Many of us move around life carrying all sorts of abandoned hopes, relationships, and projects. If we don’t make peace with them they can weigh heavy on our minds. Especially with the regret and guilt that comes from aspects of our lives that are left hanging in the past with a draining sense of incompleteness.
But what if we could go back to some of these abandoned “villages” and make peace with them?
Sigur Rós and The Abandoned Fishing Village
In 2006 the band, Sigur Rós stopped off in a village called Djúpavik as part of their homecoming tour. Djúpavik is a village in northwest Iceland. In 1917 it became home to a herring salting factory. However, after a decline in demand, the site was abandoned in the 1920s.
In the 1930s it was given new life, producing herring oil as the first fully automated fish factory in Europe. But herring stocks declined towards the end of the 1940s with some years yielding no catches. And despite attempts to keep going by diversifying beyond herring, the factory was forced to close in 1954.
According to Wikipedia, “as of 2010, Djúpavík had two year-round residents and three Summer residents”.
In the film that documents their journey around Iceland (Heima), Sigur Rós play in one of the empty herring oil tanks.
The performance is haunting, beautiful, and transcendent (oozing with bittersweet melancholy). Sigur Rós capture what they talk about as breathing a moment of life back into this once thriving, but now deserted place. The music seems like permission to look again at what has been left to rot.
And to ask a new question…
What might now be possible here?
Making Peace With Our Past
Whenever I watch the film I feel some questions stirring in my soul.
What might I need to make peace with? Which of my own abandoned villages weigh me down because I feel guilty for not preserving the unpreservable?
What might making peace look like? How can I let go and allow this part of my life to become something new rather than something that stagnates and potentially rots me from the inside?
Where might we find abandoned villages in and around our lives?
There are clues everywhere. People who we haven’t seen for ages, with whom we perhaps once had a thriving relationship—hobbies we once loved. Dreams we once carried about the future we wanted to create. And beliefs we once held about the world and what mattered most to us.
Abandoning Things That Matter(ed)
We abandon some things gradually as we drift into a different season of life. This is of course a completely normal and natural thing.
Or there might be an abrupt shift in circumstances when we abandon things suddenly.
The abandonment can creep up. It can happen in a big unexpected storm.
We might even find ourselves left in the village trying to keep the old magic alive when the fish stocks have run out.
In an episode of the TV show, Inside No 9 (Merrily, Merrily), one of the characters cannot move on from his university glory days. He is stuck there and has been unable to match the joy and purpose that he remembers having back then.
Breathing New Life into Cherished Space
We could leave the abandoned parts of our lives to stagnate quietly and rot with guilt, regret, and nostalgia. Or we can go back and make peace with them by intentionally deciding how we want to repurpose and integrate those experiences and memories into our life today.
Sigur Ros didn’t go to Djúpavik in order to rebuild the fish processing machinery and get the factory going again. It wasn’t even an appropriate building for that anymore. They didn’t try bringing back the old days in that space. They found something new there. Within the ruins. And they brought something else into that space. A gentle gift of art and life.
We don’t have to rekindle old relationships, get back into past hobbies, or commit to the dreams we had as children. Making peace with our abandoned villages is about honouring those stories, allowing them to teach us something about ourselves, and asking what we want to do with them.
Making Peace With Ourselves
Maybe it IS time to reconnect with something from the past. It won’t be the same as it was and that is a good thing. It will be new and fresh for this moment instead. You get to choose what and how you build what comes next on this important site.
Or maybe it is time to finally let go. To allow that thing to rest in peace. It’s time to release yourself from the guilt that keeps telling you, “you really should get back in touch with…” whatever or whoever it is that you’ve been carrying all these years.
What if you didn’t need to get back in touch with it? What if you could simply allow it to live on as a story, a memory, and something that brought joy to life for a while?
Maybe now is time to allow yourself to simply surrender and grieve however you need to.
Once that happens new life is free to start growing on that site of freedom and peace.
No matter how much we might want to go back there, there is no returning to the past. But we CAN go back to those places. And we can choose to recognise the truth that from this ground it is always an option to plant, grow, build, create, nurture, and allow the possibilities for something new.