The sky is bright blue for a change, our bellies are full from a continental buffet-style breakfast and the air feels crisp. We’re ready to hike, in every way possible. A volcano crater had loomed on the horizon the last of yesterday’s drive, and that’s where we were headed this morning.
The ground had been slippery when we’d walked out of our room that morning, and we’d been afraid it’d be difficult to drive, but the car had proven worthy and we were speeding along the road as if it was high summer and the roads were dry. The crater looked impressive on the horizon, with its perfectly flat surface. Surrounding it were trails of smoke rising to the sky coming from the local hot springs. All I could think of was the coming hike and the views from the top. Stories about volcanos had littered my life until then, but I’d never been close to one myself and all I could think of was walking along that ridge. Pitch black dirt underneath my feet, never ending views all around. Not for the slightest moment did I think about the anxiety attacks I’d been having lately, why would’ve I?
It was our last night, we had just devoured a delicious dinner of seafood accompanied by a nice glass of wine and were hanging back in our chairs to give our bellies some space when I looked outside and noticed the stars. What if?
For a moment I hesitated but then decided to look it up regardless, we only had a few hours before our flight would leave but hell, it wasn’t as if we’d be back soon. I grabbed my phone from deep down in my bag and connected to the restaurant’s wifi. It was a clear night, I didn’t need a website to tell me that, but what I didn’t know was if there was any chance of seeing the northern lights tonight. So I opened the tab which I had kept ready for weeks and there it was. 90 percent chance.
I’m sitting on a hunter’s platform overlooking a valley. Right in the middle of it I can see what I think is the outskirt of La Roche. A river twists and bends its way through the city and then the trees and I imagine myself walking there only a few hours before. The signage hadn’t been very clear to me and I’d felt utterly lost, after a few confused looks at the map I’d picked up earlier I’d mustered my best french and asked a local man if I was going the right way. Yes, he said, and he said it with so much confidence I had trusted him entirely. A little further down the road, I’d asked another group of locals again and they had said yes with perhaps even more confidence than the first. It was probably because of that, that it took a little while before I found out, but I found out soon enough to eventually find my way looking around and behind trees and signposts. They had sent me the wrong way, I guess it’s just the tourists walking these routes and not the locals. It didn’t really matter, though, the tracks and climbs and views were just as beautiful. It was just a little harder to navigate, walking a different route from the one I’d planned in the opposite direction.
I can’t find my pen, it’s gotten dark now, but it’s ok, a pencil will write the same words. The colours of the world have changed so much in the last few hours. I didn’t even notice, I was lost in another world, flipping the pages of my book until it got hard for me to read the words. The sun had set without me noticing and with it slowly the light had disappeared. I looked up in utter astonishment, and when I did my breath was taken away. Water drops and layers of dew and steam fogged the windows. Obscuring what was outside, covering the world which was now in warm shades of red, orange and yellow where street lights were turned on and in shades of deep dark blue and purple everywhere else.
“Nothing, Everything, Anything, Something: If you have nothing, then you have everything, because you have the freedom to do anything, without the fear of losing something.” ― Jarod Kintz
It is a long time ago now and it feels as if it was. I was a different person back then, a different version of me living in a different world. But I remember those three weeks of getting lost on Swedish roads well. Mum and I had decided it was time for a different kind of holiday, and instead of the warm coast of the south we took to the cold roads of the North. We didn’t have a plan, we didn’t have a list of things we wanted to see or do. All we knew was that we’d drive north and turn back down once time would make us.
“And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees, just as things grow in fast movies, I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer.”
― F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
Sometimes, when the sun is bright and sand slips between my toes, when the seagulls cry and the children run and play the memories come back to me. Or when I am in bed, looking at the ceiling, a soft breeze entering through the window. Or when I am in the car and I wind down the window and my hair blows wild, when I listen to the radio or when I walk past french speaking tourists. On any of these moments, and many others I can’t recall right now it all comes back to me. All the summers we spent in the south of France, me, my mum and dad, my friends. We all went back every year, for years and years and over time we had become a little community. Most of us children knew each other and some of the parents did too.
Our day in Liverpool ends quickly though and the next day we find ourselves on yet another ferry to Dublin, where we get our first taste of Gaelic. All the road signs are both in English as in Gaelic and I rejoice in trying to say all the words out loud. I quickly memorize the word for exit as we pass the sign at least every five minutes on the highway and I don’t think I ever stopped saying it during those three weeks.
Ireland, I haven’t seen you for a while. A couple of years it has been since my feet touched your soil, but if I think of you I hear the music playing in my head and images of roads winding under flowery skies and over green hills littered with stone hedges come to me clear as if it happened just yesterday.