Kate Angus

When We Were Vikings

        The sun doesn’t set in the summer there, so we played cards for hours in the ceaseless twilight; during the daytime, we hiked an old Viking trail. We carried our backpacks through the wilderness and set up camp each night by rivers and waterfalls. We found a fragment of whalebone on the seashore, curved and large as a giant’s tooth. It was porous, but as heavy as the stones surrounding it. We foraged for horsetail reeds and rose root to make a tea Icelandic legend claims brings prophetic dreams—we wanted to learn our futures as we slept in the skin-thin tents perched precariously atop moss and lava rock. Sometimes some of us would satellite away from main camp to lie down side by side in mossy hollows and share chocolate bars and smuggled whiskey. One woman wove a crown of seaweed she wore every day; another woman fell in a river and watched her hat sail gaily away towards the Arctic Ocean. The man none of us liked capsized his kayak in the fjord, so we rowed to shore, pulling him, as the vessel filled with water and sank behind us.
On the cliffs, we scaled glacial ice and leapt from stone to stone across rivers at the crest just before the water cascaded down the slope in torrents. On the coastline, we slogged through knee-deep kelp, and I told the sculptor that I felt like I was wading through a giant birth canal because the seaweed was wet and thick and dark red as placenta. Sometimes the trail was a dirt road and once—very briefly—we had the luxury of pavement; often there wasn’t a trail, so when we continued with the road, we walked b