Monday, February 15, 2016

Iceland is very good at being Iceland and probably okay at being Greenland

I went to Iceland in late October because I knew I had lost some aspect of myself and I thought perhaps it was waiting in Iceland. A brief summary of my trip is that yes, it was. The photos show it, though perhaps in the background somewhere less than conspicuous, or perhaps only visible in tandem with this fantastic Piers Faccini album (Songs of Times Lost) that, for reasons unknown, distinctly reminds me of Iceland. It's in Italian and I heard it first in a yoga class, and so this association is largely illogical and thus probably Fated.

I love fields and I love moss and I love water and Iceland is captain of all of these things. The roads feel like ill-advised tattoos some old person received in a desperate attempt to be hip, because they are all kinds of inappropriate for the context and I wish we hadn't had to use them or look at them at all. Of course, if they hadn't been there, we would be dead! (That last simile may end here.) Mountains and all. But I still resent them slightly. Eric was a perfect roadtrip buddy because we didn't have to talk all of the time. Really, that's the most I can hope for in a person. Sometimes the world outside of the window does all of the talking for you.

I also appreciate that Iceland doesn't care if you're comfortable. The island itself, or its citizens. I mean sure, people are perfectly friendly and they are probably not going to throw rocks at you, but if your hostel bunk is ridiculously cold or smelly, eh. If there are no rest stops of any kind for hours and hours down the coast, eh. Hell, even the liquor is absurdly priced such that you cannot artificially make yourself comfortable. This is not some cruel and unusual karmic response to the fantastically low airfare, but rather the realization as a society that other things are more important than comfort. Like having good coffee, and hot springs devoid of trash, and searching for The Hidden People, and keeping up the mythology that the Northern Lights exist (they don't, I'm sorry, I checked. If you have seen them, you are hallucinating. I spent 8 days checking and so did Eric and they don't exist.) The beauty of it all is the top priority. This is my life motto--fascinating things above comfortable things--and so Iceland and I got along just fine.

This is also why I'm going to India in two weeks (for three weeks,) where I expect to feel similarly.

I encountered the end of the world so many times in Iceland. And the top of it, and the bottom of it. How can one place house so many dimensions? And feelings, and existential realizations even? I have never felt so content and so discontent in the same place in my life, and that is in part due to the aesthetic and in part because of the huge expanse of... nothing. No people, sometimes not even sheep. Just you. (Well, and Eric.) You're left to your own contradictions, and there is nothing there to distract you from them. Sometimes when Reykjavik happened and there were $22 White Russians and photography galleries I would forget for a few minutes, or when Eric and I would make weird Akureyri friends or get trapped in a mysterious foggy city on the east coast, or when I would roll around on the giant clouds of moss and eat a little because why not, or geyser bread, but all of the moments in between were just... the earthy sharp poignancy of Iceland and I, being.

Travel makes me deeply, profoundly grateful. Not only for what I will come back to--a lovely house and a lovely cat and lovely friends and work team and art and city and My Own Great Outdoors With Trees Beyond Birches--but for the validation that I still have so much left to see.

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