Out of the saddle, we have developed a herd mentality. As with most herds the oldest is the alpha mare. That would be Esther. She does all the planning to get there and, once we arrive, she organizes the side trips to the Blue Café, the Sea Ice Museum (my favorite), the Textile Museum (others’ favorite), or Holar (the horse mecca). She is a mess of insecurity in the saddle, but when her feet are firmly on the ground she is quick and decisive. Kat always drives. This leaves the rest of us peacefully grazing, literally and figuratively. Back at the farm, our movement is desultory. Like the horses, there is a constant need to refuel, a mindless munching. We repeatedly hang our heads in the refrigerator looking for treats. On the kitchen table there are always kibbles – a bowl of dried fruit, nuts, and chocolate covered raisins that Helga replenishes daily. We lounge in the guesthouse with our laptops and books. We watch the Diddi Bardarson “Tolt” video, which inspires a collective reaction — Oh, there is so much to learn. We head for the barn to watch Christina train the horses. “Look at her go. She’s like a horse goddess,” Kat says. We dutifully take notes on what Christina is doing. Each one of us, I’m sure, has pages and pages of notes on Christina training horses.
The expression harried people say: “There are not enough hours in the day…” is rendered moot here. There are still only 24 hours, but they are sunlit. You actually have enough time to do everything: ride for several hours, lounge, go into town, watch the horse training, visit friends, soak in the hot tub. Of course, we are on vacation; the industrious Icelanders make use of this perpetual daylight and work from 7am to 2am.
After dinner, which is done by 9:00, we stray into the fields to pet the horses. When everyone else goes to bed, Bev and I get restless. From the first year, we bonded over being fellow insomniacs and sharing a maternal worry over our teenage sons. So at midnight we start our walking. The sun casts long shadows. We hike from the guesthouse to the ring road (6K each way) or to the church, taking photos, or we go down to the lake and collect the iron-colored rocks. They are light, hollow-feeling, smooth, cooled lava that are supposed to bring good luck. We pocket the ones that speak to us. Sure, why not — in Iceland we’re up for magical thinking and the possibility that the rocks will be talismans to protect our sons. Eventually the aggressive skuas drive us away. They have lain their eggs in the tall grasses and in their maternal effort to protect their young ones, they dive bomb our heads and peck at our hats.