Monday, June 7, 2010

Places take you places

In a month's time, I fly to England, Sweden, and Iceland. In each, lie quite different pleasures: the International Medieval Congress in Leeds; the unexpected continuation of a twenty-year search for Dag Hammarskjöld in Uppsala; and my eldest sister Frída's wedding in Reykjavík. Quite different pleasures, yes, but I can't help thinking that these destinations circle each other.

In Leeds, I am presenting a paper on foreigners in medieval Iceland that extends on a paper I gave in Uppsala last year. During my last visit to Iceland, in February just gone, I wanted to know how Reykjavík, my birthplace, was coping with the economic crisis brought about the collapse in the finance sector. This time, I am visiting a volcano under the glacier Eyjafjallajökull, an area I love and have often visited in the past. In Uppsala last year, I discovered that my hero Hammarskjöld had grown up in the large pink castle there, and as a boy played tennis in the same banquet hall in which my conference gathered for its last night's dinner and dance. Now, I find I want to go back to discover how life in Uppsala felt for him.

It's hard to predict how destinations relate, but in each there lies something relatable to the next. And not just me, either. Of course, we search for common points, but is it also the case that the common points find us?