Iceland Beckons

February 3, 2009

Too much of my life is spent living vicariously through what I read and watch, through people I think about. This trait hardly sets me apart. But recognizing it as I did today feels notable.

The trigger was a post on one of my favorite blogs, Boing Boing, from guest blogger Gareth Branwyn, who writes about technology, pop, and fringe culture:

“My friend, photographer and filmmaker, Seanie Blue traveled north, to Iceland, to blow his mind on the aurora borealis, in hopes that its incomprehensibility might help him forget a love gone south.”

And incomprehensibility is what Blue found. “My brain couldn’t understand what I was seeing,” he says in a mind-blowing video that’s merely a preview of a longer piece in the works:

YouTube Preview Image

I have the faintest memory of seeing a much paler, less dramatic version of the aurora borealis once as a small child in New Hampshire. That and seeing the first Sputnik satellite blink across the night sky are my earliest recollections of marveling at the heavens. Otherwise, this phenomenon is like so many things waiting to be experienced, flat and two-dimensional visually but a maddening yearning.

Watching the video a second time, I imagined saying screw the economy and personal debt, and with fanfare booking travel and trundling up spouse and child for a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Isn’t that what Visa cards are made for?

I pictured tears of joy freezing on our faces as we knelt rapt before what must feel like the ever-shifting amorphous face of … God?

Or is the aurora borealis a dancing curtain, as Blue describes it, a curtain that we’re doomed never to see beyond? Either way, in its presence I would feel humbled and insignificant beyond words. But alive.