Excerpt from Love the World or Get Killed Trying

Now our tour guide starts the bus engine, and we leave the parking lot for the next destination. Reader, I am at the edge of my seat; I am about to meet my first glacier! A far bigger event than the losing of my virginity, for yes, Sólheimajökull sounds like the salient name of a someone to love. Our treasured tour guide informs us that if the Katla volcano underneath Sólheimajökull were to erupt, the glacial flow would form into a river more voluminous than the mouth of the Amazon, and Mr. Climate Change could cause landslides that trigger city-sinking tsunamis! She seems to know everything. She’s our tour guide. She simply does her job and does it well. I am preparing myself for the act of shaking hands with Sólheimajökull, 36.8 degrees °C greeting freezing, as the bus drives through a landscape of lush hills filled with grass and sheep who won’t become meat-market fashion victims if I have a say in the matter, which I don’t. Our tour guide tells us of the half-mile bridge over a no-longer-existing river, which disappeared due to the decreasing size of Vatnajökull, Iceland’s largest glacier. It makes us look like a bunch of lunatics who build bridges over nothing. Without ice, Iceland will be just land, she explains in another memorable quote that is too important to put in quotation marks so I put it in bold. And now the bus steers onto another bumpy dirt road…

There are no signs of glistening white blocks of ice sparkling in the sunlight. Instead, great, big, dusty, black pillars ascend seemingly out of nowhere from a mile-long barren landscape. There are times when reality pops up like something out of a big-budget, action-adventure feature film. This is a horrendous beauty; it overwhelms my response systems. Our tour guide speaks: “The ice monster you see here in front of you is up to 700 meters thick at her summit. And you might be wondering about her dark color? It consists of a thin layer of ash from the Eyjafjallajökull eruption 6 years back. At the turn of the millennium, this parking lot was situated at the very edge of the glacier. Now, you see, we’ve got to hike one full mile through a desert; fine, it’s good exercise, but the melting spells bad news for all of us. It has very little in common with the melting Wicked Witch of the West at the end of The Wizard of Oz, except for that both the glacier and the witch scream, “You curs-ed brat, look at what you’ve done, I’m melting, melting, oh what a world, what a world.”

The tour guide herds us off the bus. It’s time for her daily power walking routine. Whether I like it or not, I am forced to follow her workout pace. The alternative: to be abandoned in this sterile landscape left in the wake of the treasure chest of a melting glacier. It is beyond desert-like. There are no cactuses blooming. There is not a single trace of a shrub or a reed. There are only about ten blades of grass growing within sight.

Regina Spektor says: “All the poets in the alley coughing up blood and their visions and their dreams are coming up red, they can either wake up or go deeper, but it’s so dangerous to wake a deep sleeper.”

After 12 minutes of near-running, our group reaches the threshold of this gargantuan, black-ash-covered ice mass. Intimidation and anticipation shake my body from its core to its borders. The surrounding soundscape lets out a whisper: Trickle-trickle-trickle. Every 11 minutes you can hear the crash of tiny breakdowns from within the frozen fortress. I imagine the booming sound of a gigantic collapse, which must occur from time to time. A stream of water seems to be coming out of nowhere, but one does not have to be a genius to understand that the somewhere is melting ice. In some parts of the world a stream can also flow out of rocks or firm soil, reminding us that we have no idea what is going on just feet below us. Right in front of me, a tiny patch of bare glacier reveals a structure clear as a mountain lake. I brush my hands against its subzero-stone body, caressing my new giant friend. I must feel each specific element against my bare skin. I gather volcanic ash-deposits from Eyjafjallajökull and rub them on my face. I kneel down to rinse everything off with a shock of freshly melted glacial water. This must be the ultimate face-exfoliating spa treatment. It could not be recreated in exactitude by any spa in our world.

I rest my cheek against the ice giant and begin to weep for her mile-long retreat. My saltwater tears join forces with her meltwater dittos, lamenting as they bid farewell to their respective sanctuaries. At this rate the entire glacier could be gone within 50 years. I realize human sadness is nothing in comparison. Have you listened to the sound planet Earth voices out into space? Yes? No? No human being can run the 1.8 kilometers between Sólheimajökull year 2000 and Sólheimajökull 2018 at full speed. I don’t think you’ll find a clearer moral of the story even by turning over each and every rock in your path, some of which will end up in my plastic bag destined for a big city life in Berlin. All around me the muddy soil is littered with puddles unlikely to return to their preferred state of ice for millions of years. This rapid melting is not the act of a witch or the Katla volcano with her immense surprises. Humans can’t even predict volcanic eruptions. They’re too busy bringing about their own disasters and dreaming American dreams. What can you expect when a whole nation, a superpower, is built upon the principle that not being a millionaire is just a temporary circumstance, an embarrassment soon to be overcome by hard work. I am ashamed—ashamed that we are letting our dreams be used as mechanisms of control, instead of profound freedom.

(Reader, can literature prevent the murder of nature or just disturb a too comfortable person? I’m typing these desperate words into my lapdog keyboard the way one plays my most beloved instrument, the piano. Despite my efforts, the sound that comes out is less like a musical sonata and more like the pitter-patter of rain. What a lacking instrument, these words. Yet they are amongst the strongest tools gifted to us. Some words are secret soulstorms birthed deep inside a me-you-us, longing to be liberated from the prison of one body. If kept from our- selves or stored in the form of too-many-broken-promises, some words can cement us all into statues.)

I advance a few steps away from the dirt and begin to hike up the glacial icecap. Our tour guide hollers: “Stop dead in your tracks, Missy, the ice monster will eat you if you treat her like a walk in the park!” I obey. I am in a situation where the sturdy voice of knowledge is to be trusted more than my inner adventurer. It is dangerous to stride any further lest one should slip and fall between the cracks. My body would be very well preserved there, freezing with no shivers; however, I’d risk providing the agents of global warming with an argument for their misdeeds. I can already hear them saying, with a Texan accent of course:

“In order to fetch this here body of an Uh-Mer-Ican, we must melt this here whole chunk-o’-ice.”

No. This isn’t true. I’m no president. I’m far from that (in)significant. I can die in peace here if I want to. If you can have a smile on your face while imagining your own dead body, something good has happened in terms of separating yourself from your ego. Death is one of many ways for the Earth to remind us: You don’t own me.

I wobble down from the ice slope without falling on my butt. Or flat on my face. This can’t stop new teardrops from forming inside my corneas. They know very well they won’t be granted access as members of the UN Security Council or deemed acceptable in government cabinets or boardrooms. However, is there any better way of reminding the powers that be of the dangers of overflowing water sources than storming their meetings with a choir of sobbing faces? I am hopelessly naive. I am hopelessly naive because I am desperately searching for a plan that could work. And in this search I must try each and every thing that has never been attempted before, until I find something that does the trick. I do not try on tears like one tries on clothes.

The last century was a psychopath. This one is still a teenager. In the city I’m forced to be an object, and my rebellion: a flood of tears. I am: a crying object; crying, screaming to survive her own life. Bloodied by their belief that we do not share the trait of breathing in oxygen and breathing out carbon dioxide. In nature I become a mother. If I watch a flower for a full day, I can follow its cycle rhyming in tune with the sun, while gaining the trust of bees. A water lily in the Amazon lives for only 48 hours. She changes color from eye-white on day one to violet-pink on day two, and her gigantic leaves can carry the weight of a light adult like me.

I am sorry reader, when describing an island filled with both fire and ice, I simply must expand the storyline from chamber music to a full orchestra. An island can do much more than just carry its own weight: My words expect the same from their readers, my world craves the same from its humans. I am not the author of a scenic brochure. I have greater ambitions than boosting tourism. Nevertheless one must always return from the retreat of a fantasy back into the material world that surrounds us. My return is brought about by the arrival of a hailstorm. I cannot see the rainbow behind the rainbow as my visual sense is observing the formation of dancing ice bulbs swaying to the music of wind gusts, sometimes following one direction, other times crashing against each other like they’re in a mosh pit. Thankfully we have now left the glacier behind us and are sheltered by the bus. I am hoping these seeds of ice are a premonition: a sign that a god, a president, or a fool on the hill has listened to my desperate pleas and cries and calls.

There is only one stop left on this journey: the black-lava sandy beach of Reynisfjara. Our tour guide puts the windscreen wipers on full blast. I think about how The Windscreen Wipers sounds more like a rock ’n’ roll band from the early 1960s than a device attached to a motor vehicle. I remember that Icelandic weather often shifts every 15 minutes, like the temperament of someone who has a lot to prove. And sure enough, as soon as the ocean appears within our view, the storm blows over and the sun turns herself into a caricature, a smiling talking emoji chirping, “hello, hello.” One day that same grinning sun may die and drag us all down with her. However, more immediate threats have been brought to you by the sponsors of politicians with campaign strategies full of memes and GIFs and reality-TV scripts. Always spying on the people, calling that listening, always ready to serve double faults, calling that serving our best interests

Love the World or Get Killed Trying can be ordered here.


I had no itinerary apart from a visit to the island with the horses, a treat for my last day.

The Hungarian Divorce in Seven Movements

Before the great split, they went out clubbing at glitzy boums (aka discothèques), sipping on delicate café au laits, the foam in their mugs forming hearts and arrows, portraits of le Pont Neuf, the Musée d’Orsay, and La Défense.