Attention All Passengers: Forget Iceland, We’ve Left the Solar System
My first thought, forehead pressed against the window of the plane, was that we hadn’t left only the United States, but Earth entirely. The vista outside was so far beyond my scope of reference of sun and sand and palm trees, I had trouble processing the images. What I had taken for a sea of icy water was actually snow, whipped and teased by the wind into a pattern of hills and dales that resembled nothing so much as waves. The pre-dawn sky was a peculiar shade of blue, so distinct that I was reminded of stories I’d read about the Virgin’s robe, an indescribable shade of lapis that was dark and yet simultaneously vivid, as if a wall of light was illuminating the color from behind.
This impression of having crash-landed on some strange planet was only exacerbated at the Blue Lagoon. Steam vapors billowed across the milky-blue water, at times so heavy they obscured both the other visitors moving slowly in search of scalding hot spots and the snow-capped mountains in the distance, transforming definite figures into vague, unintelligible shapes. Clouds in shades of white and grey tumbled across the sky; while there were not enough to obstruct the sun completely, they transformed my familiar bright star into an eerie, glowing circle, and its rays into a somewhat unsettling yellow light. Foreboding black lava rocks surrounded the lagoon, dusted with snow. The discreet “stay off” signs were, in my opinion, completely superfluous, as no rocks had ever looked less inviting to potential climbers.
It was beautiful, but a strange and terrible beauty, one I had to keep looking at to make sure it was real and wouldn’t disappear in between the blinks of an eye. While the temperature was enough to make you catch your breath, what overwhelmed me was the sheer power of the landscape. The chill in the air as I periodically emerged to collect and then return my camera to its tote bag gathered on my skin, a blanket of cold wrapped around me like a cocoon as I walked across the wooden bridges and platforms. But at each first touch of the silky water, the blanket would start to disintegrate, and by the time my shoulders were submerged, I felt nothing but warmth.