by Rebecca Fish Ewan
My first impression of Iceland formed in 1980, my college freshman year, when I learned in geology class that Iceland was the youngest land on Earth. Young in the sense that new ground emerged from a molten womb all day and every day without end. I yearned to visit this infant place. It took thirty-six years to realize this desire and by then I had heard that people lived there too.
To prepare for my trip to Iceland, I bought a map and a small stack of books—The Sagas of Icelanders, Halldór Laxness’s Independent People, Oddný Eir’s Land of Love and Ruins, Eva Heisler’s Reading Emily Dickinson in Icelandic, Alda Sigmundsdóttir’s The Little Book of Hidden People and The Little Book of Icelandic, as well as the Iceland Pocket Guide. I listened to bits of books read in Icelandic, tried to learn phrases and words, hoping to find an occasion on my travels to say bergmálor sindrandi, words for echo and shimmering that seemed to emerge from the landscape like magma. I was convinced that the best way to get to know a country was through its landscape, literature and language.