. . .
in Icelandic elements
. . .
Once, while meditating amongst the spiky sculptures of a lava field, I had a vision of the Earth embodied. The fires and steams and sulfurous pools surrounding me were the outward signs of her inner workings - akin to our own digestive fires - a constant source of fuel and warmth.
Inside the tiny, turf-walled church of Nupsstadur the air smelled like old wood, incense and musty corners. It was warm. Close. The ceiling brushing my head. It was dark in there, but for the piercing light of one window. I sat on an old bench, sang a song of loving presences, feeling deeply moved by the atmosphere. I could feel the Earth wrapped around me, grass creeping up the walls outside; it was a comforting feeling, like a deep hug.
We spent one night on a mountainside, camped above a town of twenty houses. The darkness and the cold rain pushed us into our tent at around 7pm.
During the night the rain came down so hard it pierced the tent walls, came under the flaps and drenched our every belonging.
I don't think my clothes were ever fully dry anyway.
. . .
At other times, water was a soother, a soft voice in my ear. A memory comes back to me: of a calm morning. We had stripped in the half light, in a field just outside of the town of Djúpivogur. My feet were first burnt by the frozen grass, then doubly by the waters of the hot pool we had found - just a small tub overflowing with spring waters. It was Oliver's birthday that day. We watched the sun form a disc over the flat lands, its half light illuminating each hillock till finally the sky was swathed in a blaze of purple. It was a slow sunrise, and we spoke very little, just content to watch. I had to sit on the ledge of the pool at intervals, allowing the morning air to draw the heat from my body, turning rivulets to small clouds, till I sank back in to the waters, letting them hold me a little, lull me, even.
Imagine a landscape singed by a wind so fierce, it would blow the very hopes out of even the toughest tree-seed.
All plants in the area were low-lying: close cropped bilberry bushes and stunted grasses that, together with the rolling hills, made the whole land look like a scene from some crater-ous planet.
We were walking the lonely stretch between Jökulsárlón and Breidárlón - a 20km return journey during which we saw no other person. There were seals, though, popping out of the water in ones and twos to watch us pass.
Over the hill now, and a little to the right, and the wind that had been tugging at our backpack covers suddenly kicked up into such a gale it very nearly ripped them from our packs. All the airs of the world, it seemed, were being funneled through some small gap in the hills, then rushing on they passed shrieking over the glacier and into the bare highlands. We took it in turns to stand leaning into the gale - perpetually falling and being driven back upright.
. . .
Nights at Jökulsárlón lagoon were quite different. We lived beside this ever-changing puzzle of glacier pieces for 5 days. Living in the tiny car afforded us some the best views in the land, and I was always watching.
Now sunny, and the ice turns blue, and sends forth bouncing rays of light that catch in my eyelashes.
Now foggy, the hordes of daytrippers disappear, disappointed, leaving only a few inquisitive folks (and us) to solve the mysteries of the icebergs in the mist. These were my preferred moments. A stillness crept over all things, and the stones a small boy threw into the mirror-waters made a deep plunking noise. There was no wind, but the air seemed heavy.
In the night I could hear the icebergs creaking and cracking, and the sky would always break out into a billion stars and the faint glints of the Aurora would begin. Each night these skydancers would greet us - shining in at the windows, brighter than any moon, drawing me out like a moth to gaze at them under a naked sky till it was too cold to bear it. Sometimes the Aurora's lights seemed to move above the clouds, one time they were so close overhead I could have reached out a little and grabbed at the tail end. But I would not have grasped at any substantial part of them; they seem to be made of air, and yet not air; light, but only its distant relation - beaming forth from an unseen realm. They are the spirits of the sky.