November 2014

So, I changed my profile description yesterday, to reflect the fact that I no longer live in Iceland. Haven't actually since 2011, but I guess it took me a while to officially accept that. In fact, it wasn't until November of 2014 that it really sunk in.

That is when I went to Iceland with my brother, sister, and niece. It was my niece's 18th birthday, my sister's 50th birthday, my brother's 45th birthday. It was not any special year birthday for me (although I considered it significant, as the answer to the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Universe) but I was along as a guide.

Going as a guide to Iceland was appropriate I thought, since my mom couldn't go, and since I do know a lot more about Iceland than my siblings. It was also kind of strange, because they had the unabashed enthusiasm of most tourists to Iceland, excited to see the Leifur Eiriksson statue, blown away by the great nightlife (even in November), eager to take pictures of all the waterfalls.

I cannot pinpoint exactly when I lost that kind of fandom, but I have. I guess I've been reticent to admit that here on this blog, because I don't want to disappoint what few followers I have, just in case they came on board when my intention was to share my Icelandic geekyness with the world, rather than to bare my soul. I don't presume any of you really want to hear about my problems with Iceland, you want to hear me say how great it is.

So that's why I've rather stopped blogging, since I don't really have much to say that fits the original intent of this blog.

It does strike me however as really strange to not say anything about my trip in November, which was, in many ways, life-changing for me, or at least Icelandic-part-of-my-life changing. When I went during the summer of 2013 to Iceland, it was still with the unabashed "everything is awesome" in Iceland style, and therefore a disappointment in my memory, although my son enjoyed it. 

The trip in November 2014 was more grounded in the realities of practicalities, but it was also probably the most relaxing and rewarding trip I have had to Iceland in I don't know how long. Instead of having skyhigh expectations and being disappointed, I had rather low expectations, and actually found myself able to enjoy the things that went well.

If my siblings were writing this, they might gush about spending time in Sandgerdi with our family and eating more lamb and fresh fish than they could imagine, or marvel at the horizontal rain and blizzard force winds out at Reykjanes lighthouse, or reminisce about running into people they knew unexpectedly while walking the streets of downtown Reykjavík.

But they are not writing this, I am. And for me, there are only two moments in the trip I really enjoyed. One was standing on the balcony of the little apartment/hotel room we had at Welcome Apartments with my brother Erik, sharing a cigarette. I had spent some part of our time in Reykjavík stressing out about where to go and who to see, letting the weight of all their expectations and my expectations of myself weigh on me. But my brother Erik has a wonderful way of grounding me, of making me realize what is real and what is important. And what I saw more than anything is that the only thing he really wanted from me was just for me to be in that moment with him, quietly and completely. And I was. It was a great feeling, to simultaneously let go and embrace. Let go of all the what ifs and expectations, and accept what is.

The other moment was also a sort of letting go. My niece brought along with her an old studio style camera (she'd been taking photography in college that year), and on our drive to Akureyri, we stopped in a couple of places where she thought the light was right for a dramatic black and white. The last stop, on our way home, as the light was fading and a light rain was moving in, I sat in the car and watched her follow an old tractor trail to the edge of a stream, where the view of its small, upstream waterfall was best. And I remembered all my waterfall shots from when I was a 12 year old kid, making my aunt and uncle stop at practically every waterfall along the entire Ring road so I could snap a photo on my little disk camera. My photo album from that trip is one fuzzy, confusing weird photo of a waterfall after another. Here was my niece, just a few years older than I was at that time, taking her own waterfall shots. But she was doing it selectively, professionally, artistically, with thoughtful dedication and care. And I realized it was high-time that I pass on the mantle of Icelandic fandom to someone else.

On the trip, I also gave a lecture at the University of Iceland on the phenomenology of landscape during the landnám period, a lecture I am currently trying to turn into a chapter in a book. My professional expertise in Icelandic history, culture, and literature I therefore still accept, and hope to be able to do something more productive with than has hitherto been the case.

If you are interested in that sort of thing, you are welcome to keep following my blog.


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