My daughter recently said to her new friend, in front of me, “My mother believes in past lives; take a guess what she was in her past life.” As I shot her eye-daggers because everyone knows I don’t believe in past lives, at least not until I’m on my third glass of wine, she gleefully rushed the punch line: “A Viking!” and cracked up.
What could I do but nod amiably and mumble, “Well, a particular kind of Viking, an Icelandic settler breed of Viking, if you must know.”
To tap into time travel, as I think of it, is to imagine a past life as an early settler in Iceland. What’s that? Blog followers, friends: you didn’t see this coming? Every year when I travel to Iceland, I am, in a sense, traveling back to my past-life homeland. And nothing makes you connect to an older era quicker than riding a horse on sheep trails in some remote area of Iceland, through driving rain and wind that nearly knocks you out of the saddle, with not a modern building or road in sight. Takes me right back.
As a fortunate aside, it’s not just me. I once was riding in Ireland with my husband, who in real time is a dovish, well-mannered guy, who believes in the universal human rights doctrine– yeah, yeah, yeah. But our horses took off in a gallop on an empty beach. Ahead of us was an old fortress on a hill with a small town behind it. And something came over him. He started whooping it up like a warrior knight, pretending to hold a lance, “Yar, Yar, let’s take the town! Let’s sack the village!” Thankfully he was new to riding, and I do believe it was only his loose saddle slipping sideways ready to dump him to the ground that brought him back to the present.
And it’s not just my family. Back in high school, I knew a girl who was sure she was a Massachusetts pilgrim circa 1660, and walked around piously in pilgrim-ish clothes. I knew another girl who claimed she was an Indian princess, wore feathers in her hair and camped out in a tepee in her parent’s backyard. Don’t worry, I’m not that far gone. I wear perfectly modern clothing and keep most objects out of my hair.
Traveling into my past life has more to do with a sixth sense, a feeling that wafts over me in certain places in Iceland, or when I’m with certain people there, and I slip into this preternatural state. It’s like falling into a past-life vortex. It happens incidentally and almost entirely on whimsy.
Consider the “evidence”: I was at the Perlan in Reykjavik, alone, sitting in the cafeteria with my feet up on a chair, reading a book, drinking coffee. A janitor was pushing a broom around my table. He stopped, leaned his broom on the table, and said something softly to me in Icelandic. I put my book down and took a good look at him. He was an older man, tall and rangy with a graying beard. We stared at each other—it’s all in the stare—and got sucked into the past- life vortex. I just knew, knew, we had been lovers and he’d done something valiant for me, and unfortunately, had to pay the price. “I’m sorry?” I said, partly meaning it in the modern way, “pardon me,” but also as a way of conveying regret, making amends for that day eons ago when I made him miserable and he lost his head. He murmured in Icelandic and shook his head sadly, as if to say, I thought you were someone else. And I wanted to say, I am, I was! But, I didn’t, since the present-life vortex is so much less forgiving.
Or consider this: We were in a tiny town in northern Iceland using the community pool at the local school. Esther was leading us in water yoga poses, as one is wont to do in a community pool in northern Iceland. Afterwards, the five of us squeezed into the hot tub with five locals. Knee to knee, we remained silent and tried not to catch each other’s eyes. However, I couldn’t help but feel the woman across from me eye-boring right into my skull. I stared back. She was older than me, with gray hair and had a large bony face with big blue sunken eyes.
I just knew, knew, we had spent time together a thousand years ago, shearing sheep, hanging the fish out to dry in the wind before the winter months. But as the moment wore on, I also picked up that it really hadn’t gone that well, that she was holding a grudge, yes, a millennium-old grudge. I sensed it had something to do with a land dispute and perhaps a bout of jealousy over sons borne to me. Hey, it happens.
What more evidence do you need? And I’m just getting started. I haven’t even finished my first glass of wine.