I have no idea what time it is. I arrived in Iceland in early morning pitch blackness Thursday, then fell asleep at 10 as the sun was coming up. I wore clean jeans and a shirt to bed, since they were the first clean clothes I found in my bag.
Woke up at 2 p.m. as the sun was descending and headed out into the coldest day of the year to shop for food. Armed with bread, cheese, muesli and beet juice, I returned to the apartment to warm up before my Northern Lights tour.
Later that night, after a long and pointless hunt for the Northern Lights on a freezing tour bus, I stayed up till nearly 3 a.m., wired and on East Coast time.
Blur and Sunlight
Passed out and woke up at 9:30 a.m. with dawn on the horizon. Spent a cloudy day amid snow showers relaxing and wandering around downtown Reykjavik, with a stop in a warm and welcoming cafe. My worst fears have not come to pass. I imagined Icelandic winter days as a tableau of faint sun streaming through dark night-clouds, like in those old medieval illustrations of the world ending during eclipses.
The reality is more like extended sunrises and sunsets with a few hours of normal daylight in between. Less apocalypse and more soft, warm light. After a pleasant meal at the cafe, I head back to the apartment in early dusk. Another wired evening, in bed this time by 1:45 a.m. It’s hard to tell one day from another.
Hibernation and the Loss of Time
Today I wake up at 7:30 with the alarm and instantly decide, no way. I feel like a hibernating bear. It’s dark and cold, and the bed is warm and soft and surrounded by wood ceiling and walls. I feel like I’m on a ship at sea, tossing softly on waves. The lights on the trees outside my window glimmer in the darkness.
Back to sleep. 9:30 a.m. I get up with the light and amble downstairs to make breakfast, which I decide will be a chocolate bar. Then I sit around watching the sky get light for three hours, clouds over distant mountains visible from the kitchen window.
When I finally take a shower, the hot water smells like sulfur. It’s clean and pure and everyone smells like this so it’s fine, I embrace it.
Liquorice Butter vs. Hakarl
Dressed and showered, I meander to the concert hall downtown and attend an artisan food exhibition. I buy food I never imagined like butter with liquorice and sea salt, jam made of berries heretofore unknown, and concentrated blueberry essence.
At one stall, I am offered hakarl, Iceland’s signature rotted shark delicacy, but I decline. I’m not ready yet.
At home I scarf down bread with the liquorice butter, which is surprisingly delicious. I feel like drinking, which is strange because I almost never drink at home. I imagine getting drunk on wine and watching the Northern lights while I eat the entire jar of liquorice butter.
The Hunt Continues
Tonight I will go out hunting the Northern Lights again. The sky has been clear all day, but fog is descending and the sunset has a pink glow that’s gorgeous in its own right. The aurora forecast is low, and I don’t expect to see lights, but I’m here for a month so I’m not worried.
I settle into the beautiful apartment in this strange and wonderful country at the edge of the world, waiting for nightfall.