Some writers stay with us forever. The Russian writer Alexander Solzhenitsyn is one such writer. Whenever I read his prose poem ‘Freedom to Breathe’ I find myself renewed both in mind and spirit.
And since I cannot do justice to it in my own words I will let Solzhenitsyn speak for himself:
Freedom to Breathe
A shower fell in the night and now dark clouds drift across the sky, occasionally sprinkling a fine film of rain.
I stand under an apple-tree in blossom and I breathe. Not only the apple-tree but the grass round it glistens with moisture; words cannot describe the sweet fragrance that pervades the air. Inhaling as deeply as I can, the aroma invades my whole being; I breathe with my eyes open, I breathe with my eyes closed – I cannot say which gives me the greater pleasure.
This, I believe is the single most precious freedom that prison takes away from us: the freedom to breathe freely, as I now can. No food on earth, no wine, not even a woman’s kiss is sweeter to me than this air steeped in the fragrance of flowers, of moisture and freshness.
No matter that this is only a tiny garden, hemmed in by five-storey houses like cages in a zoo. I cease to hear the motorcycles backfiring, the radios whining, the burble of loudspeakers. As long as there is fresh air to breathe under an apple-tree after a shower, we may survive a little longer.
(From: Solzhenitsyn: Stories and Prose Poems: Penguin 1973).