It’s been about a year since I last posted. I suppose an explanation is in order, but it’s fairly personal. If that sort of thing isn’t your cup of tea, don’t read any further.
When I moved to Iceland in 2015, the plan was the family would follow. We’d done two-stage moves before, from Ohio to California in the 90s and from Maryland to Nevada a decade later. This time was different. When she came to visit in November 2015, my wife announced they weren’t coming to Iceland. When I visited for Christmas, she said she wasn’t sure she wanted me to move back, either. We talked some more over the next few weeks but when we got off the phone on Valentine’s Day 2016 it was clear that our marriage was dead.
I went for a drive that evening. Given my frame of mind just then, it was a mistake. If you’ve reached a point in your life where you’re questioning whether to continue it, being alone in the gloom of a sub-Arctic winter is not a good idea. The weather was lousy when I started and became ever more foul: heavy clouds and snow, high winds whipping already-fallen powder into drifts and streamers. Visibility was close to zero. Tears didn’t help.
I wound up a long way from anywhere. When my car got stuck in the snow, it seemed a perfect ending. A hike into the dark countryside would take care of things.
Then they started to show up. First a pair of tourists from the UK who happened across my car unexpectedly and stopped to see if I needed any help. They were very nice, but had no equipment or really any idea what to do. They offered me a ride into town, which I declined. But while they were stopped another car pulled up, this one full of college students from Vermont. Getting stuck in the snow was nothing new for them. They tried to get my car back onto the road, but it only wound up deeper in a snow-filled ditch. But then there was another car full of folks willing to lend a hand. And then a truck. And a tour bus. And another car.
The forecast that night included strong aurora activity. Even though the weather was so miserable you couldn’t see a thing, the roads were full of hunters hoping for a glimpse of the lights. The dark, deserted road I’d gotten stuck on would have been a perfect place to watch the skies, except for the clouds. I didn’t keep count of all the people who stopped to try to help. In a way, they all did: from the time I got stuck until hours later when someone with a tow rope and a truck came along, I was never alone.
The clouds broke at one point and for a few moments the lights were there: iridescent green and violet, shimmering and twisting in the high thin air in total silence. I’m not a particularly devout person, or I might have taken them for some sort of sign. But I’d already seen my angels that night on a quiet road in Iceland.
I stopped blogging in part because I didn’t quite know how to share this story. It seemed too important to leave out, and I didn’t have a firm sense where the journey was going.
As I write this in June 2017, the divorce is final. I’ll graduate soon with a degree in sustainable energy science and I’ve been accepted as a Ph.D. student at the Reykjavík University School of Law to research legal challenges in extremely long-term geothermal operations. My five hundred days of Iceland are going to turn into five years, and maybe more.
So I’ll keep writing. Thanks for visiting.