A Travellerspoint blog

Old Selves

A series of rainy days such that I have forgotten what the sun feels like and that all the world may not be as cold as southeastern Iceland. The memory of warmth is like any distant memory liable to nostalgia--it feels unreal and obscure and simply better.

But the past evening and morning have been taken up by a surprise--an old college acquaintance and his girlfriend suddenly appeared at the campsite.

It was a relief to have four people talking, and dear God, Americans, with American English and American sensibilities, and of course we had all the Stanford memories to fall back on. I noticed with a smile their Toms of Maine toothpaste and Luna bars and care to purchase butter and not margarine. How far it seemed I was from that new bourgeois, over-educated urban young professional self! And yet also so close, so ready again to don that cloak... CSAs, farmers' markets, backyard herb garden, chemically minimal products, cloth bag-toting, reading select articles in The Atlantic, The New Yorker, public radio, film festivals, city parks, volunteering, existential crises, hyper-prepared pre-motherhood, "getting back" to simplicity but never succeeding. Yes, I suppose that's the old me, and I'll slip right back into her old skin and forget that this year happened until suddenly one innocuous day I am bowled over by some memory, and I will sit down and write for several pages, write about what I've lost, what I still have that can never be removed, erased, taken away, all that private life that's private even from me, that represents some continuity of self, an image, a reflection, a glimmer of recognition that floods into a word bath--all of that I look forward to.

For now, though, that all seems as distant as the sun. Certainly more than the three weeks' distance it actually is. Is that all it is? 14 months whittled down to 3 months whittled down to 3 weeks whittled down to nothing? So eternity passes after all. And soon to be back on the conveyor belt. But conveyed where? Death, ultimately, on hyperspeed. Death death death death death. I cannot imagine it. I can, but I don't want to. Death. Oh, but I bet it's not hot but cold, like Iceland.

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Sheltering in Vik until the storm passes

Apparently we are so happy to be on a black sand beach!

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Our Wettest Day

The pelting mist (that sometimes builds up to a rain) comes right on schedule

Today's hike is full of...

...oodles and...

...oodles and...

...oodles and...

...(yup, I'm going to keep going) oodles...

...of waterfalls...

...the biggest but perhaps not the most enjoyable of which is mighty Skogafoss...

...which we can see from our campground. This lovely campsite will soon turn into a gigantic puddle. Thank goodness for good tents.

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Cold Beauty

Iceland has turned magnificent and sunny again

O you rock formations

This varied hike from Thorsmork to the Fimmvörðuskáli hut had classically gorgeous views throughout

Chris ventured where I dared not. Perhaps there was a tearful moment where I refused to come join him on the precipice. Perhaps there was not.

Jyeah...I think that's where we're going

It suddenly got a bit cold

We don't have too many pictures together, but a kind stranger offered

The valley of the shadow of...

The thin white ribbon is a waterfall and river

Why are we hiking to snow level again?

For those of you who didn't already guess, Chris is pretending to be a volcano. The things I make him do. Now he's probably embarrassed.

I'm going to decorate my home in these colors

Finally at our destination


Our lovely hut--the only place we stayed indoors our whole Iceland trip

Chef Chris is happy to have a proper kitchen!

* * *

And, as if by some secret signal, everyone in the hut began brushing her teeth at once, which of course meant a long queue at the sink. Everyone, too, went to bed at the same time, though not all to sleep but some to quiet, personal activities, such as reading by the attenuated light still curving over the edge of the glacier and bending into the windows of the hut. As for me, an empty table and the generous warmth of a heated room are too tempting an invitation to resist: I write.

It was a sunny, clear day--rare enough in Iceland, it seems. We skirted fantastical, twisted gorges, traversed plateaus that felt like the playing (or battle?) fields of the gods, scaled dunes of black ash, and finally reached this hut with its 360 degree views of the ocean, mountains, volcanoes, plains, rivers, valleys, glaciers--views that stretched until the horizon became a haze, and I thought here it is not the end of the world but the very top of it and all the earth, living and quiet, is below.

Chris never wants to leave Iceland, but I am a bit too cold to be quite as enthusiastic. Tonight's warmth is luxurious, but already I see that tomorrow's cold will be that much harder to bear. It always seems I have one layer too few of clothing.

But how can I complain, treated as I am to Iceland's phantasmagorical, hallucinogenic, austere, surprising, lively, dangerous beauty? (Oh but the warden's opened the door--too warm, she thinks--and stolen away my precious heat. To bed, to bed.)

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At Last We Arrive in Thorsmork

This melted plastic fork we share is all that we have left for a utensil after the tragic disappearance of our broken spork

Grand landscape or...strip mine?

I've never known such resilient moss


From a distance, I can already see the river we have to cross

All right, last one of the day

Home sweet home

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