Vík í Mýrdal, Iceland
Six days left to the countdown and if I wasn't so busy sitting in front of this Christmas tree, re-watching ridiculous hockey videos and polishing off this bottle of Pinot Noir and carton of Candy Cane gelato, I'd swear I'd be recapping the year by now.
'Tis the season for top-ten lists, best-ofs, and the urge to summarize on a project like this is hard to resist. While I love fresh beginnings, I'm allergic to endings, which is maybe a convincing argument against the whole "counting down" format. But I've devoted the whole year to it, so there'll be no turning back now.
This summer, I spent six days in Iceland, and at the time, I remember placing each pale stone on the black sand beach into the shape of a number six, thinking how far away the end of the year sounded -- that day in December when this "6" would find its place in the countdown. The thought of even a not-so-distant future was a stray thought, easily blown away by an Arctic gust. It was better -- easier -- to return to where I was and take in the details of that cold August evening as they unfolded: the soft roll of the ocean waves lapping up to the pitch black sand, the eerie walk at dusk back to the hotel with the faint lights of the tiny village twinkling through the haze, the young barman in round spectacles slowly wiping the cognac glass clean from its leftover coating of volcanic ash.
So while that inevitable year-end desire to summarize is here, when I sit down to write, strange, disconnected details are all that come out: black sand, twinkling village lights, the scrape of blades on ice. And though it pains my inner Witness Protection Program to reveal my whereabouts, maybe that's the place I've been hiding out for much of this year: the present. Spending less time tinkering with the collection and more time doing the collecting. Giving projects room to breathe. And when deadlines -- both real and imaginary -- loom, remembering that writing requires five senses and not just one.
As the year draws to a close, it's not a bad thing to look back. So long as it doesn't turn into a no-holds-barred, contact lens-drying staring contest. A glance will do.