Iceland had the most marvelous calming effect on me. The long landscapes and heavy clouds tethered me. The sea floating in the distance buoyed me. I am peaceful in a brand new way.
Before we went to Reykjavik, I had a few days of being very frustrated with my decision not to drink. It’s the holidays! It’s Friday! I’m going on vacation! An unpleasant rage settled in my sternum. I felt unhappiness in a brand new way.
I quietly considered canceling the trip and building a pillow fort in my bedroom where I could hide until the tide turned.
But I knew that travel had the power to reorient me. I thrive on the treacherous and miraculous and huggeable and irascible ways of the world. I wither in the treachery of my head.
So out we went. Over the wide Sargasso Sea. Beyond Greenland.
And the very first step out the door of our hotel-apartment brought me back to life. Walking down one of the main thoroughfares in Reykjavik, I noticed the cozy pubs where people gathered. I smiled upon seeing them. They smiled back. I didn’t want to be them, or with them. I thought about turning 50, and how I will have been sober for exactly nine months on December 27. A perfectly unplanned rebirth of my identity.
On that same street I noticed a goldsmith working at his table. His shop was half underground, and I watched him from a window near my feet. I looked at his creations — rough-hewn necklaces with tiny anchors as pendants.
Yes, I nodded, unbeknownst to him. That’s good work. Anchors are the right thing to make.
That’s the effect of the island of Iceland, and of turning 50, and being free of that which actually was taking me out to sea.