At the Berkeley Public Library Central collection, while searching for an Alan Furst novel for my husband, by chance I came across a book of short stories titled "From Baltic Shores" . Now, as you may know, I've been exploring my baltic heritage, and this felt like a very serendipitous find. I'm trying to find out something about my cultural roots from the british isles and the baltic region. I can sprinkle my speech with Jewish idioms and Italian phrases, thanks to my upbringing, but I know nothing about what it means to be danish! So, here are some excerpts from my explorations:
"In the summer, I have several guests in my garden. Sometimes I have the feeling it's like Epicurus' garden, where one 'laughs and philosophizes.' 'Bene vixit bene latuit' - he who lives in obscurity lives well - said the same Epicurus.
"My garden is surrounded by a hawthorn hedge and high trees and runs down a slope covered in violets to where the fields of barley, rye or wheat begin. Cows also graze there, and I think it gives a quite special sense of luxury when you go for a walk and twenty cows come running delightedly toward you. I well understand the psalmist Kingo, who lived in the Løve district and wrote an ode to a cow. That cannot be done too often.
"Apart from lilacs, wisteria, laburnam, jasmine, apple and plum trees, I have a big copper beech in my garden, to the right of the two rockeries. There are usually two nests here. Uppermost is a hawk's and below it a little wood-pigeon's nest. You could say: Uppermost is the Pentagon or the Kremlim, a nest of stones, gravel and concrete, and below it, the dove of peace in its thin little nest of straw, grass and leaves. No sooner has she hatched eggs than the hawk swoops out of the air and snatches them all. All the same she stays there, year after year building her nest under that of the bird of prey. So if the garden reminds you of life and death, you also come to think of futility. A bird of prey and a dove in the same tree; it can never turn out well. But it keeps on going."
This is from Suzanne Brøgger of Denmark, whose short story "I Live as I Write and I Write as I Live" is the first in the collection. I enjoy the understated sense of humor, the country-wisdom, the appreciation of simplicity and of nature, the sense of relatedness to the Greeks, the love of obscurity and 'humility.' She makes a point to let us know her garden is only 100 km from Copenhagen. I feel exactly the same way she does about the dove of peace and the bird of prey.