it’s a wrap, as iceland travel concludes.

Have you ever had to leave your best friend behind? In Iceland? I had to do just that. Some of this story I have told, but it deserves re-telling.

At that time, the United States required a negative COVID test to enter. My friend had tested positive; I had tested negative. That meant I would leave Iceland. My friend would remain behind.

I had a twenty-four hour window before I had to leave. So I stayed in Iceland an extra day to try to figure things out. For her and for myself. Too soon it was time for me to depart before the window closed on me.

It was a time of tears. Many tears. Before she dropped me off at the airport, we promised to meet as soon as possible so the end of the Iceland trip could end “properly”.

Today I’m on my way to Houston for that proper ending. It’s been two months to the day. It’s time.

Looking around as I enter the Delta Sky Club prior to my flight (yes, privilege), I see signs of reunion joy.

Traveling mercies.

family joy

A week ago I was part of a gathering of parents, grandparents, siblings, aunts and uncle, and cousins. All had traveled to Seattle to honor and celebrate a beautiful, smart, talented and loving young woman.

She is my granddaughter.

Including the graduate, we numbered thirteen. We were a joy-filled presence as we crisscrossed the Seattle area.

We gathered for the Baccalaureate Mass.

Following the baccalaureate, we celebrated Nathan’s birthday.

The next morning we gathered for the graduation. It was held at the Seattle Mariners Baseball Stadium.

New to me was the tradition of purchasing leis for the graduates. Lei craftspeople had small stands outside the stadium from which they offered leis for sale. I was quick to purchase one!

Our group was determined to make certain Valerie heard our cheers when her name was called. We practiced when her friends’ names were called. When Valerie received her diploma, I am certain she could hear her family cheering. We were loud and proud!

After the graduation ceremony we piled into several cars for a short drive to Serious Pizza. Nathan had turned sixteen the day before, so he was enlisted as a driver.

The dozen pizzas – and more – were seriously delicious!

The following day a variety of activities were offered. Sailing. Backyard games. Delightful conversations. AND a grill fest.

Our last full day was filled, of course. I rode along to the marina for a quick adjustment to the sailboat, followed by a quick stop for bagels extraordinaire.

In the afternoon all thirteen of us attended a Seattle Storm game. The Storm are one of the best teams in the WNBA. Few in our group had enjoyed a WNBA game.

It was so much fun!

After the game ended, we were off to a party celebrating Valerie and her two best friends.

And just like that, by noon the next day all travelers were on their way home. It was an extraordinary gathering to celebrate an extraordinary young woman. She is well on her way. Next stop, Rice University.

and now you know…

…the rest of the story.

I can now blog the final chapter of my recent Iceland travel. The last blog I had posted was a summary of my travels in Iceland during the previous ten days. The trip was filled with delight, glee, quiet moments and, of course, vast vistas.

On the day we were to fly out, we drove back roads to Keflavik, a town near the airport. It was a lovely drive.

Since a negative COVID test was required to enter the United States, we had made reservations in Keflavik for our tests.

After the tests were administered, we were asked to take a seat and wait 15 minutes for the email with the results.

I passed. My best friend and traveling companion did not.

My negative COVID test was good for two days, making it possible for me to leave this day or the next. So I changed my flights and stayed the night, in a separate room from my friend, at a nearby hotel. We began to make all the necessary arrangements for her to be on her own in Iceland. With no idea for how long.

I left the next evening for home. It was agony.

For the next five days my friend navigated the COVID testing system seeking a “fit-to-fly” document which when issued by a physician, can allow someone to fly to the United States. It’s for folks who continue to test positive, but have few or no symptoms. It’s kind of a “get-out-of-Iceland” card.

On the fifth day of isolation, my friend received clearance to fly! She chose to change airlines so she could fly to Frankfurt and from there, non-stop to Houston. The next day she set down in Houston. Home at last.

I didn’t feel I could write the last Iceland trip blog until we both had made it home. I’m so glad that saga is over.

We are already planning our next trip to Iceland. We think it’s important to write a different ending to our Icelandic travel story. Stay tuned.

Traveling mercies.

rhythm of the days

This is our last full day in Iceland. As I blogged about a few days ago, Iceland is vast. I’ve frequently used this word when describing Iceland to others.

Iceland is also small moments and quiet corners.

Small, welcoming lodging.

Lovely breakfast settings.

Charming kaffi shops.

Shared meals.

Delightful conversations with delightful people

Small churches in which to sit for a few quiet minutes.

Moments of exuberant joy.

Companionship.

And of course, ice cream.

“As soon as I saw you, I knew a grand adventure was about to happen.” Winnie The Pooh.

day of ease

Today was a day of intention. Intention to hang around “home” for awhile – without dashing off anywhere.

It felt great to be leisurely, without rush. To sit a spell in this particular, locale.

Time for me to take photographs around our place of lodging.

Time to walk through the front door of the gorgeous town church. To sit and pray, spend time with God.

Time to sit outside and enjoy eating pizza that was cooked by using thermal heat.

Time to take a short drive to visit a potter and glass maker we have known for a number of years.

Then time to drive a little further to a sheep farm where the owner dyes the sheared fur by using local plants for color. She then spins it all into yarn. She was a real delight.

Then time to mosey on down the road, finding horse and sheep posing, a beautiful small church, and more Icelandic vistas.

Of course finding time for ice cream!

Lastly, time to sit a spell on the deck as day slowwwly draws to a close – sometime in the next couple of hours. 11:10pm to be exact.

“Each day, and the living of it, has to be a conscious creation in which discipline and order are relieved with some play and pure foolishness.” May Sarton

more travel down roads mostly less traveled

Our drive to church yesterday was on generally empty roads. Few cars. Lots of wide-open spaces.

After church it was more of the same, with the addition of impressive mountains in the distance.

We drove on to Gullfoss, (“Golden Falls”). This waterfall is located in the canyon of the Hvítá river. The average amount of water running down the waterfall is 5,000 cu ft per second in the summer. The spray reaches the parking lot long before you see the falls.

During my first visit to Iceland I was one of those standing close to the falls. No need to repeat.

The afternoon drive back to the hotel was more of the same. Extraordinary beauty on a very large scale.

A late afternoon return to our favorite kaffi and bookshop for cuppas.

Such a glorious day of worship, wondrous moments, and kaffi surrounded by wisdom.

ascension day

Today is Ascension Day in the church. It commemorates Jesus Christ’s ascension into heaven.

In past years, churches celebrated this day with services on the Thursday upon which Ascension Day fell. This seems to have fallen out of favor, and currently most churches prefer to transfer the observance to the Sunday after Ascension Day.

Happily there was no transferring at Skálholt Cathedral in Skálholt, Iceland. As soon as my traveling friend learned about the service, we planned to attend.

After about a forty minute drive this morning, we arrived for church. It was especially poignant for me to attend because I had been confirmed on Ascension Day in 1953. Sixty-nine years ago today.

As I sat in my chair preparing myself for worship, I thought about the extraordinary foundation my parents provided me as I grew up in their care and in the faith they made certain I was offered. Taught. Promised. Imparted. I did not realize until this morning the gratitude I have for this gift.

The church of Iceland is Lutheran. We were certain we would easily fit into the worship service.

It did not matter that we did not understand each spoken or sung word because we were familiar enough with the service.

A choir sang while we hummed along with the familiar tunes.

Communion was offered and we participated.

Following the service we joined the congregation, the choir, and the priest for coffee and pastries.

Gathered with these children of God this morning in this place was a reminder for me that we all are one body in Christ. Thanks be to God.

a large day

I’ve referenced the origin of a “large day” in a previous blog. It’s about looking up and about, and experiencing an extraordinarily large and beautiful day. Literally. Today was that kind of day

It began with a lovely breakfast served at the hotel.

Soon after we drove into town so I could find an espresso. We ended up in a small retail complex – a bakery serving expresso drinks, an Icelandic handmade shop, a post office, a volcano exhibit and a grocery store. It turned out to be a delightful place to stop. We had such a lovely conversation with the handcrafter person on duty in the handmade shop.

I bought a scarf. I’m not a scarf wearer but recent sightings of others wearing scarfs brought about a quick purchase from the handmade shop. I’m so glad to have it for the joy alone that I’ve had wearing it today.

It’s our habit to stop at most churches across Iceland. And there are many. Often they are locked. My traveling friend taught me that you can place your phone on an outside window and take a picture of the inside.

We journeyed on down Route 1 to a yarn and pottery shop. Since the pottery shop was closed today, I wandered about enjoying the large day.

We drove on to one of my favorite waterfalls, Urrigafoss. This waterfall is on Iceland’s longest river and is the most voluminous waterfall in the country. The name means sea trout. Also found in the river are salmon which can be seen swimming upriver to the waterfall. They have strong and long tail fins in order to clear the 6 meter-high waterfall.

The Icelandic lupine, the same species plant as Texas bluebonnets, are about to bloom. They are seen alongside roads, trails, parks. We found them along the waterfall trail today.

Of course this happened. Anyone knowing me is not surprised.

As we left Urrigafoss we chose to drive a series of back roads. We were rewarded by the beauty of this small space of Iceland.

Time for a late lunch. We returned to a favorite cafe for a delicious meal during which we could not avoid a sobering conversation about recent events.

A last stop in our day of travel was at Bókakaffið, a local bookstore that also offers espresso coffee.

Now home for the night. It was, indeed, a very large day. Big plans for tomorrow.

the road less taken

This morning we departed Hotel Husafell where we had stayed the first four nights of the trip. We didn’t want to leave. In fact, we tried to stay an additional night but the place where we will be for the remainder of our trip did not allow for a cancellation with so little notice.

So we enjoyed our breakfast, thanked everyone who had served us, packed up and departed.

Of course I needed to visit the “never-have-I-ever” series of waterfalls one more time.

On the road again past sheep and horses. Today the horses won out as we parked for awhile and gazed on moms and colts. So precious!

If we had taken the primary route south to Hveragerði, it would have been a two hour trip. Not us! Instead, we took a series of back roads for five and a half hours.

And that routing was indeed the road less taken. It was another never have I ever experience.

A last glance before turning south.

Oh, wow!

It was not long before the road narrowed and was unpaved.

For the next four and a half hours the road wove across the tundra revealing both distant and close views of,…

rivers,

fragile mosses,

volcanic rocks,

mountains,

melting glacier ice,

and glaciers.

It was so wonderful that I would love to drive it backwards. Maybe on another trip we’ll do just that – reverse the road least taken.

For now it’s time for rest. We are settled in at Frost and Fire hotel. This is the view outside the window at 10:30pm. Rest well.

waters of life

At Hotel Husafell, breakfast and dinner are both served in this gorgeous dining room, filled with windows and views.

There are baristas to make me a cappuccino if I like. For me it’s the new beginning to the day.

The view from the table we usually choose, looks across a meadow-field. We can clearly see a small church.

After breakfast we drove across the field to that church.

In Ezekiel 36:26 we hear, “And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you.”

Off to the left of the altar is a baptismal font. New life in Christ, echoing the Ezekiel scripture.

We returned to Hraunfossar Waterfall for a longer linger.

Never have I ever. The falls beauty has to be seen to realize how many individual cascades pour down to make the whole. Clear, cold springs of subterranean water seep through the lava and run as tiny waterfalls and rapids into the Hvita River.

We reluctantly moved on down the road. to Krauma Baths. Yesterday we had their best-ever soup. Today we had a soak before we once again enjoyed best ever soup.

Below the baths is a small power plant which is manufactured by the French company Enogia. The geothermal baths on site use liquids from the most powerful hot spring in Europe, Deildartunguhver. The heat in the geothermal fluid produces sufficient energy to supply Krauma with electricity as well as helping to cool the geothermal fluid before it goes into the baths, which saves the use of cold water.

The baths experience was tranquil. Various pools of varying temperatures were clustered. There were two rooms to relax. One was warmed by a wood stove, the other by infrared light. Such an overall soothing time.

Followed by another serving of best ever soup and bread.

After returning to the hotel, local water to quench thirst after a day of waters of life.

Abundance.