Iceland Air

We have had amazing weather this summer–warm, sunny days with blue skies that stay blue. It’s the constancy that is so unexpected. A little summer sun isn’t abnormal in Iceland, but it’s usually followed by brisk wind and clusters of clouds scurrying across the sky. Just like that, the sun is gone again.

Sunbathing in Iceland isn’t the leisurely activity one engages in at the beach. No, Icelandic sunbathing is exercise in and of itself. The sunbathee sees the sun and rushes out to the porch, only to rush back inside minutes later. She wears a swimsuit so she can get a proper tan but keeps a sweater at hand, knowing that the sun’s warmth is merely temporary. After a long, dark winter, she is so desperate for a taste of sunlight on her bare skin that she will hover beside the window, hoping for the clouds to pass.

So yes, I have been loving this “hot” Icelandic summer. On my days off, I sit in the garden in shorts and sip an iced beverage. “Am I really in Iceland?” I wonder, watching the dogs run around on green grass, wildflowers waving lazily in a gentle breeze. Memories of the winter mornings when sunrise didn’t occur until 11:00 are difficult to access–I feel supremely content, lucky even.

But the lack of rain coupled with the constant sunshine has brought an insane amount of dust to the air. It fills the car when I drive down the gravel road that leads to our little cottage and turns the horizon into a haze. The looming shapes of Hekla and Eyjafjallajökull disappear into a murky off-white mist. My throat becomes scratchy and my nose gets clogged. I start to hope for rain and lower temperatures, to be tired of all of this heat and dust. It feels like a betrayal until I tell an Icelandic colleague. “Ha!” she laughs. “You’re becoming one of us.”

Last night, my husband and I were lying in bed, talking about our days. Our bedroom curtains have been pulled low all summer, blocking out the midnight sun. But the sun is setting earlier and earlier now, and the nights are getting colder. I had a hunch and pulled up the curtains to open the window as wide as possible.

A deep draught of cool air filled the room, scented with sweet aspen. We both inhaled deeply. It was the pure, Icelandic air that I missed all summer, sweet and clear–almost able to be tasted. “Do you feel that?” I said. “Finally,” my husband said. “Finally, I can breathe again.”

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