I’m sitting on my bed in my room at the front of Heida’s Home. I feel very sleepy – I’ve been reading Steinbeck, relaxing before what I assume is still our reunion – Nathan, Janeen, Jona Katrin, Asta, Arne and me – at the beach. I need to pack and shower first, as I have a flight at 7am, which means the 4.30am bus, which means waking at 4am and running.
This morning I woke at a more civilised 7am – there is quite a lot of traffic noise at the front from Hverfisgata – to a brilliant blue sky. I got the 8.30 bus to the Blue Lagoon, the bus trundling through the vast lava field to the south of Reykjavik to the power station, steaming under a mountain. The lagoon is picked out of the lava, the water milky blue and warm, steam rising from its surface, and the buildings, Scandinavian modern. It started quiet, then (as Nathan had warned) it filled with tourists – mainly Italians and Americans, both as loud as the other. I did two turns of silica mud-pack, waterfall massage, steam room, and sauna (toasty at 105C, according to the thermometer!), and left at about midday, very relaxed, maybe a little heady – I took a nap on the bus back into town.
Couscous for lunch – the last of the dried food – then a walk around town in the sunshine, where I got caught in a shower that came from nowhere, before returning to 102 Hverfisgata. Time now for a warmer – albeit sulphurous – shower before heading off to the sea.
Keflavik, silly o’clock. After two hours sleep, I’ve arrived, through security, airside. A beautiful dawn broke just as the bus pulled in, and I smoked my last cigarette, only adding to the nagging feeling of loss. I’m going to miss this place and, unexpectedly, the people. Last night (or this morning if you prefer) as we stood outside Kaffibarrinn, all having had drunk just enough, Arne, Nathan, Janeen, Jona Katirn, Asta and I said our goodbyes, with vague promises of meeting up, in Toronto, in London, in Reykjavik, somewhere, anywhere with hills. We each offered our spare rooms if anyone should ever need them, checked surnames so we could meet on Facebook, and said once again how pleased we were to have met one another, to have spent this time together. When we hugged our goodbyes, it felt truly warm, not wanting to feel the final wrench of separation.
Earlier that evening, we had met at the beach almost as arranged. I had got lost coming over the hill below the Pearl, so only arrived at half six, 20 metres behind Nathan and Janeen, who had got a cab. Arne, Jona Katrin and Asta were already in the water. A quick change, and a quick swim in the frankly freezing sea, out to the buoy and back, numb most of the way, before dropping into the hot tub, skin prickling, looking over the bay, to chat about what we had done together and apart, what was to come next – work, flights, horse rides.
Once the water turned tepid, we adjourned to Vergamot, just off Lagavegur, for pizza and pints, and to laugh and place stupid bets. We waited for Avi to arrive, following his day out in Schnaefellsnes; by half ten there was still no sign, so me moved on to Kaffibarrinn, for more beer and more laughter. I revealed my Google-stalking tendencies, we mimicked and mocked each others accents – there are now five people who will not be able to see heather, or hear the word without laughing at me and, I hope, feeling fondly towards me.
Eventually, Avi showed up and the last remnant of the veterans of Laugavegurinn Aug ’09 was briefly together again, one last time. Because whatever our protestations last night, I know I won’t see that group together again.
Memory is tricksy, and its rapid erosion, its impermanence, is a strong argument for being ‘in the moment’. And so, although I feel real sadness that this trip, and particularly these relationships, have ended – at least in their accustomed form (this group, in Iceland, walking this route, swimming this beach, drinking these whiskies, this gin and tonic) – I am happy and grateful to have been here, to have been so closely involved in this moment. Even if the wrench of ending fills me with sadness this morning, it has been a joy and a privilege.
So. My flight is boarding. This is where the story ends. To put a twist on Jon Karl’s joke about losing your way in an Icelandic forest: even if, right now, I want to stay lost, it is time to stand up.
A more complete set of photos is on my Flickr page