20 August 2007

continental divide

Back at work again, on too little sleep and with suitcases still standing stuffed in the hallway. I landed last night in a crisply clear light, dark enough for stars yet with enough peachy horizon glow to silhouette Snæfellsjökull. Welcome back indeed.

The coming back this time was harder than last trip to the States, and it's taken until lunchtime to feel like I am here again, even without the jetlag factor. It's been a week of familiar in a way that Iceland will never be, mixed with the newness of rapidly growing nephews.

I spent the week on Martha's Vineyard, where my family has been going every year for over twenty years. The house there is one of my earliest memories, built on a scale and fancifulness that that suits children perfectly- windows low to the ground, gingerbread trim, and a little bedroom painted in an unsensible shade of bright yellow. It's set in a specially American summer place, a neighborhood of 300+ original Victorian summerhouses, trimmed in wooden lace in bright colors and skirted by porches, standing elbow-to-elbow on barely drivable roads amid a swath of ancient oak trees. In August there are all sorts of activities- agricultural fairs, fireworks displays over the wide oceanside park, lots of oom-pah band concerts, plenty of ice cream and sand in your hair, sunburned shoulders, parties on the porch, and an evening where all the little houses are decorated in Japanese lanterns and parasols.

Combine this with lovely New England seaside weather and it's not hard to see why it was hard to leave. In my many hours of transit though, I kept thinking of what my friend C said when we caught up at the Boston classic Oak Bar last week. She's back in Boston after a year in Paris, and my exclamations over prices and the ease of communicating in your native language were both familiar to her. However, after two weeks, the price delight wore off, and she started tuning into Portuguese radio stations as a way to recapture that perennial out-of-the-loop feeling that comes from being adrift in a new language. I remember doing this myself, back before I heard handfuls of languages as a regular tune to my life and travels.

Writing so often about living here has made me hyper aware of the feelings of familiarity and belonging, or the alien and new- which are comforting, when it's stifling, how much is enough of one or the other. Maybe it's also the lowness of a gray Icelandic day, the sudden solitude of my apartment after days in a small house with lots of people, or how it feels when the flight attendant says "velkomin heim" at touchdown in Keflavík. Is there ever a perfect balance?


Djaddi said...

Welcome back :)

tsduff said...

I'm happy you are back; I truly missed your words and pictures. I also feel your angst at departing from your time spent with friends and family. I don't think there really is anything such as perfect balance.

ECS said...

djaddi: I was using your blog as the reference point for all the things I was missing. Of COURSE the week I went on holiday was all the Fun Stuff of August. Thanks for documenting so well!

terry: I think the departure sadness is just gonna have to be a part of modern life, since almost nobody lives right next to their whole family anymore. At least I have a family to miss! I am grateful for their awesomeness, to be sure.

Jóhanna said...

No perfect balance here either, btw... and I know *exactly* what you are saying, on almost every point. My first year in Iceland was so much fun... but every time I've come back since then, it's been harder and harder. I long for my geographical "home," which Iceland can never really be (even if it was home for my father).

hexe said...

I have been a lurker for a bit (also a fellow New Englander) but wanted to say welcome back and that your post clearly describes the struggle that many feel - the desire to be close to your family and the desire to see and learn about a new place.

Anonymous said...

The difference between you and me: you have had the COURAGE to leave them, I am too scared to do the same, even to follow a dream abroad. I will always admire you for that.

-Sarah :O)