Laugarvatn Summer 1967: Reflection on the Lake, by Ásdís Ingólfsdóttir

The lake is like a mirror. The children sit down on the black sandy beach and take off their shoes and socks. Albert, the oldest brother, is first to walk into the water. It just covers his ankles so he briskly walks further into the water away from the shore. His splashing makes the surface of the water ripple far out. The sun reflects off the surface making colourful rainbows in the drops.

“The water is quite warm” he shouts, “Come in, hurry up.” He continues further and further into the water. The lake is shallow far, far beyond. She notices that he has splashed water on himself and his trousers are wet, even though he has rolled them up.

He will be told off.

Little brother is sleeping in the stroller. She needs to look after him; that’s what she’s supposed to do. She stands up. Feels the heat from the sand on the soles of her feet. The sun warms up the black sand very quickly. She dips her toes in the water; it’s warmer than she thought. She remembers the hot stream that flows from the sauna to the lake close by. That is why the water is so warm, she figures.

She walks slowly into the water, gently, carefully. There is mud in the bottom. It squishes between her toes. The mud is cooler than the water. It gives her the chills. Then she feels a sandy bottom under her feet. Slightly coarser, comfortably sound. She takes another step. Again the cool mud. She shivers. The heat from the sun is on her forehead.

Now her big brother turns around. He stands still far out in the lake. The water covers his legs up to his thighs. The water is calm and he stands there very quietly. A reflection of a half-legged boy on the surface of the lake. The sun behind him blinds her.

Little brother starts crying in the stroller.

The Sauna

She had been whining about it for a long time. Almost the whole summer. Her mother tells her that it is not good for children to go in saunas. Often there are a lot of other kids in the sauna. But she is not allowed. She needs to look after her little brother; that´s what she´s supposed to do.

Then dad comes from town to visit them. Everything changes, other rules take effect. Mum handles the little one so that she can go in the sauna. It rains and rains. The lake is grey like metal.

It does not matter.

She has a nice two-coloured swimsuit with a belt. The most perfect swimsuit she has ever had. She shivers and trembles in the cold locker room. The floor is sandy and wet. The rain has found its way through the corrugated roof. Cold drops seep through and fall on her head.

It does not matter.

Over the door to the sauna looms a large stone with a hole in it and a strap to hold it back. It is hard to open the door because the stone is so heavy. There are not many people in the sauna on a rainy afternoon. Yet, there are some men inside. She waits trembling in front of the door until they go out. Then she leaps into the sauna. The door shuts again.

It does not matter.

She stands in the dark inside and can´t seeing a thing. Stands blinking her eyes. She blinks but she can´t see a thing. It is dark yet everything is grey. The air is wet, drops fall from the ceiling. The smell of sulfur hangs in the air.

Her nose is burning.

She stretches out her hand, fumbling into the grey darkness. She finds something she thinks is a little bench. She stretches her foot carefully, dragsging her toes over the hot floorboards. They are wet and slippery and feathered by decades in the hot steam inside the sauna. She can feel the omission and grooves in the wood under her feet. It is a landscape; hills and dales. The fuzzy surface makes her giddy. The bench is unstable and she lands on the floor when she tries to sit down.

Her back hurts.

The steam constrains her. She is starting to get used to the dark and observes the small chamber. There are wall benches fixed on three sides and the little bench she tried to sit on, now lying in the middle of the floor. There is a tiny opening up to the ceiling. It passes a ray of light and brightens up the grey vapour that passes about irregularly. The floor is made of planks and below the boiling hot spring the hut is built above. There is no one inside except her. She does not want to be in here anymore.

Her lungs hurt.

She almost falls over when she turns around to find the door. She knocks her forehead on the angular handle and grabs it. She tries again and again to open it but can´t. She´s dizzy and she starts to cry. She pushes and pushes. She manages to open a little crack and a small amount of clean air enters. But then the door slams shut.

Her hands are aching.

Her lips are burning. She has to hold her hands over her mouth and nose to be able to breathe. She tries knocking on the door. She calls but there is no one there to hear it. She pushes as hard as she can at the door. Pushes with all her strength. She worms her way into the small gap between the wall and the door. She manages to get her head outside; the door pinches her ear. The stone lands on her knee.

It does not matter.

She grabs a breath of air and slides away from the door into the rain. Her back gets scratches and she falls down when she wriggles through the door. She is lying on the ground outside the sauna. She throws up.

(About the place Laugarvatn )




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