There is no more appropriate word, dear Iceland, to describe what you are than one. This one word has been over-used, overwrought... a cliche, even. But, Iceland, you are magic.
We landed in your desolate beauty in the seemingly tiniest little airport, windows open we saw glimpses of far off, bare mountains. The drive to our car was a feast for the eyes. Eerie, soft laden fog covering the ground, misty bypasses and a faint, faint shadow of larger, more ominous looking mountains in the distance.
From the passenger seat of our red four-wheel drive hunk of metal, Route One, our circular path, felt like a taste of all of America's national parks rolled up into one without ever unbuckling my seat belt. You are perhaps my most challenging subject to write about, dear Iceland, because I cannot find the words to summarize all the allure, the mystery, the oddities, the challenges, the natural wonder you encompass. How can I describe what is magical? After a few hours, I was spell-bound by the great amount of beauty I had swallowed in such a short amount of time. My heart puttering like a toddler's experiment with a bass drum, questions and curiosities filling up every corner of my imagination, Stendhal Syndrome seemed more and more like a reality than a laughable diagnosis. Are humans supposed to take in this amount of striking nature?
Ice caps. Mars-esque landscapes. Stacked rocks to commemorate those who died in explosive lava's path. Circling, weaving paths, straddling two harsh landscapes, the harsh, Northern Atlantic on the right, a foreboding active volcano on the left. The dripping of vein-like streams stemming from your tallest tundras, emptying out in sporadic rushes into the wild, roaring ocean. Black sand beaches with foamy white wave caps kissing the top of your shoreline. Pebbled little rocks in grey, navy, sooty dark colors stuck in my boots. Barren, open segments of land, sprawling outward and outward until a minute shadow of far off mountain peaks dusted with the white, effervescent glow of what must be snow.
Was I in Mordor? Or was I in heaven? Were the foggy highways leading me to the doomsday emptiness I imagined after the wake of a earthly catastrophe? Soot-covered, ashy, residual leftovers of an explosive accident? Or were they the gateways to the celestial skies overlooking the bluest ocean waters? Where are all the humans? Where are we? The contrasting beauty of all that you are, Iceland, is that you straddle echoes of death and destruction with the hope of renewal. Your most destructive volcanoes, wielding death and loss and power, settle into magical, frolicking, purple Lupine covered fields years later. Your towering mountains, active with the frightening idea of an oncoming explosion exist within the same league of wild horses, posing with windswept hair on the edge of the valley. How can a place balance fear and hope, death and renewal all at once?
For once, Iceland, I was feeling my own tiny existence on the surface of a great, big earth. A small human, walking along the crust of a planet.
Of course fairies are real in your lush, green valleys... why wouldn't they be? Why wouldn't they make their home here, in between babbling brooks of distant, fallen waterfalls and the mossy coverings underneath a rainbow's arch? For hours I would scan the surrounding land off of our path, looking for a white unicorn to appear out of the dense, low covering purple Lupine fields... because if there were a place for any folklore to inhabit, it must be here. To exist here must mean that the magical must be closer to reality.
Iceland, I cannot summarize all that your magic is. I will not even try. I will not even attempt. But I will speak of your beauty. I will speak of the wonder you instilled upon me. I will insist that my friends explore your lands with a sense of appreciation, curiosity and childlike wonder. But most importantly, when I am in the midst of the harsh realities of life, when deadlines are impending, when bills are due and all the mysterious wonderings of my imagination seem thwarted by soul-crushing adult existence... I will scroll through my memory bank of our time together when I begin to doubt if magic is real. For you, Iceland, are nothing but that.