26 Jun 2013 Iceland: A Trip to the Moon
Despite their utter impossibility, my partner’s words almost seemed true. As I looked out the window of our rental car at the vast expanse of dark lava-encrusted valley stretching out around us, I felt the weightlessness of space around me. I had never seen earth like this before. It wasn’t just the expansiveness of it all; it was the contrast of land laid black by heat buttressed against the interminable rise of white ice. Yes, as far as I could tell, Iceland could have been the moon.
For my partner and I, the trip to Iceland was something between one small step and one giant leap in the course of our life together. To some extent, we had always been travelers of a sort, regularly wandering beyond the edges of what was familiar to us geographically or culturally. However, in the months prior to our trip, we had become mired in the details of our daily lives; the ceaseless minutiae of our days had gained weight with unexpected sorrows and losses, keeping us bound in one place like quicksand. Our limbs were heavy as we perused the shelves of our favorite travel bookstore one late winter morning, gliding our fingers gently along the spines of those little tomes of possibility until they landed in unison somewhere amidst the I’s.
And that is how we ended up driving to the moon.
We drove until we reached the edge of the Skaftafell National Park, a popular destination for travelers during the high season that seemed almost desolate at the time of our late May arrival. Located in the southeastern part of the country, the national park draws many who wish to hike up to and along the edges of icecaps formed some 2,500 years ago. My partner and I gamely set out to join that club, strapping our backpacks on our backs and beginning our ascent.
In the earliest part of our climb, we passed a small handful of fellow hikers. We joined another couple in dipping our toes in the ice cold glacier water spilling over the basalt organ pipes of the Svartifoss Waterfall and ate lunch under the unseasonably warm sun, surrounded by the playful laughter of kids chasing one another through the rocky ravine at the base of the waterfall. As we continued on our hike, the minutes between passing other people stretched out longer and longer, until there were no more sounds of the distant chatter and upcoming footsteps of passersby, and we were acutely aware that we were alone.
The soft green grass that had been worn into a marked path had long given way to hardened terrain that peeked out beneath large swaths of snow. A heavy mist lay over us, casting a light and refreshing chill upon our bodies as we walked. Our legs burned with our efforts, so unaccustomed had we become to trekking long distances. We didn’t even know how long we had been walking; there are no hours in a day where the sun never sets.
As I sat on the jagged landscape, resting my legs while looking out over the edge of a rocky peak on to the grey ice-coated glacier below, I felt wholly consumed by the vast and surrounding stillness.
There is incredible freedom in a moment of pure quiet; the calm before life springs back into action and anything is possible.
My partner and I looked at one another with the contentment of shared understanding in a moment. We felt the weight of our known life begin to lift from our shoulders. The zero-gravity of the unknown filled us as we began our descent back to our car with newly lightened steps guiding us through the snow and mist back to our terra firma.
“Where shall we go next?” He asked.
About the Author: Toni Trapani is mother, partner, law nerd, sometime traveler, everyday armchair traveler, and someday writer. She tries to stay connected to the world in 140 characters or less at twitter.