More from Suzanne Brøgger of Denmark, on writing:
"I begin each morning by practising yoga. And after that - fasting on a lemon - I set about writing, which is only another form of yoga. Writing is an excellent ritual for training the concentration, memory and observation. It is an exercise of the capacity to dream and associate, and not least a training in truthfulness. For I agree with Saul Bellow, that one knows immediately if a sentence has come from the right layer of one's consciousness. If it has, it straight away begins to breed and flourish on the paper, in that it gives birth to and attracts to it a whole mass of other sentences. If it is a lie, or you write from a shallow place in your consciousness, then sooner or later you go stale and can write no further. Sometimes this morning ritual is a catharsis of tears and laughter. In any case it is an extra dream dimension to everyday life, which allows a person the rare privilege of bathing twice in the same river. Still I wouldn't attribute to 'writing' any greater importance than to baking bread, knitting a shawl, planting asparagus, or playing the piano."
I'd like to let this paragraph just stand here by itself, because it certainly warrants a singular attention, but I just have to mention what happened on Sunday evening, after I took that solitary contemplative walk through the neighborhood and then returned home. When I turned back onto my street, I saw the emergency vehicle coming around the corner. I'm sorry to say it was coming for my neighbor, G., who is only 54 years old. Apparently he'd had a heart attack and they could not revive him. I watched his wife cover her face with her hands, I watched them fruitlessly pounding on his chest when adrenaline and electric shock were not enough. It was such an ordinary night. A gentle, quiet Sunday evening.
It reminds me of the words of a Spanish-language poet, whose name I don't recall, who was read in translation at "Freight and Salvage," a local folk-music spot in Berkeley, on Saturday night. I may be paraphrasing, but here is how I remember the lines: "And those are the good men, the ones who love, and work, and who, on an ordinary day, lay themselves down under the ground."