We’ve done a couple museums in Reykjavík, some silly and some serious, we’ve done some souvenir shopping, and a lot of walking around, but there was an odd feeling chasing me a good part of the day. It wasn’t until we left Iceland National Museum and walked toward the park, that I realized what it was.
About 17 years ago work moved us to a town in Germany, just in time for T1’s arrival. I had family in that town, so for us the transition was easy. The generous healthcare and maternity leave and the lifestyle in general grew on us quickly. Had it not been for my job that had me working far longer each week than originally agreed upon, we would have stayed indefinitely.
We love Vermont, but part of me still misses that place.
The last couple days I have been sensing echoes of that lifestyle. We have been surrounded by a symphony of languages. Icelandic and German have mutual sources so similar patterns are becoming more obvious, but, as we found in German cities, we keep catching snippets of conversations in languages other than the local one. The Icelanders, while slightly less formal than Germans, share many customs and the cityscape shares much of the same design and pedestrian-friendly functionality of many modern European cities.
So when we turned into this small city’s park, with its fountain and duckpond that looked almost exactly like the Stadtpark in T1’s original home town, I felt like I was coming home for more reasons than one.
Did I mention we live off the grid? Well we do, and it’s one of the things that makes our life a little sketchy sometimes. Like this spring.
See, in the winter we were doing great. I had money left over from my December bonus. There was money coming in from art shows. Things were so great, in fact, that I booked us a bargain basement trip to Iceland for August to celebrate our 20th anniversary. Thinking we would never use it, I purchased the cancellation protection on the flight. And then the bottom dropped out of our spring.
It was a few weeks after I booked the trip that our grid began groaning and asking for replacement parts until our bank account screamed, “Uncle!”
By the middle of the summer we thought we were recovering, when then the grid said, “not so fast” is it commanded still more parts and repairs.
Several times in July we realized our anniversary trip would likely be canceled. When I read the cancellation protection’s fine print, however, it was clear that total nuclear financial meltdown was not grounds for getting a refund. We could either go or stay, but the money was locked up tight as a drum. So we decided to damn the torpedoes and go.
There were a few more hurdles– T1 got a bug and won a trip to the ER — but by The last day of work, we were confident there could be no more disasters before wheels up at Logan airport.
So still not hundred percent confident we’re doing the right thing for a budget, but 1000% sure we’re doing the right thing for our relationship as a family, we’re taking a flying leap together to see something none of us has ever seen before.
Don’t worry. T2 and I are still committed to sharing the last cupcake, but my lack of resolve had to translate to something good. Or at least funny. And on that note the Monday funnies edition of my cartoon Picking My Battles is back in action.
Good Day Cornfields, 6×9 Watercolor
I almost didn’t go. I want/needed to make money, but the constant sucking sound emanating from our bank account all summer had me standing at the edge of my cave, waiting to pushed into the void.
But I need/wanted the money, so I went, knowing that was the worst possible reason to set up a booth at the art fair. Thinking about the money and not the art scrunches your face and you end up making no money and having even less fun. But I’d made the cards and magnets (which suddenly looked horrible to my jaded eyes), and I forced myself to turn into the field-turned-parking-lot.
My neighbors cheerfulness was stronger than my internal gloom, and I felt a little burst of energy as I started setting up my tables. As people wandered by and giggled at the cartoons, I remembered what had inspired them and started to giggle too, and I started noticing the art surrounding me.
There was no cell phone signal which forced artists and shoppers to completely disconnect from the overwhelmingly negative digital zeitgeist and reconnect with humanity. For me, wandering barefoot through a field populated by artists of all kinds made the world’s problems seem smaller and mine even smaller – or at least distant enough to start seeing beauty, and finally the funny in life again.
And at the end of the day, I wasn’t much richer, but that wasn’t the point on Saturday. Saturday was about taking a flying leap with fate and instead of waiting for fate to push me into the abyss.
So it’s becoming clear that I’ll never write a line like, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times” or paint something that captures the essence of war. Once upon a time I thought if I wrote and drew long enough that I’d come up with something really profound, but for some reason, I keep coming back to family.
Family is universal, but so much is written about it, that it would be difficult to be profound. That’s okay because when I look at my family-inspired drawings I see something else there that’s just as good.
There is kid chaos and inspired silliness and something our media has gone to great lengths to discourage. There are people of completely different shapes , sizes, colors, points of view, and walks of life seeing the differences and finding strength and joy in them.
I’m starting to believe that, in a world where so many voices call for division, trying to see the people in it as part of one human family is joyfully subversive. And that may be more satisfying than being profound.