Music, Storytelling, Fires and Caves

In October, seventeen people gathered around a fire in a large cave right by basalt cliff rocks and a black-sand beach near Hafnarfjörður. We were there to say goodbye to Christian Duell, a friend who had deeply impacted every person in the cave. But we were also there to share stories and deepen our relationships with each other. It was completely isolated; there was no one for miles. There were many “old” friends and plenty of new faces as well.

Christian played a beautiful set of new songs that he wrote in Iceland. He, like many of us in the cave, is at a key turning point in his life as he prepared to set off to rejoin his beautiful partner in Bangalore, India.

Between songs, locals and foreigners shared personal turning points, creating a space of shared vulnerability. A few of us shared incredibly personal stories about death, love, childhood, moving to new places, listening to your body, and connections. The collective energy was full of love, which continued to grow for the rest of the night.

After Christian’s set—as we expressed our gratitude for him and each other—Lizzie, a friend, pointed out toward the shore and mountains beyond and said, “Look! The Northern Lights!”

We all ran outside, fumbling through the lake rocks in the darkness with our gaze set toward the illuminated sky. It was an all too familiar sight and I felt this sensation similar to that night at the hot springs near Snæfellsjökull. We gathered on the sand in a tight circle, our arms behind each others’ backs, and watched the lights dance in the sky. The reflection of an almost full moon shimmered on the water below.

An hour or so later, we settled back into the cave—our home for the night—and unraveled our sleeping bags. The sounds of crackling fire started to fade in the background. We covered our bodies with wool from head to toe and jumped into our warm bags and zipped ourselves in. A slight wind whisked into the cave.

The sound of our dying cackling fire was overshadowed by the sound of water kissing the shore over and over again, and then someone finally yelled, “I feel so alive!”

The last thing I remember before closing my eyes was the Big Dipper constellation slowly disappearing behind an ethereal cloud. As I closed my eyes I heard Christian say, “Agh, this is such a dream.”

In that moment, my feeling for the people around me, for Iceland and for my experience here reminded me of something Dr. Seuss once said: “You know you’re in love when you can’t fall asleep because reality is finally better than your dreams.”

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