22 June 2008


It's been a busy month, as you might have guessed from the lack of posting. Since last I wrote, I've been back to the US once, and moved to a new home. And now, the only thing that must be pondered is the incredible weather and the impossible green that is summertime Iceland. The transformation still alarms and enchants, and this year I get to enjoy it from the comfort of my very own miniature terrace, high above one of my favorite neighborhoods. It's close to everything, yet the view from the balcony is layered with trees and the pyramid rooftops. A garden choked with buttercups and rimmed with a wall that the cats are fond of tiptoeing along lies 3 stories below where I sit typing, bathed in sun as my white sheets sway on the drying rack next to me.

This is what makes life in Iceland so great- I'm in the midst of the capital city, able to walk to all the places that are touted as the hippest of hip to the tourists, but I have real neighbors that I actually know, that I talk with on the street. Friends are sprinkled among the blocks in all directions, close enough to borrow the proverbial cup of sugar.

The noises I hear right now on this drowsy Sunday evening are the shouts of kids bicycling one street over, the buzz of a lawnmower, and the conversation of a garden party on the next corner. This is how I love to live, part of the fabric of a place, enfolded in greenery and surrounded by the peaks of mountains as my coffee bubbles up on the stove.

On Friday my friend H said these apartments in the tops of buildings are the unwanted ones, too complicated for people to want to bother figuring out, with unforgiving nooks and more skylights than vertical walls. The stairs to get here are narrow, but the rewards are worth it. It's like living in a tree house, all breezes and light.

Life continues to swirl along around this move and settling- more trips to foreign lands, more parties than there is time for, and as always with Icelandic summer, that burning need to spend as much time outside as possible. Coworkers are crispy with the aftermath of golden weekends, and the parking lot at the office is suddenly sparse.

And I am struggling with what the point of writing here is for now. I've gotten beyond the weird of living here, and feel like I spend a lot of time repeating myself, about the weather, about the scale of life, about the people I know and the frequent stops in the airport. What do those of you who are still reading actually want to read about? What keeps you coming back here anyway?


Ludmilla said...

Because I love to hear other people's stories. I love to hear about the mundane in places that are exotic to me. Your travels in Iceland in neighboring countries draw me to your blog. This post, describing your new home and your neighborhood--I want more. It would be nice to hear more stories about that, if you can keep yourself anonymous and safe as you are right now.

Best wishes for a delightful summer.

janni said...

As a two-time visitor who wishes I could spend more time there, I just enjoy about daily life--and also, being reminded of the spectacularness of that place you live. :-)

janni said...

Enjoy _hearing_ about daily life, that should have been!

Professor Batty said...

... "What do those of you who are still reading actually want to read about? What keeps you coming back here anyway?"

Speaking for myself, my visits to Iceland were like an intense, wonderful dream, a dream full of poorly understood feelings and fraught with vague meaning. Your site has been a way for me to recapture some of those feelings, a way to make clear some of those things which were confusing, and to let me be back in Iceland, albeit vicariously, for a little while. The ability to write in an engaging and naturalistic style about daily life is a real talent, a talent which you possess.

It seems that a lot of the bloggers I follow have either slowed or stopped posting lately, is it burn-out or just a natural cycle?

Your posts give me moments of grace and illumination in my day, I've even printed out some of them to share with others- people who wouldn't other wise read a blog.

As far as struggling with the point of blogging, my friend Kristín once told me "It is an affliction," although I think it may have elements of therapy as well.


Anonymous said...

E - I read your posts for many reasons. I was initially drawn in by your location, hovered because of your incredible writing and superb photographs (which I've been missing as of late!), and stayed because of who you are.
Your posts are elegant and vibrant and bring the magic of Iceland back to life for me. Even the mundane is fascinating and I cherish every word you write. I easily imagine myself as you, sitting in your treehouse apartment, traveling across the country and over to Europe, and simply living where I've always wanted to live.
I hope you continue to post, but only if you continue to enjoy posting.

Maybe you could give us an Icelandic lesson or two to help fill the content of posts when you're unsure of what to write?
-Sarah :O)

tsduff said...

The way you describe the minute details brings Iceland up close and personal to me, stranded far, far away from it's lava shores. I believe that your writing would be just as fun to read whether you were writing of Iceland, Boston, Danish or China. You notice the ordinary in an extraordinary way, making us all notice it too. I can remember so many of your posts, which have now settled into my memory as if I had seen those things with my own eyes. Your words are never "a repeat", and I look forward to each one. The photos you post are as amazing as your prose. Bless.

Lisa said...

Though I only visited once, Iceland enthralled me like no other place on earth. Your blog helps me recapture that feeling ... plus, I like the pictures!

Sir said...

When you're not writing, I truly miss reading new stories. You bring me into my past, the smells and sounds of forgotten days.
You are so visual in your writing that almost anything you write becomes fascinating.
It's like opening up a new world to me, a new yet very well known world of tastes and sounds.
I also to miss some photos :) even off the mundane. It would be so nice to see photos of i.e. what you see out of your tree house. It's like putting pictures into words and vice versa.
Please keep on writing, it brings me a little closer to home, even though it's just for a minute :)
And you know, there are always so many things to write about, trips to the country, upcoming events like Menningarnótt

Anonymous said...

I ended up on your blog by accident. I have never been to Iceland nor do I know if I ever will. However, you write beautifully and only wish I could do it as well as you do. Like the others, I too, love to hear other people's stories. I guess it's my way of living vicariously through others.

I lived abroad many years ago and when I read your blog it reminds me of what I went through and only wish I had as much fortitude as you seem to have had in your initial experience. When I read your blog I feel like I am reading a novel with a character that never ceases to amaze me. I hope you continue to write because your stories are an inspiration to some of us. Thank you for providing a window into your life.

ECS said...

ludmilla: thanks for the enthusiasm! It helps to know that I'm still hitting some kind of target audience. This summer is great so far so I am feeling positive about the next months too.

janni: it is spectacular here and I do often think about it and forget that people who don't live here don't mind always reading about the same "WOW the MOUNTAINS" stuff I'm always spewing about :)

batty: I think there are a few reasons why blogs slow down. First for me it has been that I have written so much about all the things I do the most often- the pool, the office, the house. Second, it gets to a point where you have to decide how much of the personal life to divulge in the public space. I'm still working that one out.

and WOW I am flattered that you've made me a "published author" to a certain extent by printing my things out. That's pretty cool :)

Sarah: Based on what seems to be your boundless enthusiasm for Iceland I have no doubt you'd read even if I was just writing about the view from my window every day :) Still, I do want to keep it fresh and like there is some kind of evolution going on here.

tsduff: You've mentioned similarly in the past that it's not so much the content as the text that is appealing, and I have to say that part of what I like about writing is that I have a record of so much of the past three years here, and when I read old posts i remember so much of the unsaid things too, like how I was feeling when I wrote the entry, and the complications of that time here that never got written about. It's an interesting project.

lisa: I think I forget how many die-hard Iceland fans there are out there. It's getting to be that season though, so they're starting to appear at the pool in droves!

sir: I think I'm ON the street where your grandma used to live (somebody used to live on this street I think, based on some comment you once made). I think it's the best area of Reykjavík. As for my upcoming plans, they are more out of the country than in, but more on that as things unfold!

o nameless one: I know that a lot of what I write about is universal expat experience but to a certain extent that's wearing off, or is just the same old same old, hence my lack of interest in writing about it again. But there are plenty of new adventures ahead so we'll just have to see what happens with the blog in the next months. I don't think I'll give it up but I also don't think it'll be like it was in 2006.

SOe said...

I simply enjoy reading your beautiful written posts. Sometimes I find similarities between your and my view of Iceland, sometimes I find a completely new or other point of view which let me start thinking. Your writting about Norway or other countries is so intense that I always think I was where too. I think we all will be grateful, if you can find a bit time to tell us a new daily-life-story, even if it´s only once per month. I can promise, I will keep checking on your blog!

Food, she thought. said...

The description reminds me of top floor flats in Paris. The photos, not so much, but still, just a trace.

Food, she thought. said...

My bad, I didn't answer your question. I am relatively new to the blog so to me everything is fresh. I would like to hear more about the food...and cultural events and oddities. You know me.

allan said...

we come back for the inspiration of making our own moves to a new country. i'm near the end of a 9 day vacation here, and i've loved my time here so much to actually explore coming back to reykjavík longer term. i've already bought icelandic language textbooks here that i'll work on back in NYC.

please keep blogging!

ECS said...

soe: I was just saying to S the other day that your photos are a fresh eye on Reykjavík, so I'm glad you feel the same way about my blog! I'll keep writing for sure, I'm just not certain how often I will.

food: I think we've talked before about the top floor thing. It's a bit of effort but to me it's totally worth it! As for the question, I guess I was thinking more about the long-termers who've been reading for a couple of years and have already heard all the stories about the pools and the weather and the mountains. Thanks for the input and encouragement all the same!

allan: Have you tried the online course? I know I wrote about it at some point (I think November 05) but it's pretty great and gives you a good foundation for if you do actually intend to move here. Check it out, and let me know if you actually do come and settle in Iceland. I hear of so many people who want to do it through my blog but so far not many have actually come.

Rose said...

ditto Batty!

allan said...

ecs: as a matter of fact, i signed up to the online course and started watching the RÚV news online before i went just to get the feel for the language. it sounded "funny" to me at first, because i was already more used to hearing Danish and Swedish, but i quickly found Icelandic quite endearing. i was all set to take the "Instant Icelandic" for tourists at the Alþjóðahús until Auður emailed me that they had to cancel everything for the summer. as soon as i got to Reykjavík i visited Auður at Ahús to thank her for her advice, and in talking about Ahús's mission she also recommended the "Learning Icelandic" books. i also talked to Barbara(i think was her name) about staying in Iceland longer term. so now i'm using the books as my base and supplementing them with the online course. even only after 2 lessons, i'm finding my stack of index cards already becoming pretty thick!

you are quite right in pointing out how few people actually get to Iceland. talk is very easy; doing is harder. i keep this in mind, and i hope not to fall into that trap. it would take me about a year to two in any case to tie up some complicated loose ends here. suffice it to say that i'm in sort of "mid-career" here, and i need a big change. i've lived in mainland Europe before, and have always wanted to come back. i've also wanted to fully master Danish and Swedish, so Denmark and Sweden were always destinations, and now Iceland is added to the Short List. i work as a librarian here now, and have some notion of transitioning to working in travel/tourism abroad, mixing languages with a librarian's pleasure in dealing with people and skill in remembering and finding all kinds of information.

the transition is always the hard part, and is the greatest source of inertia for me. fortunately, i could survive on my own for quite a while, but even working at something just for "pocket change" would feel completely stabilizing for me, when not for work-permit issues that would prevent one from even doing that! i guess i would find it hardest to adjust to anywhere i didn't know anyone, and would fall into seeking out the expats for the taste of "home". i had gotten to know a few of the employees at my hotel, and one mentioned the 3-year Icelandic Language BA for Foreigners at the U of I, and while it sounds absolutely fantastic, i would rather consider something similar to the folkehøjskole model in Denmark where you can learn to speak Danish in intensive 6-month to 1-year courses.

thanks for your encouragement, and i'd be glad to let you know how i do along the way and if/when i get there!