Dragons of Fire & Ice

“What is your favorite dragon amma?” asked the son as we made our way to see an active volcano. Dragons follow a long line of illustrious characters such as Lightning McQueen, Ninjago – Masters of Spinjitzu. They come and claim his interest and imagination in ways that make me envious at times. How do children play so wholeheartedly?

I mock-sighed and said, “Aaah! Not dragons again! Fine! Nature Dragon is my favorite.”
“Which dragon are you scared of?”
“Volcano Dragon!”, I said. Given that we were going to see an active volcanic region, it seemed like an apt choice. (There is no Snarling Traffic Dragon, I checked.)
He then went on chattering about the shattering power of volcano dragons, and I went back to nodding absently while taking in the physical aspects of the changing landscape around me. (The fellow talks incessantly of dragons and gets cranky if I get the dragons in Dragon Land mixed up with those in Dragon City. I, as you can guess, see no difference between the two.)

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By now, we were ambling along up the mountainside looking at the damage wrought by the volcanic activity. Thick crusts of lava had solidified along the trail helpfully laid out for tourists. It was a stark image, an image in which it was possible to imagine ourselves stepping gingerly on the back of a troll or a dragon with a particularly hideous hide, that at any moment could roar and spurt fire at the indignity of seeing mere morsels tread on his or her back. The very thought sent an electric shiver down the spine.

Looking at the barren/dry landscape made me think of an episode I had seen on Cosmos on Venus. In his deep rumbling voice, Neil Grasse Tyson explains how Venus was once a planet with a wonderful landscape like Earth, but intense volcanic activity seems to have made it a desolate angry planet trapped in its own greenhouse effect.

The World Set Free (Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey)

http://channel.nationalgeographic.com/cosmos-a-spacetime-odyssey/episodes/the-world-set-free/

But hope always finds a way of creeping in, in the most unlikely ways and means. A few feet from a still smoking volcano, in which the lava rocks were red hot, around the dense rocks that bore the marks of hardened lava, in that otherwise barren and desolate looking mountainside, grew pink flowers. Tiny pink flowers bravely, cheerfully doing their part in reminding me of the resilience of life and beauty.

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“So you like Flora then?” chirped the son.
How did he know? I looked surprised, and then realized that the Nature Dragon in his game was called Flora. Everything felt surreal in this place. Were there really dragons?

We had reached the smoking crater by now, and I gingerly picked up a red hot piece of rock in my hands. Was I in a dream or was I really touching hot lava rocks, and watching icebergs cleave?

Just a couple of days earlier, we felt a similar sense of awe while watching the glaciers float like icy dragons. One huge ice dragon stirred and with a thunderous roar, cleaved in half from underneath. There is something awe-inspiring in the forces of nature, and it behooves us to remember that our biggest and strongest weapons are no use against the vagaries of nature.

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I sometimes visualize ourselves looking like idiots standing bewildered in front of the storms that batter us every now and trying to tell the storms, “Ehh….I don’t know whether you realize this or not, but we have nuclear weapons you know? “

Dashed silly it makes us look, when a little extra rain sends us scrambling.

To me, both surreal experiences had only 1 way of bringing me to reality: An urgent need to find a restroom. The elements of our being are all very well if you aren’t sprinting across lava beds and glaciers looking for a restroom with a desperate child clasped to your hand.

I wonder whether Dragon Land has a shortcut to restrooms.

Read also:

Baða – A Vatn post 
Foss, Ain, Ja, Vatn, Jökull, Sjó
Jörð, Gaia, Bhoomi
The Earth Laughs in Flowers

Baða – A Vatn post

I remember seeing some pictures of Icelandic horses, in the meadows and thinking to myself that the fellows seem to be having a swell life. I mean fresh air, green pastures, and none of the bother of getting folks from one place to another harnessed to an infernal coach. Their poor ancestors must have had a thin time of it: I can’t imagine human beings being any better horse-coach passengers than public transit passengers. But, look at these fellas looking rather pleased with themselves knowing that no amount of chirping and tock-tock noises can budge them from their excellent perch in life. The younger generation I tell you! *Shakes head*

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The universe has a queer way of satisfying our desires. Within a few hours of landing in Iceland, I had the satisfaction of feeling like a horse. I suppose in a way that made me an Icelandic horse.

“Are you going to take a bath again?” , is a familiar refrain in the old home. Mia familia rolls their eyes indulgently as I come out feeling refreshed and happy again. In fact, when I am grumping around and shooting dark looks at folks after a long and trying day, the family gently nudges me to take a bath, and Voila! The magical waters yield a perfect amiable nut in their midst again.

Obviously after a long-ish flight, I pranced into the shower, but I was astounded to see the shower in our lodgings in Reykjavik were best suited for Icelandic horses, not humans. There were 2 shower heads, placed about 2 feet apart, and both spurted water together or not at all. This posed a number of problems for one who does not want to waste good warm water. Do you stick your feet in one shower and lean across to get your hands in the other shower, and leave the torso high and dry? Or do you go in for some of that fashionable puppy like scooting in the rain?

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Icelandic horses seem to throwing their heads back and laughing and neighing with glee at my plight. But I wasn’t done with my bathing adventures.

The next day, we were admiring the glacial melt join the oceans, when I shivered, and thought yearningly for a warm water shower, even if it was the horse type, when a young couple shouted, “What?! Do you think we are afraid?! “, and the pair of them removed their top clothing layers and plunged into the chill waters. I shuddered and my teeth went on chattering in that incessant typewriter mode in a speed and intensity that I wish were true when I start writing.

Apparently, in the olden days, babies in Russia were given cold dips in glacial or fresh water every now and then so they would adapt to the severe cold better. Called Polar Dips, I got to tell you, I was in no hurry to try it.

(https://siberiantimes.com/healthandlifestyle/others/news/like-ducks-to-water-in-the-snow-keeping-kids-healthy-siberian-style/)

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And then, Mývatn came along. Mývatn, a natural geothermal spa, was curious in that I came out smelling multitudes worse than when I went in, but I felt refreshed multiple times over. Iceland sits daintily on a couple of tectonic plates that have their tiffs and turfs every now and then. So, it is heavy in both volcanic activity and geothermal spas. These warm waters are like everything everyone said – warm, soothing waters, set in natural surroundings that smell like those gasping chemistry experiments in high school emitting Hydrogen Sulphide, that chefs later tell you is the smell of rotten eggs.

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Folks have called me a sound egg before, but what I was not prepared to smell like one, much less a rotten one.

Add to this the rinses, showers and dances in the rain, and I can truly claim that Iceland far from being the Land of Fire and Ice, was the Land of Baða Vatn. (I think that means Bath Waters.)

Foss, Ain, Ja, Vatn, Jökull, Sjó

In a moment of poetic rarity, I daftly said I would break my posts into the Elements of our being (Earth, fire, air, water and space), which means I am now stuck with the strange problem of writing my experiences around water in Iceland in one post.

Now do I tell you about how I bathed like a horse in Reykjavik, or how I much-muchly laid bare my ignorance of this beautiful Earth’s ecosystem as I lamented the cleaving of the iceberg, or how we were convinced an obstinate mermaid had come ashore the beach, and insisted on getting into people’s pictures the whole afternoon?

mermaid

I have to swim quickly past the Icelandic rivers and streams (Ain), gasp like a wasp at the thousands of waterfalls (Foss), warm myself in a sprint by geothermal spas, jump and shiver near glaciers (Jökull), watch a tidal wave sweep past me as I admire the seas (Sjó) and let my soaking in the rain (rigning) all just fleet past.

I can hear you mumble that now, no one feels refreshed by the post on the most sustaining of the poetic elements, and I agree.

I get a faint understanding of what these authors have to deal with when they go and promise a N- book series. Take the Harry Potter series for instance. J K Rowling must have had little choice but to get the books bigger and bigger because she had to fit everything in 7 books.

I now have to delegate all of the important things to be said about these things to the links below:
Did you know how 90% of Iceland’s energy needs are obtained from geothermal energy?

Did you know Icelandic glacial water is so fresh that you can drink it from source with little fear of contamination?

Well, you do now.

We were there in Iceland when Summer was beginning to show her beauty. Even so, more than half our days, there was rain. For a pluviophile, this was marvelous. Everywhere the eye could see, green carpets were rolled out for us to feast our eyes on.

The rain matched the tones of the children. Sometimes, the joyful pattering of the rain was like their perky tones of enthusiasm, the shuddering and heavy downpours were met with “Amma! Do you really want to hike like that? Get in now!”, and other times when the rain could not quite decide whether to pour or drizzle, the heart was torn whether to go out or stay in the car. These moments of cloudic indecision were the best and I danced and pranced in the rain, while the children adopted a distinct “I don’t know this crazy woman!” stance.

There were waterfalls of every kind and very soon, we stopped pointing them out to one another. We quietly enjoyed the weeping wails of the fjords, as much as the roaring riptides of the beach, and almost as much as the gleaming turquoise blue of the glacial ice pack. Water, in any form, is mesmerizing, tantalizing, energizing and therapeutic.

Well, I suppose I shall at least have to write about bathing in Iceland after all this larking about.

Jörð, Gaia, Bhoomi

Fresh off the flight, and in our room, after loafing about during the day in Reykjavik, I was still groggy. I finally managed to sleep, happy to rest my tired frame on a good bed. The heart had already stirred in that nurturing soul mode, but was not in fully. A good night’s sleep is all I needed, I thought to myself.

It could not have been more than a couple of hours before I awoke to see the son looking cheerful, sitting on the bed alert, and tucking into Skyr, that delectable yogurt of Iceland that sustained our appetites anywhere. “Hi amma!” he said. The energy in his voice unfortunately was not echoed in my hollow moan.

The sun glowed outside, and I asked whether it was morning already. Tired or not, I was set on enjoying the holiday, and I tried to drag myself out, but the little fellow chuckled, “Nope! It is 2 o’clock amma. In the night. This is night!”

He was so enthusiastic and happy at this odd hour, that I smiled happily. (Smiled happily because he had the good sense to wake his father and not me for his night revels with Skyr)

I pointed at the window outside, and he said, “I know right?”

To be fair, I suppose that some of the clouds had a slight pink colouration indicating a sunset, but that was all. Within an hour, the sun had risen again without ever becoming dark or even dusky.

I goggled, the son giggled, and the sun cheerily ogled.

Our half baked theories are always fun, but this Khan Academy video of the Earth’s tilt is much better.

This infographic was useful to see how we would have to change our perception of a new day starting. Our minds are conditioned to the concept of dusk, the sun setting, and darkness enveloping our consciousness signaling the end of the day. But what if the Earth never signaled the end of the day. Would melatonin still be released?

 

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The long days, coupled with a sunny countenance made for action-packed days in which we had to force ourselves to sleep and take breaks. Nevertheless, it is truly wonderful when the earth offers its bounty to you the way Iceland does.

There were days when we saw fresh meadows filled with flowers that had sprouted afresh in the spring after the long winters, lava beds with thousands of years of moss growing on it, rivers gurgling with fresh snow melt winding their way across canyons and meadows, waterfalls thundering their way down as though their restive energy would not and cannot be contained, volcanoes and glaciers, all on the same day.

 

A country that blessed with natural beauty obviously tapped the imaginative strain in us. There was one particular place that looked like time had stood still in the middle of an epic battle in which a monster crocodile had pulled off a troll’s leg, and a bear was crossing the river.

 

If this sort of thing appealed to us within a few days of Iceland, it is only to be expected that the Viking myths and sagas are rich and bountiful. I am now reading Icelandic Myths, so I can continue to savor the experiences of that beautiful island.

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Years ago, when my dance teacher explained the poetic significance of the elements necessary for our very being, Panchabhutam – Earth, water, fire, air and space, I was thrilled with the poetic beauty of it.

My Icelandic experiences, I think, shall therefore be split into these elemental joys – this one of Earth(Jörð, Gaia or Bhoomi), followed by water, fire, air and space.