New and Familiar

Light grey drizzle clouds above me, I swim backstroke. It’s half past 6 in the evening, the air temperature 5.6 Cº.  There isn’t a worry on my mind.  Not about money, not about food, not about my body.  The stuck places in the shoulders get unstuck, the phalanges float freely, the water carries my weight.  The water is lukewarm: just fine for swimming.

I could do this every day.  In fact I might.  For the next week.  Most of the days.  Wash myself thoroughly in the nice clean showers.  Warm up in a hot tub.  Do some laps.  Back to the hot tub.  Repeat “laps+hot tub” as desired.

I like how it’s a local thing to do.  Folks come in with friends and/or kiddies, hang out, do a few laps maybe, hang out some more.


In the hot tub, I sneakily check out the locals, with their tattoos, red hair, chill looks.  I like to imagine they are saying something intriguing in their tongue that didn’t change much in the last 1000 years.  I get slightly annoyed at an expat American.  Things he says to his friend are in the tongue I can understand and as such are real and much less intriguing.

How hard would it be to move up here anyway?  People do that; I can too, right?  I would learn the old tongue which I would enjoy speaking more than English.  (Does anyone enjoy speaking English anyway?)  My hair would look harassed from nearly daily swimming.  I’d get another tattoo; I know the artist to do it.  I’d probably gain a few pounds.  I might even be OK with that.  These vikings here look quite nice with a few extra pounds.

I already know where the coffee shop, health food store, and a few vegan friendly joints are.  I know where tango is, and that place is also a yoga studio.  The bike lanes are safe and plentiful.  The music vibe I get here is punk/post punk; I’m cool with this.

When I travel, I am excited to see new places, and I also like to become close and familiar with the place enough that I recognize the street corners, know where the coffee shops are, know what the schedules are.  Ideally, it gets to “I can live here.”

This pool house was closed for renovations when I first visited Iceland last July.  It was a new place on this trip.  Now that I went there on most days of this visit, it’s familiar.  I know the schedule.  I know it’s fine even when the air temperature approaches freezing.  I have a system.

I would feel at home under these northern skies.  Where the sun slips so slowly beyond the horizon now at the vernal equinox and barely at all at summer solstice.  Deep winter may be a problem though.  I thrive on sunlight.  Long nights take me dark places.

California suits me.  San Francisco, unaffordable as it is, suits me.  The personality vibe I get there is nerd; I’m cool with that.

When I am at home, I like having my familiar places and rituals, and I also like finding new streets, coffee shops, studios, like I am a visiting explorer.

Running away is a great response to discomfort, speaking from experience.  But wherever you go there you are, and how about creating a home where I am already. 20180326_2212121802533611.jpg

Sure.  At some point.  Meanwhile, I’ll do a few more laps here, not a worry on my mind, my joints opening, my body and soul opening to new and familiar, as the air temperature approaches freezing and the northern skies above me darken ever so slowly.

20180327_172622-11264109517.jpgThe cover photo is from an old photo postcard I bought at the Reykjavik Museum of Photography.  The photo was taken by Pétur Thomsen in 1951 at the same swimming pool my blog post action takes place at.  That’s Sundhöll swimming pool, the oldest swimming pool in Reykjavik (founded in 1937).


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