Iceland Writing Residency Pt. 2

[To check out what brought me here at the beginning of February and read about the first part of my experience, click here.]

Surprise! I extended my stay here in Iceland by a couple weeks. I just couldn’t leave so soon. Maybe it’s because the month of February is already too short. Maybe it’s because I feel like I’m in a perfect bubble here that I don’t ever want to break out of. Maybe I was too inspired, too immersed in this experience to leave it. Or, maybe it’s because I’m subconsciously avoiding reality and the uncertainties that await me back in the States. Whatever it is, I felt like my time here wasn’t quite finished.

Since this was my first writing residency, I had mapped out some goals before I came. I knew I wouldn’t necessarily stick to them, but I wanted a guideline, as that was strongly recommended to me. Here it was:

I’m happy to report that for the month of February, I accomplished nearly all of this. Even if it was for a short duration of time, I read, walked, did yoga, and wrote every single day. And I ended up writing way more poems than that 20-25!

I had at least ten poems accepted for publication, and I also was a finalist in a poetry contest. (More on that here.)

I have also had a lot of adventures since then:

Kerid Crater

This was incredible to see the teal water frozen over, against the backdrop of the reddish green earth. And you usually have to pay an entrance fee, but since Covid hit, nobody is working the booth so it was free to get in. A plus side to being a tourist during this time 🙂

Some nearby spots:

Laugarvatn, the village where the writing residency is located, is right on the famous Golden Circle route. On one of our day trips, we visited a restaurant & farm: Efstidalur. You can see the cows right next to the dining area downstairs, where they serve ice cream. We also saw many small beautiful churches, and Faxi waterfall, and the most stunning sunset at Skálholt.

Gulfoss

Not a single person in sight. It was incredible to admire the beauty of this place all to ourselves!

Geyser

Again, another place that was empty compared to the many tour buses and crowds of tourists that I experienced when I visited in 2016. My favorite was seeing my friend Kristel’s reaction when it erupted. Priceless! Is it crazy that I almost miss the sulfur smell?

Fontana Spa

Fontana was where we made the rye bread in the ground. (Also where Zac Efron filmed part of Down to Earth on Netflix. Super cool, FYI.) I had the most perfect night here! We arrived a little past 4 p.m. so we could be there in the daytime and also experience it at night. There are three steamrooms, a sauna, and multiple pools. I even braved the cold for a minute to venture into the lake! So weird to come back into the hot water after being in the freezing water– felt like little needles on your skin. To top it all off, right as we were getting ready to leave, the auroras came out to put on a show. It was the best ending to an incredible experience!

Lake Picnic with Boiling Eggs

Reykjadalur Hot Spring Thermal River

Ahhh!!! Honestly probably one of my favorite adventures. It’s an hour hike to get to this river, but it’s so worth it. I mean, I’ve never been in a hot river before. We don’t have those back in Pennsylvania, haha. It was surreal. Be careful with where you sit, I definitely burned myself at the mouth of the river. Move a little further down for a better temperature 🙂 We met some friends, Igor and Khalid, and had Malt og Appelsín, a traditional Icelandic drink, and witnessed the most beautiful purple sky on the walk back down.

Black Sand Beach

…which may or may not have turned into a frozen skinny dipping adventure. But with an empty beach, and living in the moment, why not? Warmed up with hot tea afterwards.

Many hikes with Kari

We experienced what felt like every season in February. I went for a hike or walk each day, often with the residency dog Kari. It was incredible to see the landscape emerge with the everchanging weather.

Red Mountain

Unlike nothing I’d ever seen before! The colors were mesmerizing here. This is a mine very close to Kerid Crater.

Not a bad place to write, huh?

More Northern Lights

Will I ever get tired of seeing them? Absolutely not.

OH YEAH, and I also felt my first earthquake, which was SO surreal on Wednesday, February 24th. I had been sitting at the kitchen table in the cabin when I felt a sudden shake, so quick I nearly doubted if I had felt it at all, especially since I immediately had texted the other resident here (who is staying in the studio) and they said that they hadn’t felt anything. Minutes later, we find out there was an earthquake near Reykjavik. Turns out that the two houses were built quite differently, so the studio has a more solid/stable structure whereas the cabin, you could feel it. I had never experienced an earthquake, so for me, it was quite exciting.

I had some days toward the end of the month where the days felt foggy, I couldn’t focus, I was moody, I was stressing about things beyond my control, and then of course in the next breath was upset about the fact that I was spending even one second not appreciating being fully in this moment, not taking full advantage of my time here. Has anyone ever felt similar on their travels or in their experiences?

Such is life, though, and I had to roll with those waves for a while. Feel every emotion and let myself just be in it. I’m just pinching myself every day I wake up, here in Iceland.

Here’s to healing landscapes and the gift of time,

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