Yesterday we returned, reluctantly, from a vacation in Iceland. The mind, though, is still there: in the streets of Reykjavik, full of color and gaiety; on the shores of lake Myvatn, swarming with midges; in the vast emptiness of the southern coast, with astonishing cliffs where arctic puffins nest and fly about in strange circles; in the bizarre landscape of moss-covered lava fields; in the salty warmth of the blue lagoon; amidst the Icelanders, relaxed yet enthusiastic.
There is a desire to write at length about this journey. It has been an atypical trip; the process of writing will, I hope, bring out the differences and clarify them. The most obvious difference, something that came to view in little things during the last ten-days, was this: Iceland is a simple nation.
300,000 inhabitants; one city – Reykjavik – and a bunch of towns; one people; one religion; one language (that has changed little in a thousand years); no neighboring states; a straightforward – though turbulent – history; a handful of occupations. (The most complex thing you find are Icelandic names: of the dozen or so Icelanders I had a conversation with, I cannot clearly recollect even one full name.)
This simplicity will be a recurring theme. But before I get to Iceland, I have some debts – accrued in the busy summer so far – that I have to get off my back: the music festival in Belfort, and the saturday market at Lausanne. There are no travel plans for the next six weeks – not counting the occasional meet-the-wife trip to Brussels – so all this writing should get done. I have no excuses this time.