Maya Nelson Wolfsdottir: Barefoot Creature
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The model is early and I am in the wrong place, so I am forced to admit, again, to being late. I find her in the lobby, in a rage, almost in tears. Two little kids are selling their parents’ DVD collection on Christmas Eve, and the model buys every disc; in fury she trashes the discs outside the studio and shouts, “What is happening to my country?” In the studio we discover she has forgotten her makeup and a bulb immediately blows in the flash sync system I will be using to shoot her. Off on the wrong foot, she simmering, me muttering, the country in a tailspin, and in the Arctic darkness a hurricane brews and yesterday’s invitation on Skype to pop down to Tangier to shoot a friend’s villa suddenly makes a lot of sense.
But there is only one Maya Nelson Wolfsdottir, and you can yak about all the superlatives we use to label the pretty and the precious, but in her case a million words fit and the one I leave you with is “creature,” because this is a woman who grew up barefoot on ice, chasing horses, rounding up stray sheep with a wand. I ask about her middle name, snickering about a boy in her blood, and she says “I got it from Mandela, and it’s the proudest thing I got,” which means a lot because Iceland is a nation burdened with a terrible pride, its mortal anchor. You can read about the country’s crisis and get a supermarket of explanation, but basically 30 thieves have railroaded the family, stolen right from under everyone’s noses, and are still in charge, dragging the country into the sewer while they escape to the Costa del Sol with apologies and platinum parachutes.
“You make me laugh,” says Maya between costume changes, “But I don’t know if I want to keep modeling, so you better find somebody else for your next project.” But then she asks about my birthday, looming. She wants to know what time of day I came in, and somehow I twist the talk around so she answers her own question:
Maya Nelson Wolfsdottir was “born in a snowstorm. Mother insisted on giving birth to me in the woods. She goes to church, tried to make me do first communion, so the forest was not some pagan ritual. She wanted me to connect to the soil, or didn’t want me to be touched by plastic. She changes her story, depending on who is talking to her. You can read that I was born in the desert, or that I was born at sea, dropped among dolphins before I could see.”
We both laughed when we saw the other get wiped out by an Arctic wave last week on the pebbled beaches of the far north, where not a soul lives between us and the Pole. We are fatally competitive. How do I top her birth?
I say to Maya: “It doesn’t matter how you come in, but how you go out. And it’s this exit that bothers me, sits on my head like sour rain, droplets of sulfuric acid that poison any thoughts about surfing or sunflowers. My exit. How do I go? Kicking and screaming, or smoothed with sorries and compromise?”
You fight, she says.
Yes, says me, and I keep score.
Hmm, she replies.
Also by seanie blue
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