We left her at the airport the day after the apples in our favorite orchard were ready to be picked. Two days later, the peaches on our tree would begin to yield to our tug. Before she left, I was already starting a tally of what she would miss. Or maybe, If I am honest, it was more about what I would miss.
My daughter, who arrived in this world with eyes wide open and determined to take in fully the life laid out before her, was more ready to leave than I was to let her go. Even if it meant flying over the ocean to begin college in a city that she had only visited for one rather hectic day eight years ago. It was not the drop-off I would created if I could create it for us, but it was fitting for the way my daughter has chosen to take on this life she has been given. My winged girl always knowing how to soar, even when it was a struggle for me to release her.
I spent half of yesterday, three days after her departure, cleaning her room. The house was quiet. My husband at work, my son at school, only the pets to keep complete solitude at bay. It took me the better part of the morning. I went through two handfuls of rags and filled the washer three times to release the dust of more than a dozen years from the blankets and forgotten garments wedged underneath and on the side of her bed. Okay, maybe it wasn’t that bad, but nearly.
I took my time placing the gray flannel sheets with snowflakes on her bed. Pulling the edges tight around a mattress that would not be slept in before December. I nearly forgot about summer as I piled on her holiday pillows and folded the colors of Christmas at the foot of her bed. Before she left, my daughter asked if I would go through her binders and folders from her last year of high school, but I told her I would do more than that. Instead of leaving her room untouched, just how she would have kept it had she been home to use it, I knew I needed to clean it. The release had to be as full and complete as I could make it.
I didn’t want her to feel held back. Even from 3,000 miles away. Even from London, I knew she would feel my tug. So I cleaned and tried to think about how much she would appreciate coming home to order free of dust. To having her closet and shelves sorted, and her desk and bureau free of clutter. Her bed made with clean sheets meant to keep in the warmth.
Despite the calendar reminding me that we still had nearly three weeks of summer left, I tugged the air conditioner out of her window, and swiped the dust cloth across its surface before I tucked it into the newly vacuumed corner of her closet. I noticed the gray film on the window frames, grabbed a clean cloth and the glass cleaner to wipe them clear.
It was nearly noon by the time I untied the sashes from her curtains and pulled them to the center of her closet. To keep the dust out I told myself, but all I could see was a closed space. I lowered her windows by a couple of inches, left their shades up to keep the light in, then left my daughter’s door wide open as I exited her space. To keep the air fresh, I told myself.
During the night I woke often, as has become my habit this summer, to peer through the crack of my bedroom door to look for the light in her room. I didn’t see it until morning, when I knew it was time to get up and greet the day in whatever form it presented to me. I walked passed by daughter’s room and the door that had not been closed during the night, with a new load of laundry in my hands trying not to think about how different the lines of clothes would look outside drying in the sun.
If you could dream anything into being what would it be? We all harbor secret longings and aspirations. There’s that needling, persistent urge inside of each of us that won’t let us go. Or maybe you have followed that needling and somehow brought your dream into reality. Whatever the story might be, I’d love to hear about it. Share it in the comments, send me it as a guest post, whatever pulls your heart toward joy…I’d love to hear about it. Let’s share those secret, or not so secret, longings that sometimes keep us up at night with all their wonderful “what ifs.”
My secret longings have changed over the years, but there have been some constants. There has always been a pull inside of me to help bring more beauty into the world to erase some of the darkness… These days there’s a nagging dream that follows me while I walk in the woods. It seeps into my dreams and shows me the full beauty of its wonderment. I don’t know if it will ever be realized, but maybe, just maybe someday I will see it transform into the daylight. When I envision it, it makes my heart sing. Isn’t that what all dreams without the nightmare are meant to do?
I’m sharing my dream with you in the hopes that you will share yours too. That perhaps it will spark a light that grows a little stronger as we find the courage to find a home for each of our secret longings.
Here is the “dream” that fills me with the Wild Wonder of What-If:
Imagine a place, if you will, where people can go to find their own wild wonder. Where we are moved to step outside the confines of structure and conformity to find that home inside the heart where we realize we are a part of everything that surrounds us. It is a place where nature runs wild and free and where we are reminded of home. That we are not separated from, but a part of the whole, and the natural world that surrounds us.
In my dream there are “centers” where people can explore wild wonder and what it means to them. They are places where the inner child opens to joy and finds home inside the self and all that surrounds it. Perhaps that center offers classes and workshops, or maybe it is simply a gateway to nature. The only rules are kindness and compassion. Both for the self, and for our surroundings.
It is perhaps a movement, more than a place. A reconnection to our roots. The knowing that we are not just of the Earth and all that exists, but a part of it.
Because I’m writing a middle grade book series that very much centers around this concept, my dream includes the heroes of my books and their passions. At the centers I envision:
Sula’s Library of Wonderful Reads
Aponi’s Field of Pollinator Delights
Shesha’s Meditation & Mindfulness Maze
Lupe’s Local Eats Organic Cafe
Dell’s Fantastic Fairy Gardens & Pools
Ari’s Adventure Walks in the Woods
And so much more…
It’s fun to dream about what we want to create, but creating can be a challenge. I am trying to bring my vision forth in steps. Writing the book series is one of them. My husband and I talk about where we might live someday when our kids are out of college, and I can envision the first center perhaps beginning at that place. After all, my ideas for the centers arose out of a walk I took with him on the 4th of July. Somehow we landed at a place that perfectly suited this vision. It had, already, all the foundations of the elements I saw in the vision. The property, though, was not for sale. That’s okay, we’re not ready to move.
After leaving the Seltun Geothermal Field, we headed up the road to visit the Fagradalsfjall’s 2021 Eruption site. Had we know we would have had more time to spare, we would likely have made our trip into more of a hike. Instead, we parked at the lot below the volcano’s base, scanned the QR code to pay, and headed out to explore the still-steaming lava field.
Even at the base of the lava field, the landscape is unstable and there are signs warning visitors not to step on the lava least they fall through or get burned. You can see areas where the surface has caved in and there are still mini steam vents.
It’s worth a trip to the site of the eruption if you are exploring the peninsula. According to the travel guides, it’s at least a 45 minute hike to get a good view of the volcano, but clearly you could spend a good half-day here as there are tours offering 5-hour excursions. We didn’t want to sacrifice too much time, so we spent about a half-hour walking around its base and then followed the dragon line to the ocean.
The coast along the peninsula is perhaps not as stunning as the more famous areas along the South Coast, but still quite beautiful. Please click through the slide show to see some of the views we experienced during our stop.
It was rather blustery and chilly during out visit to see the ocean, but we did spend some time walking around and taking it the splendor of the rugged rocks where seabirds make their nests, and watched the wave’s relentless massage of the land.
We knew the Viking World Museum would be closing soon after we finished our visit at the coast, so we made it our last stop before we turned in our car. We timed it just in time for a tour-bus, though. Because of this, we spent just as much time outside the museum as we did inside, but building sits nearby the harbor, offering beautiful views.
The museum itself is not large, most of its space is taken up by the viking ship, which is its main attraction. A half-hour is sufficient to walk through it, more time is worthwhile if you are a viking fan and want to read more about the history of the culture and the artifacts that are housed in the museum. There are some turf houses outside the museum, but their doors are locked. Only about a mile from the airport, the Viking World Museum is a logical stop before you depart from the Land of Fire and Ice. As it was, we had ample time to spare, and found ourselves wishing we had perhaps spent a little more time at the volcano.
Since we had a late flight home, my husband and I decided to make the most out of our last day in Iceland by driving around the Reykjanes Peninsula, where Keflavik Airport is located. The drive is lovely, with the exception of the sulfur smell that pervades the air as you drive. At times it can be quite over-whelming. The peninsula is filled with geothermal activity and hosts the famous Blue Lagoon, the geothermal wastewater container turned major tourist attraction/spa.
We opted not to join the throngs of tourists at this man-made wonder, and instead we made our way south down Rt 42 from Reykjavik. It’s not a large peninsula, and it doesn’t take long to reach the first stop worth pulling over, Kleifarvatn Lake.
The lake is stunning, and well-worth pulling over to take in its beauty, and capture a few memories in photographs. Although there is no formal road leading down to the water, there are cars that ignore the signs and drive down to the water’s edge. We pulled over with other tourists in one of the lots over-looking the lake to take our photos and selfie.
Although our stay beside the lake was brief, we were glad we did not miss the splendor of this gem inside the peninsula.
After taking photographs from different angles to capture the lake’s beauty, we headed back down Rt 42 towards the Seltún geothermal field.
The smell of sulfur greets you before you pull up to the parking lot at the Seltún Geothermal Field. The odor of the landscape, along with its colors and textures, gives you the feel that you are somewhere other than Earth.
To be quite honest, I found the area difficult to navigate, not due to the terrain, but because of the over-whelming odor of sulfur. If you are sensitive to the smell, you may want to consider wearing a mask. I found myself covering my nose with the sleeve of my coat as we walked through the smelliest areas. Aside from the odor, though, the area is quite intriguing and, in some ways, beautiful with its steaming pewter-colored steams meandering through red sands.
We followed the paths along the main area of the field up into the hillside, where you you can see some more geothermal vents as well as gorgeous views of the surrounding area. Click through for a glimpse of the rest of our visit to Seltún.
Do take care if you walk up the hillside. The terrain can be quite slippery and steep. We had plenty of its red clay stuck to our shoes afterwards, and saw some visitors cleaning it off theirs in the cool stream that descends from its summit. We opted to clap ours off as best we could before we got back into our car and headed towards our next stop, a still-steaming volcano…
As we departed from the glacier, we debated the time, which was now approaching 6pm, took in the low-hanging clouds, and weighed our reserves of energy. Deciding it was not worth the further drive south to see a misty and very overcast black sand beach, we headed back towards our home base. We had two more stops we wanted to make along the way back, and those were to visit the homes in the hillsides we had seen during our drive south.
Two sites along our route featured signs that welcomed visitors, Drangurinn and Rútshellir. I believe both are on private land, and there are donation boxes near their entrances.
Many legends have risen from these mysterious dwellings, including stories of horrific murders, magical temples, and places where the hidden folk reside and might even be viewed. I did get a particular “feel” while visiting the Rútshellir cave, in particular, and even captured a mysterious green light while photographing it. But first here’s a glimpse of the Drangurinn dwellings that are accessible to tourists. They have been built-up with wooden structures over time, which are now mostly collapsing, but one can peek into some of their interiors and contemplate what it might have been like to live there.
As mentioned, I found the Rútshellir caves to be particularly intriguing. Visitors can walk into their interiors and get a real feel for the place. Apparently even the Nazis were intrigued by these caves, convinced they were once a sacred temple and held secrets they could possibly decode. Whatever they were used for over the years, the caves still hold an aura of mystery and intrigue. I like to think the hidden folks haunt these hills and find shelter in the caves. Hidden by most who peer into them, but not by all…
Did you see the green light in one of the photos? What do you think?
It was fitting to have the clouds linger over the landscape as we left Skogafoss and headed further down the south coast of Iceland to visit the Sólheimajökull glacier. Before you are able to get a good view of the glacier and its beauty, you are greeted with a small post indicating how much the glacier has melted in a short period of time. The glacier retreats the size of an olympic swimming pool each year. It is a sobering thought to say the least as one contemplates our intrusion on the land and how much we have altered the fate of all life on Earth.
I couldn’t help but think about how much our collective feet have pressed against time as I walked the landscape of black lava stone to get a glimpse of what remains of Sólheimajökull. I was yet another intruder from afar, here to selfishly take in the wild beauty of a land that is poignantly feeling the effects of climate change.
My attempts to capture a bit of the wild beauty of Sólheimajökull as a testament of all that could be lost without a concerted global effort to change our selfish ways, served to remind me of my own actions. Like many countries, Iceland is making concerted efforts to reduce and sequester carbon emissions. Although we did not have the option of renting an electric car when we reserved our very-efficient econobox, we were impressed with the number of electric vehicles we saw on the road, as well as how accessible it is to walk and bike in the more densely populated areas. And, although Iceland does not, by nature, have an abundance of trees, more and more are being planted to the government and individuals.
When we visit these fragile landscapes we can take in their beauty, but also their vulnerability. We can be reminded of our own impact, our collective impact, and contemplate the ways we can move towards further change to preserve and protect our planet and its landscape.
I couldn’t help but wonder about our future and what sort of landscape the next generations of children will be greeted with as I approached the glacier cap and began to take in its still mighty expanse and beauty.
The glacier is covered with volcanic dust, and sits atop an active volcano. The black dust against the blue ice enhances the melancholic feel of the place. As with all sites that welcome tourists in Iceland, one is advised to take caution and obey the signs. Glacier are a place to see changes in real-time, and as we approached the base of the Sólheimajökull we could see its drips of melting ice.
The feeling of reverence and guilt pervades your thoughts as you watch Sólheimajökull’s ice give way to water filling its lagoon.
Please click through the short slide show of additional photos to get some more glimpses of Sólheimajökull’s fragile beauty.
We departed the stunning Seljalandsfoss as the clouds began to roll in, and headed towards our next destination. Not too far up the road, is another one of Iceland’s famous waterfalls. This one is fed by the Skógá river, and is also visible from the highway. The distance, though, belies its impressive size and power.
In some ways I was a bit dismayed that the skies above us had clouded over and a light rain had begun to pour down. When I took in the landscape around Skógafoss, though, I realized the weather provided the perfect atmosphere for our meeting.
The land here is palpably alive. The hills animated with forms that make you wonder who is really in charge. Not-so-hidden guardians peer over the parking lot and watch the water as though cataloguing who belongs and who does not.
Reverence and respect are essential, as Skógafoss and its mighty Skógá river clearly wield the power.
Standing as near as you can get to the bottom of the falls, you will get a true sense of the power that is unleashed by the water, as well as a good spray.
The only way from there is up. Up a steep and rather tall hillside. Which can also be quite slippery. Do take care here if you visit and wear solid hiking shoes.
The force of the falls from above
If you have the time, walk a bit along the Skógá river. I can’t tell you how far to venture, as the possibilities seem almost limitless here. One can travel as far as some of Iceland’s glacier from here, but that would take a fair amount of time and preparedness. Fatigue and lack of a good night’s sleep dictated how far we traveled that day, but it was enough to get a feel of the magic of the landscape. Click through the slideshow to take in some of the wonders of the Skógá river.
We were also getting hungry. As we somewhat reluctantly turned around to make our way back down the steep and slippery hillside, our thoughts turned toward food. The Skógafoss Bistro Bar sits at the entrance to the parking lots, and offers a tasty array of foods for the hungry traveler, as well as wonderful views of the waterfall. We were more than sated after we left to embark upon our next adventure.
Although we didn’t hike to the glaciers behind Skógafoss, we were headed toward one not too far off the highway.
The south coast of Iceland is famous for its waterfalls, volcanos, glaciers, and black sand beaches. We didn’t quite make it as far as Vík to see the black sand and rocks of the south coast, but we still filled a day’s worth of wonders.
As we drove along highway 1, Iceland’s famous Ring Road, towards our first stop, the clouds began to part to make way to the blue beyond and the glorious sun that had been mostly missing from the previous day. The drive from Reykjavík to Seljalandfoss, our first outdoor destination, is nearly two hours. We decided to break it up with a quick stop at the LAVA Centre in Hvolsvollur.
The LAVA museum is a bit pricey, but offers some fun and impressive interactive exhibits that demonstrate the awesome power of Iceland’s volcanic landscape. There’s a twenty minute movie that runs all day, and is worth watching to see close-up views of the volcanos erupting. I found the devastating effects on the livestock to be a bit depressing, but you do get a real-life feel of what it means to live in the Land of Fire and Ice.
After a somewhat sobering visit to the museum, we headed back out on our path towards our first waterfall of the day. Seljandsfoss is a very popular spot for tourists, but like most of the other attractions in Iceland, one can find parking without a problem. There is almost always a small fee to park, and credit cards are the method of choice.
When we rounded a corner and saw the waterfall in the distance, we knew that our destination was not far away. On a sunny day such as we had, the effect is worth a pause to take it all in, and we stopped for a moment so I could run through the wind and capture a few photographs along the roadside.
Sejalandsfoss, like Gullfoss was one of the spots where I wished there had been half the amount of visitors joining us. Everyone wants to capture her magnificence, and it can be a little frustrating if one wishes to take a personal moment of connection. Still, it is glorious to be there, and more than worth slowing down as much as you can to take in its wonder.
Although it was sunny and becoming quite warm by Iceland’s standards, we donned our raincoats, and I slipped on my rain pants, before we exited the car. Seljalandsfoss is one Iceland’s waterfalls that allows visitors to walk around its perimeter. The path can be slippery and wet, and depending on the wind, you’ll get a good spray of her waters at some point along the way.
If you are prepared for the adventure, I recommend walking the circumference of the falls. We got wet, but I found it to be a holy experience, as though being baptized by Mother Nature as you receive the never-ceasing spray of Seljalandsfoss.
It also felt rather nice to have the cool waters of the falls on our faces as we made our way back into the sun.
After receiving the spray from the falls
The chilly waters of Seljalandsfoss come from the Eyjafjallajokull glacier, which pours down water along the hillside. It’s well worth a longer visit at this site to walk along the paths to visit some of the lesser falls, which we took some time to do.
We started stripping off layers as we walked along the sun-filled path below the hills to view the other falls.
Views along the path to Gljufrabui
If you venture far enough along the path, you will reach Gljufrabui. Although the waterfall is not as large or showy as Seljalandsfoss, it holds its own magic. Hidden inside a canyon, Gljufrabui only partially viewable from the path. One must brave the stream that it flows into, as well as the slippery rocks and the waterfall’s generous spray, to get a close-up. Dave stayed behind on the path, but I could not resist the urge to enter the cave.
Although the “selfie rock” was constantly being occupied by other visitors, I managed to get some decent shots of Gljufrabui devoid of tourists.
It was not easy to say goodbye to the falls here, but even the sun decided to depart as we made our way back to our car to venture towards our next destination. And, somehow, the clouds were just right for where we would next be.
We departed Gullfoss with the intention of stopping at two more attractions before calling it a (full) day. At some point, after purchasing Rick Steve’s Iceland guide a few years ago, I had circled Selfoss on the map of the Golden Circle. Instead of reading the description while deciding what places we would stop at during our trip, I had become convinced it must be another waterfall because it ended in “foss.” Turns out there’s a river, but no falls, at Selfoss. It is, though, a nice place to stop for a meal, which we did. But, I’m getting ahead of myself.
The route from Gullfoss to the crater offers the option of veering off-course a bit to visit a hot spring or or thermal pool, but we had decided to not spend out limited time soaking in the waters of Iceland. Instead, we made our way to the Kerið volcanic crater in the town of Grímsnes.
As with many of the sites you can visit in Iceland, there are multiple paths to choose from to view the main attractions. The fee for visiting Kerið is collected at a small kiosk where you receive a colorful brochure with a description of the crater and some of its history. From the kiosk, we followed the trail that led above the crater.
The crater does not require a long visit, but the climb is steep and fatigue was setting in by then for us. We walked a bit around the top, then headed halfway down before we decided we did not need to walk the lower perimeter. I found myself irked by the tourists throwing stones into its depths and we both decided to call it a day.
Later, I realized my husband and I had neglected to take a selfie together at the crater, which had become our habit at the attractions we stopped at in Iceland, but I had taken one of myself over the crater, then later of Dave when we stopped at Selfoss to see the waterfall have dinner.
A long day, well spent with a tasty meal at the end
Our day around the Golden Circle was long, but full of beauty and awe. It was, indeed, a day to remember, but we still had a lot to see. For our third day in Iceland we made plans to set out along the South Coast.