Iceland: The Light of a Dark Winter

The Snæfellnes Peninsula in winter is a fusion of ice and fire as the lava fields on its coast are barraged with snow and sleet from the sea.

My head falls from my hand and I am wobbled awake by the texture of the road beneath our tires. It's our third day in Iceland, and as I look around at the other nodding heads on our bus, I recognize the comfortable sleep that comes from the good kind of tired. We've been working our muscles with the extra weight of snowshoes strapped to our feet, and our faces are slightly chapped from the cold, but all of us this morning are wearing subconscious grins as we wait out the long dark morning on the daily ride to our next destination.

Winter mornings in Iceland don't start with the rising sun, and though we are guests here, it is easy to imagine how strong one must be to live out the dark season year in and year out. Our guides, Asgeír and Pétur, are the closest thing to viking we will ever know. They are tough and kind, and their Icelandic sounds like spoken relics. They are chatting quietly in the front of the bus, casually steering along the snow-colored road as though there was a more visible trail than the modest reflectors flashing in the beam of our headlights. I tuck my coat, turned blanket, even tighter around me, because although the heat is on, the cold still slips through the windows.

We drive quickly through the dawn because we will only have four hours today to drink in sunlight. We will spend these hours as we've spent the other hours of daylight on this trip: we will snowshoe, and we will blend into the falling snow, and we will see where ice forms over waterfalls, and where lava fields peak through the snow. All of this land is made of miracle, and the whiteness here fades into the sky until the clouds part and everything is pastel. Pinks, blues, yellows. It is worth the darkness.

My eyes scan over the endless horizon as the sun begins to edge around to this corner of the world. Our bus comes to a stop, and I feel energized as the subconscious grins around me softly become conscious. I crack open my hand warmers and smile. It is time to go.