Just before going through security at Keflavik, I asked two guards if I could go through with the Icelandic Glacial water that Icelandair had given me upon entering the plane in Newark. I was told I would have to empty it or drink it. “Will I be getting another one for my flight home?”
“Yes, you will. Once you pass security, you can fill up your empty container from tap water and take that with you. It’s just as good.”
”I believe that. I just may.” (I did not but carried the empty homeward.)
At the Icelandair check-in counter, I could not resist one farewell flirtation with the native Nordic beauties. But I added a twist.
“Where’s all the women my age? Where’s your moms?” I asked the two associates checking my bag and issuing a boarding pass.
They looked a bit puzzled and annoyed. (Tiredness must be a factor in my social tone-deafness.) After a pause, one of them replied, “They’re all taken.” She added a shrewd marketing promotion, “Come back this summer” — which evoked my unspoken rejoinder, “Because they’ll be divorced by then? Their husbands are hunting or fishing?”
As we flew into the sun (“running blind...running into the sun,” as the Jackson Browne song goes,) I was neither blind nor running on empty. Flying above crenellated clouds that looked like a sea or a sky under sky, I wondered if we would beat the sunset and land in brightness (we would not). To bookend my landing on Tuesday, which seemed ages ago, I listened to Of Monsters and Men (OMAM) again. The title of their “Beneath the Skin” LP suited me. I went to Iceland seeking skin and what lay beneath. I received one, the latter. “Hunger” was one of the tracks of this journey, and of this album. Did I satiate my hungers? It turns out to be the wrong question. I looked at my hungers and my self and the wider beyond. Did I need to go anywhere to accomplish that? Perhaps not. But I sorely needed a retreat. Caregiving and grieving were taking a toll on me. I paid that toll and walked through the gate. And Iceland was the perfect choice: a glacial oasis of gray and blaze, geysers and lagoons, new tongues and ancient sagas. As I noted in my book Seeing the Signs, the world is adorned with signs for us to decipher. On a construction plywood fence on Hafnerstraeti in Reykjavik, I saw this graffito sprinkled with symbols that looked like ancient runes and the word “Berlin,” where my older daughter once lived and where I have journeyed:
you have to be who you are now . . .
you can’t wait until later