06 February 2008

what's in a day?

Morning in Reykjavík. It's the blue gray light from which Esja emerges from the kitchen window in my new flat, the thunk of the heavy outside door with its counterintuitive lock (turn towards the door to unlock, not away).

It's the scraping of tires getting out of the parking space, onto the narrow road that's never plowed, two tracks of glassy ice with a hump of solid snow in the center. Right, then left then right at the Salvation Army guesthouse, then it's to the roundabout and down Hringbraut. Páll Óskar's danceclub tunes on Bylgjan, a string of neon lights past Mjódd, then out into the countryside where my office now is located.

It smells of coffee and new there. Puddles on the floor from snowy feet, glass doors unable to withstand the rousing winds are still boarded over, and my gray tweed skirt matches the nubbed carpet on the stairs. In office, it's the sound of yet more construction behind the meetings, work, meetings, pondering, conversation, the punctuation of saltjkjöt og baunir, since today's sprengidagur again.

After work, pool. I do my kilometer, sharing the lane with a guy in flippers who's slower than I expect. Each time I somersault, I look for the bubbles trailing from his leading hand, and they're not there. Arms, arms, arms, breathe, arms, arms, arms, breathe, and repeat until the next flip. I always lose count but does it really matter that much after all? My only competition is myself and flippers-man who takes long breaks after each length.

Salt pot, then steam, then salt again, and it's time's-up. Shower, spin the suit in the dryer, and then on with the boots and along the dark sea route home. There's only time to check email before I'm out again, to eat blueberry-vodka marinated lamb topped with papadum, and talk economics and the intricacies of the English language with H, my erstwhile flatmate.

Home now, a whisper of breeze swirls through the crack in the window, and the rooftops I see from my new home are edged with snow. A few lights remain on, extinguished one by one as the neighborhood goes to sleep, and a solitary car grinds up the hill nearby.

What's in this day that might justify the reports that this is one of the happiest nations in the world? It does seem odd that a time spent so much in the dark can seem so cozy and lovable. Is it the food traditions that I am so happy to see for my third year, the level of constant intellectual stimulation, the socializing of such variety, the freshness of wind and the water in my glass close at hand? Of course, there are plenty of other, more practical arguments that one could make for why things are nice here, like healthcare, work conditions, short commute times, and general tidiness. I think these those are more the features of life that help you have the space to be happy about other things, rather than the reasons for happiness themselves. There's time for music, for thinking about interesting ideas, for drinking lots and lots of coffee (perhaps another reason for the happiness?), for swimming and for just dreaming in a pool of hot sea water. These are what makes it great for me here.


Professor Batty said...

... that is really just too beautiful. Thank you.

Northern musings said...

Thanks for again reminding me how lucky I am to be living here

Rose said...

If I can't be there, next best is hearing you describe it.

Anonymous said...

Another memorable, moving post, E.

Another reason I think Icelanders are happy - never having to go without a hot shower. Never underestimate the power of a hot shower when you're in a bad mood!

-Sarah :O)

umarah said...

beautiful post.liked it:)

Robert said...

We love the things we love for what they are.

tsduff said...

Blueberry and vodka marinated lamb - what a delicious thought. I can imagine your day so well as you have outlined it. I could go for a seawater soak right now...

Inmate1972 said...

Hi, up there! I'm a former New Englander coming for a visit to Reykjavik next week and I am looking for recommendations on the the public pools. Any insight you might offer would greatly appreciated. Thanks!

ECS said...

batty: thanks- you wrote a great one recently too, about the summer days as a kid.

musings: you know it's true, but yes, we do have to remind ourselves sometimes :)

rose: you gotta try coming here for yourself sometime. It's pretty nice!

Sarah: that's probably true. Hot water fixes a lot of ills, which is why I spend so much time at the pool!

umarah: glad it appealed. It seemed like a pretty typical day so I wanted to remember it.

robert: philosophical but in some cases quite true.

tsduff: there's a new menu at the place H and I always go for econ-talk, so I of course had to try the most unusual one in the list. It was pretty good too.

inmate: I think you're here already but check the spacity website for descriptions of the area pools.

Kristi said...

Thanks for a great post. I have been following your blog as I am planning a trip to Iceland this fall, a stopover on the way to Norway. Any chance you could recommend a hotel in Reykjavik? I would greatly appreciate it as I've found it is always better to ask a "local" than ask a guidebook.

Thanks for any thoughts.

ECS said...

hi kristi: Actually, I'm not so useful with the suggestions as you might imagine, since I have never stayed in a hotel in Reykjavík. Why stay in a hotel when I could just sleep in my own bed?

Norway however, is a different story. I've stayed in probably 10 different hotels in the Oslo area and have plenty of opinions there!