Today I am traveling with what’s left of my Dad, his sister and their parents to Europe beginning in Iceland. Birgir and I will meet in a few hours but I like him already.He seems kind and thoughtful and smart.
I was feeling anxious this morning as I was leaving Seattle, a nagging what-the-fuck-are-you-thinking kind of feeling gnawing at me but the bus driver with a nice smile made me feel so much better. Noting my backpack with a down jacket and a yoga mat strapped to the side he asked where I was adventuring. Not where I was going but where I was adventuring. I told him I was couchsurfing Europe and delivering the ashes of my family to the mother soil. I said it in my best overly-dramatic voice. He laughed at my drama which was good because I can’t take anything to seriously these days. Life is to perfect.
I told him that I would drink scotch with my dad one last time and toss pieces of him into the sea that his relatives sailed between Scotland and Ireland, I will leave bits of him in Wales, Ireland and Scotland. He would love to be here and there, even if in pieces. Everyone in the front of the bus joined the conversation-a woman who is traveling to Belize soon and another who said she would be terrified and an old Greek man who called me sweetie, touched my arm and said “many blessing are coming to you.”
He is right.
The screens aren’t working on the airplane. The woman next to me has been complaining about it incessantly. Seems like such a waste of energy. Is it not enough that we are flying….in the air? Traveling, in only hours, to destinations that before would have taken us weeks by boat? People want more. We have 141 channels and complain that there is nothing to watch. We have a closet full of clothes yet have nothing to wear, we have a beautiful wife or an amazing husband yet we keep looking, we are flying across the ocean at 850 km per hour but are unhappy, or actually angry that we can’t watch the latest Ben Stiller movie. So many people are so angry and petty. She reminds of why I am going away. Why I packed practically nothing and left, alone. I never want to be like her and this is one way to ensure I wont. I am finding peace and calm and remembering to always treat people gently as if they are all family.
In the past I felt anxious during landing and take off. Not now. Now everything just feels good.
I spent yesterday in Iceland and could not understand a word but I drank a beer with a few hundred computer techies at a conference. I learned to say cheers in Icelandic and realized that we are all the same. There are good people and less good people- there are liars and there are truth tellers. We are all just living. Most of us in the best way we can. The others, well, I am no longer concerned with them.
Birgir met me at the bus stop. It was dark and wet and I didn’t mind at all. I knew he would find me. Although we had only met on couchsurfing.com I hugged him because I do that. We stopped at the music hall in Reykjavik so he could pick up his program for A conference later that day. We ran into some of his friends. Birgir introduced me to his master yogi friend whose wife is a yoga teacher. We ate tiny sandwiches and drank coffee. It was by now 1:30 am my time but the day, although still dark was just beginning here.
Sometimes I like the feeling of sleep deprivation. The calm. This was one of those times.
We went to Birgirs apartment where he made me an omelet and told me about Icelandic culture. I was lucky to arrive on the first day of the winter festivals. In Iceland there are festivals to keep the people from pulling out their hair, or the hair of their children during the winter months when it is dark most of the time. And wet. And in the case of today, snowy with winds blowing so hard your eyes can’t help but water.
Birgir was attending an afternoon conference so he dropped me downtown where I walked until my chapped lips hurt and my fingers lost the ability to grip.
In the pub I order a whiskey and sat alone with my computer until a man asked to take a seat at the end of the table. He asked if I was from America. When I go out or travel I wear a ring on my left finger so men will think I am married. A practice I will continue until I might actually have a wedding ring on that finger again. If a man thinks your married he will talk to you like a human, not a potential lover. It is far easier to meet people and have authentic conversations if you remove that element. He looked at my finger and nodded politely so I listened as he told me about Iceland and the elves and the fairies and the forrest girls. This, I realized was why I came to Iceland. Birgir later took me to an elf hill where the elves live underground. I took a picture of us there. We also went to a geiser where the ghost of a woman still “lives” today.
For the winter festival the kindergarteners of Reykjavik drew colorful pictures that were projected onto the entire front of the largest Catholic Church in Iceland. In the freezing darkness the church front was lit with children’s drawings in every color imaginable. It was to cloudy to see the northern lights but I saw inside the minds of the Icelandic five year olds so that works.
Birgirs family ,until last month owned a half block property in downtown. They sold it to avoid family conflict when his father died suddenly. Family is important here. Every Icelander can trace his heritage. It’s wonderful.
At the family house I saw the hidden passageway through a bookshelf to a secret room.
Birgir’s sister, her friend and I talked for an hour about family history. Their grandmother bought the house and was a Taylor. She started with nothing. She had no money and no man. She worked hard and provided financial security for at least three generations. When I slipped through the hidden door in the bookcase I thought again, this is why I am here. She was afraid of nothing. She lost all of her money twice and worked her ass off to rebuild.
She is dead but very, very much alive in her family.
Birgir was kind and quiet. A former cook he made me wonderful food and shared Icelandic culture with me. Here they eat dried fish, lamb, horse, whale, rotten shark and puffin. He made me lamb. He said he has no woman because this way, he has no one to lose. He said it’s easier that way. I understood him when he said that, very much so yet as he spoke I thought to myself that I am so glad I abandoned that idea. His mother asked me if I was afraid to travel alone and I thought “no, I’m afraid to be afraid”.
I am not afraid to travel alone. We attract what we put out. I have made friends in Birgir and his family and I hope one day to repay his kindness.
I am not afraid to love. It is worth the risk. And as I carry my dead dads ashes I know also that although I was, I am not afraid to die.
I am only three days into my travels and know that I needed this to live a full and fearless life.