What the Viking Saw

11. October, 2016

So this is what the Viking saw as his crew stroked toward Iceland, as the glittering blade of their prow became the first to cut the tidewaters of the island. Virgin as the day the Viking first spied her, the coastline still lies untilled, unbuilt, unmined. Boldly fallow, she is as brazen as a Valkyrie in her bronze-girded maidenhood. Green and shaggy with moss, the tundra unfurls from the shore as flat as an unrolled map, balding where raw grey stone emerges from the turf.


Our plane lands in billowing veils of rain. The tarmac of Keflavík airport ripples with petrol-rainbows, tides of fuel-laced rain that shiver like swathes of watercolor-silk. Jolting as if on horseback, we ride down this Bifröst runway, this rainbow bridge that ties the mundane world to Asgard, home of the Norse Gods. With Storm Giants roaring at the windows, the airlock opens. I pull a dark hood over my hair and step into the swarming winds. In the flying rain, my red boots look as if they drip with ox-blood. Well met, Iceland.

After dropping my duffel at Guesthouse Bogartún, I walk into downtown Reykjavík. I spend my first evening in the city splashing down Laugavegur, where street lamps create little umbrellas of light in the shimmering rain. In more southerly cities, this hour might be called afternoon, but after the Autumn Equinox, Iceland knows only two times: twilight and night.

The heavy grey sky bears down on the city, pressing too close to the roofs, blowing Frost Giant breath down the back of my neck and spitting rain in my face. Troll-winds shove me sideways down the street, jeering as I bow my head and squint against the onslaught.

Along the harbor, a sea as dark and glassy as volcanic rock rolls away from the quay. The clouds lean in close, like a lover or an assassin, smothering the last rays of light between sea and sky.


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