Imagination in Action (JB)

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Júlíana Björnsdóttir's picture

Last night, after a confirmation party in Akranes—the town in which I spent my childhood years—I drove back to the capital with my sister and her family.

It was not very late but due to a thick cloud of rain the view was limited and the surroundings dark and gloomy.

It was easy to imagine how awfully life in Iceland was back in the day, before Iceland was a developed country with city lights and a road system to guide me in the right direction.

Once upon a time, Icelanders lived in darkness for most of the year with just a few months of proper daylight. I can only imagine how difficult it must have been to live in such darkness where the forces of weather prevailed.

Changes occur without a moment’s notice and seasonal changes are blurred. A beautiful clear day can easily turn into a violent rainfall and the rain into a fierce blister.

The highlands of Iceland are where mountains and glaciers are cut off from our daily lives. Most of us have limited access to these wonders of nature. They are a force beyond our control and we respect them from a distance.

Some dare to visit the beating pulse of this island. The safest way to explore this crazy landscape is with specialized travel agencies that for a price give an insight into the harsh world within.

Others venture in groups to explore glaciers on snowmobiles or track up and down mountains .

Along the dimmed highway through which we traveled by car last night is Mount Esja and among the residents in the nearby communities, including Reykjavík, it is a popular destination on beautiful summer days and nights.

In winter, caution is advised and hikers encouraged to place ice grips on their hiking boots. But a sudden change in the weather can turn a beautiful and otherwise safe hike into a walk in a blinding fog.

Driving through this strange dark landscape was a melancholy experience. The mood was filtered with a sense of gloom as the raindrops struck the hood of the car and the windscreen.

My three-year-old nephew paid little attention to the dim weather and found it a good excuse to take a nap after we discussed whether the trolls one might meet in the darkness should be befriended or avoided.

For some reason, this darkness has been a matter of interest to me of late. I have sensed it in my heart and soul and I have grown tired of its depth and blackness.

There is something about it that makes it a matter of urgency to escape into the city lights where we feel protected by familiar surroundings. At the same time, I am equally fascinated by its age-old place in Icelandic way of life.

There is no reason to fear what is in the dark. If we think about it, so much of what we fear is perhaps the silence and the violence of it. We are not used to silence and therefore this silence tends to be a violent blow to our minds that are accustomed to constant harassment of some sort.

This darkness gives us more grievances than we wish for. But at the same time, it makes us strong and appreciative of its capacity to awaken the imagination to a point of exhilaration and narrative qualities.

Stories of elves, or should I say, the huldufólk (hidden people), phantom spirits, and trolls exist (in my opinion) because once upon a time traveling from one place to another meant traveling through dark, unlit and unmarked tracks. Along the way, the mind could wander in all directions and one might see things that are not really there, but for some reason are.

As you might have guessed, I am not a believer in the supernatural or adhere to religion. I am simply fascinated by the power that we give to nature and the power nature takes from us and rightfully so.

We are linked to a source that is far more powerful than we are, a soil that might erupt and tremble in a moment of glorious re-birth or raging anger.

I understand my place in this roguish and wild land and I adhere to its laws of caution.

Nature and Nature’s power is a force unbeaten and it gives reason to life on this isolated land in the middle of nowhere.

Júlíana Björnsdóttir – julianabjornsdottir@gmail.com

Views expressed here are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Iceland Review.