Meet Me at the Park (JB)

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julianabjornsdottir_dlThe winters are long in Iceland. We are placed in the vicinity of the Arctic Circle and often suffer bad weather and months of short days and long nights.

As winter prolongs in the first months after the holiday season, the winter blues often strike.

Lately, I have been feeling down as a consequence of the cold wind, blizzards that strike out of nowhere, frozen grounds melting and becoming muddy fields, and the cold that sinks through to our core.

Some winters are harder than others and for me, this has been the hardest one in years. The 2011-2012 winter was harsh and snow piled down in all regions of the country. But the snow still sparkled when night fell.

The snow is a shining light under the dark skies above and in spite of the cold seeping to our bones, the exquisite beauty of perfect winter kills the blues. At least in my heart.

The worst sort of weather in winter is the rain. It’s colder than in summer. The wetness that gathers on the grounds is much colder. The wind is colder and combined with heavy rainfall, it’s painful to leave the house.

The snow is not dirty, muddy or liquidy. It cracks under my feet, and my teen-puppy Emma jumps up and down out of joy.

She is not a fan of the rain but she understands she has no choice but to endure it since she needs the exercise and the fresh air. So do I, but neither one of us enjoys it.Yesterday, she showered twice after rolling in the mud. Once with me and once with my husband.

People tell me this winter has been better than the one last year. I disagree in terms of weather. We haven’t had much snow so it hasbeen darker than in previous years. It has rained excessively and the cold Atlantic winds have been as irritating as ever.

But there is also a hidden beauty and the joy Emma brings into my life.

Together we explore the world on a daily basis.

Beauty of raggedy leftovers of seaweed following hard strokes of shifting winds spread all over the coastal areas.

The sea dancing away in a wild fiesta of a raging rave.

The clear and starlit skies on freezing cold nights. The smell of frost.

The roaring winter sun spreading her orange and red wings across the horizon.

The mountain tops dressed in a perfect shade of white under the light-blue morning skies.

As a dog-owner, I am also privileged to be part of a small society of dog-keepers who meet almost regularly at the unofficiated-but-in-the progress-of-being-made-so dog field.

We watch our dogs sniff the world away, playing carefree games of eternal youth and once in a while remind us they haven’t forgotten about us in spite of all the fun they’re having together.

My puppy has been my anchor and connected me to a society of people who share an affection for dogs. We know what our dogs do for us.

juliana-s_puppy

They teach us patience, kindness and deep sense of affection for all life.

In Reykjavík, we don’t take dog parks for granted. The animosity towards dogs and the same-old arguments that “dogs don’t belong in a city” and “dog-keepers never clean up after their dogs” are a constant threat.

In my area, we may lose our dog park because there are those who interpret a simple dog bark in the heat of a playful game as a threat, and seem to think we are the ones leaving behind trash.

The park has become a haven for me. A constant fixture in my daily life. I watch Emma jump for joy as she embraces her freedom from the moment I release her. The park is perfect really. We have a perfect overview of the surrounding area where the dogs play. All of the regulars are dedicated to keeping the park clean.

Sometimes so much that we pick up the weekend trash that has gathered in the park. Broken bottles, food leftovers, and once a whole case of bread loaves that had been spread all over the field much to the displeasure of our dogs’ digestive system.

To think the city of Reykjavík may take it away from us is appalling. We’d have to drive to the nearest dog park, where facilities are even poorer.

In other words, if you don’t have a car and are unfortunate enough not to have a garden (which is not so uncommon), forget about ever letting your dog run free in a safe area designated for dogs.

Dogs are forbidden on the city bus, and to me it says a lot about the city’s official disposition to dogs as a nuisance. In London, dogs are permitted to ride on the tube.

The dog park in my suburb of Vesturbær is a social club for dog owners and dogs alike and the only solace of true freedom for the dogs in our area.

Having Emma in my life and watching her grow ever-so-fast and become the kind-natured sweetheart she is, has been a beacon of hope in these dark winterdays.

I therefore hope and hope and hope, the city of Reykjavík will let us keep our grounds and on a grander scale, start integrating dogs and pets into the urban lifestyle.

Like my father says, “to love an animal makes you a better and kinder person.”

Júlíana Björnsdóttir – julianabjornsdottir@gmail.com

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