Iceland in winter - there is a raw beauty lying on the land, a beauty I was unprepared for, a rawness I could only guess at.
You sense that rawness in the sight of endless mountain ranges holding back thousands of years of accumulated ice and snow, glaciers looming over valleys below, dwarfing hamlets and lonely farms; homesteads built tight against steep cliffs, finding protection from the icy northern winds; Icelandic ponies, huddled together, their faces pointing north, towards the Arctic.
You feel it in the waterfalls that never quite reach the bottom of the precipice, its spray blown sideways, frozen against the cliff, an ice climbers' dream; in the blues of glaciers as they calf into a lagoon, its current flowing to the sea, pushing flotsam of ice with it. Ice formed before Eirik Rauða settled here, ice strewn along a black sand volcanic beach, shimmering in yet another glorious sunset, a riot of oranges and yellows.
It is in the volcanoes, seen and unseen, but always present in the minds of men; in the steam from underground vents signifying a restless earth, keeping people guessing where the next eruption will take place; in the floodplains devoid of habitation, their dark sands awaiting the next torrent of glacial melt water.
You sense it in the raging rivers carving their way through lava flows as young as you and as old as time itself; in the babbling brooks, making their way to an unseen ocean.
It is in the people stoically enduring what nature will throw at them next, ready to pack up at a moment's notice, always ready to start again.
And you feel it in the yellows and browns of winter grass sticking out of the snow, lining a pond so dark blue it is almost black, the wind stirring it's waters into gentle ripples, reflecting the warm light of the rising sun.
This is Iceland at it's most beautiful, stirring something within you and touching your soul.