Suddenly the car slid out of control across the ice. An unpleasant scene flashed through my mind, and I saw myself stuck in the deep snow that flanked either side of the road, alone and freezing to death.
As quickly as I lost control, I regained it.
Which had far less to do with my driving skills, than being lucky enough to slide towards an ice-free stretch of road. My heart hammered hard against my chest, and I stopped for a moment.
I wasn’t used to driving in snow and ice, but I hadn’t anticipated I would need to. But then again, very little about my trip to Iceland was what I’d been anticipating.
I’d come because it’s a place I’ve always felt attracted to; a country of beautiful contradictions. It’s a place where lava meets ice and where frozen tundra greets spring flowers. I couldn’t wait to spend some time both outside hiking, and inside, hunkered down in my rented cabin. That’s all I wanted: fresh air and isolation.
But there were no spring flowers this time. Spring comes later to this part of the world and the night I arrived, the country was bracing for the worst storm of the year. “How long is it expected to last?” I asked the weary-looking woman at the car hire company. “Who knows?” she replied. “We get three seasons every 10 minutes here.” I assumed that summer was the absent fourth.
When I left for this trip, a lot had been brewing in my life. I’d been coming up hard against the rough edges of myself, trying to make decisions by asking everyone else for advice, researching different options and attempting to rely on logic.
I thought perhaps that taking a trip to this alien-looking land was a good way to cure my latest bout of wanderlust, and to figure a few things out. Iceland is a unique showcase of raw beauty, and even in a snowstorm, the roads are lined with Icelandic ponies. I felt a little sorry for them, standing outside in the cold. Even weird and wonderful, if you’re willing to scratch beneath its surface, Reykjavik has the power to touch your heart.
However, the inclement weather forced me to spend most of my time hunkered down, and I quit trying to hike after the first bone-chilling attempt. Still, I thought it would give me more time to make some decisions and formulate a plan. I armed myself with pens and paper and prepared to sift through the nebulous jumble of confusion in my head.
I stared at those blank sheets of paper for days, only to swap the staring for tossing and turning at night, desperately searching for answers. Finally–more exhausted than when I arrived–I gave into the distraction of the mesmerizing beauty of the falling snow, happily lingering at the window of my cabin for hours.
So, whilst I’d anticipated exploring wild landscapes and the wilderness of my mind, instead, I sat and enjoyed the silence. It was then, amongst the sacred, wild beauty of ‘The Land of Fire and Ice” that silence gave me what I’d been seeking; the answers to the questions I’d been so desperately trying to figure out.
Maybe that’s how it is sometimes. We need to be away from everything familiar and be forced to sit alone, in stillness and in silence, in order to hear the whisper of our hearts.
As for Iceland, there’s so much barren landscape to explore. I’m already looking forward to returning, perhaps during their fleeting summer. Their season number four.