Gray mist blots out the horizon, dampening sound save the TV-static sizzle of cooling lava. Veils of smoke wash across brutalist hunks of volcanic rubble. Fissures in the blackened landscape reveal red molten rock radiating heat inches below the surface. In some places, lava flows like a bewilderingly bright river; in others, it oozes like thick syrup over charred ridges. Fires spark and die. Cheeks redden.
This pulsing shore of a volcanic sea feels decidedly apocalyptic, but this isn’t the end of the world. It’s the beginning of it.
“We’re watching Iceland develop,” Ryan Connolly, my guide for a nature tour over the next few days, says as I watch a viscous pile of glowing orange lava shed its burnt-marshmallow skin and consume it before resuming its slow melt in my direction. Wild, I thought.
“It’s a new, dynamic environment. Everything is changing.”
He’s got that right.
It’s hard to believe this eerily beautiful vista exists on the same planet as, say, the living room where I’ve spent the past 14 months. Being anywhere else is strange and exciting at the moment. As Iceland itself grows before my eyes, the world in general suddenly feels big again.