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.


Anonymous said...

I wondered where you had been! We adored Akureyri and I've often dreamt that if we moved to Iceland, that's where we'd settle down. Glad you had a good time and I've missed your posts!

Nice to have you back.

Sarah :O)

Jón said...

It's a short way to Akureyri,
It's a short way to go.
It's a short way to Akureyri,
To the sweetest girl I know.
Goodbye Kópavogur,
Farewell Reykjanesbær,
It's a short short way to Akureyri,
But my heart's right there.

Bluefish said...

I recently stopped in Iceland for a transit and I always wonder what do people do there. From the sky I saw a lot of mountain and snow...just curious about life in Iceland:)

cK said...

Ooo. This is one of those contrast entries that fascinate me. And the sort that help illuminate for me cultural things I glimpse in Halldór Laxness and Arnaldur Indriðason books.

tsduff said...

I'm not sure where in Iceland I would finally settle - but anywhere would be nice at the moment. I love the north - especially Husavik. The bustling city life of Reykjavik isn't my favorite - I prefer the more empty spaces and towns away from the city. Having just returned from that beautiful land, I'm now pining away for it once again. While attending Uncle Johannes' funeral service, I was treated to a spectacular men's choir, whose strong male voices singing hymns moved me to tears. I've never heard anything like it.

BTW, did you notice that you are starting to sound much like a native? :)

Maya said...

have you ever been to the Faroe Islands? I am gearing up for an exciting 2 months of roaming the world, so it's hard being in the office--hence I've been looking at all kinds of extremely remote locations on the globe....usually these end up being islands....anyway, the Faroe Islands seem just beautiful, and I think it's interesting that their language is supposed to be the closest to the Old Norse. And I think they are relatively close to Iceland. =D