A couple of years ago I bought a one-way ticket to northern Iceland. It was 2am and I just clicked the button. I was saying fuck yes to my intuition, but I was also running away. A few weeks prior, I had broken up with my boyfriend, moved out of his place. “Where was my home?” I’d often wonder. Things can happen so easily, so fast.
My UGGs. I know what you’re going to say about UGGs, but listen—do you know how many times I’ve slipped on ice in public? These boots could grip a snowy sidewalk. They had been my companion through numerous Maine winters and a couple more tame ones in North Carolina. When I secured a work exchange opportunity in Akureyri, Iceland’s second-largest city, for the start of 2013, the boots came with me.
Arriving in Iceland was a thrilling and lonely experience. I had left the country on bad terms with so many people: My family, my ex-boyfriend, my former boss. I needed comfort but had none to offer myself. I lay in a basement bedroom in a stranger’s apartment in Reykjavik and thought, “What choice do I have?” The next morning I laced up my boots and went north.
For six weeks I lived in Akureyri with another helper, L, in a home owned by a couple that was traveling. Our job was to take care of the place, their business, and their seven huskies, three of which were sled dogs. Two or three times a day, we’d zip into snowsuits, wrap harnesses around our waists, hook ice cleats to our boots, and take slow, deliberate walks around the fjord behind the house, up snowy hills, and back down again. At night, when we were lucky, we’d sink into the snow watching the neon-green northern lights pass by.
At the top of the street was a church, a graveyard, and a meat factory. Often the dogs and I would hike up to the church and sit. L and I became close, and a couple of times we attempted to experience Akureyri’s nightlife. She had found a pair of stylish boots laying around, a former helper’s, and offered them to me before going out. But as uncool as I looked in mine, they blew my mind. “Look at what you’re doing,” I’d think some lonely mornings. “Look at how you’ve grown.”
The dogs ate dry food, but there was always a bag of animals parts from the meat factory slumped in a refrigerator out front: Hearts and livers and so on. This was their treat at the end of the day. Grabbing for guts, the blood would spill from the bag, soaking the ground and my hands and my shoes.
By the time I boarded my flight home, my boots stunk. They had trudged through shit and blood and puke and ice, frozen then thawed, and now they sit in my basement awaiting winter, I think, awaiting the next time I say: fuck yes.