26 June 2008

cat town

France has its dogs, Iceland has its cats. People aren't dressing them up in little jackets and bringing them to cafés here, but walk down any side street and you'll see them shadowing into cracked-open windows, crouching under cars, curled on windowsills inside, and skulking through the gardens on nearly every street. At night the yowls of their battles drift through the windows.

On sunny days like the past week, their expansive mood can make for slow going, since I always have to stop and greet them all, and like Icelandic people, they get foolish and slightly sun-drunk when the weather's benevolent. In some of the older neighborhoods, they will lie in wait on the wide concrete walls, and follow your progress down the street, Give them one scratch on the cheek and they will follow you along the wall for blocks, hopping between fences and yards, looking hopeful.

Some are more aloof and will only watch warily from beneath cars or up in trees, but there's always one somewhere. Each stretch of sidewalk I have lived along in the past 2 years has had its own particular cat staking out the territory- the sprightly orange tabby that did the midnight rounds last year, the enormous black and white one that hefted its bulk through the fence to inspect your ankles this spring, and now my new place is loaded with them. There's the small white one that suns on the stump in the back yard, the tuxedo cat that lurks in the grass in the front yard, and all of them seem to be more than willing to twine around my legs and welcome me to their little corner of summertime Iceland.

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?