Dreamscapes and Nightmares

Dreamscapes and Nightmares

A photograph of a snowy-covered rocky expanse, under a light blue sky, with pink at the horizon.. Lighthouse in the distance.

Friday, December 29
9:00 AM (GMT)

From the moment I make contact with the cushioned seat beside the window, my body settles into the exhaustion it has been nursing for the past several hours. I am tired. My eyes desire rest, but my mind cannot shut down. It tells me to pay attention; this is new territory. Iceland, finally.

The air is crisp. It whistles through the minuscule fissures where the window opens. There is no sign of the sun, only darkness. The bus allows me to peacefully witness the landscape roll itself out to all edges of my vision and envelop me.

Though the people around me have also come from the same place, we feel like strangers still. I barely know a soul. Inside, the bus feels foreign. The terrain feels foreign, too. Almost as if I had taken a flight to another planet entirely. The dark, lumpy silhouettes I see passing by my window were once tendrils of hot flowing lava. They are the product of volcanic eruptions. What the guide calls lava fields.

A shiver runs down my spine as I realize there must be an active volcano close by. What natural fury must these lands have seen.


Friday, December 29
9:30 AM (GMT)
“Perth” – Bon Iver

The weight of darkness has begun to relent. I begin to see the faint outline of something large far off to the side of the road. It emerges from obscurity as a body floats up to surface, just breaking that haze. My eyes strain.

It takes me several seconds to realize that I am staring at a mountain. Waning darkness has been replaced with its presence, which looms so menacingly, so beautifully, before me. I am briefly overcome with a feeling of complete and utter terror that shakes me to my core. I have never seen something like this before. I feel the vibration of this realization, of acute fear.

I can just barely see the snow resting on the mountain’s head, and I think of the tundra, of the stories of Siberian concentration camps that my mother used to tell me, of the arctic, of frostbite, of avalanches drowning everything and everyone in snow, of starvation, of death, and worst of all, of being lost in this world.

The feeling is gone in an instant. But still, its memory clings to my skin.


Friday, December 29
10:00 AM (GMT)
“White Winter Hymnal” – Fleet Foxes

I have watched the sky turn from the deepest black to a cerulean blue. I have yet to see the sun. We have reached Reykjavik, and we are late for a city tour.

As the bus stops, I can hear the laughter of children. They are outside, slipping and sliding over frozen puddles by the road. I will my legs to awaken from their stiff sleep, wiggle some warmth into my frozen toes, and make my way to the door.

I am struck by the luminosity of the blue light outside. The sun has yet to awaken from its own long slumber. Still, I squint from the light promising its imminent rise.


Sunday, December 31
8:00 AM (GMT)
“Leaving Blues” – Bombay Bicycle Club; “Asleep” – The Smiths

Back home, the sun would be out. Not here. Outside, it is as black as ever, as if it were eight in the evening rather than eight in the morning. I have always been more active during the nighttime. Maybe that is why, for the first early morning in a long while, the idea of sleep is far from both my mind and my body. I am so very awake.

Our guide has decided not to speak this morning. The bus lights are dimmed. We can sleep our first hour on the road. I watch those around me pull their hats over their eyes and nestle into their seats. Sleep, when free from anxieties, can be a beautiful gift.

But I cannot sleep. I must keep my eyes on the scene outside. Soon the forms of the landscape will begin to reveal themselves. Soon I can release my thoughts to live among the rivers and rocks.

I put my headphones into my ears and lean towards the window. I am alone, but it brings me peace. I can listen to music, uninterrupted, and feel warm amidst the cold of the country. I have not felt such a calm like this in what feels like years. The ache of the city, for once, is leaving me to myself. There is only my mind and an alien terrain to hold it. It is a gift greater than sleep.

Sunday, December 31
12:00 PM (GMT)
“The Winds of Winter” – Ramin Djawadi

I’ve just been told that Game of Thrones filmed some of its scenes at this location. Right over there by the glacier.

Jon Snow was here.


Tuesday, January 2
3:00 PM (GMT)

We were meant to tour the South Coast today. Unfortunately, the weather seems to have another plan for us. Our bus is stopped behind a line of cars, waiting to turn around. The blizzard is here.

Gusts of wind blow ferociously before my eyes, scooping snow from the ground and dusting everything in white. If we continue forward, the winds will certainly knock over the bus. I wonder, is this what a true wasteland looks like? Or is it, indeed, another planet?

To be trapped outside for too long in such a storm would mean certain death. The terror returns, though faint.


Thursday, January 4
3:00 PM (GMT)
“Time of the Blue” – Tallest Man on Earth; “Holocene” – Bon Iver

Before this trip, I thought that the limited daylight would be a challenge for me. Only four hours. I was very wrong. Sunrise at eleven and sunset at four means getting to see both. It means dynamic light. It means a sky constantly in flux.

Sun sets. Reflecting off the rivers and ponds and peeking behind mountaintops. Everyone on the bus has their eyes glued to the windows on whichever side the light burns brightest in the sky. It switches with every turn of the bus. Collective awe is something I haven’t experienced in a long time. It’s like, for a moment, we share a mind.

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