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  • Thorgeir said his grandmother always put out a saucer of milk on Christmas Eve for the fairy folk. "That's when they all pass through the crossroads. And naughty children can get taken away with them. So you best leave something tasty for them to avoid any troubles."

    We arrived in Reykjavik in late July, the day before my birthday. While we jetlag-slept, Gudrun laid out a blue tablecloth covered in porcelain plates of cheeses and lox, breads and jams and scrambled eggs, like in a fairy tale. Following a clink of orange juice glasses to post-California reunions, she gave me a white purse made of salmon leather and a necklace etched with Aegishjalmur, "the helm of awe", a Viking symbol for protection in battle. "Just like Bjørk wears."

    'Bjørk' means birch tree. 'Foss' means waterfall. I scribbled in a notebook while crossing the ancient lava fields covered in spongy moss, intent on learning Icelandic.

    Later, hiking along a volcanic river, we immersed ourselves in the steaming water at the intersection of a cold mountain stream, and drank champagne she magically produced from her backpack.

    At midnight, the full moon rose as the sun sent rosy hues across the stones.

    "So this is white nights."
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