mánudagur, október 10, 2005

gone fishin'

We awoke very early Sunday morning and pulled on all kinds of warm layers in the predawn greyness. We put together a cooler full of bread, cheese, harðfiskur, skyr, and cookies, and headed out to our friend's house in Grafarvogur. We piled into his car in the cold of the morning and headed north to Snæfellsnes, to a family farm called Ós that sits at the mouth of a river on the north side of the peninsula. It was a drive that accompanied the sunrise and vistas of snow-covered mountains sidelit with orange.

At the family cottage we met our friend's family who filled us with hot coffee and then watched as he assembled fishing poles. The walk to the river was downhill over some grassy moguls and then carefully across a new barbed-wire fence. We walked along the river bank for some ways, crossing through small side-streams in our rubber boots. We came at last to a wide brook that was swift and cold and it was here that our friend carried us, one at a time, and Jesus-in-"Footprints"-poem style across the deepest part, piggyback. He was the only one who had waders and displayed true stoic Icelandic resolve as he picked his way among the slippery rocks at the bottom.

We were fishing for trout, and our friend helped us bait up the hook with an appetizing piece of fish, attached about a meter below the float. I was casting into some running water at the far edge of the cold stream. I hadn't done any fishing since I was a kid, but I remembered how to cast from all those times standing at the end of the New Hampshire dock, hurling my plastic plug into the marsh. I soon lost myself in the fishing, casting and reeling, and thinking about things as the river burbled by. E took some turns at the rod and then went off exploring up the river. On reflection it seemed funny to be hurling this same piece of meat into the dark water, over and over.

With the exception of a lunchtime and napping trip to the family homestead, the day passed at the river in a timeless way. I watched the sun move slowly through the sky as we tried our luck at different locations along the river. The mountains were far and then near, vast and snow-covered, and the wind, that constant Icelandic wind, howled at me all day, whistling in the fishing pole. As I made a cast into an eddy across the river, I looked up to see the wide brown finger-tipped wingspan of an Icelandic eagle gliding over. I realized that fishing is really just an excuse to stand outside and experience nature on its own terms.

As dusk was growing, our friend rounded us up and we walked down the riverbank toward the mouth. We left our fishing gear on a carpet of green mossy grass and kept walking out past the end of the river. It was low tide and possible to walk far out into the bay, from one low island to the next on a bed of sandy kelp and tide pools. In the distance were the masts of a shipwreck and we walked all the way to it. Our friend told us supernatural tales on the way across the vast saltwater plain. The boat itself was a ghostly fishing ship intentionally run aground in the 1970s. It was rust-covered and badly listing, water from high tide still pouring out of the downhill side. There was a rope slung over the high side and we climbed aboard. We clambered into the bridge and peeked into the black pit of the hold. It was spooky indeed on the slanted deck, with the light growing dim and not another living soul around save for the wind. I was glad to leave the ship behind and head back across the salty moors to the farm.

It was dark when we left for Reykjavík, along dirt and then paved roads, telling stories back and forth in the car. We never caught any fish, but in the end that wasn't what the day was about.


Anonymous Nafnlaus said...

awesome - esp the boat. i guess you didn't catch anything?

-paul l


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