I don’t know who will visit (when another lockdown will be over). The Sea Library is like a movie I keep watching. A retired captain once came with his wife and showed me their black and white wedding photos. An old boatbuilder visited and gave me 30 books from his own collection. “No one reads them anymore at my home, maybe they will find readers at yours,” he said when zipping his now empty bag.

There are also more silent and distant fans of the Sea Library, like one woman who e-mailed from afar that the idea of this place helped her to get through the first lockdown. The Sea Library gives hope in some peculiar way. Things like that can’t be written down in a business plan.
 

Photo credit: Anna Iltnere

 
 
It’s so true that books are meant to be read and loved. They have a life of their own. And you have a personal library to share with the world. What can be more hopeful than that in these difficult times we are living? The Sea Library is the kind of thing that brings people together. And you did such an amazing thing, putting your trust in people. How challenging was it during lockdowns and all this time when not only did you have to think about keeping your library going, but also about the safety of your family?

The Sea Library has remained closed during lockdowns for everyone’s safety. The post became an umbilical cord with readers. We all were locked in our homes with more time to read so the library continued to flourish on a different kind of level. My sister, artist Katrīna Ģelze, drew Sea Library postcards, I printed them and sold them to be able to cover post expenses. It was important for me to be able to send books to people for free (they need to pay only for the returning of the books). Some readers were not only in a lockdown, but also landlocked, so reading about the sea was a way for them to take a deep breath.
 
 

”I would love to explore the shore with Rachel Carson,
watch seabirds with Adam Nicolson, swim with Amy Liptrot,
go fishing with Ernest Hemingway, or let Charles Arrowby
to cook me dinner in his damp seaside house with a
sea view in Iris Murdoch’s novel The Sea, The Sea.”

 
 
You said you wouldn’t swap your library for a bookstore, but do you have a favourite bookshop?

Well, every bookshop gives me an addictive kick. It doesn’t matter if it is in a shopping mall, on a little cobbled street or maybe it is a museum souvenir shop with just a few art books on the shelves. I will go inside and will become happily lost. I am grateful to anyone who works in the bookselling business. I love second-hand bookshops, too. And wait for a phone call from my postman on mornings to open parcels from online bookshops. I also ‘shop’ for suggestions, exploring photos with bookshelves in them. On Zoom talks I have caught myself with a tilted head reading book spines in the background. But to suggest some, I can highlight Mr Page and also Robert’s Books in Riga. I haven’t visited Shakespeare & Company yet, because I haven’t been to Paris. Maybe that would be my answer in the future.

There are so many great books, but is there one book a sea library must absolutely have?

Moby Dick by Herman Melville. It is a completely crazy book, overflowing, fluid and fun. I admire the language and the modernity of this work. It took me nearly half a year to finish it, but I couldn’t stop afterwards. When I read the last page, I returned to the first one. It is still a ritual for me to read a few pages while I have my morning coffee. Moby Dick is a loop, I don’t think I want to get out of it. And I am afraid I am a little bit like that first character that appears in this book, the poor devil of a Sub-Sub-Librarian, “ever dusting his old lexicons and grammars”. Although he is described as belonging to a hopeless tribe “which no wine in this world will ever warm”, I do love his extracts about whales from all kinds of texts. I am not a sailor or a surfer, and I am a bad swimmer. But I am very good at watergazing and at writing things down. Besides, I can prescribe a wonderful way how to read Moby Dick. Visit mobydickbigread.com, take a chapter per day, preferably after a meal, especially the mouthwatering Chapter 15 about clam and cod chowders. “Whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul,” goes the first paragraph, “I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can.” It could be a perfect month to start reading the masterpiece.

Which great adventurer, traveller, travel writer and/or book character would you hypothetically like to go with on a sea journey?

It would be useful to travel for some time with Christopher Columbus’ son Hernando Colón
who collected books all over the world and built his famous ‘universal library’. But I can’t choose just one person! I would love to explore the shore with Rachel Carson, watch seabirds with Adam Nicolson, swim with Amy Liptrot and go fishing with Ernest Hemingway. It would be great to spend a week on Jacques Cousteau’s ship Calypso or dive deep with Sylvia Earle.

There are also plenty of wonderful moments in history that I would love to have seen with my own eyes. For example, when 72-year-old Astrid Lindgren threw her terrible gallstones out of a small tin into the Baltic Sea while singing “Farewell, you stupid gallstone! You’re being left behind!”.

I would also love to leave my bed at night and go for a moonlit walk with Moomintroll to see the sea-horses galloping out of the sea that he desperately fell in love with. They had tiny silver horseshoes and soft gray velvet coats dotted with flowers. Or to let Charles Arrowby to cook me dinner in his damp seaside house with a seaview in Iris Murdoch’s novel The Sea, The Sea. I’m not really a sea-crosser, a conqueror of some sort. I much rather love to observe how the sea gets under one’s skin and doesn’t let you go in oh so many ways. As Iris Murdoch said, “My imagination lives near the sea and under the sea.”
 

Photo credit: Anna Iltnere

 
 
 

”I love promises. Not everything has to be gained.”

 
 
You own a 600 title library. But do you have time to read as much as you’d like? How much do you read every day?

I am shy to reveal that I am a slow reader. I have tried to read faster, but it doesn’t work for me at all. With such a collection, it can be tempting to reduce reading to numbers to impress me. But what’s the point to fast-forward if I lose the joy of wallowing on pages like a seal in the sun, making notes on the margins? There are so many things in life that you have to do, let’s not ruin books with obligations. Besides, it takes such a long time to write a book, let’s not rush into reading them. But I read whenever I can. I read in the morning, in the afternoon, early in the evening I spend a few hours with a book and I read aloud to my boys before bed. But each title in the library has spent some time in my hands: I know what it is about, I have read reviews and can suggest it by subject to visitors. Deep down I would love to be like Oscar Wilde who consumed literature with such speed and famously memorised what he had read…

I like that, not rushing into reading a book. Especially that reading a paper book is by definition such an immersive and intentional activity. I think every good book should come with this piece of advice. Do you welcome books in any language? Do you prefer older or more recent editions?

As long as a book is about the watery part of the world, it will find a place in the Sea Library. I have titles on rivers, lakes and ponds, too. Recently I was sent a couple of small booklets from the 1980s about indigenous women from the Pacific islands campaigning around nuclear testing and on threats to the ocean. The oldest is a book on boatbuilding from 1909 and the latest hasn’t been officially published yet.

Right now I have titles in Latvian, English, Russian, German and one book in French. I was promised a book in Swedish and a book in Spanish, but they haven’t arrived yet. But I love promises, they form a separate catalogue in the Sea Library, an imaginary branch. One old sailor once promised me an anchor and a barometer. Not everything has to be gained.

I can’t predict what books will be donated, but I can choose which titles I’ll buy. I try to curate the collection to add diversity. To have more women writers, more translations, more writers of colour. To add stories from different seas and different coasts.

It has been a year now since I started to weave bookmarks (on a handmade loom inspired by Navajo weaving manner with no need to cut any warp yarns when finished). I sell them so I could buy books for young readers. I realised that it is not fair that there are more books for grown-ups than there are for babies, kids and teens. Since last October I have sold more than one hundred bookmarks and bought around one hundred books for young readers. There’s still a long way to go to have an equally large collection, but at the same time, it is impossible to divide so strictly. I have discovered so many wonderful titles for kids that I have gulped down myself, and one teen recently borrowed all books by Hemingway that I had. All boundaries are fluid like water.

I had already noticed you pay great attention to children’s books in your collection and it just warms my heart. I love children’s books and roaming a bookstore with my son for hours on end is one of my greatest joys. He has his favourites and I have mine, and because I love and trust children’s own tastes, I would like to ask which are your boys’ favourite books.

My boys will turn seven and twelve this winter. The eldest adores catastrophes. He has read everything about the faith of Titanic from the Sea Library and loved Robinson Crusoe. Now he is interested in the history of war, and is building his own collection. The youngest is the first critic of all the new picture books that arrive here. We read them together and spend a lot of time exploring the illustrations. There are so many styles of how to draw water! He has a lot of favourites, and not only books on Minecraft. From Moomin adventures to inspiring biographies. He loved Manfish about Jacques Cousteau. Also fun books like It Could Be Worse by Einat Tsarfati, where two shipwrecked sailors experience worst-case scenarios one after another, including a whale with a bad breath and flying fish with a terrible diarreah. I asked him right now, and he reminded me of two books about refugee kids: Story Boat by Kyo Maclear and one recently translated book by Estonian writer Juhani Püttsepp about Baltic families crossing the sea to Sweden in the Second World War. Both emotional stories are written from kids’ point of view and captivate my children.
 
 

”I had to free myself of the feeling that there’s never
enough time before I even could start to dream about
anything at all. I had to trick my mind, so I issued myself
a ticket to do nothing for ten years. To not to achieve
anything, to not to rush to the next big job.”

 
 
A book is not just words, but everything else that makes a book, from its paper, binding and printing quality, to the illustrations and cover and the beauty for the eye. “The book is a perfect object – it can not be reinvented. Doesn’t this perfection often suffer because of the questionable quality of the paper or because of the bad taste of the cover?,” my bookseller in my favourite local bookshop once told me. Is there any book that is special to you not just because of its storytelling or because it’s a great literary piece, but because it’s visually captivating as well?

Yes, a book is not just words, it is also a perfect object! Exactly. One of my first jobs was working in a small publishing house focusing on art books. I’ve seen how much work and dedication it takes to make each edition. I was a twenty-year-old assistant and helped with everything. I loved to sit in meetings and listen to how designers talk about types of paper and fonts. All these little details make a difference. Hundreds of decisions.

It is hard to choose one book, but I’ll go with The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop by Lewis Buzbee, published by Graywolf Press. It is part memoir, part history of bookshops and libraries. I read it while dad was recovering and I had started to dream about selling books about the sea by the sea. I noticed it first because of the cover: an artwork by Quint Buchholz – a tower of books with a hurricane lamp on top of it like a bookish lighthouse by the evening sea. Then, of course, the subject of the book made me click the buy button.

This edition is very beautiful: pages have ragged edges and endpapers are bright yellow. They contrast with the blue dusk on the cover as if by opening the book you would come inside from the outside. There is a quote by Vincent Van Gogh as an epigraph: “I think that I still have it in my heart to paint a bookshop with the front yellow and pink in the evening … like a light in the midst of the darkness.”

This book has inspired many booklovers. A bookshop in England – The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop – is even named by it. I remember talking with the author in my mind when I read this book. As readers often do. When the Sea Library was born, it did its magic. We are now friends with Lewis Buzbee, who lives in San Francisco. Together we are writing a book for children now – about books and about the sea.

The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop is soft paperback that perfectly fits in a pocket of a coat. Even these little things are important. It is easy to be carried with you. I carry it with me often.

That truly counts for a special book. And your writing a books for children, how wonderful! Which were your favourite books as a child?

Books by Astrid Lindgren and Tove Jansson were widely translated and well-read in the Soviet Union. I read worn copies, some of them owned by my mum when she was a little girl. I loved Ronia the Robber’s Daughter, Pippi Longstocking and Moomin books. When I was six, I had a chance to also see a movie about Ronia in a local cinema. It left a huge impression on me. Last winter I read biographies of Astrid Lindgren and Tove Jansson, because I realised I know so much about their creations, but don’t know anything about themselves. Both writers lived by the Baltic Sea and created these wondrous stories, changing the course of children’s literature. The strong girl characters doing whatever they wanted inspired the little me. They were playful, unpredictable and brave. Today I live in an old wooden house like Pippi with a bit neglected garden and have a forest close to home like Ronia. I suppose I now need a spotted horse living in a veranda, a bag full of gold coins, and my life would be fulfilled.

My favourite book as a child was also by a Scandinavian writer, The Wonderful Adventures of Nils by Selma Lagerlöf – I’ve always been a tomboy. There is just something about Northern children’s books that fascinates the whole world it seems. Is there any downside to your beautiful and simple way of living in a wooden house by the sea?

The to-do list is neverending if you own an old building. It becomes a way of life. We moved in nearly ten years ago just before winter. It was a crazy idea. The house had no heating system back then, just a wood stove in the kitchen. I know it would have been wiser and maybe even more beautiful to renovate and only then to move in – as grown-up people do – but we made the decision on a full moon night. And I am grateful for that. I like this process, however slow: taking care of the house – a patchwork quilt – which has stood here from the beginning of 20th century. It is warm and cosy now and has a Sea Library in it. Besides, I blame this house for changing me. The first couple of years I was still running around the world, working too much, being away from my family. But the house and this place turned me into something of a tree. Spreading roots, watching, growing. Not going anywhere.

To not have a real job is a downside too, of course. But that was my conscious choice. I left a promising career in art journalism. First of all, I wanted to be with my children. They grow up too fast to miss any moment. I know I will never regret that. And I wanted to find another way of leading my life. As long as we manage somehow, I am alright with modesty and forever grateful for the trust and support from my husband and my parents.

There have been suggestions from friends and strangers to turn the Sea Library into some kind of a business idea, but it is a big no-no for me. The Sea Library has to be like flowers, the clouds and the sea, free and fueled by love and generosity. I write and I weave for pocket money and books.

That’s sounds just about right. What does a day usually look like for you?

I wake up at 6 am and have a coffee with milk and Moby Dick. If it’s summer, I cycle to the sea or to the river for a swim. If it’s school (autumn, winter, spring), I wake up my boys at 7 am, kiss the, goodbye at 8 am and only then can immerse myself in water or just gaze from the shore. Back at home, I work for a few hours on my book about my road to the Sea Library.

Around noon I finish chores and start making lunch for boys, who return from school at around 2 pm and then we all go outside: to the forest, to the meadow, riverside or seaside, or just play football in the garden. Later I help them with homework and read for a few more hours. In the evenings I weave. If I have larger orders from bookshops around the world I put other things aside and weave bookmarks most of my time until done.

There are days when I have visitors at the Sea Library. Sometimes, it takes nearly all day to be a librarian. If I am lucky enough, even more days in a row. It inspires me. There are days for the post office and for going to Riga. I answer e-mails whenever I can, and update the Sea Library’s website on weekend mornings.

In summer, our schedule has a tendency to melt in the sun. We just stay at the beach as long as we can or run down to the river one more time just before bed. Water looks purple on warm summer nights and our heads glide through a thin layer of fog. We wrap ourselves in towels and return home through the meadow like a pack of four wolves.
 

Photo credit: Anna Iltnere

 
 
Leading a life in which play and imagination are part of the everyday, working for the good of others and out of love for books instead of commercial success, and finding happiness in it all, I don’t think that’s modest living, quite the opposite, it’s living a fulling and beautiful life. What would your advice be for someone with their own dream?

It is useful to question conventions. The ones we trap ourselves in. Question the way how you think about time or even space, what do you think is important and why? I once was afraid that by burning bridges with the previous field I worked in, I would lose all possible contacts. That by deleting Facebook, I would be forgotten. The world turned out to be much more colourful than that. There’s an Amazonian tribe with no words for numbers. And there are Indigenous Australians who have songlines: they sing the landscape and therefore are able to move from location to location through it, and teach each other by singing.

While weeding your beliefs, there’s common sense and then there’s also common nonsense. For me, this world was spinning too fast, so I jumped out of the train of instant results. I had to free myself of the feeling that there’s never enough time before I even could start to dream about anything at all. I had to trick my mind, so I issued myself a ticket to do nothing for ten years. To not achieve anything, to not rush to the next big job. It was just a trick, of course, but it worked for me. I set myself free. I let myself wander around, I started to hear my own voice again. Seven years have passed till that golden ticket and I have a Sea Library. I don’t know what will come next. We never do. But I do know that I am walking my own path. I don’t have to prove anything. I don’t even have to achieve anything. I just want to create and learn, and to look at the sea as often as I can. There’s always a way.

In Lewis Carroll’s poem The Hunting of the Snark there’s a blank map. All dreamers need one.

He had bought a large map representing the sea,
Without the least vestige of land:
And the crew were much pleased when they found it to be
A map they could all understand.

“What’s the good of Mercator’s North Poles and Equators,
Tropics, Zones, and Meridian Lines?”
So the Bellman would cry: and the crew would reply
“They are merely conventional signs!

“Other maps are such shapes, with their islands and capes!
But we’ve got our brave Captain to thank:
(So the crew would protest) “that he’s bought us the best —
A perfect and absolute blank!”
 
 

Website: beachbooks.blog | Instagram: @sealibrary_ and @sealibrary_kids

 
 

Photo credit: Anna Iltnere

 
 

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