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Disappointment or “Missing the Northern Lights”

Picture by Betony Coons at Reykjavik Art Museum.

Betony and my first day in Reykjavik, Iceland was a long and incredible one. We arrived in the country at 6 AM with no sleep on the red-eye and saw amazing sights all day.

By nightfall we were shot. We asked the college students staying at our Air B & B, “Please, PLEASE, wake us if you see the northern lights! We’re in room 6!” as they occupied the hot tub out back.

The northern lights showed up. They got drunk and never woke us.

It was the only time the northern lights were visible the rest of our stay.

Here’s the thing about disappointment. It stays with you. The rest of the trip was unreal and wondrous. I’ve shown pictures in a previous post and you can see it. The time was fulfilling and centering for Betony and my marriage. I hate it, but this disappointment of missing the northern lights has stayed with me. I’m still working on shaking it. It is not a tragedy at all, by any means. It’s just a disappointment; it’s just hopes and dreams not turning out the way you’d really wanted it.

For me, I’d traveled half-way across the world with a longing for this wonder (ever since I was little). It’s one of the reasons we chose the destination. And I can’t get this out of my head: as I sleep and they are dancing in the sky outside my bedroom. And I am asleep. And they are right outside…

What a terrible story I’m telling myself. How ungrateful I sound. What a strange thing that in the midst of the special experiences of the whole trip, this stays with me like a splinter, tarnishing the memories.

The rest of the week I stayed up each night, listening to music and walking through our landscape; waiting, watching. I kept hoping the sky would clear and the aurora would show.

Why has it been such a lasting sting?

As I’ve processed it with Betony, it began to be this strange “mid-life crisis metaphor” for me. The meaning was quite despairing: I’ve missed the northern lights. I will never see them before I die. And I will never get to such and such place with my music before I die. And I will never have such and such experience with my wife before I die. And so on. It wasn’t really about missing the aurora borealis. It was about getting older and all the things I’d never do, achieve, experience. ALL the disappointments.

Again, what a terrible story I’m telling myself.

So what do you do when these types of disappointments occur? How do you move on; let go? The miracles of a Resurrection Sunday have happened and they resonate within your memory. Yet you still can’t let go of the shock and pain of Good Friday. People are telling you get over it, move on.

And you try, but there’s this wound. And anytime anyone mentions it a deep sadness is triggered and a sick feeling in your stomach appears.

And so,

I’m continuing to focus on the wondrous and miraculous I’ve experienced; the Sunday mornings. And I’m continuing to fight against the larger despair of the “mid-life crisis metaphor” meanings. I want to leave them and head towards hope and the truth of the great moments I’ve had. I’m being intentional, reading through journals, reclaiming memories.

Somewhere within me I know if I don’t keep heading towards Sunday it’ll effect my ability to hope. How many of you know just what I’m talking about? I’m worried it’ll embitter me towards future adventures, making me callused, not trusting to dream.

But for now let me be honest in this post that sits deep in Good Friday, at the risk of sounding quite ungrateful, and say,
“It’s certainly not easy.”

 

 

 

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Iceland Wonders: Pictures from the Pilgrimage

Betony and I had the incredible opportunity to go to Iceland the beginning of this month. Our two girls stayed with the grandparents and we headed out for one week in what I’ve been calling “a harsh Middle-Earth”. It was for our ten year anniversary and it was SPECTACULAR.

The first few days were spent in the capital, Reykjavik, then we went south-east along the Ring Road (the edges of Iceland are the only parts of the island habitable.)

After only a few days there a statement kept recurring in my mind:

“I’m filled up with wonder.”

The sights of waterfalls, glaciers, geysers, volcanoes, etc… the beauty of the landscape was overwhelming. There was so much wonder.

Betony and I wanted to share this with you all! We’ll be doing several posts this week on our trip and this one is our photo-journal of wonder.

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Above: Panorama of Reykjavik from Hallgrimskirkja, a Lutheran cathedral.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetThe inside of Hallgrimskirkja.IMG_6259Above: The old harbor in Reykjavik.IMG_6276A famous sculpture in Reykjavik called “Sun Voyager”. Panoramic picture.IMG_6289Above: Black sands/rocks at the beach on the southern tip of Iceland, at the city of Vik.IMG_6606Panorama of Pingvellir, where the world’s first parliament started- a huge national park where tectonic plates are pulling apart.Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetAbove: Gulfoss. A gigantic waterfall translated “Golden Falls”.Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetGeyser exploding at the Geyser National Park.Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetIncredible color on the volcanic rock.Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetSeljalandfoss. A waterfall with a path behind it.
Below: Skogafoss. A waterfall further south on the Ring Road.

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Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset Processed with VSCOcam with f1 presetOld settlements on southern part of Iceland.Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset  Below: The famous horses of Iceland. No other breeds are allowed on the island, to keep pedigree.Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetProcessed with VSCOcam with f2 presetAbove: Black sand beach outside the Glacier National Park.Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetThe Glacier Lagoon on the south-east side of Iceland.Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

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“Why We are going to Iceland” or The Table, the Synagogue, and the Pilgrimage

In the past few weeks as we tell people we are going to Iceland for our 10 year anniversary we get two reactions. The first is the usual excitement over a big trip. The second is confusion settling in.

“Why in the world would you want to go to Iceland?”

It’s a great question. And my answer is fairly unrefined and open. But I wanted to share it here.

It’s not about Iceland.

The place and trip really is secondary in our minds.

Really, Betony asked me if there was any place significant and meaningful I wanted to go for this big 10 year marker. I couldn’t think of anyplace. I gave a half-thought answer, “I’ve always wanted to try and see the northern lights”. That’s all it took. She started looking up Iceland travels and seeing how stark and beautiful the country is.

No, it’s not about Iceland. This trip is first about the importance of having a marker, a large gesture, to celebrate and recognize this point in our relationship.

Because I’d honestly be just as happy to have a week-long jaunt in Denver with my wife. But I completely recognize this: It’s important to tell a great story. And it’s important to have a grander gesture for the grander moments in our lives.

For example, I didn’t want to go to my college graduation. My parents made me and I’m so happy I have the memory of that weekend with them.

And I’d have been happy to elope with a couple friends. I’m so glad our wedding was a spectacular affair with friend and family surrounding us.

In my life I want to make sure and do this. I want to take the time, energy, finances and celebrate things right. When we do this it creates alters and markers in our minds of the important event. It creates a place we can return to that is large and grand in our memories. It’s a bright past that propels us forward when we need the reminder.

The writer Phyllis Tickle writes and talks about the rhythms of family. It’s in our rhythms that our values are passed to our children and we live out what we believe. She points out three major rhythms, putting it this way:

The Table: it’s where we daily gather together, pray, break bread, share stories
The Synagogue: is where we weekly lean on each other, encounter God, talk about the most important things
The Pilgrimage: is the great trip to Jerusalem, done yearly or only a few times in a lifetime, the unifying event

As I process taking this trip to Iceland with my wife, I’m thinking of it as a Pilgrimage.

It’s something you only once in a lifetime. It’s to celebrate this woman I love so deeply. It’s to create bright memories that I can return to when the path forward gets difficult.

That’s my answer. That’s why we’re going to Iceland.