“A Perfect Day” is a new ELM column, in which individuals associated with literature in Estonia share their recipes for a perfect day. The first featured author is Eva Koff, Estonian Writer of the Year 2018, whose sensitive and elegant novel <em>The Blue Mountain</em>  (2017) has received several awards.


A perfect day. Today. It’s ten o’clock, the morning sunlight has left the kitchen, but the radiance of the yellow walls fills you with that much more hope. The kids have been sent off to school; you waved at them from the window and fell back into bed. Poor kids, you think as you wake up, then make coffee. A few books are scattered on the windowsill. They are The Brothers Karamazov; it is Pyotr Aleshkovsky’s A Fish, or Henry Marsh’s Do No Harm that await you: here I am, a whole world on slightly print-smudged paper. Today, someone has topped the stack with Harms’ An Unexpected Bender and a thick, black work by Juhan Viiding. Neither even need to be opened: the “loaf of Polish bread” pokes out from between the covers and lines from the latter proclaim: “I’ve made no sense; I’ve made some sense, too.

You read for a good hour or so. There’s no need to fret: the day is still ahead of you. Even so, a nagging sense of guilt slowly sprouts. At this time on a real day, you’d open your laptop, reply to the e-mails you can answer briefly, and think with gentle regret about the people to whom you’d like to write longer letters; for whom you’d like to take time. And, on a perfect day, you do take that time. You filter out the thoughts you’d like to echo back from that letter, and you write. Your ideas flow and your sentences are alive.

It’s the middle of the day. The cat stretches on the armchair. You go out for a walk, strolling down Heina Street towards the Kopli district. To your right is the railroad, obscured by a line of leafy birch trees and where not a single train rumbles anymore; to your left, lilacs behind fences flood the air with their scent. You stroll and inhale them through your nostrils. The intersecting streets are flowery to their core, with names such as Timothy-grass, Stalk, Greens, and Plant. The dusty former industrial zone has become a literal Pelgulinn, a city of refuge, where the birds chirp and dogs bark in the yards. You make your way back along Clover and Straw streets. Before arriving home, you pass Kaja Pizza, which is said to make “Tallinn’s best pizza”. Perhaps.

At home, you make a cup of green tea. You don’t open e-mails, but instead a file containing a play you’re co-writing with Indrek. One that speaks of Portugal’s spirit and Estonia’s spirit and what unites the two. The distant oceanic land is right here in this room, beneath the metal roof in Pelgulinn; surfers and fish crisscross your computer. A new scene emerges, one that is unexpectedly vibrant and authentic. You hit the right note: it’s a perfect day. Lining up letters – in the perpetual deleting and replacing lies joy, excitement, freedom.

You’ve had to eat meanwhile: dark bread, tomato, dill, egg, butter. The warm yolk spills across the plate. Perfect. Man doesn’t need much in this mundane life.

The kids come home from school, from practice. They’ve had a great day. They’re bubbly. And since your pen has also had a good (a perfect!) day, you’re prepared to listen. You open up the channels and tune in. While you do, you cook soup, stew, and the boys’ favorite: macaroni. They take turns talking, then all at once. Moomintroll is the littler ones’ bedtime story: “It was a new gateway into the Unbelievable, into that great Possibility; it was a new day in which anything could happen so long as you had no problem with it happening.” One can easily journey to dreamland in peace with thoughts like that.

I make a pot of herbal tea, Indrek and I chat softly (there’s no door between us and the sleeping children). We talk about our play and today and tomorrow and life and living. It’s 12:01 am, and it feels as if we’ve been granted another day. A poet with the words: there’s time, I believe. It shouldn’t run out.

A fantasy of a perfect day, of peace on earth. Achievable perfection is ultimately no more than our imagination and endeavor, isn’t it? But what is it that we truly need in this world, which we cannot and should not keep solely to the realms of our dreams and fantasies… “Once, there was a king without a kingdom or a crown. And so, that king lived beneath the great blue sky… ”. In Jaan Kaplinski’s poem, the king acquires his coveted kingdom and crown in the end, but in a completely different way than how he’d expected. Yes, a perfect day would be no more than a lifeless construct if it had no problem: one little crack, a single question that gnaws at you, a moment of fear (perhaps this beauty and fortune won’t last for long?), or the knowledge that life is borrowed and its return date creeps closer with every perfect day. Yes, such is life, and that is why you seize the day: both the perfect and the ordinary.


tagged in Eva Koff