Monday, August 8, 2016

Windswept (Iceland)

Monochrome deserts.
Volcanic sand blows gray in the cool wind
Lava rocks reach craggy hands from the grave
Palest yellow lichens crawl and cling
Rutted moonscapes race out to the endless horizon

 Green hills.
Rising up on all sides, at all times
A smatter of spruce here
A tumble of fallen rock there
Switchback roads scaling up, up, up
Puffs of white sheep, defying gravity, polka dot verdant verticals

Steaming pools.
The stench of sulfur wafting upward
Black sand gives way to raw, hot, amber soil
The ground alive and smoking
Gushing, bubbling, bursting geysirs
Escaping the earth's molten depths

Tie-dyed mountains.
Deep autumn hues of maroon, copper and ochre
Streaked with cool blue-gray and slate green
Strung together in a line
Banded brazenly in their shared strangeness

Black beaches.
Sand dark as night
Ebony arches thrust out of bluest oceans
Columns of basalt, sculpted by volcanic gods
Perfect hexagonal cylinders, towering over the shore

Pounding water.
Coursing through ancient gorges
Carved by ages of meltwater
Frothing gray in the afternoon clouds
Thundering downwards hundreds of feet
Before winding peacefully away into the distance

Frosty blues.
Turquoise popsicles jutting out of falling glaciers
Icebergs split open to reveal candy-aqua inside
Lakes and lagoons milky azure
Their depths hiding history, slimy silica, and secrets

Orange beaks.
On flying, waddling, tumbling
Hiding, hopping, snoozing
Fish-collecting, dive-bombing
Cliff-nesting penguins of the north: puffins

The blonde bangs of a brown Icelandic horse
The cod dangling in a shack by the sea
The roof of a turfhouse long abandoned
The wrecks of so many ships who got too close
My hair, across my eyes
My heart, to see all of this

Three Degrees Celsius

The ice rain crackled relentlessly
Against our layers of waterproof rubber
The cold mist soaking through mittens
And dusting ruddy cheeks

Its dance across the night sky
Reminding us that Canadian winter
Will not be ushered out
By anything as trivial
As the calendar reading "April"

I was back again
Waiting for Barred Owls
To pierce the night with their rich song
To pierce my soul with their intense brown-eyed stare

Again and again we stop
And listen
No frogs. No robins. No owls.
Only our cold breath and the evening air

Nearing the end of our circuit
Hearts heavy with disappointment
I stared up at the towering black spruce trees
I could just make out the foggy white light of the full moon
Behind the trees, behind the clouds

Standing for twelve minute intervals of anticipation
Exposed to the frozen April night
I discovered "cold yoga"
And stretched

I cleared my busy mind.
I was aware of my surroundings.
I was deep in the moment.
At three degrees celsius.

I completed a "moon salutation"
And as I squinted up
I witnessed the exact moment the wet clouds
Slithered backward off the moon
Revealing its full brilliant blue-white glow

Suddenly: spruce trees, glittering stars, full moon
And I noticed the rain had stopped
And I heard the full, enveloping vacuum of the utter silence of the night
No owls. But I was at peace.

At our next stop, lit white with glorious moonshine
I smiled up at the stars
Grains of salt smattered across a canvas of inky black
And lived fully in that minute

And perhaps because I'd stopped straining to hear it
Peering to see it
An owl suddenly alighted
On the tree branch in front of me

It cocked its head sideways
I gaped back at it, frozen in joy

Then sound gurgled forth from it
Slow at first, then growing in insistence
"Wah... wop... woo...
...who cooks for you? Who cooks for you all?"

Excitement. Adrenaline.
Peace. Zen.
Moonlight. Trees, Owls.
Perfection. At three degrees celsius.