My father likes to remind me that at fifteen or so I announced that I would not get married until I saw the world.
That did not work out so well for me.
While in theory the idea of back packing from one country to the next was a romantic one I did not have the resources to make it a reality. Life intervened. The life we talk about in the relatively negative sense; responsibility, calendars, sales goals and taxes. Jobs came next and were shortly followed by boys and love, marriage, selection of baby carriages and suddenly I was way past my wanderlusting teen years without a passport photo. By then travel sounded like something other people did.
This is a reality for so many kids that grow up with big dreams and carry swirly lollipops around Disney with the Anything Is Possible mentality swirling around them like their capes and plastic swords. They want to slay the dragons, stand on top of mountains, be different than those that came before them. Those people with the tall legs and the coffee breath who look tired. They know in their bones they aren’t going to be like those people.
Then they get tired.
I am very tired.
I’m also very aware that now is the time I should see this world that escaped me for so long. Leaving it for tomorrow will turn me into someone I don’t want to be and who I imagine often. She lies in a bed surrounded by loved ones, death imminent, looking at me and wondering why I waited around. This is the image I conjure whenever I face fear or malaise. I shared this with a friend and she responded with an, “Oh God,” that smacked of macabre and concern. I’m grateful for the old lady. She looks at Me Now that feigns aches and expense with a sort of disdain. Do I want to take the risk? Do I want to save up for the thing that seems unattainable? The thing that seems so far away now, but that Death Bed Me is going to wish I’d done because, LIVE, girl.
That’s right. She talks to me. She sits up in bed and she looks at me and tells me that her ride better not be boring because if she’s dealing with Medicaid and tearful eyes (picture her gesturing to all the miserable people offering well wishes, Seriously? This shit is depressing) she wants to assure them that they shouldn’t be sad because she’s lived a full life and heading on to her next adventure, no regrets.
I recently traveled to Iceland and everyone’s response was the same, “Iceland?! Wow. Why are you going to Iceland?”
I explained that I’ve always wanted to see the Northern Lights. It was about time I saw them. So I booked it. That’s it.
Everyone nodded as if they understood so completely they may just go say yes to something right that minute.
I hope they did.
I saw the Northern Lights. Two nights in a row. I stood bundled in a hat and a hood, thermals, boots and a thick down coat in Hella, Iceland. I stood below a sky so deeply packed with stars you couldn’t see an inch of blackness between them. To the north was a ribbon of green dancing through the sky, reminding me I am both small and bigger than anything that I brought on my trip. My frustrations at work? Stupid. The fight I had with my ex-husband? Insignificant. I stood there and knew in my bones that everything is ok and everything would always be ok. I prayed with my head back and eyes full of stars because it was the only thing that was appropriate in that moment.
The lady in the bed smiled and relaxed into her company a bit, Good one. On to the next, you.
These next words aren’t meant to be condescending, only honest:
You have never seen the sky.
Go see the sky.
I came back from Iceland with one piece of advice for anyone I came across, “Go see something astounding. You have to see something that takes your breath away.”
The stars themselves made the entire trip, although I saw something astounding every single day. Surreal was the only word I could come up with to describe the experience. If an elf or troll from the Viking sagas crossed a field before me I would not have been shocked. I did not once think of a problem. I did not remember the faces of those that had questions or complaints before I landed. They fell away as I fell forward, leaned in, opened up.
A friend recently asked while we were in Hawaii if the trip was living up to my expectations. I told her I just needed to see or feel something beautiful. That day it was a perfect beach scape carved into lava. One day in Iceland it was standing behind a waterfall and feeling its spray on my face, lava rock and moss beneath my boots. A month ago in Austin it was a transcendent performance by Florence Welch at Austin City Limits Festival. I felt one song in particular in my chest as she sang to me.
The old lady smiled.
Be astounded. Find something beautiful. While not every person wants to travel as extensively as I do, every single person is affected by raw beauty, fresh air, feet in sand or grass or boots trudging across glaciers. It is as if Mother Nature herself screams at you to wake up, see clearly, hear more deftly, feel more intuitively before she sets you back into your life where things seem a little sweeter, a little brighter.
Go see the sky.
Whatever that means to you.