Finding Our Way

The Road to Thingeyrar

For almost ten years we’ve been traveling together to Iceland. We no longer get lost on the five-hour car ride from the capital to Helga’s farm, though this past year we missed the cut off from the ring road to the dirt road for the first time. When we turned the car around and passed a farmhouse, someone brought up the time we all stopped to pee in the cavernous barn before we crossed the river. The mention of the river ride, our name for the riding trail alongside and across the river, brought up the time a herd of three-year-old horses raced alongside us, spurring us on to go faster and faster. “Was that the time Disa’s horse threw her?” The question produced a collective intake of air. “Oh, God, remember that?” A scrap of barbed wire hidden in the grass made Disa’s horse buck. One minute Disa was our fearless Viking leader with her magical long golden braid and the next minute she was thrown hard to earth, on the unforgiving ground. Esther said, “I remember thinking if Disa can fall off a horse, what chance do I have of staying on?”

Every place we pass now has a memory for us. We remember them differently from each other and mix them up frequently. Was that the time… or was…wait… when was that? We fade out with our mixed up musings. But the accuracy doesn’t matter much.

None of the horses we rode on the first trip are still there. They have either been retired, have died, or have been sold. Everything changes. Even in Iceland, especially in Iceland. A decade ago it was a more traditional country and less traveled; it never made the news cycle and wasn’t the go-to locale for Game of Thrones.

The first year we went in 2004 Kat had a Blackberry, a novelty. It was a Darwinian breakthrough every time she took it out and called her husband—and got through! We felt like primitives around a magic box. It talks! And way up here in the mountains! The first year the rest of us were using a rotary phone in the guesthouse to call home. It was a big gray wall phone, and I had to stretch the cord as far as possible up the stairs for some privacy. I used a phone card with pre-paid minutes. By 2010, we were Skype-ing. I was holding my laptop above my head so my husband could see the sheep in the mountains.

But our guesthouse on the farm remains the same, and maybe one of the reasons we return is for the sameness, even if in the beginning what so entranced us was the newness. Part of the pleasure of being on a farm even with modern amenities is that it brings you into the past. The agricultural life represents the not-so-distant lives of our farming ancestors. It is the something you can hold on to. The opposite of digital is dirt, mud, grass, horseflesh.

dirt, mud, grass, horses

My Aunt Ruthie (a wise, sharp woman who made old age look presentably worth it) used to say: “As you get older, you get more you.” I used to think that meant that you just did away with needless approval and forged your own way. But lately I think the “more you-ness” comes from our recollections. Our minds and hearts become fat and swollen with memories of places and people, and this makes us “more.”

Fat and swollen
Pregnant mares along the river we cross

How long can these trips go on? We used to put an end date to them, but then we stopped talking about it. As much as I hate the phrase, we are mature women in our forties, fifties, sixties. We mark time. My children were young when I first started these trips—young enough to miss me when I traveled. Now they are grown up, living in another city, and they don’t know when I come and go.

So every trip is a reminder of all the years that have passed: memory is time, time is loss, loss is life. But weirdly enough, trumping all that, these trips are a reprieve from aging. We squeal at the first site of Helga’s horses in the fields. Look at the babies! Is that the stallion? We pull up to the farm, tumble out of the car, rush to the fence and fawn over the horses. We’re like a pack of girls, full of nerviness, excitement, blissfully unaware of anything else. It never gets old. And, in the moment, neither do we.

Mares and Foals
What we fawn over

82 thoughts on “Finding Our Way

  1. It looks inviting. Great pictures. But life it moves and our time here is short and moves on. Blessed be the babies. Blessed be the green of the grass. Blessed be the time we are allowed to see such beauty.

  2. Congratulations on being freshly pressed! Really lovely written. I came to your blog because I’m riding in Iceland myself right now. Not on a horse though… yet. But never know what might come up. Its a gorgeous country. Greetings Mirjam.

    1. Thanks. I just checked out your site and listened to new Sigur Ros and three great versions of House of Rising Sun. Love the collection of music you’ve put up.

  3. Wonderful post! I’m traveling to Iceland in four days-mostly to photograph the Golden Circle and Northern Lights..Any “must see” or “must eat” recommendations for Reykjavik?

    1. There’s a blue shack of a fish restaurant on the wharves called Saegreifinn. Haven’t been there for a few years, but it was cheap and authentic. There are other fish restaurants along the wharves that are good too. I find the food great all over the country, even in the roadside cafeterias, called N1, of Nesti. Food isn’t fancy, but hearty and fresh.

  4. That sounds like a lovely tradition to take this trip. Beautiful photos and sceneries. Have always wondered how it would feel like riding those Icelandic horses.

  5. I visited Iceland in 2004, thru a friend who taught Kindergarten at the Navy Base. A thoroughly enjoyable experience! SOME DAY I intend to take my wife there on her first visit. Many thanks for your photos, they bring back fond memories! Thanks again!!
    Rochester, N.Y.

  6. I love, love, love this! “We fade out…the accuracy doesn’t matter much” …I love the acknowledgment that the shared memories matter more than anything. More people should live like this, should be able to— find some place to visit every year or two and simply embrace time—mark time as you so eloquently put it! Thank you for the inspiration.
    Peace & Love —E.English

  7. Nice photo of the horses on the meadow, it caught my eye as a person who like to paint, I have attempted a few painting of horses. A friend of mine has five rescue horses she take care of.
    Iceland looks like it can be quite cold, from what I have heard, Iceland is cleaning up its economy problems
    By the way do you farm?

  8. I remember riding horses when i was in Iceland, before game of thrones… They were quite the characters themselves, with the best crazy hair days

      1. I am sure it is but sadly many places have “lost themselves” in the race to modernize. What we don’t get anymore is the balance between nature and modernization. Your pictures represented as sense of calm in those lands.. Something I am sure we all are looking for ..

  9. Just wondering, was this the blog post that got ‘Freshly pressed’? It has an essence of time and wistfulness lingering in the post… I love it as always. Funny how the Blackberry was the latest contraption before and now it is nearly out the door…. =)

    1. Thanks, Fourth. With each trip we seem to have some new tech. Last year, one woman had camera headgear to attach to her helmet. The first attempts were pretty funny to watch– minutes and minutes of just sky with voice over.
      Yes, this was the freshly pressed post.

  10. Your writing is evocative. I always look forward to finding new posts on your site to enjoy. I love the line ‘The opposite of digital is dirt, mud, grass, horseflesh.’ is beautiful, as is the whole post. The pictures are superb.

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