BY: KRISTEN BLANTON
October 30, 2014 – November 14, 2014
We fly into Iceland, just for fifteen days. The sky painted black by the season.
I’m never ready. Not for the bounty, or beauty or the mind’s eye and disaster or the heartbreak. The salty ocean wind marks our arrival so far from home. We sleep in a van that I can’t drive because despite being southern, I never learned how to properly drive stick.
I start to feel it – this place is the center of every dream I’ve had in my young imaginative life. I realize I didn’t write this script, but that it exists, has for centuries, in the form of volcanic moss, lagoons and ribbons of color of solid rock.
We drive for hours on end, pulling up to beaches or beside waterfalls when tired, sleeping in the back, making coffee at dawn. Each bend and curve of the road lead to a landscape more dramatic and fruitful than the last bend and curve and I’m crying like a goddamn child. Heaps of violent tears fuming out of me because my house is on fire. My world now ignited by a blazing storm of emotions and understated expectations of this country’s awe.
We eat saltlicks and dreadful smoked lamb sandwiches, drink N1 gas station coffee from dispensers and slurp runny Skyr. We climb glaciers without proper footwear and kayak a glacial lagoon. We wear the same pair of thermals and pants for fifteen days straight. We listen to Sigur Rós and Junip and I continue to weep as we explore a country so alien to anything we’ve ever known.
Matt is our navigator. Ten days before our trip begins he compulsively studies road cameras of Iceland. It’s winter and we’re only going to get about 7 hours of daylight/day. The roads are snow packed and dangerous in the northeast region and we reluctantly abandon our plan of driving around the entire Ring Road.
So instead of rushing to get this in and do that, we take it slow. Each morning I photograph the first thing we see. Unknowingly I begin our “Morning Waking Series.” We eat traditional Iceland foods – fermented shark, whale (forgive us), puffin (make that a double rosary) and dried fish. Together we dive Silfra, the tectonic boundary between the Eurasian and the North American plates. The water is electric. I feel the breath of magic in the waving current and indulge in the delightful ancient waters that traveled 100 years over lava rock straight to my lips. It is as delicious as it sounds.
We don’t come in contact with many people; often we’d go days without seeing anyone. When traveling America we were desirous of human encounter but here we are happy of the sparse contact. Here, in this place, at this time, we just want the land.
We eat lunch at the base of a volcano. We dance by the sea and boil in water not made for human flesh. We skate by on few provisions and pee in lava fields. The Aurora Borealis exist in a world of their own and we watch their stories in reverence on a midnight canvas.
Have you loved something so much you want to swallow it? Ingest it to keep it preserved inside of you, as a part of you, at least as long as your body exists so it will too, not only in your memory but in the marrow of your bones? This was for me, Iceland.
My head and body an animal that craved to be apart of land that wasn’t my own. A place I didn’t call home. I too, like so many, was just a tourist. Just another spectator trying to devour the wonder for myself – and I didn’t know if that was a good thing, or if it mattered at all, or if does or ever will.
There is a rhythm. I look into the sun each morning. I shake off the cold and burrow into the chest of the man I love. Often I am silent. I can’t speak for my eyes, even though I’m pitiably trying to do so now. My words are not worthy and for that I am thankful because what we feel often needs no words.
It was simple. I came to learn, I wasn’t prepared for beauty.
The truth is we’ve been waiting all our lives for beauty.
In Iceland I was given that rare chance to touch, to taste and to bask in beauty.