“So where to now?” they ask as we finally pull ourselves away from the roof, away from the tantalizing music that finally came to an end. Eventually, we have to pull ourselves away from dreams because they either must end in order to move on and continue with reality or else they prevent us from living in reality. Yet the loss of dreams is a loss of light, and I have spent too much time in the dark willing to give up any light. So the dream is pushed aside, and we walk back down onto the streets where we are no longer cut off from the rest of the world.
Darth Vader sits waiting, a new crack in its window made from a stone tossed carelessly. “Why do people do the things they do?” they ask, appalled at the new brokenness given to Darth Vader.
“That is a mystery we could discuss endlessly and produce no concrete answers, although there are plenty of spiritual if you choose to believe in that- which I don’t because why rely on an invisible power to make decisions for you instead of relying on yourself to choose and make things happen? The world is both wicked and beautiful, and they are locked together in and endless battle in which one cannot survive without the other. Out of beauty grows envy, the first child of the wicked, and out of wicked comes hope and rebirth, twins who replenish the world and give it a chance to make things as they should be again.”
“Okay, are you on drugs? I mean, there was a weird smell to that place and I swear the bartender had red eyes. Also, the mushrooms didn’t look right,” they slide into the passenger seat, their leg brushing across the red and yellow, orange and blue stains created by a melted box of crayons.
“First of all, I’m pretty sure its illegal or frowned upon in certain areas for a patron to lace food. Second, yes the dude was higher than a kite and good for him if its what makes him happy. Third, no, I’m not on drugs. I’ve just hit that stage where everything that was trapped inside is now breaking free and running towards the light. So buckle up, buttercup, we are about to go on another ride. Grab your pen, your postcard, because you will need to align the sentences on your own.”
I follow a dream, a dream I fell in love with once before and unknowingly left a piece of my soul behind, and return to Iceland. Apparently I have a habit of not getting to the airport in plenty of time- to be fair, the airport I chose is not the best- and I sprint to the gate, huffing and puffing and sweating to the absolute last spot all the way in the back of the plane. My mind had drifted elsewhere, to the beautiful mountains layered in black ash and the deep blue water twinkling silver in the bright light, and it thought little of anything else, too excited to return and see a different side during the summer. For a place can offer different experiences especially if its in a different season.
I opened my journal to write when a voice next to me speaks, startling me. ” What’s that you have there?” a man in a blue beat up baseball cap asked. Normally I seal myself off, a door that refuses to open in case the wrong things come in, yet something broke the lock. For the duration of the trip, we became “those people” who cannot shut up for five minutes. I did not know I was capable of talking to someone for three hours straight, and I swear it was a new record.
“What did you guys talk about?” I knew they were intrigued because they have never talked so fluidly to a guy before.
“Everything it seemed like. From New Zealand to Spiderman to the girl he was still pining for. We were so engrossed we didn’t notice the plane land. It was a connection so good yet it wasn’t meant to last.”
“But it means there is hope, right?”
“I’d like to think so,” I muse. ” At least there is hope when none is expected to be.”
Romantic relationships is not suited for me, just like oil is not suited for water. It’s an idea to tangle with, to dance ever so briefly, but like all good dances it inevitably comes to an end. I would like to keep on dancing into the night, and whether that is with a partner or not does not matter so long as I have the space to be me. Unfortunately, if I gave thought to any type of pursuit, there would not be enough space to be me and through one word, one word that most people do not understand, the twilight would be covered in darkness and I would be too scared to dance ever again.
On the other side Of a world separated By glass the feathers Flap, flap, flap And the beak Pecks, pecks, pecks At my hand stretching To stroke the feathers On the other side Of a world separated By glass Which I cannot fly to Because I am not made To fly among feathers Of white and gold Young and old Yet still my hand Stretched, stretched, stretched To reach the clouds Puffy and light And the wind soft and gentle On the other side Of a world separated By glass Flap, flap, flap Flutter, flutter, flutter Please come back I beg the wings To stay And not leave me On the other side Of a world separated By glass Where I walk alone On flightless wings Of black and brown Ugly and grey Searching, searching, searching For something to break The glass To the other side of The world Flap, flap, flap Flutter, flutter, flutter They won't stay And play in arms Desiring only of comfort So I must go and Break, break, break To the other side of The world separated By glass Where under the Sunlit sky I can find feathers that Fly To the other side of My world separated by My glass
I leave the plane, expected to say goodbye to the New Yorker forever, yet it turned out he needed a ride, as he was backpacking through the unexpectedly luscious green land, and I just so happened to be renting a car. I take him with me as far as Reykjavik, one of the two main cities that draws most of the population. I thought I had saw it before, but there were new knots I had not untangled or seen, namely the beautiful murals encapsulating entire walls belonging to stone houses and bars. This time I was on the other side of the city, away from the main attractions and tourists pit stops, such as the magnificent church standing front and center for all to see. This time, I was treated to lunch at a place I ignored once before, taking a bite into a delicious lamb kabob I allowed myself to be convinced into trying.
“Not only did I allow someone to treat me to something, but I allowed myself to get to know someone, to let them in as easy as a fly, the walls I’ve spent years building opening just a little. For strangers, I am wary. But how can you get to know people, get to know their experience and learn new hikes, new foods, new places. For on the New Yorker’s advice, I found a road, parked, and followed the trail which snuck into the folds of the land, digging into a small underbrush of an unexpected forest. Compared to my last visit, I went further off the common areas and explored the less touristy attractions.”
“What happened to the New Yorker?” they ask.
I smile wistfully. ” They went their own way, lamenting that they didn’t go further with me. It was a pleasant surprise; our exchange was natural and easy, and I wasn’t afraid as I normally was. Still, I take it as a moment, however brief, that was designed for a purpose.”
After the detour in which I would draw inspiration for a story- in fact, each new place I explore often has wonders that serve as inspiration, and perhaps that is because of the novelty, the instigation of child-like curiosity- I continue my drive north, away from Reykjavik and up towards Akureyi, another city known for holding EDM festivals. I make a pit stop first, in a rural town out in the middle of nowhere, trekking through landscapes I was specifically told not to take a rental car through. Oops. It was worth it, but once again I needed to stock up on food and gas, for I must have driven over a hundred miles on empty, volcanic roads which led me down beautiful paths of open quietness as well as dangerous steep and muddy terrain where no flimsy vehicle should past.
Once I made it to quite literally a humble abode with a friendly hostess, I settled in a prepared for another adventure to try: white water rafting. I scramble to the place- a little rugged white house off a road crowded with Icelandic horses- and get myself settled. It is strange not having someone with me, for most of the other people have a partner with the exception of an Italian man who was supposed to treat the excursion to his wife as an anniversary present, however she was not inclined to be the outdoor type.
“Take note,” I say with a grin. ” If you are ever going to form a relationship with someone, its is best you understand who they are and what interests you share. It will save a lot of time. Although, because I did not bother to buy a meal, the Italian man did give me the meal that was intended for his wife. It is nice to know their is still kindness out there, even when you’ve had it stripped from you so much. It’s funny; this trip I received unexpected gifts. That is the reward for stepping outside into the unknown.”
After squeezing into two distinct suits to deal with the freezing water and going over the strategies on what to do if you fall out, I hopped in a boat with the Italian, the Californians, and our guide, the Wild South African with a wicked sense of humor and effervescent energy. He took us down a river that sent me into fields of serenity; my heart was at peace and my body soothed by invisible fingers. Out boat did not flip so much, I think to our guides’ disappointment because at one point he turned us around, having us go up river and flip upside down. I let go of the paddle, the current swiftly pulling me downstream, and I scrambled for the rope two of the other guides threw out as they stationed themselves ahead of time. I do wonder what would have happened if I did not reach that rope. I suppose I would have bobbed along, my body dipping in and out of the refreshing cold water and eventually slowing during the calmer and shallower parts. My concern for that, though, wasn’t too great because this type of adventure does not terrify me. In fact, our boat asked if we could jump out and swim along and I was quick to do so, bathing in the nature that served as my companion all my life.
“The only thing I was disappointed in myself was not jumping the fifteen or twenty feet off the cliff. We pulled up to a landing, taking hot chocolate as we rested, and were given the option to climb and jump from a high tower. Of course I did it but I allowed self-doubt and the swirling shallow pool below to limit my descent. I was envious as I saw others go further, some even performing back flips. But it is important to know your limits; if you push too far, then you will be pushed back.”
The air was brisk, but not unbearably so, as a trace of mellowed out crispness lingered in the air, an autumn feel to what was otherwise known as summer. I drove away, searching for an off the grid natural spring that did not cost an absurd 30,000 kronas for what was essentially a spa treatment. I found one, off the beaten path and tucked up above a gorgeous waterfall. It was perfect; I slipped into the guzzling hot water after awkwardly trying to change into a bathing suit- apparently, its perfectly acceptable to drop trowel out in the open, expose your naked self in the cold air in front of other casual hikers, and change into something more comfortable, as I witness an entire family and two gentlemen do. I kept myself to the far wall away from the two male travelers speaking fluently in Icelandic. I nodded a friendly greeting, then remain transfixed on the fast moving river forcing it over the edge, absorbing the breathtaking view as the muscles in my back loosened. The best spots are the ones hidden away from the rest of the world, or at least most of it, because only then can I see and think without the cluster and superficiality of jammed packed ideas lacking any realness, any meaning. So I drove on and stopped, drove and stopped, finding places out of curiosity and a desire for realness, occasionally thinking about the New Yorker and where he was. It would have been nice to have a companion, yet I was okay without having one. I was okay be being alone, treating myself to a date with myself because in reality I am never alone. I have myself and that’s the best companion I can really have.
The leaves change From green to orange To yellow to brown Falling, falling, falling From the branch that clings As tightly as a mother who Refuses to let their child Leave and wander Explore The beauty withheld from A place so high it cannot See the grass shining green The water running between Shapely rocks guarding Like trolls Rickety bridges too short For the trees to recognize. The leaves change From green to orange To yellow to brown Ready to fall away from The mother who thinks the Beauty They need is all up there In the wisps of smoke Puffing new shapes belonging To an imagination unlimited In the vast ocean spreading Far and wide Beneath ever-watching stars Winking and dancing and bragging Their beauty. The leaves change From green to orange To yellow to brown Begging the branches To let them go and Explore Even more And they laugh behind soft Tears Warning that all they Will find Are footsteps waiting to Crunch and stomp and break Their tiny hearts And they won't come back Because by then they will Have moved on Waiting for new children to See the beauty as they do From high in their towers Never knowing until its Too late They will leave too Falling, falling, falling For the beauty trapped Inside the land.
“It sounds like you found a place you are comfortable being in,” they say to me.
” I did. Although by no means is it the warmest or cheapest. It’s one of those places that knows how to comfort, knows how to understand you when no one else does.”
“Would you ever go there with other people?”
“Absolutely. But it would be a completely different experience. There wouldn’t be that comforting solitude or understanding because that is something each person has to make for themselves, carving out of the sides of the mountains and hills, oceans and lakes, they want to carve out of.”
Like I said, I drove and stopped, drove and stopped, although I vastly underestimated the distance on one occasion, pushing myself beyond the limit. I had stopped in a lovely little town that most people thought was completely desolate. A waterfall ran through it, the bridge connecting one side to the other with a volcano as a backdrop. It made me happy, being in such a remote and quiet down, and having any sliver of happiness, whether its through more simple and mundane things or the privilege of seeing the world, is a treasure to hang on to, for it can be used as a distraction, a beacon of hope, through the darkest times.
“And for a moment, as I sat with my book and my journal- for they are my sole companions I take everywhere, communicating with paper and pen and giving my mind its own adventure- inside a small café I had hope, I had happiness that everything was fine and that I was okay. ” I sink back into the seat, the memory buzzing around like a bee- too fast to keep up. ” Finding yourself and being happy with yourself is more important than being happy from others. You’ll find yourself happier when you make your own happiness out of the things around you, not necessarily the people. Although it doesn’t hurt to practice talking, practice learning about others so you can see more than just a cliff.”
There was a family in the corner, eating and laughing and teasing affectionately. I smiled, admiring the pure innocence of it, then finished my own meal and left. I thought I could make it back to the town I was staying with plenty of gas, but the distance was greater than I thought and I turned around, frantically searching for an open gas station. The sun was falling, the hour late as the sun didn’t set until nine or nine thirty during that time, and places were closing up. The gas hit zero, and I lifted my foot off the pedal, cruising to a stop in front of the tank. If I had to go inside to pay, I was willing to bang on the door, pleading to open up so I wasn’t stranded in a beautiful yet isolated town. It would not have been the worse thing in the world, seeing as I would have been lost in my own paradise.
The weather was mostly bright, although a foggy mist settled in towards the end of my second trip. I dreaded the end, which meant I found a love that further explored might turn into a fondness equated to home. In some ways, I belonged in Iceland, among the scarcity and lack of public eye. Hiding in the mountains and along the lakes I could be myself. I made another venture among people, finally finding the Icelandic horses that were essentially short ponies and rode through the valley and tiny rivulets running down grassy hills being chewed away by goats. The horse was gentle, his fur soft to the touch. My guide, however, was condescending, believing that because I was not as experienced as the other riders I could not keep up. True, I was not a jockey, although an argument could be made that I was the size of one, but that didn’t mean I lacked any sense. The terrain was not dreadful nor was it much different from what I had casually ridden before. The commands I could learn, if given to me politely. I was just another dumb American seeking thrills and adventure. Yes, partly, But I was also seeking experience and stories, something I could take back with me and shape into a never ending piece of work.
” I guess you could say I was looking for something else: safety,” I look down, my hands clasped nervously in my lap. I am constantly asked if I am cold because I shake and flail, burning off excess energy bubbling like a steaming pot. No, it is not coldness nor is it necessarily always nerves. It is something I have to do.
” I am looking for safety too,” they say. I am surprised that they are able to articulate their words. At that age I desperately strived for the thing I felt deprived of, love and security, but it was through acts I sought it, not words. Through the changing of clothes and habits, of social circles and appeasement, I sought for a place I could be safe among others. But as I drove my way back to the airport, I stopped in a town called Borgarnes, which sat right in between the mountain and the ocean. My heart swelled, and I knew this was the spot for me. In between.
As I walked through the town, exploring a small garden park and an athletic field, something felt right. Perhaps the delicious hot chocolate was behind it- no chocolate can ever compare to it- but I knew this was a good spot for me. It was safe.
“But what if it turned out not to be safe?” they ask, fear glittering between their eyes.
“That might happen. In fact, it has happened. People and places I thought were safe turn out to be dangerous. Some I was able to go back to, others I have to keep a wide distance, stepping carefully if I dare to cross back. It just means you have to keep running, keep searching because if you don’t there won’t be a safe spot left. But on the flip side you have to keep fighting to make a place safe. You cannot let it be taken so easily, you hear me?”
They nod, but the uncertainly is still there, laminated on soft cheeks which have carried too many tears. I turn the radio up in the car, switching the heat on to let its fine fingers caress our skin.
Carry me on to where The mountain and the valley Sit and wait for the waves Of the ocean To break away Away, away From their shyness Carry me on and on And on and on To where the sun sprinkles The joy lost and stolen By dark clouds of hate Carry me, carry me Carry me onto the Other side Where the mountain And the valley Wait and wait And wait and wait For the waves to break Away, away From the shyness And shadows that Bind it To a place that forgets To love and hold And calm the fears Of a child who Belongs, belongs With the rest of the pieces