The Milky Way streaked overhead as the light from my Kindle illuminated the sad state of affairs: Joe and I lay in the back of our rented Mazda, wearing every piece of clothing we had brought with us to Iceland—puffy coats, thermal layers, a new Patagonia hoodie I had spent $150 on earlier that day to ensure I would be warm enough, pants, double socks, and beanies. We curled inside our winter sleeping bags. And we were still cold.
The tent we had rented for 25 krona (about $25) per night stood outside mocking us next to the picnic table by the car. Joe’s phone said it had been 7 degrees Celsius an hour before sunset, and the temperature had dropped quickly. I blamed the damned glacier we had ended up camping near, and ourselves for camping near a glacier. I was willing to stick it out, to try it in the tent for a while, but Joe refused. He would be fine, but he knew my sleeping bag was not made of down feathers like his, and he did not want his new wife dying of hypothermia.
That word was still strange. Joe had used it in a serious sense for the first time earlier that day, when he told the female employee in the camping store that he was looking for his wife. She pointed to me, and it took me a second to realize that the employee was right, I was a wife.
The new words, husband and wife, felt too adult for us, this backpacking couple who had brought 3 pairs of underwear each to their pseudo honeymoon. Wasn’t I supposed to sprout a beehive hairdo and change into a tidy wrap dress with heels? Instead I sported hiking boots and jeans.
While lying cramped in the car, I read out loud from a book I felt I sorely needed—How to Be Married by Jo Piazza. How does one be married?, I kept asking myself as we drove from waterfall to hot spring to another waterfall. While Joe and I were dating, I had gotten accustomed to the notion that every couple is unique, and therefore relationship advice is mostly bullshit. But entering this new territory of marriage felt so exciting yet scary that I would take all the advice I could get.
As I read out loud from the book, the sky to the north lit up. Joe stopped me and pointed.
“Is that it?” he asked.
“Oh my god. It’s happening,” I yelled and yanked the door handle back.
As I emerged from our warmish cocoon, I hung onto the door frame, my legs still wrapped in my sleeping bag, and gasped as I looked behind the car: It was like green snakes slithering across the inky sky.
“Holy shit. You have to see this,” I said into the car without looking away.
Almost as soon as I spoke, the green dimmed to white, but the Northern Lights were still fantastic. Like dancing, flashing clouds, one minute swirling and the next a powerful strobe light aimed into the foggy distance, blinking off and on. The earth was celebrating for us. I felt lucky seeing this next to my new husband, not even a week after our wedding. If this was the start of things, I figured we were in for a pretty great ride.
Until next time,