25 June 2013

the ship has sailed

A few days ago, the piece of paper arrived at my new home that signifies I am officially no longer a resident of Iceland. The reasons for my departure are numerous, involving work possibilities, my relationship, and the need for a change after the family events of earlier this year. It's been a difficult few months, with competing interests on both sides of the Atlantic and my life suspended somewhere between. I haven't really felt like I belonged anywhere, so frequent was the flying back and forth.

The last day that felt like I was a resident in Iceland was the Sunday after the movers had come and taken away my household, when I turned the key over to my landlord for the sweet attic apartment that was home for almost four years of my life in Reykjavik. My flight was in the afternoon, so I woke early and went down to the sweep of bay that's edged by Seltjarnarnes to the left, Esja and Akrafjall to the right. It's where I saw my first sunset in Iceland that May evening in 2005, where I drove all those times going to see S, where I ran the times I did the Reykjavik half marathon, where I saw so many northern lights shows. With a coffee and a sandwich from Jói Fel in hand on that bright, chill morning, it seemed like the fitting place to sit and watch some of my last hours as a local go by.

The next few weeks were taken up in a whirlwind of cities spanning four countries, before I finally landed for good. Since then it's been a time of acclimatization, waiting for the Ice-homesickness to hit and finding it strangely absent. My new home is lovely, and since the arrival of the furniture, very cozy. Outside the door is a vast forest waiting to be explored, full of scents and plants that take me right back to my childhood in Vermont, thousands of kilometers away. After work, the luminous Scandinavian evenings stretch out invitingly, warm enough for balcony sitting, or ambling through the forest, or discovering the waterside paths that edge along the base of the hills and the river that opens into a vast fjord. The air this time of year is scented with all the things I forgot I missed- lilac, lily of the valley, that earthy, busy smell of forest underbrush after rain.

It's also fantastic to have access to all the great fresh produce that never seems to make it intact to Iceland. Cherries, fat red tomatoes, strawberries, enormous radishes, peaches, apricots. I'm burying myself in fruit nearly every day, digging up new thrills every time I go to my new favorite store, the one where all the immigrants shop. We're eating salad every day, full of new things I didn't know existed, and vegetables I forgot about.

Fortunately, I haven't had to completely sever my ties with Iceland, since I'm still working with the same great group of people who've been my work companions for the better part of my career. I'll have to go to reconnect with the head office occasionally and of course they come here, bringing me Icelandic barley and a reason to scrape the tarnish off my Icelandic speaking skills. Some of the friends here are people I met in Iceland, so there has been some reminiscing of old times back on the rock. It's nice to be around people who understand some of the mystery of my last home.

And so once again, I'm a foreigner in a new land. Despite this being technically somewhere I've never lived before, something about it feels so viscerally familiar that I'm constantly surprised that I cannot speak the language. It's partly because the place has been an undercurrent of my life for the past six years, and partly because the landscape is so comfortingly familiar. It's a weird and wild combination, this comfort mixed with excitement over the new place, bewilderment when I occasionally forget where I am, and poignancy when I wish I could tell my father about how I appreciate all the tools he gave me that are making the setting up so much easier. Not sure where this is all ultimately heading but the movement is definitely forward.