As much as I thought I’d mentally prepared myself for the “dark time” of visiting Iceland in December, my body was still puzzled when I looked out the window of the shuttle bus and was met with the pitch black. I triple-checked, but the glowing numbers on my phone informed me it was still half past nine in the morning.
It was a quick drive from the Keflavik International Airport to Reykjavik, and I met the cousin of a family friend at the bus stop. Skúle navigated us through the charming city, with it’s Scandinavian colored themes, occasionally narrow streets, and lovely little neighborhoods of culture and life. He lived with his wife, Inga, in a classy apartment downtown. Entering the living room I was astonished at the spectacular aerial views of the city. After admiring their home and unabashedly snapping pictures of the view as the day began to dawn, we sat and talked over coffee, breads, cheeses, and breakfast meat. The sun slowly rose fully around 11:30 in the morning. We had only a few hours of daylight, and Inga was glad to show me around some of the highlights of Reykjavik.
One of our stops was at the phenomenal glacier exhibition at the Perlan Museum. While we still had sunlight, we walked around the observation deck, taking in gorgeous views of the city and the distant snow-capped mountains. A frigid wind had us back inside in a hurry, but it was about to get a lot colder.
The Perlan Museum features a constructed indoor ice cave to introduce the general population to the fascinating world of frozen tundra and it’s deep ravines. We were provided extra vests for staying warm as we passed through the small winding maze.
Upon surfacing from the frozen depths, Inga and I walked through informative areas with stories, videos, and data of the glaciers… past, present, and anticipation for their future. Interactive screens and tables displayed the heartbreaking truth of irreparable damage to the earth. Below you will see a clip that demonstrates the tragic reality:
“Hearts around the world have frozen as we let the earth turn to puddles,” I wanted to cry. How can a blindness be so voluntary and preferred? Of course it is easy to fall trap to depression and fear for the state of our world, in many different matters. It seems like every other day or week or month I can switch from inspired to fearful. However, hope and faith have carried me through personal insurmountable feats and I can only strive to contribute to a global effort for sustainability and rest for the earth. Inga and I talked over a delicious meal about how things have changed since she was a little girl growing up in Iceland. She has raised a family and together with her husband they have seen the effects of mass tourism. I have to admit, it leaves me with more questions I have answers to, including somewhat of a burden for my own love of travel.
After visiting with one of her daughters, Inga dropped me off at the esteemed Blue Lagoon. The sun had long since set. I didn’t even bring my camera or phone. It was tranquil to visit without the pressure of documenting any sort of experience, which I, as a storyteller, occasionally feel obligated to capture. The warm embrace of the water and the slight sting of the purifying clay against my skin stirred something within me. I was alone with the hot springs.. crowds and groups who had gone together with one another were separated from me in conversation and the dark of night. Peaceful, if not melancholy, I glided through the water, crossing into each section by myself with a still and reflective mind.
Seeing the activism in the younger generation, watching TedTalks or attending seminars for positive environmental change have all been encouraging to me in countering the despair that can sometimes come with acknowledging the harm humans have caused. Finding ways to creatively come together in order that the earth may heal is not impossible, and I bow with respect to those who have made it their life work to lead us in that restoration.
“The time for competition has passed, the time for cooperation has come.” -Vandana Shiva
Read more about Thirty by Thirty here…
I actually really loved the short days in Ireland’s winter! I love the hour long sunrises and sunsets – my favourite!