The first frost was seen on the car early in the morning last week. I saw it, liked it, then quickly dismissed it. For now, the car still sits in the shade of the house which faces the port and the “harbor-fjord” (which is the name of the town I live in, Hafnarfjörður) about a quarter mile down below the hill we are on.
Today I saw it again. That thin, icy grey frost covering the car and lightly blanketing the grass with crusty glitter. I had to turn the car on, scrape the ice off, and let it warm up before taking the kids to school.
Early morning frost is the harbinger of Fall, my ostensibly favorite season, although it signals another fall, a decline in cognitive skills and emotional balance. It is appropriately called SAD: Seasonal affective disorder, and each Fall I notice it: the darkening internal shadows at the edge of my days, an indelicate, unexplanable sadness which intrudes on even the most benign moments, and a growing unease or jitteriness which manifests itself as shortened anger fuses and a nagging irritability at pretty much everything.
My first winter here in Iceland was eerie, it was categorized as a new experience and felt as the beginning of an adventure, which it was. The second was stunning–I was able to notice qualities about the long, dark winter more, the skies, the northern lights, the stars, the crispness to the light when we had it and the sharpness of the diminishing light during the day. By the third winter I noticed I began to decline within–I began to feel BAD. By the fourth … I was near suicidal.
This will be my 11th.
Icelanders have adapted it seems. Most will say they are usually “happy,” though grumbling about the awful financial situation (despite Mssrs. Krugman and Hudson´s paeans to “-re-adjustment” policies) continues. But to live year in and year out on this volcanic, moss-covered, hot spring heated rock up in the frigid north Atlantic, often buffeted by winds so tempestuous that no matter which way you turn you are struck by cold, glass-like blades of rain drops which ravage your skin and tolerance, instills a patience as well an edge of insanity they are now comfortable, even genetically, with possessing. Then, of course, the average daylight is so appreciated that, on particularly clear, sunny days, it is assumed many people will call in “sick” in order to lay outside and soak up the sun on their porches or yards.
In the summer, as daylight lasts almost 20 hours per day at its peak, the liveliness of the populace is palpably felt. (I become ecstatic.) But while global climate change has made the summers here warmer and brighter, the winters, though in general warmer, have also become more erratic and we have seen some horrible snowstorms which made the normally tough, dark winters unimaginably stressful. Not necessarily colder, but more wind, more snow drifts, less sun, more misery all around. Icelanders grin and bear it, as usual. And for Icelanders, the Fall seems to shake off this this manic joy and tempers it, but only a bit; blithely they continue, talking about the weather and soaking up fashionably what sun they can eek out from these diminishing light days.
I, on the other hand, feel like I am losing a great struggle deep down to my own genetically predisposed tendencies to need “real” sun and warm water and … did I say, sun? Light … luminosity … the comforting warmth of a bright, humid day filled with the rich passion of a sun baking the earth to robust fecundity. Ah, yes … to be genetically Puertorican is something too easily forgotten until I face the upcoming darkness.
I meditate twice daily and eat fairly well and healthily. I do not drink often nor to excess when I do. My coffee intake is limited to morning and noon and in quantities not all that bad for me. I take “B-stress” tablets every day, and exercise every other day with weights. I walk a lot as I pick up my boy from school, walk back, and usually later, after homework, walk him to a friend´s house, walk back home, and have to get him before dinner so all in all, about a mile a day, give or take a bit, every day almost and of course, I try to hike some on weekends. Still, the beginning of Fall signals another fall–one of mood and Life quality that I dread even as I celebrate my favorite season filled with cool, clean air and the various crimson-colored leaves.