Friday, May 27, 2016

Things to love about Iceland

Several people asked me why I wanted to go to Iceland. I saw a film made by Sigur Ros years ago called Heima and knew it was a place I wanted to visit. 

Now that I've been, I can say exactly why:

The endless changing vistas of sights never before seen and not to be seen anywhere else on earth.  
So many unique ecosystems within kilometers of another. 
So many waterfalls that most don't even have a name. 
Landscapes as if the Trinity had a jolly good creative time. 

The lupine--bluebonnets on steroids. 

Mountains. Deserts. Oceans. Geysers. Glaciers. Iceberg lagoons. 
Moss covered rocks. Black sand. Painted    mountainsides. 

Sheep. Black. White. Striped. Spotted. Frolicking lambs that come in pairs. 

Colors in nature with unique brightness and hues and layers and textures. 

Weather literally changing within seconds and minutes from snow to sun to rain to wind. 

Reindeer and puffins. 

The bread. 
Waffles for breakfast. 
Chocolate squares served with hot drinks. 
Espresso available in the most unlikely places. 

Containers of water always on the table at meals
Water so pure that no one who lives here would think of buying bottled water. 

Surprises of art, particularly murals and sculptures, in the most unexpected places. 

The clear love of beauty expressed in the most quotidian details of everyday life. 

Speaking of everyday life, the WC's are the cleanest, warmest I've ever been in;  even at camping grounds and gas stations, no matter how remote. 

Wifi in every building. Generous placement of electric outlets. 

People willing to speak English. 

Since we only drove half the Ring Road, south and east and back, planned that way in order to get better May weather (which we did) and to be able to see where we'd been, and have a second chance to do and see, we've already talked about returning, this time going west and north. 

But now, the trip home begins. 

Thursday, May 26, 2016

One rainy day of enough

 It is my final full day in Iceland. Today is a road trip from Vik to KEF outside Reyjkavik--a three hour drive for most folks, but of course my friend and I love to meander. 

It's a rainy day. This is the weather we expected, but today is the first day we've had this much rain.  Less hiking, less photographing, but still enough.   

Despite the rain, we made two quick walks to stunning waterfalls. Enough. 

In this land of plenteous sheep, yarn is the only bargain (except, of course, God's artwork).   I even found yarn in the grocery store!  Still enough. 

This is the first day that I found what I had expected to find everywhere--local yarn, hand spun and hand dyed.  Yet more enough. 

I'd also expected, in this land of frequent and abundant art in the most unlikely places, to find (too) many opportunities for my favorite craft, pottery.  The small amount I found was very dear. Today, however, at a morning cappacino stop in a small town, I found my Iceland cup to bring home. Thank you to the parishioner who gave me a gift of money for my trip that enabled me to do this.  Generously enough.  

We stopped for a late lunch in Selfoss at the kind of spot I expected to find often, and have only today found. A place with soup and bread and hot tea and locals gathering. Deliciously enough.  

Six hours after we began our three hour drive to the airport hotel, the GPS says that it's little over an hour drive left to go. 

I'll see how much more enough there is before we arrive at tonight's destination. 

Tuesday, May 24, 2016


When I came to Iceland, one of the hoping to dos at the top of my list was to see puffins. I'd seen puffins once before in Maine years ago, riding out on a tour boat to see them diving and flying. On the drive back, I had stopped at an artist's studio where a woman met with me to design and then create my white Corination stole. That stole has the memory of that day in Maine stitched into it. 

Opportunities to see puffins, at least promoted as such, are everywhere in Iceland--from one that is an hour express excursion from the Reyjkavik marina to another which is a hayride out to a slippery slope. 

The place I'd hoped to go, a good hike in a wildlife refuge, was closed because of nesting season. I've traveled enough with a desire to see wildlife that I know that animals and birds are on their own schedule and not mine, and so seeing them is always at best happenstance. 

On Saturday night I was reading about things to do in the area, and I came across a blog that mentioned a promontory a two hour drive one fjord up where a flock of puffins lived. My friend and I were ready for another adventure. 

We were on the road right after breakfast. The sights along the way, at what felt like the top of the world, were the most spectacular yet in an already spectacular trip. 

Borganes Estuary had clear signs pointing the way to the puffins' home. As I walked  up the hill, I immediately saw a flock swimming in the water. Then I realized that the hill was dotted with holes where the puffins lived, and one after one after one, they popped their heads out and emerged, as if to pose for delighted humans. 

The best part of my visit with the puffins was sitting in the car eating my picnic lunch. Dozens of puffins literally whizzed by my window on their way from their homes on high to fishing for their lunch in the sea. 

I was reminded of a book I read my children and now my grandchildren by Marie Hall Ets, Play with Me. It's about a little girl who wants to play with the animals in the woods but they all dart away when she tries to run up and join them. Only when she sits still and quiet and waits for them do all of the animals come up to be with her. 

My car was like a bird blind, and the puffins felt safe coming right by me. It was amazing.  Still and quietish and waiting was all it took. 

Experiencing those puffins fly right by me was like being quiet and still and waiting in prayer, and then when least expecting it, receiving an answer beyond my most joyful imagining. 

Whoosh! There goes another puffin!

Monday, May 23, 2016

A Sunday without church

Turns out the local church in Seydisfjordur is still on its winter schedule, and there is no Sunday worship until next Sunday. So this Lord's Day will be one without church. 

My friend and I decided to be intentional about making it a Sabbath. It was a gift of rest and ceasing after the lengthy, challenging drive on Saturday.  

We walked to breakfast and then made use of the washer and dryer in the local campgrounds to clean our very dirty clothes.  

Between loads, we spent the morning not in worship but in the restaurant across the street, drinking hot tea and coffee, then sharing a muffin, and then splitting the most amazing salad prepared with local greens. We chatted and wrote and stopped. 

After lunch we strolled around town, capping the afternoon with a walk up a steep hill with waterfalls side by side to a sculpture at the summit created to capture local sounds. 

On my walk down, mindfully stepped with my walking stick in hand to help me stay upright, I used the time to pray for all near and dear, allowing particular intercessions to bubble up with each foot placed on the rocky path. With the beauty surrounding me, having sung Laudate Dominum in the perfect sound space, it was very good church on this Sunday in Iceland. 

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Glaciers and glaciers and glaciers, oh my!

My friend, Ginny's, husband always says he'd rather not think about the places we end up on our travels. That's because, even with the best planning, we sometimes end up in some rather precarious situations. So a word to my mom:  you might not want to read this blog.

Yesterday began as a perfect weather day, for Iceland, in May. Coat, hat, and glove worthy, but with sun and no wind. We knew we had at least a five hour drive   (= 10 hours for us) between Klauster and Seydisfjordur in the Eastfjords. 

Thursday we had done what became a grueling three mile hike, because of the high winds, to the near edge of a glacier. 

On this day, as we began our drive on the Ring Road, we were delighted to discover off a bumpy detour, a short easy hike which took us near lupine lined hills to the very edge of a even more stunning glacier. There we prayed noonday prayers. 

Down the road, we had a picnic lunch on the black sand beach at Jokulsarlon where large pieces of glacier had floated on to the sand. 

Then we crossed the road to enjoy hot coffee overlooking the lagoon filled with calved glaciers. 

Continuing on the Ring Road, we came to a split in the road. Our research had warned us away from what our GPS said would be the shorter route. We took the longer way, despite the protests of the GPS. The Ring Road, now unpaved, took us up and down stunning fjords.  We were delighted with sighting after sighting of herds of reindeer. 

As the Ring Road turned north, our GPS once again directed us another way continuing along the fjords. But since the Ring Road is the main Icelandic route, we decided to stay on what we thought was the sure and better way. 

It turns out that the Ring Road, still unpaved, winds through and up and over a harrowing way through the glaciers. This was not an enjoyable way to travel. In fact, it was terrifying. We found out later that locals don't go this way. 

Near Egilsstadir, the roads improved, and we breathed a sigh of relief. We were only miles from our seaside destination. 

But not yet. Turns out we had one more glacier to traverse, and now it was below freezing and snowing. Where had our careful plans taken us?  This is not what we had asked for or imagined. 

Yet safely we arrived to what the guidebooks say is the crown jewel of the Eastfjords.  We have three nights ahead. 

A devotional that I am reading offers the perspective of God being the wind at our back pushing us towards our destination. 
After all of the places I have felt the Icelandic winds, in this season of Pentecost, I am thoughtful of a God that is the wind that surrounds me, sometimes gentle, sometimes uncomfortable, and sometimes seemingly inconvenient.  

Where will the Wind blow me?

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Good mornings of endless light

My last morning in Reykavik before beginning the roundabout trek towards the Eastfjiords, I received an email from a woman whose blog I enjoy reading. She offered five ways to make an ordinary trip into a pilgrimage. 

I've personally done a lot of teaching and preaching and even writing in my own blog about our quotidian lives as pilgrimage. I read this wise woman's words, and one thought she had was about taking time to select a theme, a word or phrase (like transformation or self-discovery or creativity), for your trip before you left. Oh well. Too late. I was already into my third day of this amazing journey to Iceland. And, truth be told, I was tired;  I wanted a vacation. 

But her counsel has gently nagged at my soul as I've traveled. What word is a centering point for this amazing journey of kilometers driven and thousands of steps walked over landscapes that no words or photographs can truly share?

The phrase that keeps bubbling is the opening words of our St. Mary's prayer:  Good morning,God (which then continues this is your day; I am your child; please show me your way). 

Good morning, God. 

Perhaps those words keep bubbling up because that prayer is part of my personal daily spiritual liturgy. Perhaps it's because I haven't seen dark since I left the United States. Though the forecast reports that sunset is at 10.30 PM, and that the sunrises at 3.45 AM, it's never completely dark. That also means that there are never sunrises or sunsets, and dawn and dusk are my favorite times of the day. I'm not complaining about a day and night full of natural light; I'm simply thoughtful and aware of the value of darkness in my life. 

As I continue this trip of endless good mornings, how will God reply when I greet God over and over and over during the day?

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Praying in tongues

It's not difficult to wake up early when I go to sleep at 8 (unlagging from the three jet rides of the past day), and the sun rises at 4.30 AM. This is a good thing because the first activity of the morning after breakfast was to walk a mile or so, bundled up in the 34 degree chill, to Hallgr√≠mskirkja, the Lutheran parish church, though I'd say that we'd call it a cathedral in the U. S.  

We gathered with thirty or so other folks in the magnificent space, intimately sitting in the apse around the altar, every word spoken and sung and prayed in Icelandic.  The other worshippers were quietly welcoming, handing us books and pointing to pages in the hymnal (S√°lmur). 

The rhythm of the liturgy was familiar, and worship was deep and meaningful despite not knowing or understanding the language. I was struck by how much easier it was to sing difficult Icelandic words, especially when they were paired with familiar hymn tunes. 

Especially meaningful was The Peace. Although each person intentionally went and connected with every other worshipper, it was deeply reverent. Taking both of my hands in his or hers, each person looked me in the eye and quietly said whatever the Icelandic version of  "the peace of the Lord be with you." I was truly greeted and welcomed in the name of God. It is something I want to share with my own parish community.  Rather than an interruption in the worship, it was a moment of mutual blessing. 

After worship, my friend and I were invited for coffee and tea. In a lovely room simply set, we had coffee, homemade bread, butter, jam, and cheese. We sat at long tables and chatted with our neighbors. Most Icelanders speak English, a humbling experience for me who stumbles over the simplest words. 

As I left for the day, the church was now crowded with people with cameras photographing the beautiful space.  Groups were waiting in line, after paying a fee, to go to the tower. I could scarcely leave the church because of the queue of tourists waiting to get in. 

The contrast between the joyful, quiet prayer I had experienced, and the bustling, chatting crowds made me ever so thankful that I had arrived an hour earlier to say good morning to God. 

Tuesday, May 17, 2016


Last night I watched the sun set in the United States near, and yet so far, from my daughter in New York City. 

This morning I was awakened around 
4 AM by the sun rising somewhere near Greenland. 

Tonight I'll go to bed well before the sun sets some time after 10 PM in Reykjavik. 

Good evening, God; good morning, God;  and good evening, yet again, God.  It is your night. It is your day.  It is your everything. 

You are showing me your way. 

And it is beautiful. 

And it is delicious. 

And it is enough.