It’s not the passing of time. It’s suddenly recognizing that a part of your life is behind you, locked away, and you can never go there again.
I’ve always thought of Iceland as a magic place. I’ve had so many romantic notions about the nature and the people. Those kind of ideas always leave you disappointed, but when I went there with Lena for my 30th birthday 6 years ago, it was just as magic as I had dreamt. Iceland is simply an amazing, otherwordly place, and if you are European and you live your life without getting on a flight to Reykjavik, you’re missing out.
My harddrive holds an enormous backlog of photos I need to sort through, edit, and put up on the blog. For years I felt overwhelmed by it, and I actually stopped taking pictures for a while. I’ve been back in the game since I went to Morocco, and tonight I decided to upload some of the stuff I shot in Iceland. Looking back at the pictures I took there, I just have to conclude I’m a better photographer now than I was then.
Tonight I armed myself with some fine music and a beer. To keep the festering sickness of the world from burrowing through the blinds. Just one night of not having to consider my responsibility in standing up against the fascism slowly infecting the West.
I was born into a family that had a boat. It was rather small for a family of four, but this was back when people still accepted being a bit uncomfortable when going on adventures. Despite the boat’s size, you could cook in it, eat in it, sleep in it. My parents loved it, and we spent many days and nights aboard. My sister learned the difference between port and starboard well before she could tell left from right. I had some of my first memories on it.
I owe some of who I am to that boat. My legs are sea legs.
Who can honestly say what they were thinking or feeling during the first few years of their life. But I know some things. I know that I was absolutely crazy about water, and that I loved that boat. To this day there’s something deeply magical, almost mystical, about boats and ships and harbors to me.
I was probably no older than four when my parents sold it. They had bought a summer house, and there was no time, place, or money for a boat anymore. You can imagine how I reacted. That little orange and white thing was probably the first loss of my life, and it imprinted a lifelong dream somewhere deep inside my mind. I wanted a boat.
Now, 30 years later, I have one.
Let me introduce you to my Bella 642, a Finnish hardtop boat. The Pale Blue.
It’s got room for me and Lena and a few friends. It goes really fast if I want it to. There’s a ladder so you can go in and out of the water if you’re up for a swim. Two people can sleep somewhat comfortably in it. The deck is white and the hull is navy blue. And I’m proud and happy. Not because she’s an especially impressive boat, but because she’s mine.
My dad died a year ago, so he never got the chance to see it. But my mom has been on it, and my sister and her family too. And maybe, if I ever have kids of my own, they might find their sea legs too.
I want to get back out on the ocean. I want the wind to whip the water into a frenzy. Rain against my face. Forward. Onward. Away.
Full throttle through the crashing waves. The promise of the horizon. Then continue. Make all land disappear.
Forward. Onward. Away.
Winter. Like a bully she elbows her way into my life each year, her brutish stride destroying so many of the things I find pleasant. She turns my world monochrome, dark and cold, and I am once again left without any options but to curse her. And I curse her – over and over again – for Winter’s stay is far too long here in the north, and I grow increasingly sick of her presence with each passing year. Sweden, I ask myself, why the hell do I live in Sweden?
Many Swedes tend to talk about their love of Winter, but these people are deluded. They are her victims, suffering from Stockholm Syndrome, and they cannot be argued with. Yeah, skiing is pretty nice, but I can’t see any ski boots on your feet. True, the snow can be beautiful, but once we leave the office it’s already far too dark to see. Indeed, Winter makes us appreciate Summer more, but like a disease makes us long for health I’d still prefer to stay healthy.
I wish I didn’t hate you, Winter, but you are misery.
It is often said that when starting a vacation it takes a long time to wind down and learn how to relax again. This year I’m surprised how quickly I got used to not going to work. Vacation began, and as soon as the new week started I had already switched modes. I don’t know if this is vacation mode, whatever that is, but this surely isn’t day job mode.
Perhaps it is because the last couple of months have been pretty far removed from normal work weeks for me anyway. Sure, I’ve been busy working on getting the game ready for its release, but I’ve also travelled around with a group of colleagues presenting the game to journalists. I went to Los Angeles for pre-E3, then London for the BFG event, and then I soon returned to Los Angeles for E3.
It becomes this separate reality where you travel to new places, have these unusual and focused experiences of demoing the game and being interviewed about it, and hang out with a group of people (from other Bethesda teams) that you only ever see in this alternate reality.
I’m in Bavaria this first week of vacation, and this too is its own separate reality. Bavaria holds many of the clichés about traditional German culture, and it does so in stunningly beautiful landscapes, with its hills and valleys and neverending green fields.
But it rains. It rains and it’s cold, and the weather forecast tells us that the climate intends to continue behaving like this for the remainder of the week we’ve planned to stay here. Yet it isn’t really much of a problem. I have my books, and I have my iPad and my wireless keyboard that I’m writing these words on. It’s all I need right now (oh, and Coca-Cola, which I bought a lot of yesterday).
Vacation. It’s good.
After some months of abstinence I’ve gone back to Skyrim. The extra content in Hearthfire and Dragonborn pulled me back, and I realized there are still quite a few things for me to discover amidst the original game’s snow, ice and dragons. The world threatening conflict of Dragonborn adds a bit of much needed energy to the old world, so I’ll probably not finish that quest line quite just yet. You see, once I finished Skyrim’s main quest the last of the tension, the life, the sense that anything could happen, poured out of the setting and it became a less interesting space to be in. Dragonborn mends that a little bit, but only a little.
It wasn’t just finishing the main quest – it was the 90+ hours I had sunk into Skyrim. After so many hours I knew that everything I would do, everything I would encounter, would be variations on a theme. I’ve realized that if I’m to be immersed in Bethesda’s game there needs to be something unknown waiting on the other side of the next mountain. If the world is to feel alive, there needs to be systems I still don’t know, like hidden treasures of potential that could allow me to interact with the world and its inhabitants in new, deeper ways. If that potential would ever deliver was of less importance than the potential itself.
I can’t help but to do draw parallels to life itself. When I was younger life used to feel like an ocean full of unturned stones. But then I grew up and realized that while there were still plenty of stones to turn, I had already seen all kinds of rock – and every stone I’d flip in the future would end up being one of those. I know the mechanics of a life now. Life, death, work, love, family, promotions, redundancies, achievement, failure, disappointment, pride, oceans, mountains, cities, stars and empty space. Tomorrow won’t surprise me, and neither will the next decade.
Perhaps the dreariness this results in is a big reason for why people believe in not only gods, but UFO landings, life after death, magic, conspiracy theories and everything else that spells “faith”. Anything at all that promise an unknown country hiding somewhere beyond the horizon. Something that whispers “there is more” into your ear when the earth beneath your feet is about to give way.
Hope. I used to dislike the concept, but I get it now. We all thirst for it. A vague, shimmering shape in the distance. The magic of the unknown. Some people pursuit it in religion. Perhaps a group of us faithless seek it in game worlds, as some sort of substitute. Did Skyrim show me some of the magic I no longer see in the real world?