Friday, July 15, 2011

Day 20: July 15, 2011

We cycled from Reydarfjordur to Egilstadir today, about 35 km (22 miles) into and over a modest mountain. It was another cold, rainy and windy day, which made for a challenging 3 1/2 hour ride. As we climbed higher and higher, the temperature fell into the low 40's F, and the steady rain soaked us. We passed several beautiful waterfalls streaming out of the mountain mist and started seeing patches of snow near the road.

After about 2 hours, Sho complained that his feet were soaked and painfully numb. He is usually stoic about the various discomforts of cycling for hours on end, but when he started asking me about the symptoms of frostbite, I knew we needed to address the problem. We pulled over on the narrow, foggy mountain road, our breath coming out as mist, rain dripping off our helmets, and I changed him into a pair of dry socks and hiking boots. He was fine after that.

Sho and I decided that the crap weather wasn't bad luck. It was actually a decision by the weather god (who is wise and good) to make us stronger for the weeks of cycling that lie ahead. And to remind us of the value of discomfort. Most people avoid discomfort, but it is precisely when we are uncomfortable that we most deeply appreciate the simple joys of life: a hot meal shared with people you love, soaking in warm water, snuggled up reading to your kids in bed. The suffering makes the pleasure, when you finally experience it, so much better!

Egilstadir has a large, heated public pool, which we made our target destination. Sho, Saya and I luxuriated in the bubbling hot tubs and horsed around in the lap pool, treasuring the sensation of being wet and warm so soon after being wet and cold. It was fabulous. Thanks weather god.

I met a man at the pool who runs a hotel and fishing business in a nearby fjord. He told me that the local weather patterns seem to be shifting, with more rain and cold than before. He speculated that it may be a result of the retreating glaciers and warming ocean. Since 1980, he has documented a 2 degree Celsius increase in the average temperature of the water where he fishes. As a result of the warmer water, in the past few years, mackerel have started to appear off the coast of Iceland. This change has given him a new source of income (catching and selling mackerel), but people speculate that this may be one reason for the recent decrease in the local puffin population. The mackerel eat the small fish that are the puffins' primary food source.

Living in New York City, it is easy for me to feel removed from natural rhythms and to ignore or minimize the seemingly minor changes this man described. But as I cycle through this country in which the forces of nature so clearly hold sway - new islands emerging out of the sea, glacial rivers flooding out the main highway, volcanoes erupting - I have experienced frequent moments of consciousness, when I am overwhelmed by a powerful sensation of connection to the world around me. As I nurture and protect my two children, helping them to grow into healthy adults, I see the same act repeated over and over, as we cycle past baby sheep who peek out at us from behind a protective mother, or ducklings who crowd close to their parents. I see hearty shrubs and bright delicate flowers struggling to grow in harsh lava fields, and recognize the same resilience that I hope to cultivate for myself and my kids.

It is this sense of connection to the natural world - and a desire to treasure and protect the wilderness that remains - that I hope my children will have internalized long after this trip becomes a memory.

Here are some pics from today's ride:

Nice guy we met in Egilstadir who gave Sho and Saya a handful of lollipops. They affectionately called him "Lollipop Man".

- An Iceland Bike Adventure post

1 comment:

  1. Connection with nature makes us truly alive. A great lesson fit the kids indeed!