Forememberance

In Hólavallagarður the snow-covered graves have a curious air of comfort where I’d expected only melancholy. Everything is rounded and mounded. A double tomb looks like a settee, its occupants, Þorbjörg and Snorri, reclining in comfortable oblivion behind an orange glowstick cross. A pair of birds tweet in the white laden branches. Fairy lights twinkle in a miniature glasshouse. The no longer living are more present here than their people among whom they rest, scrunching past in their buses, swatting snow from their cars, buying their breakfast bakery.

We had set off in a snowstorm for the Catholic Cathedral, skirting hidden pavement to tread in Wenceslas tyre tracks. I hammered the bell in the yard, padded steaming into the narthex then kneeling before the crib said a prayer I tried to believe, hoping it might be so.

After the graveyard, coffee in an old theatre, three languid cups, laced with comfort; coats hats gloves swaling on radiators.

Heading out again, the day has turned, the magic of snow given way to the low trickery of slush and sleet. Feet planted in remaining snow find ice, rain runs fast in tyre-track rivers, and rolling tyres spew arcs of spray. We stoop, rain leg sodden, up Skólavörðustígur, wind threatening our footing, to Hallgrimskirkja. There, we are drenched in delight: a choir of wool-sweatered teenagers fill the slender grey-blue vault with a beauty as strong as its delicacy.

We know, I think, not to expect more. The slither down to Harpa’s glass and light is less conjunction than annotation. Good work, it says. You chose well. That’s enough.

The last leg back to the apartment, slush seeping through lace holes and wicking up trouser legs seconds the assessment. Stay in. Being is as good as doing. Enjoying memories is the reward for making them. Remembering them is the price for what passed.

Lying here in bed, rain slaps the rooflight, and somewhere, not far, fireworks keep the year new.

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