It’s barely dawn, and you already believe in Poseidon. Cloudy aquamarine water envelopes you as you tread cautiously further away from the dock. Truly summoned to explore, you grope the uneven basin with your hands, needing to going head-first through the opaque mist. You’re able to see — vague shapes — but only just; you reach down and pull out liquid silver silt from between the lunar boulders.
Two people come close enough for you to make out that they’re a couple. They’re facing each other, and he’s carrying her; her ponytail trails in the water. A demure wake begins. Two by two, more bodies begin to emerge from the steam — Noah’s arc is referenced, but is neither welcome nor needed here.
In the East is a large cloud formation that is most definitely a swordfish. The light has spread, rose quartz streaks the velvet sky. Daybreak has graced the Blue Lagoon.
It’s 10:49 am.
In Judaism, the Mikveh is a ritual pool used for spiritual hydration and renewal, often done to mark transitions and occasions (weddings, pregnancies, sometimes Shabbat). When used, it offers purity and holiness. Water, the “universal solvent”, is often religiously associated with purity–removing the grime, dust, and impurities from the body and the soul.
As I floated through the Blue Lagoon, I immediately related my experience to the Mikveh. After landing in Iceland, the first thing I did was I hop on a bus, travel for thirty minutes and swam in these silica-laden waters. Many flock to Iceland just to bathe in the Lagoon; moreover, the country’s bathing culture is ever-present, from the majestic Blue Lagoon to tiny urban geothermal pools. Why? This land of “fire and ice” is dotted with basins that all renowned worldwide for their healing and cleansing powers–because of underground minerals pushed to the surface which form these pools.
While the Blue Lagoon certainly isn’t a proper Mikveh, it was undoubtedly symbolic that my first activity of this trip should be bathing. It helped me clear my mind of any travel preconceptions (like worrying about staying in a hostel for the first time), and kept me firmly in the present–to concentrate on my otherworldly experience.
As I watched the sun rise over the snow-covered landscape and let the creamy silica-mud mask harden on my face, I was renewed. Maybe it was the waters, or maybe I was looking for a parallel. All I can say is that my skin is still glowing three days later, and my heart is wide open.