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Saturday, September 4, 2010

The Rift

I want to talk about the earthquake in Christchurch.  But I can't.  Not yet.

So instead, I'll let you all know how its going in Iceland so far.

As soon as I got off the plane I could feel the vibe of this country; it is a raw and wild place.  Got picked up by Helen and Jessica at the bus terminal at 2 a.m. (thanks guys!).  The next day we bummed around Reyjavik.  Its a great city and impossibly sprawling considering how there is only about 200,000 in the city.  It seems even more unlikely considering how many apartment buildings there are.

In the morning of the first day, we visit the church of Leif Erikson.  The church is stark inside; there is no ornamentation, just simplicity and light.  I light a candle for those I have left behind, wishing them all peace and love.

Its moody here; cool and cloudy since I arrived.  We have been hanging out at the hot pools (there are lots of thermal pools here) and yesterday, we completed the Golden Circle tour.

The tour started out at a geothermal powerstation that provides the city with 90 percent of its power.  The plant is amazing from the parking lot to the large, stainless steel pipes.  Design is a huge part of life here; everything seems to be touched with the Scandinavian brush of simplicity and ingenuity.  Everything has beautiful, simple lines.

We leave the power station to our next stop...the falls.  These Gullfloss falls are roaring with water and are spectacular to witness (which i almost got literally blown away doing).  The falls almost got dammed up by a german fellow but a local Icelandic girl stopped him from destroying the falls.  The Icelandic people and the gazillion tourists that have followed have her to thank for preserving these beautiful falls.

The next place we visited was the Geysir.  The Geysir, which towered some 50 metres above ground when geysiring, gave its name to all other geysirs on earth.  The Big Geysir no longer a smaller geysir has taken over.  It truly is a wonder; a pool about 2 metres by 2 metres across, filled with clear, hot water steaming and bubbling away.  Tourists surround it waiting for their moment to see it gush into the air.  Digital cameras at the ready, waiting for the moment.  The centre of the pool bubbles like a big bowl of jello and then GUSH 20 metres into the air, with much oooo and ahhhhh...and the occasional stupid tourist who stood downwind, scrambling to get out of the way of steam and water.

Its a beautiful place.  We sit and eat traditional icelandic meat soup.  Its delicious, I have to admit.

The last place we visit is the Rift...the place between the American and Eurasian plate boundary.  The two plates are slowly seperating from each other, leaving a wide stretch of land that is sinking. The Rift is the name for this land in the betwee; a place where the hidden people, trolls and elves live (if you believe the Icelanders).  Its a place where lost souls roam.  You can feel the sadness of the land here; a place owned by no plates, nothing to support it, gradually sinking back into the earth.

We are standing on the American plate boundary and sometimes you can see the other plate boundary but not today.  Today it is foggy and rainy; the other side is hidden from sight.  There are only two places where you can see a rift like this, where plates are splitting apart: here and in Africa.

In the Rift, there are magical creatures.  Here is where the hidden people are.  Apparently, the hidden people are the children of Adam and Eve.  The story goes that one day, God came to visit the Garden of Eden but Eve hadn't washed all her children.  Instead, she hid the dirty ones from God but God knew and so he cursed them to roam the earth.  Hidden people look like us BUT can only be seen when they choose to be seen.

There are also lovely stories about the troll (you can clearly see where the story comes from, as faces stare out from the rocks) and elves who live in the rocks.  The tour guide was a bit cagey about whether the elves were separate to the hidden people.

We come back home to news of the earthquake.  Helen, Jessica and I are all distraught; helpless to do anything constructive for our damaged city.  This is our jobs and here we are, in Iceland, unable to help.  The feeling is horrible.  All three of us feel like we are in the Rift; between two places at once and not held up by anything.

Times like these we want to find meaning to the disaster or see a greater purpose.  I don't subscribe to that theory; shit just happens.  Good people suffer.  Tragedy happens.  There is no silver lining or reason why sometimes; it just does.  But the one thing I think we can all appreciate about disasters is that it focuses you to what is really important.  Love. Family.  Home.  The essential, connective tissue of life.

I wish all those who are in Canterbury safety, love and peace during this time.  I've heard from almost everyone now, with the exception of one person.  Oi! Scott! Email me already!

I wish I could help but I know the people in charge are doing an amazing job.  But I can't help wishing I was there; not to help because what can one person do but to help myself knowing that I worked on behalf of the region I love.  I know its selfish, but hey its hard having a good time here when you know the people you care about are going through a rough time.

Instead, I feel stuck in the Rift: in between two large segments of my life, thinking about those I love.