Iceland. The Good. The Bad & The Ugly.
I’ve tried to write about my time away in Iceland since I’ve returned many times. Each time, I talked myself out of sharing it because it felt too angry.
I jumped at the chance to retreat in Iceland with Sheree Angela Matthews of Living Wild Studios when she announced her plans last year.
During our time together, Sheree showed us again and again her deep respect for Iceland and her knowledge helped all of us navigate our adventures easily. And folks, Sheree does her damn work! You might catch some of the things I had to deal with below while I was away and it was Sheree who I turned to. If you ever get the chance to wander around in the wild with Sheree… DO IT!
Iceland is a magical land, that I quickly fell in love with. I’ve never seen so many waterfalls in such a short period of time, and each one took my breath away. There were areas in the southwestern part of the island that reminded me of spots out in Alberta, Canada, Switzerland and then there were some spots that seemed otherworldly to me. In one area, I wouldn’t have been surprised to see characters from Game of Thrones on the horizon.
I’m also amazed at all the good, all the fantastic and all the wonderful that I experienced too.
But as I said above... I was angry. I’m still very angry.
I wanted to tell you SO much more.
I still do.
For now, this is what I can offer you.
What I took:
A suitcase that was way too small. I even upgraded it to a bigger one a few hours before take-off.
What I heard:
An honest to goodness apology. The kind that I wasn’t expecting… didn’t even think it was necessary until the giver made me realize it was. It was the kind of apology that made me remember how hurtful the last unexpected apology I received truly was. (In case you're wondering this apology didn't come from the one person who acted in ways that I'll tell you more about below.)
The crash of waves rolling onto the black sand and the thunderous boom that came seconds after from the beach beyond the rock face.
The roar of water falling over many a cliff hitting the lagoon and rocks below.
A painful howl when I touched the door of her locker. The door… of her locker.
The snap of the vents closing on the passenger side when she was cold and then silence because she never asked if that affected the temperature for anyone else.
Honesty about a practice from someone who truly does the work.
An exaggerated gasp of shock and questionable outrage from her while she listened to a story about a time the vilest word that could be said to a black woman, or any black person, was used against a woman of colour.
“Very good!” when I finally learned how to pronounce “Áfram Ísland!” (Go Iceland!) properly. Thank you to the woman working in the art gallery for accommodating my request.
The ssssshhhhh from her in the backseat on Wednesday when my excitement and volume from the front seat spiked at maximum levels.
Fascinating stories of loss and perseverance while sitting in the cafe on the fourth floor of a bookstore deepening a connection I didn't think could exist.
What I saw:
Wild, captivating landscape inviting me closer.
The kind eyes on the rogue horse who broke away first from its herd when I stepped up to the fence.
Her race to the car to claim her space (from me). Her legs spread wide, one pressing firmly against mine, in the legroom area meant to be shared.
Purple lupine whose beauty often made me forget the concerns of its tendency to choke out native flora.
The clearest, bluest water at the top of one waterfall and at the base of another.
A light shining from the faces of several Icelanders whenever they had an opportunity to share more about their creations, their passions, their favourite food. (Seriously, ask people about what they enjoy doing and just watch them really come alive! It’s amazing to witness.)
The path to get down to that waterfall.
The surprising sight of pink edging its way into the water.
His outstretched hand to help me climb onto the rocks.
Beautiful, itchy wool that begged for hands to hold it.
What I did:
Excused and explained away so much awful behaviour directed at me and others. I tried to see all sides of many situations and constantly doubted how I felt. But I wasn’t imaging horrid actions. They were very real. So, resentment set in when I thought of how much effort I put into trying to accommodate her when she only seemed to be able to handle being inconsiderate and arrogant. I don’t regret choosing to be kind to this person when I could muster it, but do you know how infuriating it is when the effort is one-sided and ongoing?
Let the cold water at the base of a waterfall numb the pain from my natural reflexology treatment the rocks provided.
, Happily ate ice cream in the rain.
Got high off of negative ions a waterfall spewed all over me and my purple poncho.
Asked for more cool air when the vents were snapped shut.
Dropped gentle hints.
Questioned what I was saying, how I said it and wondered how I could change myself to be a better member of the group.
Dropped less gentle hints.
Wrote “FUCK WHITE PRIVILEGE” in black sharpie across a whole journal page and slammed it down on the table to get someone else’s attention. It worked.
Spoke to the woman who mattered most to me at the retreat about how I was feeling, and why. Also suggested ways I could have more support if similar situations arise in the future.
Walked from one end of the great black sand beach to the other because that’s what I wanted to do more than the other thing.
I stopped worrying about being quiet after Wednesday.
What I brought home:
All the stuff I took, minus the purple poncho.
A little bit of wool. Purple, of course!
Chocolate, chocolate and chocolate with some caramel and sea salt thrown in for good measure.
New material for the comedy routines I perform for my loved ones as I share my experiences in Iceland. I’m resourceful so I like to reuse the crap that once made me want to cry to instead bring tears of joy to someone else.
More reminders that I can embody qualities that I admire in other people, and that unappealing qualities that get hurled at me only stress how important it is to remember who I would rather be.
The excitement in spreading paint on a page, writing words amongst images and continuing my visual journalling practice every day.
A newly formed sisterhood that damn near kept me alive in Iceland, and I’m delighted to see where our momentum takes us… and you! #blackgirlmagic