Iceland: The Land of Contrasts

Two days ago I flew home to Portland, Oregon after a week in Iceland and I’m already aching to return. I travel my fair share and each country leaves its mark on me in one way or another. Iceland, however, connected with me in a whole new way. 

Iceland is a land of contrast. Endless dark winter nights stretch seemingly forever. The green aurora lights dance in the darkness surrounded by stars sparkling in the daytime sky. Then, slowly, minute by minute, day by day, month by month, summer comes. The man on the moon departs, replaced by a midnight sun. 

The island was created by volcanoes, 130 still occupy the ground. Many are dormant or extinct but a few are still active, reminding you that you’re a guest on its land. When you look to the left, you see miles of flat lands. Not a tree, house, or hill in sight. Look to the right, and there’s jagged cliffs and mountains raised to the sky.

You can literally see Iceland’s history. Endless lava fields show you where lava once flowed. One look at the jagged black rocks covered in squishy green moss make it easy to imagine Troll people hiding in the lumps and behind the boulders.

Lava Fields

Opposite the once molten heat of the red magma are the glaring ice of glaciers. The volcanic rocks have been crushed into sand, now frozen in swirls within white and blue ice. The contrast threads together resembling marble slabs. Only the cold reminds you it’s ice.

Humans are relatively new to the land of ice and fire. The entire population is only 336,000. Two thirds of which reside in Reykjavik. The natives live in harmony with the land, they don’t fight it or try to control it. Icelanders understand and respect nature’s power, something they are attempting to share with the world by opening their doors to tourism. They know the weather can change in a second, and everything that has been built can be destroyed before their eyes. Wind, fire, and water can erase all signs of life like it’s nothing.

A population who came from vikings are as contrast as their land. They rally together to spread their message to the world. A message of peace with nature, holders of their history and folklore, and of a future where man becomes one with nature once again. 

Black Sand Beach at Vik, Iceland. This is a colored photo.

I stood upon Vik’s black sand beach. The wind whipped at my clothes while trying to blow me away. I stood as a pillar on the sand looking out at the water crashing on the shore with the grey clouds blocking out blue sky. I was living in a world of black and white, until I turned around to see every green on the color spectrum in grass and moss along the shore. No trees to block my view. 

I appeared as small as a grain of sand at the roots of a thunderous waterfall. They say a troll once gathered all his belongings and hid them behind the fall. Afraid someone would come in the night to steal them away he leaned against the opening to stand guard. The night is long and he grew tired so he decided to take a quick nap, but he slept longer than he intended. As the sun rose in the sky and chased away the moon, the light turned him to stone. He is still there, if you look closely, forever guarding his treasures.

Skogafoss waterfall – Can you see the troll leaning against the rocks?

Iceland is a place where the imagination runs wild. The wind captures falling water and makes it rise. Water falling up the cliff sides into the skies playing with your sense of reality. As if gravity doesn’t exist. 

This volcanic island has caught the world’s attention. Most of us live in large populated cities where nature is purely decoration. Forests, mountains, beaches, and deserts lay forgotten except for Instagram photos. They call to us but we are unable to hear them from our concrete cities and artificial lights. 

We lose who we are throughout the mundane repetition of our-day-to-day lives. Routine has taken over. Money is the ultimate goal. Societal standards dictate our behaviors and the amount of likes we get on social media determines our self-worth. 

I’ll tell you one thing. I have never felt more alive than I did during just one week in Iceland. I was blind to the walking coma I called life. There, I could breathe. I could think. I could experience. Isn’t that what life is supposed to be about?

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*** All photos in this post were taken by me ***

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