Seizing Life By the Horned Helmet.
September 30, 2014
The fables are disappearing and many people are coming to the realization that Vikings didn’t all have horns attached to their helmets. While some horned helmets were discovered by archeologists, it’s thought that these hats were used in a more ritual and decorative way, kind of like an unconventional avant garde “Project Runway” challenge. Imagine Björn Víðirsson the blacksmith getting ready for a cool party on the night before a raid. As he’s picking out his helmet (because we all know Viking closets were filled with various helmets), he spots two cow horns and ponders to himself, “Why, I shall impress the fair Þórunn Jónsdottír by attaching these horns to this gauche raw iron helmet!” Little did Björn (a right Coco Chanel in the village) know the impact he would have on the Viking design world of the tenth century and beyond! But, I digress. What I’m getting at is, most Vikings wore simple helmets sans horns and Björn Víðirsson probably got his ass kicked by Þórunn’s burly boyfriend.
I have learned a good amount of Icelandic history since I’ve been here and have always enjoyed the stories of the “olden timey days” as told to me by the locals. There is definitely something special about the history here, because you can’t see it. There are no huge castles in the highlands or fortresses lining the Atlantic coast. In fact there’s really nothing but villages outside of Reykjavík, which, just got more modern and modern as the years went on. Sure there’s a few statues here and there marking historical sites or commemorating some poet who lived on a nearby farm, but otherwise Iceland’s history lies buried under ash, lava fields and the occasional mudslide. You just have to trust that what happened happened, and no, there’s not much proof, but deal with it. Simple. Now shut up and eat your boiled sheep face.
With Iceland being the youngest country in Earth terms, there is a massive amount of geological changes that have occurred over the years. And even as I write this, Bárðarbunga is rumbling some 150km away from me as the Holuhraun lava field gets larger and larger. We can see the eruption pollution very clearly here in the fjord, and some hardware stores have sold out of gas masks and breathing apparatuses. The volcano has also impacted tourism, and the whale watching company I was working for shut down operations one month early. I’ve spent much of the summer looking to relocate to Reykjavík for the fall, but haven’t had much luck with job applications or finding a place to live. Everything is expensive as hell here and there’s seemingly a billion different hidden taxes hiding away in the woodwork, ready to snap at your balls anytime you think you’re making money.
That being said, I haven’t been able to save as much money as I’d have liked and will be heading back to Jackson Hole for a while to do a little bit of duck herding and getting those bastards to stay in a row (metaphor; duck herding is not a profession). However, before I leave I have twelve days to enjoy Iceland for all its worth. My friends Jessi L. and Caroline L. are heading up north right now, and I’ll be traveling with them for a bit. I’m looking forward to falling back in love with Iceland before I leave it. It’s very clear that visiting a country you love can be very different from actually living there. Like a relationship, the initially golly-gosh-wow attraction starts to fade and you have to start taking interest in the heart and the soul. And the more layers I’ve peeled away from Iceland, the more I understand that it may not be the best place for me in the long run. My interest in culture and the arts is barely satiated where I’ve been living, and the financial issues have been piling up like sheep shit in a smoke house. Now, had I moved to Reykjavík initially, I probably would be writing a very different blog, but I’ll accept the life that’s been given to me and make the most of the path I followed.
It’s important for me to say that I’m okay with moving back home. Again. I’ve been living in an Icelandic paradise full of whales, sunsets, and good ole peace and quiet. This setting has been ideal for completing my novel and calming the chaos of the life I left behind. Returning home may seem as some sort of failure to some (including, in part, myself), and the thing that bubbles and plops inside me like a saucepan of Campbell’s Tomato on High is the feeling of judgement among my friends and family. However, what overpowers that is my understanding that I can’t put pressure on myself to keep impressing everyone. In fact, I may never be the person who takes wing and continues to build altitude. Sometimes I’ll have to fly a bit lower to catch my breath. Sometimes I’ll land in a setting that pleases me. And yes, sometimes I’ll have to return to the nest for comfort after an arduous journey. I turn to Gregory David Roberts and his book “Shantaram” (my absolute favorite novel) for this cozy quote:
“It’s said that you can never go home again, and it’s true enough, of course. But the opposite is also true. You must go back, and you always go back, and you can never stop going back, no matter how hard you try.”
I recognize that I left Jackson drunk on my Icelandic obsession. And I recognize that I was unhappy with the outcome that my life choices led me to. So I am returning to Jackson not with a head hung in disappointment, but with my chin high eager to explore new possibilities. This time around, I’ll be seizing the bull by the horns. Or rather the aspiring Viking within by his horned helmet. Sure, I’ll have to find a new job. And I’m aware that I’ll have to work from the ground up to get my financials in order. But what I’m excited about the most is accessing my creativity and putting forth more quality projects that the people of my hometown can enjoy and appreciate. Did life kick my (perhaps overblown) Icelandic dreams square in the balls? Oh yes. Do I intend to kick back?
Undoubtedly. And harder than ever.