20 March 2007


Today is the vernal equinox, the day when we up here get to start appreciating our extreme position on the curve of the globe. We get 12 hours and 12 minutes of light today, finally surpassing my previous East-Coast home, and from here it's a bonanza of illumination until all darkness is erased by May. This constant shifting means that it's easier to remind myself to appreciate exactly the light we get now since it's going to already be different tomorrow.

The weather today's a little harder to love with the special thunderous wind that screams against the rafters and makes the raindrops on the windowpanes shimmy in some kind of Deco jive. They call extremely cold, crystal clear sunny weather here "gluggaveður" (window-weather, best enjoyed from the inside of a window) but I think this is the true gluggaveður, that makes the feather pillows and Álafoss blanket on the sofa seem like the best-ever idea for an evening. It may be spring according to the sun, but Iceland says it's winter for another few months.

In other beatcha news, yesterday I decided to not let my still slightly busted ankle (post sledding adventures) stop me from new activities, so I joined T at the all-woman's gym near my house for an evening class. It's an otherworldy man-free existance that reminds me of the days at my single-sex college, but unlike other similar gyms I've been to in the US, it was refreshingly uncrowded. The class had plenty of space for everyone and their mats, and no elbow-bumping or creative limb interweaving was requited. The Icelandic candle-love manifested itself here too, with a line of tea lights along the front of the room. My US firecode autoprogramming kicked in with this one- Shocking to have OPEN FLAMES in a public space!

The instuctor, reminiscent of an 80's music vid dancer with her sideways ponytail and multicolored tank top straps protruding from a wide-necked top, led us through various yoga-tastic poses for the next hour. It was a workout for both mind and body as my brain worked overtime to remember my vinstris and hægris and all the Icelandic words for elbows, ankles, toes, twisting, and breathing.

By the end of the hour, the Shakespearean porous absorption of the language had finally kicked in, so during the lie-down-and-relax I could actually think of what she was saying instead of "what does that word mean again?". I've found that just like watching Shakespeare theater, when you give up and stop trying so hard to understand, the switch flips and you're "in", the language pouring straight into the processing center instead of going via the English-filter.

Anyway, I suppose part of the point of this post is to demonstrate that not everything about life here is incredibly thrilling. Sometimes it's just about the gym, the rattling rain, and lots and lots of gray clouds.


cK said...

Beautiful. I had that language feeling when I was alone in Germany for a spell a few years ago. I hadn't studied the language in almost 10 years. But people didn't take me for American so spoke German and I went with it. It was odd how quickly it made sense to me, how comfortable it became. I was quite surprised, and pleasantly so.

As for OPEN FLAMES!!!--hasn't the Icelandic insurance industry realized it can lobby for laws against that AND collect money from businesses to be insured against it even though they wouldn't be allowed to have the open flames anymore? We pay; wouldn't they? Oh, the wisdom of America is infinite!!

The Lone Coyote said...

Just made it back to your blog after being swamped for awhile. I recently joined a women's gym myself and have really enjoyed it. It is quiet, not very crowded, and so much more pleasant than the meat-market atmostphere that characterized my former large, co-ed gym. Sometimes it is the little things in life that are the most enjoyable.

ECS said...

ck: I'm getting to that point that I NEED more exposure to Icelandic so I can get to the next level, but for some reason a few people seem to persist in speaking English to me. I got a bit snarky on choir director yesterday when he turned to me and asked if I was coming on Sunday in English. Told him I wouldn't come if he kept speaking English to me.. whoops, kinda slipped out.
As for the candles thing, I hope it doesn't ever totally disappear, since I find it such an endearing feature of wintertimes here (and more than just being endearing, it's kind of a coping necessity). The American policies don't seem to really be any more effective in preventing fires anyway- I heard that the Boston area has had two major fires in college student apartments in the past few weeks. Education, not lockdown, is the answer.

E! welcome to the land of the living. I'm already a member at the RVK pools but sometimes I like to do things that aren't so water-based. This gym might be just the thing. Plus, they have candles.

dtw said...

I definately agree with your definition of gluggaveður, since again, it doesn't really get cold in here!

I'm in envy with your language instinct, although trying to learn Icelandic has improved my aptitude in Swedish to completely different levels. I've got no idea where it's coming from since I hardly ever speak it here, but I'm enjoying it. It feels like I'm able to think in three languages now. I fear I won't be here long enough for Icelandic to become fourth in that list, but at least I'll eventually leave with sharpened language skills - even if they're not the ones I tried to acquaint. :)