A Fearsome Beauty
We found the lay-by late afternoon. I drove the campervan into the turning point and switched off the engine.
There was silence.
And an emptiness in every direction.
The bank dropped away beneath the wheels to glacial waters that laced through basalt debris to the sea. Behind us, a table-top hill was backlit by the cold light of the dying day. In the other direction, beyond the escarpments, lay an ice-cap.
This was our bedroom.
“Eyjafjallajökull is just to the west of us,” Tom said.
“You remember – the volcano that erupted in 2010 and caused havoc with flights.”
“And almost due north of us is Katla – which was on the news as we were coming here. Seismologists detected tremors and said it could erupt any time. It’s well overdue.”
Thanks, I thought. Just what I needed to know.
I looked at the channels of water below us.
White on black.
“Do you think it’s safe here? What if the waters rise in the night?”
“You mean, what if Katla erupts?”
We found the saucepans and cooked pasta and tuna; boiled water for tea. I put down the seats and made up the bed.
The light was ebbing from the sky. The channels of water below us were almost luminous, cutting through silt black as tar. The last rays of sunshine warmed the hills a custard-yellow and caught the snow on the ice-cap beyond.
How could we leave this place?
We would stay. In this fearsome beauty.
As the sky grew dark, a car drove up close behind us – although the long run of lay-by was empty. We waited for its driver to move on, but he sat there, letting the engine idle and flooding our van with his headlights. And I saw we were blocked in the turning space.
After a while, the driver emerged from the car. I watched him cross the road, just a shadow in the fading light. He climbed over the barrier and headed down towards the river bank. I could just make out his outline against the quicksilver of water. What was he doing? I saw he held an object in his hand. Was it a camera? But the light was almost gone from the sky. A second man left the car; then a woman. Still the engine ran and the headlights continued to flood our van. Across the road, I could just make out the human forms scrambling on the bank below the barrier.
Then they were gone.
Under the Night Sky
In the night I needed a pee. Outside, the air was raw; the river caught the moonlight and the sky was flung with stars. In between, the ghostly forms of mountains rose like mantles from the earth.
There’s no sound but for the murmur of water on stone.
Back in the van, I folded into you, drawing in your warmth.