For as long as I can remember I have wanted to see the Northern Lights. The ethereal beauty of the aurora borealis is one that sings to my soul and it has held the top spot on my bucket list. This January my partner and I travelled to Iceland to see the Northern Lights however, due to poor weather we were unsuccessful. But the experience still inspired my poem ‘Beauty in a Broken Planet’ featured in The Gaia Papers run by Exeter UNESCO City of Literature.

As the Northern Lights was going to be a no show whilst we were in Iceland, my partner and I spent the first day exploring Reykjavik, and then on the second day we took in a tour of the Golden Circle. At 8:30am we loaded onto a bus alongside all the other tourists and we travelled beyond the city. Our tour guide spoke during the bus journeys to and from each place explaining Iceland’s landscape, and how vast and varied it is. Sometimes there is only a desert of snow stretched as far as the eye can see, then moon craters, and then we see volcanoes in the distance or drive past mountains looming over us, as though we are hobbits entering Mordor.

Though named Iceland, it is really the land of fire and ice.

We saw the Geysir hot springs and the steam exploding into the air then evaporating into the gusts of wind. Though named Iceland, it is really the land of fire and ice. We saw Gullfoss waterfall, the roar of the water rang in our ears and flooded down into the river winding between rocky cliffs. We then travelled onto the Thingvellir National Park, a UNESCO heritage site, where you can walk along the fissure where two tectonic plates (Eurasian and North American) are gradually separating at 2cm each year.

Gullfoss waterfall

The beauty of Iceland’s landscape took my breath away, and when I sat down to write my poem for the Gaia Papers, I chose to set the poem in Thingvellir. The church in my poem is the church based in the national park. When we arrived at Thingvellir the sun was beginning to descend (Iceland has very little sunlight in the winter) and from afar I could see a light through the church’s window. The vast landscape and the view of the sky was a perfect setting for my poem.

I knew I wanted to include climate change in the poem, but I didn’t want it to be the focus of the poem. ‘Gaia’, the name of the anthology, was also the Greek Goddess of Earth, Mother Nature herself and so incorporating this concept was important to me. I wanted to remind readers of the beauty in Mother Nature and why we need to treasure her. The Northern Lights are a perfect example of our planet’s beauty. Birdy has a song titled ‘Celestial Dancers’ and to me, this is a perfect description of the Northern Lights. In my poem I tried to show the movement in the Lights to resemble a dance, which is a showcase of the natural beauty in the world we live in. I bring climate change into the poem to remind readers that our planet’s beauty is fading due to humanity.

Though I missed the Lights, I am not disappointed. My trip was still one of the best things I have done, and when I read my poem I am reminded of all the natural beauty Mother Nature has given us. I am only 22 and there is still a chance I will see the lights at some point in my life, but I am fearful that climate change will mean I and future generations will lose the chance to see other natural phenomenons that make our planet beautiful.