Dear reader: This essay was my winning entry to the Iceland Writers Retreat’s contest to attend the 2nd annual event in 2015. Happy reading!

The colors of Reykjavik still call to me. I blink and see incandescent imprints of a place whose rooftops, streets and sidewalks bubble with brilliant banners of color that silently sing, Here, the colors of life are let burst and blossom.

I walked those streets two years ago but the colors of Reykjavik still grip me.

I was less journeyed then, in life and as a writer. Iceland will forever remain the first nation I visited beyond my own, and the first I traveled alone, but what I felt in Iceland has been calling me to return ever since.

It’s said that Iceland sees many gray days. My fifteen days and nights there were shrouded by a stubborn cloak of summer clouds. Teasing raindrops sprouted on my forehead wherever I walked; gentle mists washed over the broad-faced windows of Te og Kaffi whenever I sat inside to write.

And yet, the colors of Reykjavik still shone through, as if to spite the gray.

I still see the gleaming ivory of Hallgrímskirkja; the very walls that support it cascade like a two-faced waterfall into a supple grass sea that surrounds. Burnt orange shingles of a rooftop drip over faded lemon plaster; homes of oyster and chocolate brown are topped proudly with crowns of blue and heavenly shades of cream. Lime leaves shimmer above Laugavegur. An exquisitely manicured rainbow of well-worn books is nestled in the bar counter at Laundromat Cafe. And, towards the bay, stands the prism Harpa, sea-glass green windows wink in freckles of violet, blue and peach, each shimmering at their silvery elbows.

The writer in me has carried these vibrant memories as inspiration from a people who need no convincing that art makes life brighter. In Iceland I saw the droll, the melancholy, the gray out-willed by artful living. It has taken me two years to understand the colorful spell that Iceland cast upon me: I want my words to burst with color, to spite the gray.

If the people of Iceland need little convincing to embrace all the colors of life, many still do.

I write not only for a love of words and to live well; I write to stir love.

I write that my words may burst with light to illuminate the sometimes-idle colors of a soul—in the same way that vibrant Reykjavik ignites a cool gray day.

I wish for strokes of black ink to burst with color and life where there is darkness. My words are my sutures; this is how I am called to heal. To give. To serve.

The colors of Iceland have still not left me. When I blink, I see them all before me. I think they have much left to teach me. I wish to return that I might drink them all in again, and fall color-drunk once more, and learn to better make my words into a vivid, kaleidoscopic medley of prose, to spite the gray.