Where Nature Rules

By Miranda Metheny

Iceland is nature painted in large brush strokes.

Purple-grey mountains, black sand beaches, moon-like lava fields, wide silver streams, green pastures and rolling red hills, glaciers and lagoons of pale, milky blue.

It’s easy to lose yourself in those expanses, when the hours pass by on the Ring Road with the alien-shapes of lava half hidden in mist, when the horizon recedes to hide behind ridges bright as raw pigment, when the memories linger like so much feather-fine ash.

The sounds are the sounds of a broken TV set. Silence. The quiet roar of wind, of waves, a far-off waterfall or a lone car’s engine echoing through a valley. The trembling explosion of the geyser eruptions. Silence. And, in the silence, the deep imagined hum of so much ice, so much rock, so much heavy mass suspended over a great and horrible heat and strength.

You almost forget — but you don’t forget. You bathe in thermal pools and eat bright cucumbers grown in greenhouse villages and nestle down into the grey-green moss that blankets the rough black lava, but you don’t forget.

What made this country — what gives it warmth and life — could destroy it, and more besides.

When the volcano Laki erupted in 1783, it caused droughts in Egypt and India, froze the Mississippi River in New Orleans, and killed more than six million people in the “Year Without a Summer.”

But for now, things are peaceful. Air-travel delays are the worst disaster they’ve seen for a while. Seabirds swoop in and out of the majestic sea-cliffs, new lambs and foals stumble through green fields and sweet-smelling purple lupine, and the ominous hum of the adolescent earth is lost in the intense, vibrant nightlife of Reykjavik…

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