A mare can stand perfectly still and make you hear the words: Thou shalt not come closer.
It was our last location of the day, and there were several dozen mares in the pasture beside the lake. All the others were grazing and tolerating the buoyant shenanigans of foals. But a solitary mare stood off by herself at the edge of the field. We skirted her, our eyes downcast to avoid being confrontational or threatening. And when we were in a position to see why she stood so, we saw that there was a foal lying in the deep grass at her feet. It was very still, and we wondered if everything was okay with it. We waited, glancing at her sideways. And then slowly, luxuriously, with the naive trust of a foal born in a place with no predators, the baby awakened, lifted its head and stretched, then got to its feet and tottered off on new legs with its now relaxed mother.
We sat on grassy tussocks. We could have stayed there all afternoon, sheer cliffs to our left, snow covered mountains to our right, a fjord stretching off into the distance, mares and foals wandering congenially among us. But then they decided that there was either tastier grass elsewhere, or they’d grown weary of our presence, and they took their long-maned, multicolored selves down the road beyond the knoll at our backs and out of our view.
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We continued north, taking in the vast waterfall of Gullfoss, a massive torrent that could compete with Niagara Falls. We stopped at Thingvellier National Park, which encompasses the great Atlantic rift between North American and Eurasian tectonic plates. We strolled below the sheer stone cliff that has been forced upward a hundred feet, stared into a great dark crack in the earth where the man made path had ruptured and split. Further north, following the road as it tunneled under the Hvalfjörður Fjord – the first actual darkness that we had seen since we’d arrived. Northward, the roads becoming quieter still, and we turned north yet again off the Ring Road, past the town of Blönduós, further north, until all there was were green fields and rocks and the Greenland Sea. Even on this beautiful June day we imagined what the winters would be like on this windswept shore.
We waited for horses. We were assured that they were just over the rise, beyond the empty field. There were flocks of terns, and Eider ducks, and sandpipers, and grebes, amidst the rocks and indigo water.
And then there were horses of many colors. They came over the hill toward us, chestnuts and paints and bays and duns, mostly mares, a few with foals, picking their way over the broken lumpy ground and through streams, pausing before a textured old barn, then pushing past a rocking shoreline. As they circled us, they were in turns illuminated and outlined by the heavenly morning light, filtered through high clouds.
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