Iceland at your own risk

Iceland is a very helmet-free society.  They eschew guardrails, frivolous warning signs, and regulations.

You just will not get hit over the head with explicit, blaring signs warning of things that will kill you (like buckets, or hair dryers).  Not here.

I was sitting at the edge of a 100 ft cliff, that I’d just walked up to after watching an arctic fox sprint across the flat land, getting high on the vertigo of the height and the beauty of the distant waves below me,  and my brother walked up behind me and said “Oh, did you notice this sign?”   It was basically a 4×4 inch pictorial suggestion that it was possible to fall off of the cliffs here.  In case you didn’t figure it out for yourself.  One sign for 100s of meters of cliff.

And that’s what I love.  They expect you to figure out for yourself that if you step or slip off the edge into the waterfall almost the size of Niagara that’s thundering over the edge, right there, that you probably won’t make it. If you lean too far over to see the birds, you could die.  You shouldn’t need a sign to tell you so.

If you’re stupid or careless enough to trip, slip, fall, or drop your camera or your kids over the edge, well, that’s your business.

Icelanders are not in the business of protecting anyone from themselves.

I. Love. This.

Our lives are in our own hands all the time, and you can get numb and forget that if you’re always walking paved paths surrounded by lines that tell you you’re safe within them.  Stay safe, stay between the lines, behind the rail… not here.  Iceland doesn’t play like that.  It’s more “take care of your own damn self, you should be able to figure this out, you decide what’s safe for yourself.”

Complete story of my Iceland adventures

Ísland

There is wild magic here.  The dreamworld is very close.  Everything raw and numinous lives here, and I feel magic in everything.

The wildness in everything is dangerous and thrilling, and this feeling of being completely alive seems somehow close to death.  As I clamber around, I find myself breathing gratitude with every step.  Thanks to the seaweed, to every rock I touch, the grass, the rain, the wind, to the spirit or life in it all for supporting my feet and my life, when everything could turn with one trip or a stumble or a moment’s loss of balance.  Balance, in fact, feels like it’s always hovering on the edge of a blade in Iceland.

I feel this sense of peace and belonging that I’ve rarely felt.  I did in the Yukon as well, but I’m reluctant to say that it’s the almost-Arctic north that does it.  Perhaps it’s the space- there’s so much of it, not enough people to fill it with energy and thought-noise.  Maybe there’s still room here for the spirit world.  Perhaps it’s the youth of the landscape.  The earth is literally still creating itself here.

There is so much elemental power and energy flowing around, it’s no surprise that the locals accept the existence of “hidden people” as obvious.  I regularly get my hair raised and that “walked over my grave” feeling.  Oddly, today I felt as if I’d walked over my own grave.

Complete story of my Iceland adventures

Kevin Kevlar, 1990-2010

Kevin died on August 2.  Literally on the eve of my departure.  She was killed and eaten by something a little ways from our house.  I didn’t know she wandered that far.  All that was left was fur; enough to recognize her.

Certainly my mourning is interrupted;  the only night I’ve spent at home since, I dreamed the whole night she was tucked in by my side as usual, and it will take more time at home, thinking I see her following me, or sitting in the field, to adjust to the idea that she isn’t here anymore.

My friend says that guilt is a common factor in grief- if there was anything I could have done differently, if I had come home ten minutes earlier, what if she was out wandering because she was hungry.  I really wanted her to live out her whole potential life, to go in her sleep curled in a peaceful knot on my bed.  I’m glad two of my friends have lost animals that were the closest of friends; they understand.

I’ve never lost any”one” so close to me.  I’ve had my little cat by my side for nine years, falling to sleep together for 100s of nights, and I’ve never spent so much time with any”one” or anything.  She taught me so much about love.  It took me a long time to get used to her (I’m not a natural cat person, but I became one) and learn to accept her, but I ended up loving her so much.  And of course, she was just such a cool cat, even though she was getting pretty frail.

It’s a giant loss.  I have all the symptoms of grief- can’t believe she’s really gone, guilt and regret, avoiding thinking about it to not let in the loss, crying suddenly at awkward times, like when I see a cat graphic on a T-shirt and remember that I don’t have a cat any more.  I feel like my heart is broken and missing a piece, and that I’ll miss her forever, because there is only one tiny cat with a big personality just like her.

Was.

Land of Ice

Random awesome sunset at home. Lasted about 3 minutes with this colour.

I’m going to Iceland.   With my bro.  Just like the Olympics, our X-Canada trip, Europe – I know it’s going to be spectacular, life changing, totally overwhelming and joyous, and I won’t be able to document it at all.  A: because there will not be enough time to write in proportion to the all the time spent doing fabulous stuff, and B: because … well, I was just going to say A again in a different way.  In fact, I know already what I’ll have to say about Iceland when I get back.  I can write it now.  “Iceland was amazing!  Extraordinary!  The trip of a lifetime and all those cliches- Words cannot describe (they really can’t).  We took thousands of pictures and I made lots of notes to be able to remember it all.  Fantastic adventures and stories and people and hiking, just too much to put into words.  Really, indescribable.  I’m so grateful to have been able to go on such a trip.”  So there you have it.  That’ll be the first post ever that I get up early, before it’s even happened, in fact.

Complete story of my Iceland adventures