We drove up from Reykjavik yesterday: a mildly stressful hour as we got our ducks in a row–picking up the car and driving back to the apartment to pick up out luggage, then easing eastward, out of town. After a time we were out of Reykjavik proper and on black-pavemented roads that swept past the shoulders of slopes of black lava and white snow and the pale dead gold of grass, all under skies cluttered with clouds — and always, the sun a rose-gold angling sequin of light that never seemed to move. Most of this drive was familiar to us from last year, when we took the Ring Road to Búðardalur; but this time we left the 1 at Borgarnes and wandered up and into the Snaefellsness peninsula to get to Stykkisholmur just at dusk.
Stykkisholmur is a very charming town full of tin-walled houses and buildings, with a dramatic church and a number of museums hardly bigger than my basement back home and a ferry to the Westfjords that only runs every other day. Last night, we dined at one of the four open restaurants, and ate excellent scallops and seared cod that had been caught that day and was tender as sushi. I crawled up into the loft at our little house and slept poorly, the walls shuddering in the gale winds.
Today we drove west along the north shore of the peninsula. The sky was filled with clouds that changed character and color and coverage with every moment. The winds were so strong that we had trouble getting the car doors open when we stopped to look at things. I cannot describe the landscape for you, but I can catalog it: soft hills covered with snow and grass; snow-brushed fields pillared with ejecta from some explosion of years past; pinnacles and terraced mountains and jagged alps; black-rock bays with sand duning across the road and spray flying dozens of feet into the air; a causeway crusted with rolling drying sea-foam; a ruined black church on a pasture that stepped directly into the water of a windy bay; waterfalls that had oozed in long lines from a certain stratum of a long ragged cliff and then frozen, the blue-green of windshield-washer fluid. And more.
The sky kept changing colors and brightnesses; the sea shifted from an unnamed dark teal to a different unnamed teal, fringed everywhere with rollers and spray. We drove for a few hours — there are only four hours of daylight right now — and then turned around in Olafvík and drove back the way we had come; but everything was different. The light was shifting, shifting, blowing like a summer rose into rich golds and pinks, peeking from beneath clouds to flush their undersides an exceptional, strange peony color. Everything looked new and strange and very beautiful.
We got back to the road to Stykkisholmur just at dusk, but we kept pulling over to look at the sky behind us. It was turning every color angels are: lilac and lavender and triumphal gold and peach, each cloud touched a different way, with a different note. The last cherry and amber pennons flew across the sky as we stopped at last in Stykkisholmur, for groceries.
And then: the world. Groceries; email; chicken at a pleasant little gastro-pub where the Liverpool/Flamengo match was being watched by a handful of locals and a couple who may or may not have been Russian.
These are perfect days; perfect times.
Elizabeth, who is a photographer, took 320 photos today (not counting her phone); I took 24. I am not a photographer, but taking pictures does give me pleasure. Better, it reminds me of small things that would have been lost in the crowding larger unforgettable glories: the hand-painted sign on an otherwise unremarkable corner, for the Shark Museum; the traffic alert sign that throws me a smiley when I get down to the speed limit; the marks of tires on black gravel; a rusted cart behind a barbed-wire fence.