It’s been one of those 24-hour-days of lurching across the planet. Three different currencies are jingling together merrily in my pockets (which have been emptied more times than I care to remember at airport security checks). Sleep was a 4 ½ hour international flight.
It is now 8:30 in the morning. But you wouldn’t know it from looking outside. I’m riding on a bus in Iceland, where the sun is in short supply these days. Someone is singing “The Long and Winding Road” on the radio, in Icelandic.
I see clusters of bus riders huddled in the cold. Others are biking in the darkness. Some are striding across lawns, heading into brightly-lit offices. And overall, there is a cheeriness I had not expected. There are lights everywhere - on trees, houses, walkways, statues.
It is now 9:00, still dark, and I’m facing a traditional Icelandic breakfast. There is granola with skyr (a cross between yogurt and kefir, which doesn’t help you if you don’t know what “kefir” is…). Then a huge range of fruits, thick dark breads, salami, boiled eggs, and lots of pickled fish. Just what the stomach needs after a day of airline pretzels.
I get to check in to the hotel early. A small room, not unlike an IKEA display showroom. Except that it has a New Testament in four languages, none of which I speak particularly well. Guess I’ll have to do my daily devotions by memory.
It’s now 9:30, and I’m back out on the street. People are bustling about, despite the darkness. A woman in a fur coat is pushing a stroller. This is the land of stylish toques. The darkness is slowly turning to twilight.
But it is not a depressing darkness. It is a metaphor for this whole plucky country. Just because you live in the dark doesn’t mean you can’t brighten the corner where you are. There is a resolve here. Not just to live in this climate, but to thrive in this climate. Not just to live as 300-some thousand people on the edge of Europe, with two natural resources as their most important economic engines - and neither of them are oil or gas. But a decision to thrive.
As I stroll in the late morning’s slow move toward sunlight, I’m reminded of Bruce Cockburn’s song lyric: “got to kick at the darkness ‘til it bleeds daylight.”
Skál from Iceland.