In search of spectacle

29 November 2020
29 Nov 2020

This is an excerpt from today’s issue of my weekly newsletter.


I don’t remember much about how I got there or where I was going, but I found myself on the back of a bus last night, squeezed in between seats that just barely fit my legs and my bag. Even on the comfortable ride, I could tell the road was barely paved by the way the kicked-up gravel clackered against the sides of the bus. The bus growled on, riding the line on the two-lane road that seemed to stretch forever out into the ocean in front of us, and into the mountains behind us. The road was the blackest thing you could see for miles, because everything else was covered in snow.

A road cutting through snow in Iceland

Highway stretching into the mountains, from Iceland this March

The snow sucked out any sound from the air, in the way snow does in the winter, and the silence was chased away only by the engine on the bus, and the North Atlantic gusts that occasionally shook the windows. Above us, dawn was welcoming daylight, but it hadn’t quite arrived yet, and the sky looked like a perfect morning for northern lights.

As I always try to do on long bus rides, I had picked a window seat on the right side of the vehicle – not that it would have mattered anyway, since most seats were empty. But leaning against the window, I could see the snow more clearly, and the ice that poked out from underneath. They tell you that ice is really blue, not white, and the reason you don’t see it is because most ice we see is small. And that’s really true – the ice jutting out from the ground glowed blue, not white, like they emanated some defiant energy not to melt in the approaching daylight.

But the twilight did turn to dawn in the end, and the arc of the sun peeked above the horizon, spilling refracting colors into the frozen atmosphere. And in that spur of the moment, I remember contemplating how strange it was that this place – in the small seat on the back of a bus rumbling through the ice at dawn somewhere in the Arctic circle – could feel so warm and so cold at the same time.

And that’s when I woke up from the dream, the image still glowing in my mind. Now, dear reader, I’m passing this image onto you. I believe in the force of powerful images, of spectacle, the scenes and memories that can be felt more than just recalled. An ember in a black forest. A ray of light only visible in the dust cloud kicked up from the ground. I want to be moved by images, and I want to find more wherever I go. This is why I travel, and where I want to return when this is all over. Once again onto the road, eyes open for images that move, in search of spectacle.


Airport nostalgia

same streets