When the volcano Eyjafjallajökull erupted in April 2010 in Southeast Iceland, for days I imagined, from my home in the scorching summer plains of Texas, walking directly toward the volcano and holding my hand out as close to a lava waterfall as possible. Literally, I pictured myself on a hike with boots laced up to my knees and a walking stick by my side, guiding me like a holy grail towards the flows. Scorching wet matter from the earth would roll down the sensual side of mountains like fingers traipsing down the inner curve of a woman’s back. Precipitation of reds and crimsons and charcoaled oranges would sit in the sky, coating the water and blanketing the land and electricity would light the clouded firmament above the crater. This was the vision I had of the volcanic disturbance in Iceland and one that my wanderlusting ego simply had to witness.
Serendipitously, my husband and I had tickets in our hands for a one-week trip to Iceland a few short months in the future. Hanging up our platitudinous itineraries of historical exploration and cultural excavation of museums and architecture, we had decided, long before the eruption, that this year we would pick up crampons and ice picks and hiking boots instead. The “Land of Fire and Ice” would no longer be a checklist in our long queue of international destinations. And we were ready to convert our metropolitan expedition into natural appreciation and terrestrial gratitude.
So, when Eyjafjallajökull erupted, it seemed ideal. Mother Nature was telling us that we were making the right decision – our vacation destination was suddenly the focal point of millions of minds, eyes, and news lenses. From the moment the media began reporting ash clouds wafting over the entire northern Atlantic, we sat at home impatiently, waiting to learn about our pending voyage. All reports were quickly in: we would still be able to travel to Iceland, but perhaps might not be able to return.
As someone who has traveled widely and lived in flood-wrenched New Orleans, tornado-scathed Texas, earthquake-rich southern California, rainy Costa Rican jungles, and even rainier London streets, I never thought a natural disaster would impede my travels, but it did and our trip was delayed two months.
By the time we finally stepped foot in Iceland, Eyjafjallajökull’s fiery tongue had already stopped salivating. No waterfalls of lava would cross my camera lens and no lightning bolts would climb from its crater. Gimmicky t-shirts and mugs in shops on every corner would be as close as I would come.
The minute we landed in Reykjavik, a bustling capitol where 60% of the small population resides, we began planning, selecting an activity for each of our days, which would ultimately revolve around the pilgrimage to the infamous volcano.