16 March 2008

why the silence

Since I returned from Norway, I've spent nearly all my time in Akureyri, while my new life and room in Reykjavík lie empty and unused, cellophane-wrapped like a fresh pound cake. It's been 2 weeks of nearly daily snow squalls, the gentle kind that fall freshly yet fail to actually accumulate, the snow of movie sets and Nutcracker dance sequences.

While in the north, I've had plenty of offers to move there, from M offering flat options, to G suggesting one of M's wife's brother's as excellent dateable material, to V asking if the paperwork I held one day was the papers that declared my intention to give up on the southern life. The first week I was there, my planned 2-day trip somehow stretched out one day at a time until it was five, as I checked out every day and sheepishly returned to the hotel every evening, receiving a different room every night.

Thankfully, Akureyri's got a nice hotel and a variety of restaurant options. It never ceases to amaze me that a town on the edge of nowhere, nearly to the Arctic Circle can be so relatively bustling. There's the curry hut where I order in Icelandic from a square Indian man, the best Arctic curry to be had. Then we have the vegetarian place, where turnip burgers are served among a palette of carefully chosen earth tones, from the twig-colored velveteen curtains to the leafy wallpaper behind the silverware table.

During my nearly-nightly swim I certainly did think of whether I would like to live there. In some ways it is "öll lífsins gæði" (the best of everything in life, the Akureyri motto), with its enchanting scale and dramatic setting. It is a safe feeling to be living among what feels like a big family, and to feel like evening is properly a time of rest and repose, so empty are the streets of any sort of bustle or activity. The architecture is low and unobtrusive against the sculpted mountain landscape, just fanciful enough in detail to feel as if you're in an invented place.

However, everyone my age seems to be busy at one thing: family or the making thereof. The guys I work with are busy with wives, children, houses, and laird-o-the-manor guesthouse operations. They are busy installing lights, tiling bathrooms, connecting stoves and redoing the downstairs den. All of these activities are perfectly nice things to do but are not the sorts of things I think about in my vagabond lifestyle, so foreign to the Icelanders I know here.

Still, they are a rather nice lot, these northern Icelanders, which was enforced by my most gracious welcome in the form of a free taxi ride from the airport. I've always had a splendid time in the north, so spending more time there has been no great source of pain or discomfort. However, I think I am still one for the southern life, with its nearly constant traffic of people from other land stopping by, for a night or three, or for several years. I'm not ready for an even smaller scale of life, but I'll be happy to go again, flying over the landscape between here and there, so open and empty, ridges of mountains sprawling free and clean, empty of human activity.