Last Night in Iceland

Have you ever stood in the backyard half-naked sort of laughing and crying at the same time?

Okay, yeah, well… that was me last night.


Because Iceland gave me a gift on my final night I won’t ever forget.

At about twilight, for the first time since being here, the wind died down completely. And the sky cleared of clouds.

The timing couldn’t have been better because the Harvest Moon was rising! She was gorgeous and I watched her shimmer the water for awhile, then headed in for a shower. I was just about to step under the water when for some reason I thought, Go back out and have a look at that sky.

I did.

And across the bay, I saw a glow above the mountains. Ah, that’s just moonlight reflecting off the snowy peaks, I thought.

Then the glow did something I wasn’t expecting.

It moved.

Well, ‘move’ is really the wrong word. So is every one I can think of. It just seemed like the light came suddenly alive. It grew brighter, rainbowed, then shifted through a series of folded shapes, as if the horizon were a table and someone arranging a silk scarf.

I started to laugh.

I’d so badly wanted to see the Northern Lights but having had mostly cloudy, rainy weather figured I’d have to come back someday.

I know many of you have probably already seen them, but WOW. The experience defies description.

As I stood there, the glowing band on the horizon rose upward… like it had become a creature with the desire to get to its feet… but slowly… gigantically… monolithically… words for normal perspective just don’t apply here — it really calls for the magnitudes of myth and fable. It was the sheer size, the unfamiliar and unimaginable scale, that caught me by the throat. Like maybe what a blueberry sees when the bear paw opens.

Then the gauzy glow-light blossomed. I don’t know how else to say it. Phantomed? Nebula-ed?? What???

But the movement wasn’t the ‘dance’ I’d heard of. Not what I saw, anyway. That’s too kinetic a description. This was more slow-motion. An ark in heavy water. A planet-sized swath of folded petals drifting open overhead.

A few times the various parts of the aurora shimmered in this crazy synchronization. But all the while, the light kept spreading out, filling vast vast portions of sky. Right over the house!

Of course I know the aurora borealis arises from the interplay of ions from the solar wind with elements in the Earth’s magnetosphere blah blah blah… But the experience the phenomenon gives, for me anyway, is to hit one with that all-too rare, visceral, deep-in-the-gut feeling of… The Immensity. That rare and almost paralyzing awareness that simply scrambles and overtakes human emotion. And drops us to our knees. In humbling and absolute — there is no other word for it — Reverence.


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