October 04, 2016
How can a mountain bring you to tears? How can a waterfall bring you to your knees? How can soft, dry moss invite you to curl up into it? How can flowers melt your body down onto the ground, dissolving all your resistance, and bring you into another world?
How can rivers wake up something inside you that you didn't know existed, yet still cannot put a finger on, or find words for? How can the impulsive gurgling of steam and boiling water bubbling up from the middle of the Earth sound like a lullaby? How can sheep dotting the landscape be a deep and nourishing comfort?
How can a desolate, barren landscape in the highlands, where sheep can no longer be found, crack something open inside you, and open a door to another realm ... where you're not sure where you end and the landscape begins ... if you are seeing or being seen ... if the experience is inside or outside of you ... if the landscape is infusing you with its energy or simply stripping away everything else, so you can finally experience yourself in full form? Or a merging and melding of it all into an essence all its own.
We met only a handful of people on the trip—we joked that it's the introvert's dream trip.
First it was the couple in the hot springs in Laugar in northwest Iceland. A doey-eyed, young man from Germany + a confident, yet quiet woman from Finland—totally, deeply, madly in love, their energy swimming + swelling + bubbling like the water. Our energy matched theirs in nose dives, riding waves of exhilaration and euphoria in a mini explosion of joy rippling out over the grass and wild purple pansy flowers. The hot springs bubbled sheer emotion in the super-charged silence and the electricity of the moment.
Then we met Lia and Evan Lebrant in the Grettislaug hot springs next to the sea in northern Iceland.
It was cold, windy and drizzly, with a blanket of fog tucking in the mountains. We braved the chill, stripping down to our bathing suits and goose-bumped skin. We dipped our toes in, and then the full body rush of warmth as the water swirled around our bodies. Lia and Evan had also come from the states, diving into an epic sibling road trip.
They had been in Iceland more days than us at that point; they shared highlights and their favorite spots with us. Evan warned us about certain F-roads, and having to ford rivers—at one point the front of their 4x4 was totally submerged in water as they crossed a river. Lia told us about Aldeyjarfoss, a beautiful waterfall off the beaten track. A simple, yet lovely interaction; we followed the rest of their journey on Evan's Instagram page, who we found out is a #BotanyBoy, PhD in molecular biology and fellow plant lover.
In the Highlands, we met a woman serving up Skyr, warmth and smiles in the middle of nowhere. She was from Reykjavik, but came to work at this hub of hikers, cross-country bikers + 4x4 travelers. With her long blond hair & infinite warmth, she spread joy to all the travelers who came in cold, wet and wind-blown.
After marveling at the bubbling mud and boiling hot pots of Hveravellir and soaking in the hot springs there, we jumped on the road again, coming across three South Americans on bicycles. We passed by them slowly, cheering them on under the gray sky and cold wind; smiles spread across on their faces. We pulled over and Lisa handed them each a piece of chocolate. They were from Chile and Columbia, and the looks on their faces reflected their experience and all they'd seen.
We didn't stop long enough to get their names, but their discipline + determination, pedaling over pothole ridden gravel roads through the stark, extreme landscapes was indescribably inspiring. They had 8 km left to go that day, before they would set up their tent on the windy, rocky plains. Who knows how many more days on their journey, who they were, or what their lives were like, but in that brief moment of interaction, they impressed on us their resolve and I imagine they felt sunshine from our love and chocolate.
In Southern Iceland, we stood at the foot of the biggest of all geysers, the one every other "geyser" is named after.
It was almost midnight, the endless pink sunset was brewing and all the photographers were poised at one end of the Geysir, waiting for it to erupt, cameras ready for clicking. One man turned to me and showed me the photo on his camera & we struck up a conversation in German. His name was Helmut Moik, from Gratz, Austria. He'd been to Iceland several times, this time was his fourth, and he explained each of the previous trips he'd taken and what was most special about them.
He looked deep into my eyes, took hold of some part of me on the inside, and explained in his soft Austrian German ... "February, and the snow was like ..." he searched for words to describe it, "... the snow covered everything in sugar, it sugared everything in crystals and light. In May, it was the birds ... millions of birds were in flight everywhere. And July, the blue glaciers floating in the arctic water ..."
As he talked, he imprinted into me the way that Iceland had touched him in places, in a way that was penetratingly palpable and transmitted though a quiet, yet intense energy and a handful of carefully-selected words. He humbly shared that he was an award-winning photographer and that his work had been featured in National Geographic. He told us about one experience when he'd been ten feet away from gigantic polar bears in Canada ... mama polar bears with their frolicking cubs and four-meter tall papa bears sprawled on the snow, with no ounce of aggression, despite their proximity.
I can also still remember the exhilarated laughter of the Polish guy who discovered us soaking in a secret hot springs we'd discovered that only locals knew about; where we collected the Self Heal flower essence. He returned with his girlfriend and their tent to set up for the night and have their own private hot springs. As he got into the hot pools, he laughed uncontrollably in a surprising bliss we knew all too well.
Nothing but smiles in this beautiful place. Soaking in as much clarity + wisdom from Earth's natural wonders as we can!
We figured out that the sun doesn't set at all in northern Iceland! The sunset below was just after midnight ... and the sky stayed like this for about 3 hours (!); We weren't sure when the sunset transformed into sunrise ~ it was all the same ~ a magical display of colors across the sky all night long.
The beauty in Iceland is unsurpassed—the landscapes untouched & in most places, not another human in sight.
After driving 1058 km, getting 5 pairs of boots wet, eating 4 lbs of cheese, 20 containers of skyr, and 3 pieces of dried fish between the 3 of us, soaking in 5 hot spring, gawking over a steady stream of trickling waterfalls, sleeping in 4 Airbnbs, feeding 4 baby lambs with a bottle, laughing over 1 trampoline session, transversing 3 long, cross-country gravel roads with daily bouts of thick fog, hopping around 8 steam vents, gasping over 6 boiling mud pots, loving on 46 different types of wildflowers, and gazing into 3 enormous waterfalls ... we (finally!) spotted wild orchids at this very powerful waterfall & precious place ... & made flower essences so we can share the magic of Iceland with the world!
Northern Green Orchid, one of the incredible orchids we found at the base of a special waterfall. Totally otherworldly, they are so small—and the perfect green that blends in—that most people don't even see them.
As a flower elixir, this orchid is mind-blowing. The effects of this orchid are difficult to describe in words. Words seem to small to express the experience.
A gorgeous patch of almost fluorescent green moss in the middle of vast craggy, rocky landscapes. Out here, there are no people (except hikers) nor sheep. The ground is black and there are silent glaciers hugging the largest mountain off in the distance.
We stopped to look at this patch of moss and it was like none we've ever seen before. It held water droplets in perfect spheres, either on top or within its body in little pockets. We scooped up some of the water & tasted it—delicious. The water was glimmering in the moss all day, soaking up light from the sun—the ultimate nature-made moss essence. We made offerings to the nature spirits & collected some of the moss essence.
My best friend Lisa, of Wei of Chocolate, in the mossy lava fields where the Earth is cracked open by steam vents, where it billows out in a warm cloud.
Near Lake Myvatn, we stayed at a farm for one night, one of the top-rated farms in Iceland. A small farm with 20 cows, some sheep and horses, we chatted with Helga "Helicka", who had come from the second largest city in Iceland, Akureyri (18,000 pop), to escape the "traffic and stress of the big city" to work on the farm. She was about sixteen years old, skinny, with blond hair, blue eyes and glasses.
Among her main jobs, she looked after the foreigners staying at the farm (like us), and she fed the baby cows and lambs several times each day. She invited us on the evening rounds with her. I fed a lamb sheep's milk out of a bottle and reached my hand over to pet the calves, as they suckled my fingertips. One mother cow grabbed my attention by taking hold of my down jacket with her mouth and giving it a tug.
Green is a color so well understood and expressed in Iceland. We came across a store that had a huge section of yarns ... and by far the green section was the most expansive, with vibrant mossy green to dark forest green to heathered gray-green to fluorescent lichen and chartreuse—all varieties of green with varying degrees of yellow + gray + blue hues mixed in—just as you see in the million different beautiful landscapes across the country.
And, for all the magic that happened in-between, we combined all of our Snapchat Stories (10 days worth) into one video! ;)
We collected many powerful flower + plant essences on our trip.