Place of Refuge

Place of Refuge

09 February 2011

Living in Ice-Land




I've only been to Iceland
once, around the year 1992.

But the exact day was certain:
it was June 21: the longest day of the year.
And in Iceland that means the sun
never leaves the sky.


In Iceland in June,
many fields are green, but
you can also find ice, for sure,
and geysers,
and the 
omnipresent smell of
sulfur,
and the pale blond Icelanders
smile at you and dance
in the sun, determined to celebrate
their endless day.

The man who was my husband at that time
was mad at me,
when I slid between the sheets
and fell asleep
around 1:00 a.m.
He wanted to stay up through a night
with no night
(I believe he actually did, too),
and now I understand why:

It was a rare occasion,
it was why one would be
in Iceland on June 21,
and I, with my usual
naivete
fell asleep.



The people of Iceland
drink a lot,
sincerely and matter-of-factly:
it's what one must do to weather
those long, cold, dark nights.

The people of Iceland
read a lot too,
and their eyes burn like
smoldering coals,
turned inside out by months of
darkness.  

One of their great national poets was a guy
I visited what is reported to be his home,
but it looked like a mound of sod with a door:
the people of Iceland know
that when it's really cold
true warmth can be found
underground.


When you look through the Icelandic phonebook,
(and if I recall correctly, there was only one
for the whole country)
you will find the names are alphabetized
by first names,
not by last;
even last names are spawned 
by first names;
I interpreted this to suggest
that these people accept and acknowledge
they're all in this together,
so they might as well not try to mask anything
with the false veneer of 
formality.
In fact, reportedly,
there is not much crime in Iceland.
One would be foolish to alienate one's self so
in such an alien land.



I remembered that trip to Iceland
today, as the sun glinted off the deep, hard packed snow
in the quadrangle of the college where I work,
and then again, as I shoveled over a foot of the heavy stuff
off the second story porch roof
connected to the place
where I live --

We are, so many of us,  living in Ice Land right now.

And I believe
we have a lot to learn
from the people of Iceland
in this chilly season,
as our wounded earth pulls round herself
this deep white blanket,
a death-like blanket to us,
but really intended to restore.

We struggle across the surface of it,
insistently trudging
through our self-important, self-destructive
lives as we know them,

but what we really know,
if we listen to our bones,
is that we should be sleeping right now,
gently resting inside the womb
of our slumbering mother,
Earth.


Iceland, they say, 
is the youngest landmass on earth, and under her surface
bubbles the cauldron 
of new life.
The ice and snow protect the budding rebirth,
and heals the wounds inflected
by her heedless inhabitants.

~ ~ ~

I've decided to become
an Ice-Lander today,
tomorrow,
and always,
and the next time I get the chance
to experience endless day,
I'll stay awake,
and bask in it.


4 comments:

Liberality said...

O I love poetry--thank you. I couldn't stay up all night either even if the sun were out in the sky all the live long day and then some.

Makropoulos said...

Hi Liberality! Nice to meet you! I checked out your blog, too, thanks to PENolan--really enjoy it!

Debra She Who Seeks said...

Great post! I'd love to visit Iceland some day.

Makropoulos said...

Thank you, Debra! Yes, I'd actually like to go back!