12. October, 2016
All night the Storm Giants assault the city. Winds prowl around the guesthouse, ramming the foundations until the building shudders from cellar to eaves. Banshee-winds wail louder than my dreams, clawing at my window until the pane chatters in its frame. And all the while, rain beats down. Shaken from the safety of Dream, I listen to the rain, watery war drums laying the grim rhythm of this celestial battle.
The storm’s siege forces retreat under cover of darkness, ceding the city to a bruised and weeping Dawn. This timid twilight will linger through the day, until all too soon, Night’s swarthy forces will swarm back over the horizon, frightening the tarnished light into hiding.
We leave the city and venture into the lava fields. ‘Iceland is a very young island,’ our tour guide Eyrun explains, while the windshield-wipers keep time with the rain. Young and savage, capricious and tricksome: the island could erupt at any moment. Her veins boil with sulfurous vengeance and her rage steams from the geysers. Her tantrums rumble the earth, tickling the Richter Scale daily.
We stop at a small fishing village for lunch. While the others pour into the wood-paneled restaurant, I plunge into the rain. With troll-winds charging from every side, I stumble down to the shore. A swarm of gulls eddies over the shallows, spiraling up like the pale ashes of a doused blaze. The horizon is smoky with a smothering of fog, and under my feet the sand shifts, black as char. I stand witness to the remains of a secret cremation: the pyre on its longship has already sunk into the sea’s deep memory, and now the threadbare soul takes wing, fluttering up through the feathered ashes and indolent smoke. A battle axe’s loyal husband or an ice-eyed shield maiden burned here. As the pyre gloated with the last reds and golds of autumn, color died with the unnamed warrior, leaving the beach winter-wan.
However, back on the headlands, color still shelters under the eaves of fishermen’s gemstone cottages. The streets are deserted, but once we return to the road winding through the lava fields, I see the first of the Watchers. From ridges of volcanic rock, broad-shouldered silhouettes gaze out to sea. With skull-sized stones for heads and boulders for bodies, these cairns stand unmussed by the rampaging winds. They watch heavily bundled sheep graze the lava-crusted tundra, stone Watchmen of forgotten shores.
The lava fields split the earth like third degree burns, skin peeling back, crackling and black. Moss crusts the stone, green as septic pus. Where the North American tectonic plate shoulders up against the Eurasian, a grimacing trench gapes from the earth, fanged with jagged black lava rock.
As we head south, the island’s geological character grows more vicious. Black cliffs serrate the coastline, gnashing amongst the waves. Out on the cliffs, air turns to water and water to air. Dripping winds drench me in mouthfuls of rain and seawater. I taste salty Iceland on my lips. In the cove below, the wind claws at the waves, stretching them into ivory spires and pearl towers that collapse in fountains of spume. I walk along the headland, through this liminal realm between water and air, this aquaerial betweenland, this enchanted sphere of salt rains and castles of spray.