Everyone said it was the nicest summer since World War II.
It was August 2003, and I was at a summer house in southeastern Iceland with my friend Valur and his wife and family. Valur and my former husband had been at graduate school together more than forty years earlier. Although they hadn’t stayed in touch, I had continued with occasional Christmas cards and letters and, eventually, email. After years of dreaming about going to Iceland to visit them, I had finally arrived in this windswept place where steam erupts from the earth and elves and fairies live among the rocks.
Our day began with a bracing shot of cognac, just to get things going in the right way. We had our breakfast outside, in brilliant sunshine that was surprisingly hot. From where we sat we could see seventeen waterfalls thundering down the mountainsides, and from the other direction we caught a whiff of sea air as the North Atlantic pounded the black sand of the beach.
In the afternoon we took a long walk across rocky fields where sheep interrupted their grazing to stare at us. The elves and fairies were probably watching, too. The sky was the bluest blue, the air was as clear as any air I had ever breathed, and the sun kept shining on us. We stretched out in the grass at the foot of a waterfall and had a picnic.
It hardly gets dark in Iceland in the summer. Toward midnight we were still outdoors, playing miniature golf under the stars on a funny homemade course that someone had built. We couldn’t quite see the waterfalls in the twilight, but we could hear them roaring.
I don’t think my former husband even knew that I had gone to Iceland. But I would never have been there if he and Valur hadn’t been friends so long ago. On that perfect day, I wondered if he would have loved it as much as I did. I like to think he would have.