Morna

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Scottish playwright, actress and musician... writing about writing.

All at Sea

By mornayoung, May 2 2016 07:20PM

I had to check my diary before writing this because I’d lost track of how long I’ve been here. In my last blog, I spoke about time playing tricks and it remains so. Minutes and hours and days are floating by in a strange way that I can’t seem to contextualise. And so, I’ve given up. There’s something about this place, the scenery, the weather… it’s all consuming.

Today is Sunday 1st May. A new month and a new season, for the Icelandic summer has officially begun. The weather didn’t really pay attention to this change, though, and the snow continued to fall. The shifts in conditions here are like extreme Scotland – from glorious sun to almighty blizzard in a few short moments (maybe longer but, who knows? Time is decidedly absent).

I’ve settled more into this timeless place. For the first week or so, I continued to pace back and forth, feeling the looming pressure of the surrounding mountains and wild snowstorms. But now… I feel content. The fidgety jitters have been replaced by a sort of ‘island time’ mentality… yes, yes, I’ll be there… I’ll do it. Some time. Some place.

My turnaround came after joining a local fishing crew and heading out to sea. It was a chance to escape the mountains and, with my backpack and forty layers, I skipped down to the harbour like it was the first day of school (well, ran... because I was a bit late… Slippery time).

Off we set and, for the first hour or so, I was on top of the world. Then, the view and my stomach turned upside down, topsy-turvy and – for the first time – I was violently seasick. Embarrassingly so. Once I started, I couldn’t stop. Clutching to the side of the boat, bobbing viciously back and forth, throwing up and up, again and again, surrounded by the sharp stench of fish and diesel and tobacco, I suddenly thought: “Why? Why am I doing this? What the hell am I trying to prove?” The thought left as quickly as it arrived with the next wave of sickness.

Pulling myself together – albeit briefly until the next heaving spell – I saw the world around me. The never-ending sea stretching bravely beyond, the looming snow peaked mountains and the sky – the sky! – misty, vast, grey and powerful. And there we were, the two crew and I, dipping up and down on this wee boatie in the middle of it all.

Those at the moments that make you feel so very small. Those are the moments of awe and gratitude. It feels clunky and predictable to say breathtaking but, yes, exactly that. A moment of peace. Fear, wonder, respect. A small part of a much bigger picture. And then… another heave. Back to earth (sea) with a bump (vomit).

When I returned home that evening, I felt like I’d been away for a week but it was only 8 short hours. A standard working day. A day like any other for the crew. I will never ever fail to value or be amazed by the work of a fisherman. The challenges, the physical work, the elemental forces.

My fisher friends will probably laugh when they read this but it’s just such a different world to my own. Even though it feels such a big part of who I am, it’s still an alien experience. I love it and hate it equally. I was so relieved to get back to land but, now, I can’t wait to get back out there.

Anyway, my sea adventure was the trigger for thinking differently about my time here. I’ve eased into the timeless space and my mountain claustrophobia has turned into a sort of wonder instead. It’s pretty spectacular to wake up in the morning, open the curtains and see the persistent peaks. I wanted a room with a view and I got it. Iceland is a seriously stunning country, almost magical in it’s nature. I feel very grateful to be here and experiencing this.

Work on the project continues with lots of research and reading and documenting. Kate – my collaborator – left last week so I’ve been working on my own these past few days. I’m going to write another post soon about our work with the local choir and some of the sound/music experiments we've been conducting (have a listen here...). I still don’t know what our final presentation will look like but some ideas and images are beginning to form. I’m meeting more and more amazing, generous people and have been fortunate to interview many of these. I’ve also been thinking a lot about Seaman’s Day – Iceland’s yearly celebration of fishing and fishermen which takes place in early June. I’m pretty gutted I’m going to miss it but I’m penciling next year in the diary… I’ll definitely be back.

For now, the big paper is out and gradually being filled with scrawls, scribbles, angles and thoughts. There’s hours of audio to be transcribed and more to collect. If only I could stop time running away and pause here a little longer. Alas, time and tide wait for no (wo)man…

Until next time,

Morna x

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