For the first time in three months, I am looking at a landscape of steel, concrete, and glass. Of gray, white, and off-white. The mountains of Iceland have been replaced by skyscrapers, glorious Swedish sunsets by the glittering lights of highways and malls, and the rivers and lakes that were my writing companions have run dry in the desert, still riling in the harshness of summer.
Since I’ve returned, I am procrastinating on all of my day-time tasks as some sort of solution to my denial. In the cocoon of my home, I can pretend that in every day life, where I live does not matter. Of course, this proves to be foolish. I do not have a balcony in my home, and though my closed curtains block the drab view of buildings under construction and menacing tools, a constant blot on my apartment block for the two years I’ve lived here, I hear them every minute. I wake up to the screeching of stone-crushing monsters, wishing I could fall into a dream-like portal into the mornings when I’d wake up to the incessant chirping of birds.
Coming back home is harder for me than most people I know who are in a life situation that is similar to mine- a loving husband, adorable family, beautiful home, comfortable lifestyle, friends I’ve known at least for a decade, and the freedom to make absolutely what I want of each day. Still, on the flight back to the city I grew up in, the quiet tears don’t stop.
Back home, often, the highlight of my day is the odd reader email saying that in some tiny, incomprehensible way I’ve inspired them by being ‘brave’. I’m not brave. Most days, I’m shit scared and completely overwhelmed with the life choices I’ve made, those I did not make, and those I desperately want to but cannot make.
Today, I’ve had to step in to help out with a chore and so unwillingly I’ve had to step out of the cocoon and into a taxi to rush to a certain office. Now, with the job done five minutes before they closed for the day, I am waiting for Ankit to pick me up from outside the building. There is a putrid stench in the air and my contacts are irritated from the veil of dust and smoke that now appears between the city I once loved and me. Two of the three access roads are closed off because here too, they are building something formidable. Ugly machines are clustered across the narrow road. He has lost his way and I must wait a little longer.
I breathe in sand and drop my head into my hands as I lean against a wall for support. In this city that hasn’t learnt how to be, I do not know how to be. I do not know how to exist for a few moments on my own without feeling disappointment. How have I not noticed this loathsome fact before- that they are always building? Why are they so relentless in this pursuit? Why don’t they just pause for a moment? Won’t it ever be enough?
The familiar white SUV pulls up and I climb in. With the complexity of my emotions and my inability to explain them, I don’t say much beyond a quick greeting and, “It’s still so hot.” Then I plug in my iPhone to the car’s audio system; music does a good job of helping me either face or avoid my emotions, depending on the need of the moment.
Slow and Steady- Of Monsters and Men. We are driving fast on the main highway flanked by the tallest and most impressive buildings in the city. I close my eyes.
“I move slow and steady, but I feel like a waterfall.”
We’re driving fast up and down a narrow road that is endless. I look out the window of the super jeep at a scene that is vaguely familiar. Instead of the white cover of snow and ice, the volcanic landscape is resplendent in yellow green and charcoal- gifts of Icelandic summer.
It strikes me that it’s kind of unbelievable that I am getting to witness this. It’s my second time in the country and I still have a hard time believing that it’s all real; the strange wild beauty of the land and of my life, once completely unpromising and strongly ordinary. In the driver’s seat, Beggi, our guide, is talking about the volcano Hekla, a 4892 ft. high snow-capped shadowy ghost in the distance. We’re driving to its lava fields.
In the Middle Ages, Hekla was referred to as the Gateway to Hell- a place that damned souls traveled through on their way to eternal agony. Erupting in 10-year intervals since 1970, Hekla is overdue by 16 years, having last erupted in 2000. While Hekla’s activity is being monitored, there’s only going to be a half hour’s notice before it erupts. We ask Beggi if he’s joking. He smiles mischievously but he isn’t. In Iceland, they understand that man is minuscule before the forces of nature.
I think about Eyjafjallajökull, the volcano that erupted in 2010 and disrupted flights all over Europe for six days by throwing volcanic ash several kilometers up in the atmosphere. I wonder what will happen if Hekla erupts today. Or tomorrow. Or this week. Flights, visas, relationships, life plans, responsibilities. None of that will matter at least for a little longer.
I want to be here when Hekla erupts so I don’t have to leave.
I am a horrible person to want the most dangerous volcano in Iceland to erupt so I don’t have to leave the country.
Maybe I belong to Hekla; I’d fit right in with the damned souls.
Sometimes, I write for me. Not for SEO. Not to help you with travel tips or information. But for the writer and the human that is me. If you enjoy honest posts like this one, then you might want to read my story about the second-hand stores of Stockholm or other stories straight from the heart. Thank you for reading!