When you wake up, you have to do something.
I used to wake up and watch the fog in my eyes clear — sitting on a moldy rug in the living room in St. Petersburg, as the sun came in the window.
Joan would be asleep on the bed.
Now I wake up and pull my legs to my chest three times, embracing them with my arms, then drink a glass of water that stands next to my bed.
This is Yoga.
Sometimes I wake up full of dreams, half-remembered: men in large black suit jackets, flapping their arms like wings.
I look at the clock and calculate how long I slept; was it too long or too short? How should I spend the day?
All this time, the light is coming through the window and the fog is lifting from my eyes.
Then, with a decisive action, I walk over to my first project — perhaps my desk. I sit down and look through my folders.
There are two pictures on the wall in my room. In one, two women dance with pots on their heads. In the other, two women thresh rice. They move in rhythm, fluidly, wearing bright colors. Their bodies are distorted by their motion.
At noon, I walk into the kitchen to make a meal. I cut up carrots, turning the sticks into circles.
I cut them on a large round cutting board. It is orange-brown, with an oily shine. My parents had it for many years before they gave it to me. Its roundness, its oiliness and its age are all connected, and comforting.
I have the sharpest knife I’ve ever had — a small kitchen knife, with a wooden handle and a crafty gleam. It gives me tremendous power over vegetables.
I gather the carrots in my hand, and drop them into the pot. Then I pour in barley.
While my stew is cooking, I take a shower.
When I get out, I look at the light and recite a Sanskrit poem, moving my hands in a pattern: first palms together at my forehead, then in a circle, still together, at the level of my chest, then stretched over my head, palms back, then down to my side.
This is Yoga.
Then I dry myself: first my face, then my arms, my legs, my crotch, my back. I move quickly, without thinking.
This is Life.
As I eat, I page through the newspaper, replacing each page with the next one.
In a book, each page brings you deeper into something; a newspaper leads you in a circle.
Today I read an article about why you should leave your refrigerator empty. An artist says it’s aesthetically pure. A socialite says it makes him eat out more often.
I can’t understand why things don’t suddenly turn into other things. Why doesn’t my knife turn into a candle, my toaster into a snake? Why don’t the lightbulbs turn into women?
There are four rooms; the light is different in each one.
In the bathroom the light is milky, coming through frosted glass.
In my room, there is an island of light in a field of darkness: a formula for concentration. My desk is the island of light.
In the spare room, the light is drawn out and distant, as if the room were an extension of the far hill.
In the kitchen, the fluorescent light is agonizingly bright. When the room is clean, it looks very clean; each crumb looks like a major error. This is an American light.
My friend Eli plays this on the guitar:
Shoofly, don’t bother me, Cause I belong to somebody.
I sing it as I walk around the house. Suddenly, I realize I have no idea what it means.
I look up “shoofly” in the dictionary. It says, “A child’s rocker having the seat between two sides cut in the shape of an animal.”
The spare room is set aside for doing nothing.
In it is a bed, a wardrobe, two blankets folded on the floor, five plants on the windowsill and a Paul Klee print.
Inside the room, one feels a desire to do nothing.
Sometimes I go in there and sit for a while.
I sleep on a mat on the floor, with three blankets.
I sleep without a pillow.
When I lay down, I can hear water running through pipes on the floor below.
Sometimes I am unusually happy — happier than seems possible, happy for no reason. Walking out of the kitchen, carrying a pot of stew, I will be overcome by the sweetness of life.