Skip to main content

Iceland Report Part II: The Hidden Things

The terrain in Iceland was like nothing I'd ever experienced before.  It truly feels like the ground is still forming in places (and it actually is: along the Mid-Atlantic Ridge for instance, the ground is moving apart and together by incremental but significant proportions every year).  I encountered dark, porous lava rock, snow-covered mountains, icy ponds, white-blue mineral rich hot pools, the glassy Atlantic ocean, a giant crevasse-like waterfall.  There are some trees in Reykjavik, but not many outside of it.  After scanning many long views of landscapes, it's hard to put your finger on what feels like is missing, and then you remember trees.  The trees you are so used to seeing are missing.  

The very first thing I did upon venturing away from the airport when I arrived was to head to the Blue Lagoon.  My inherent suspicion of all things touristic created mid- to low-expectations for the place.  I arrived on the morning of my birthday, I couldn't check into my hotel until later in the day, so the Blue Lagoon provided a place to kill some time.  I was sure that the photos I'd seen on their website were doctored, or that it would feel small.  HOLY MOLY was I dissuaded of that idea.




As soon as I stepped in I felt like I was visiting another planet.  The steam enshrouds you, creating a mystery of how far the perimeter extends.  Surrounding the lagoon is the beautiful black lava rock with enchanting crooks and angles.  It is hushed but for the squeals of people emerging from the warm building but not yet in the hot water.  There is silica mud you can slather on, as well as a lagoon bar with fresh carrot juice and beer (that part seemed weird, but it was my birthday, so I got myself a refreshing juice.  It added to the surreal).

That experience set the stage for just how transportive the view was in Iceland.  I hadn't even realized my imagination was so starved for such sights, but it was.  It reminded me of childhood fairy tales by George MacDonald or Hans Christian Anderson, but more so.  It seemed unreal while being entirely real.

There is a deeply held belief and value for the hidden people, or huldufólk there.  Sometimes these are explained as if they were children, maybe 10 years of age, that inhabit the land.  Sometimes it's as if they can be spied in the crevasses and cricks of the rocky hills.  And they exert a real force on the outside world, thwarting construction projects.  As one of the tour guides I encountered explained, "Half of the people in Iceland truly believe in them.  The other half may not believe but would never make fun of this belief.  As for me, I do believe that there is more going on that we can see with our eyes.  And that is all I will say about that."  This idea of there being more that just what we perceive resonated deeply with me.

And then I got to see the Northern Lights.  I don't have a single picture (I used my iPhone for all photographs, and while it's great for many things, it is no good at capturing things in the dark that require any kind of fancy shutter speed).  But I knew I wouldn't be able to get one, so I was completely transported by simply watching them for the better part of two hours.  I took a small boat tour out of the harbor of Reykjavik away from the city lights, and though I don't think I've ever been so seasick (never again will I accept the offer of complimentary cookies before a boat ride), I've also never been so in awe of the sky.  It was amazing.  What no picture I've ever seen of them described to me is that they dance.  They arched overhead like a night rainbow and danced with the wind.  Green-white light spiking and flowing and disappearing then reappearing.  Sometimes glowing over here, sometimes over there, you couldn't actually see it all happening at once, it encompassed such a large part of the sky.  The guide explained that these are always happening within certain latitudes, we just can't usually see them because of the weather conditions (it has to be cold and clear) or the light (naturally, from the moon, or unnaturally from the city).  So it can be hidden from view, but that doesn't mean they are not dancing out there.  How beautiful.

Throughout my trip this idea of more going on than what we see enriched my experience and stirred my imagination.  It reminded me even of what I love about writing, or reading: being able to articulate or see something that is not usually observed.  And even just about life; that we are connected to things we often don't even think about.  I'm not sure I can embrace a belief in the hidden people, but I can't tell you how comforting it is to me that Iceland can.  It makes all kinds of things feel possible.  

The next post will be about reading in Iceland.  Until then, enjoy some more Icelandic beauty:

Are those hidden people in those shadows?

Outside the Blue Lagoon: this sky is what 10am looks like


snowy branches

Fontana Steam Baths

A not-great shot of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge

Near Geysir: where all other geysers derive their name

Geysir, about to blow
             

Comments

  1. Thank you, Christin, for reminding me of my own Icelandic adventure a few years back! Truly, it's one of the most magical places on earth! Glad you had an amazing time. :-)

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

For Mom, Twenty-One Years Later

I lost my mom twenty-one years ago today. She died from complications related to a long battle with chronic-progressive multiple sclerosis. I was a week away from turning twenty-one. Which means I have not had her as long as I did have her.
It used to make me unique among my friends, to have lost a parent at such a young age. But I’m no longer young and many friends have joined this depressing club. The dues are astronomical and no one prepares refreshments.
People, moms are important. Don’t let anyone tell you differently. Whether you were once a child or are currently a mom. They are the sun, moon, and stars, even when they are completely obscured by darkness.
I wish she mattered less. She doesn’t. She matters more than almost anything: that first hit of love, that childhood sense of safety, that initial understanding of what it means to be a woman in the world: mom.



Memory is funny when it comes to dead people: I can remember her any way I want. Which means I can also mis-remem…

The 2018 Iceland Report: Part Last

The exciting (or at least the inevitable) conclusion of Part One and Part Two of Icelandic awesomeness....


Day Six: Ekra Cottage/ Lagarfljótsvirkjun to Höfn
This day was all about epic scenery. Kilometer after kilometer of stunning beauty. The ever-shifting sweeping views afforded us herds of wild reindeer, giant snowy fjords, a mossy valley, snow blowing across the road like dry ice, lava rock, waterfalls. It was a total feast.













Our halfway point was Djúpivogur which houses a collection of giant roadside marble eggs, each one fashioned after a particular type of bird's egg.



We arrived in Höfn and checked out the harbor and the free museum (a welcome respite from the windy harbor) before checking into our guesthouse. Which we had all to ourselves. We made one last meal of fusilli and bell pepper (fusilli meal #4 for the trip for those keeping track - I'll be taking a good long break from fusilli now) and read. I found a left-behind copy of The Silence of the Sea by Yrsa Sigurðar…

The Quarterly Reading Report

It's been waaaaaay too long since I posted a Quarterly Reading Report. I'm about to amend that situation. I have lucked on some pretty spectacular reading in 2018 so far--some recent publications but most not--and I'd be a bad friend if I didn't share these titles with you.

In the excellent crime detective/thriller department, we have Yrsa Sigurðardóttir's THE SILENCE OF THE SEA, which I've already posted about. It was the perfect book for atmospheric Iceland. I also loved Tana French's THE TRESPASSER. Set in Dublin, Ireland (I think 80% of what I love best about a crime detective/thriller is that it is placed in an incredibly interesting setting), the protagonist is a difficult (and therefore interesting) woman in a man's world working the hardest case of her life. The writing is super in this engrossing page-turner.

I got to fill in some sad gaps in my consumption of books written in the 80s and 90s and early Oughts. Also a thriller, Peter Hoeg's