Saturday, April 3, 2010

I is for Iceland

Having been married now for something like two decades, give or take a couple of years, I've pretty much stopped thinking about how I might have tweaked our wedding. For three hours after the fact, I bitterly lamented the fact that our "classical guitarist" turned out to be a "classical-style guitarist," and actually--no, ACTUALLY--strummed "We've Only Just Begun" as we were gathering in front of the new-agey JP. Something from the Ramones or the Pogues might have been more appropriate for us. But anyway. Everything else was pretty great: the bonfire, the twinkly lights in the trees, the beautiful cottage loaned to us by friends, the starry cold autumn night. I think there might have been some wine.

It could all have been so much more about sheep's blood.

Perhaps that requires some explanation?

At the time, I was writing a doctoral dissertation under a most peculiar woman, a big fan of medieval Iceland. She had a habit of more or less ignoring her students' intellectual life and nudging into their personal lives instead. This led to much hilarity--the pre-dawn awakening of the inhabitants of a yurt, the wearing of odd hats at strange moments, and, once, sleeping on her porch for reasons having to do (I think) with Chaucer's astrolabe. So instead of huddling with me over the finer points of early English cartography, she resolved instead to become my wedding planner.

The result: a three-page typed proposal destined for the Icelandic ministry of culture, detailing the re-enactment of a medieval Icelandic wedding, complete with the Old High Priest, a small ship, and several quarts of sheep blood. To this day, I do not know where this information originated, though I suspect it was in someone's fertile imagination rather than unearthed from the Sagas.

The whole enterprise was to be videotaped and aired on Icelandic television to a vast national audience of about 120.

I was sycophantic enough in those days to consider the project for all of about 15 minutes. Then the thought of my mother floating in a fiord, an active volcano in the distance, broke the deal. Plus: the blood, and the implication that I would have to be drinking it.

This morning, thinking about the whole thing again in the context of 18 years of adventure across continents, jobs, parenthood, houses, mistakes, triumphs and homecomings. Perhaps a celebration involving the mumbling of poorly understood phrases from a thousand years ago, the spilling of blood, the landscape of frozen peaks and fiery ones, in-laws drifting past with mingled looks of joy and confusion, the teetery off-balance feeling of being in a small ship on a large cold sea with just one other person as unprepared for the voyage as you are: perhaps that would have been a more accurate send-off on this dark magic journey than a pretty dress, a chocolate cake and white lights in autumn poplars.

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