A couple’s words float by on the wind for only metal and stone to hear. Deep silence washes over the two, as they stroll out on the pier. Waves crash around them, seagulls sound above. The reverence between the two is deafening. Standing apart, connected by space and time. Experiences that they’ve shared span the gulf between the long drawn out pauses. They watch the sea push against the shore for a minute. A minute that feels like an eternity.
Foros, Ukraine - A woman sits alone on an empty beach, kept company by only her thoughts. The sound of waves rolling over small stones crackle and hiss as the water recedes back into the sea, reflecting the evening light back into the sky. Birds hover overhead, suspended in time, their heads shift about surveying the landscape. The breeze is cool, coming in off the ocean while the sun sets. Simpler times on the Crimean coast.
Down near the pier, the sun is low on the horizon, its golden rays cut short by an approaching storm. Despite the inclement weather, the men working on the pier don’t hesitate. Father and son work together methodically prepping their boat to head out for the evening. They move about coiling ropes, shifting nets, transporting fuel, doing all that is necessary for their night on the ocean -- that great and dark expanse.
The father watches his son, correcting his mistakes as his father had done for him, hoping that his son will be able to do the same, knowing that a simple life can be a rewarding life, but like the evening sun on the horizon, the old ways are slowly setting. Light is disappearing, fading into the night as large commercial fishing vessels move in. Competition is fierce, overfishing is rampant, and savings are drying up.
Surly fishermen slowly walk along the docks, away from their boats after a cold night on the ocean. The sound of their heavy footsteps ring hollow on the old wooden planks.
The old way of life is dying. It is a shrinking culture, trying to stay relevant, grasping at the way things have always been, but failing to realize that they will never be. It’s a losing battle. As the years pass by, fishing villages become smaller. Boats sit on land, rotting. Fishing nets piled high lay stagnant, the smell of the ocean fading as the seasons wear on.
Lighthouses sit unused as stoic reminders of the past. The outsides kept clean and maintained for the photo opportunities of thousands of tourists, eager to depart the bus and stare from afar, but walking closer and peering inside, old desks can be seen gathering dust, while chipped and faded paint on the walls gives away its true age.
Meanwhile, the fishermen go on doing the only thing they know how to do. They put food on the table for their family and provide a roof over their head. Their happiness isn’t based on how much money they make, but on being able to provide the things in life that make them feel needed, loved.
As the sun rises the following morning, so do their hopes and dreams. The catch is fresh in their mind and as they return to rest in their beds, the mind takes over, wandering throughout time and space, thinking about the future and what it holds.
Days pass by, driving North around the fjords, through tunnels, over mountains – always driving, searching. Churches and cemeteries dot the countryside next to abandoned farmhouses, whose only inhabitants scurry about looking for food and shelter from the incessant storms that batter the well-weathered walls.
In the small towns that litter the countryside, church steeples rise up, stretching toward the sky. Every Sunday, town people fill the pews, solemnly giving thanks for the lives that are their own. One-by-one they file outside, walking past the old cemeteries filled with small wooden crosses. The grass is long and unkempt, still brown from the winter, but on the verge of change.
The earth rotates and warms the air. Iceland is waking up from its winter slumber.
Driving by country houses, mothers hang clothes in the yard while keeping an ever-watchful eye on their children who wrestle around close by. Animals, with their thick winter coats, plod through fields grazing on the spring foliage, perfectly content to lie about in the sun.
Endless expanses of color stretch out toward the horizon: Rich green valleys, carved smooth by receding glaciers follow crystal clear meandering rivers and streams. Rugged mountains, torn apart by years of volcanic abuse, shoot up from the ancient flood plains. Clouds race across the sky as shadows roll over the earth.
Sounds of nature are soon mixed with sounds of man. Tractors yawn and roll out of the barns. They lumber over the fields, tilling the earth, cracking the surface, allowing it to breathe. The farmers who toil under the sun day in and day out share a connection with the land. They’re in touch with every living thing, waiting, patiently listening, watching for signs that tell them it is time to start the process. From creation until death, all of Iceland belongs to the earth.