Breaking Away

Iceland – January 2018

So blue. “It means that they are newly capsized,” the guide explains before he turns everyone loose to explore. Blue is the color of breaking away.

Just when I thought I might never again be struck speechless by a landscape. Just when I thought I had given up travels to new lands, this unexpected chance arose. A stopover in Iceland on the way to the great unknown. A reward for listening to my intuition, despite the shrieks of my ego. Moving around all the time doesn’t necessarily keep ruts from forming beneath you. The time has come for massive change. It’s time to break away.

The creak and groan of ice in transition. The distant bellowing of seals. Muted human voices. Awe has a way of doing that. The five-hour ride down here started in darkness. A half moon dangled like a jewel in a black velvet sky. The shadow side’s gritty surface softly visible. Just beneath her, Mars and Jupiter peered out. Watchful, serene. The dingy morning light revealed towering waterfalls cloaked in mist. The sun rose to its zenith low on the horizon. The otherworldly landscape blurred by the window. Snow-capped volcanos mirrored in roadside puddles and immense moss-covered lava fields. The great glacier filled the windshield. No time to stop for photos. Light is precious this time of year. I arrived yesterday evening, on the tail of a severe gale. Another one is due tomorrow. This day is a sliver of light shining through the murk of the Icelandic winter.

A T Rex rises from the rear of the mass. From another angle, it’s an albatross readying itself for flight. I smile. The images that arise in the mind. What do they wish to say? I no longer believe that they are random.

Imperceptible drift. The lagoon is a womb-shaped lake at the base of the glacier. A narrow canal slices through the black volcanic earth. Just beyond, the ocean awaits. Perhaps total disintegration is just another form of rebirth.

The things that seem so beautiful and awesome and eternal. A pure, fearless light reveals the fractures. Uncomfortable truths. The futility of rescue. If something is meant to shatter, it will. No matter how hard you cling. The only thing left to do is let go and trust.

The mist thickens. The sun dilates and descends. Grainy tangerine radiance. Shadowy forms mill about the black sand beach. The waves have battered the ice into shards, sculpted them into lovely forms, and carried them back to shore. All that awaits is the slow seep back into the Earth. Nothing truly disappears. It is simply dispersed and assimilated. And the new incarnation begins.

79 thoughts on “Breaking Away

  1. “If something is meant to shatter, it will. No matter how hard you cling. The only thing left to do is let go and trust.”
    This is a way of thinking that I’m trying to adhere to, ever since I read, in somebody’s signature on a forum, an aphorism by a Greek philosopher that went more or less on the same lines. It isn’t completely easy, but when it works… it really does make a difference! Until I’m met by stupidity. I haven’t quite gotten to the point that stupidity doesn’t cause my blood to boil, any tips on that?

    The second-to-last photo reminds me of the covers of Isaac Asimov’s books on Urania, the Mondadori series dedicated to science fiction. Out of this world. The last photo is absolutely my favourite; I’d have happily stayed there to watch that ice block for hours, until hypothermia got me. It’s gorgeous.


    • Hi Fabrizio – I had about 5 seconds to take that last photo before a wave knocked it over. The ice forms are mesmerizing. And that sky. Iceland really seems to be not of this world. Despite the unpredictable weather, I’m glad I went in the winter. I did not see one selfie stick.

      The hardest thing ever is to let go of trying to control things. So much courage involved. Yes, it does make a difference. It is worth it. As for stupidity, I think you’ll need to ask one of those evolved spiritual people for advice. My current solution is to live in the woods. 😀

  2. I am absolutely spellbound, dear Julie, by your very exceptional post/pictures and thank you very much for having given to me the possibility to take part on your excursion. Let’s hope that “Perhaps total disintegration is just another form of rebirth” is true. All the best, wherever you go.:) Martina

  3. This is great – I keep angling to get to Iceland but my travelling companion keeps getting put off by negative reports. This one will help my cause 🙂 Good luck with wherever you are headed next. Found you Instagram too but I promise no likes and comments – life’s too short. All the best, Robin

    • Hi Robin – Iceland has been submerged by mainstream tourism. I was happy to contribute to their economy. I’m impressed how the country has decided to do things its own way. My experience was mostly good. Dealing only with Icelandic businesses is the way to go. They have a good work ethic and are so proud to show you their country. It was also low season, so there was lots of room to breathe.

      Thanks for finding me on Instagram. No worries about likes/comments. I’m less active that way on there, too.

  4. I’m thinking you really went to some parallel universe – maybe some zone beyond the Northern Lights. Simply looking at the photos and reading your words is making my own apprehension of what is real fracture and fragment. Stunning, Julie. Breathtakingly stunning. (PS had been thinking of you over the past few days what with the North-South Korea games playing going on, and your very excellent reportage on N. Korea).

    • Hi Tish – I had seen photos of this place before visiting, but none of them showed so many icebergs of such an intense blue. It greatly exceeded my expectations.

      I avoid the news, but did hear of the developments at the Olympics. I really hope that they can work things out. I believe it’s possible, if others (not mentioning any names) mind their own business.

  5. An excellent essay and wonderful photos. And something fresh and meaningful using an iceberg analogy – breaking away, disintegrating, reforming, reconstituting – really enjoyed reading this.

  6. The most incredible landscape! It makes me shiver just to look, Julie. Global warming certainly has some strange effects, but this is so beautiful it hurts your eyes as well as your heart.

  7. Tremendous photos, and the words aren’t too bad either. 🙂 I didn’t really need to be hooked into this post (or any of yours), but the early line “Blue is the color of breaking away” really grabbed me. True in so many ways. The last and third-to-last photos gave me goosebumps, reminding me of both that beautiful place and of the little glass animal figurines I collected when I was little. A whale and a seal – two of my favorites – transplanted to Jökulsárlón and temporarily displayed in that resplendent, misty light. Love them.

    • Hi Peggy. I must thank you for the tour company recommendation. Everything was great…except that lunch stop. Couldn’t prepare ahead of time because my flight was 6 hours delayed and the shops were closed. So thankful that the weather was absolutely splendid. I was prepared for the worst.

  8. Hi Julie, What a beautiful post. And such a special place. It sounds like you are on another journey too unless the words are just for creative effect. Either way you have succeeded in presenting a very evocative piece. The photos are stunning. Louise

  9. Julie – I had to go on my computer rather than do a phone read – so I could really look at these photos. Wow! That blue!! And your usual, beautiful and poetic writing. Thank you for sharing your journey – inward and out.

    • Thank you, Tricia. That blue was so intense. Like some South Pacific lagoons that I’ve seen. Makes me think that’s where this melted water eventually ends up.

  10. Like that last image of sculpted ice, this piece flows. It has shapes and textures and aesthetics, and in the end the text mirrors the images and reflects their beauty.

  11. I can only imagine how fantastic this must be to see in real life. Yes, I see the shapes and more in the broken ice. Thanks for taking me on this journey to an incredible landscape, Julie. One day, perhaps…

    May the massive change you’ve undertaken bring you what you want.

  12. What a magnificent journey. You have made a profound connection with a world that has given us life and continues to nurture humanity. This post is a love letter from our world, – our home – to us all. Thank you for sharing this moment.

  13. Wow! Your photos…wow! “Just when I thought I had given up travels to new lands, this unexpected chance arose.” Hah! How well I know, for I too recently went through the same experience. I was so certain it was time for me to stay put, revel in locality, set down roots…then it all got swept away in the next adventure.

    • It seems like when we stop clinging to things we love, we end up attracting them. I’m really in a space where I’m ready to stay put for a while, but if the opportunity for an adventure happens to arise, you bet I’m not going to turn it down.

    • It’s good that there are still off the beaten path places there despite the massive boom in tourism. They need the tourists to be able to get ahead, but too many ruins the magical atmosphere.

  14. The images were beautiful, but I was most captivated by the winding of your writing through this landscape of frozen dreams and fearless light. So much seems to be held so tightly right now. May we trust enough to let it go and pass safely through the night, our path illumined by jewels, to the shoreline where the precious light awaits. Where awe breathes in our being, and dissolves us into what will be.

    Beautiful writing, Julie!

  15. I am captivated by beautiful your words and magnificent images. I long to hear the creek and groan of ice in transition with bellowing of seals in the distance and to see the blues of those fresh breaks. The best experiences are those that bring us to the edge where ‘the only thing left to do is let go and trust’. Iceland #someday

    • Walking along the edge is both terrifying and exhilarating. It takes a lot of courage, but is so worth it. I hope your little boat can reach this otherworldly shore one day.

  16. Hi Julie, How are You? I love the description You make of the landscape. I’ve never been in Iceland, but it’s on my list, for sure! Our planet is just too amazing..

    • Thank you, Cris. Nice to hear from you. 🙂 Iceland would be a very different trip from your usual ones to warm places. Dress warmly and you’ll be enchanted.

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