top of page

The Wonder of Nature

The whole earth is filled with awe at your wonders;

where morning dawns, where evening fades,

you call forth songs of joy.

Psalm 65:8

 

The promise of high temperatures in the 60s made Iceland the perfect summer vacation destination for this cold-blooded woman. My husband and his three best friends planned this couples trip a year earlier, and I was thrilled with their choice. What I was looking forward to the most was seeing puffins in their natural habitat. These small, tuxedo-feathered birds with their bright orange beaks and webbed feet congregate on the craggy cliffs of the Westman Islands, which is a series of 15 volcanic islands off the southern coast of Iceland. It is one of the largest breeding colonies in the world.  

 

We arrived in this Nordic country on a dreary day and quickly made our way to the Blue Lagoon, a geothermal pool in the center of a dried lava field. Though the place was rather crowded, my body relaxed quickly in the warm, mineral-rich waters. I thought to myself, How thoughtful of God to place these hot thermal pools in this cold, dreary country.


Our next stop was our lodging along the Golden Circle. The hour-long drive revealed a pristine landscape unlike any I had ever seen. Mountain after mountain displayed the occasional waterfall, and glaciers appeared with cloud-covered peaks. There were endless fields of moss-covered rocks and purple Nootka Lupine. People were few, but there were thousands of sheep grazing in the open fields where steady sprays of steam casually ascended from the hot subterranean groundwater beneath.

 

What I did NOT see were powerlines, million-dollar homes, high-rise buildings, and fancy cars. And to be honest, I didn’t miss them. The slower pace of life where no one was trying to prove their worth was a welcomed reprieve from the noise and posturing of northern Virginia.

 

I came to learn that Icelanders value a healthy work-life balance that respects nature and the environment. In fact, this small country ranks number one in the world for income equality.

Instead of trying to fix the lay of the land for personal use and monetary gain, they embrace its natural state and strive to protect its raw beauty.

 

Which brings me back to the puffins. Over a million of these cartoonish birds nestle into the grasses and cliffs on the Westman Islands each summer to lay their eggs and nurture their young. After a 45-minute ferry ride on the Atlantic Ocean, we arrived in Heimaey Island— the only inhabited island of the Westmans. To view of the puffins, we headed up the windy east coast of this steep isle.   

 

Puffins live most of their life on the Atlantic Ocean and only come on land during mating season. To get there, they must ride a big wave and flap their little wings like crazy to catch a wind current that will carry them to the cliffs. Puffins live for about 20 years and attach themselves to a mate for life.

 

The female lays just one egg a year, which she places in a burrow she dug with her own webbed feet. Both parents incubate the egg over a 40-day period. After the chick hatches, mom and dad take turns feeding the puffling while its adult feathers develop. When it’s time for the puffling to fledge (leave the home), the parents stop feeding it and head out to the ocean for the rest of the year. (I know a lot of parents who should consider trying this with their own adult children!)

 

Here’s where it gets tricky. Atlantic puffins are not the best flyers, and baby puffins are vulnerable to predators, such as the Great Black-Backed Gull that can catch a puffin in flight. Somehow the pufflings know about this danger, so they leave their burrow at night to avoid getting caught. God designed them to instinctively fly towards the moonlight that bounces off the ocean. In recent years, however, the town lights have confused the birds. Instead of flying out to sea, they fly into Heimaey where concerned citizens find them on the streets, pick up the birds, and head up the mountain to throw them off the cliff. (You can read more about it here.)

 

We humans are a lot like the puffins that fly toward the light. Sure, the moonlight looks beautiful, but the city lights are brighter, and they call us to desire something bigger, something better. But things are not always as they seem. That’s why God calls us to "…fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:18).

 

No one would ever accuse me of being a tree-hugger, but Iceland gave me a new appreciation for the wonders God designed in nature. I stand in awe of all God created and of what the natural world can teach us when we take the time to slow down and observe. "How many are your works, Lord! In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures. There is the sea, vast and spacious, teeming with creatures beyond number—living things both large and small” (Psalm 104:25).

 

 

THE SONG THAT COMES TO MIND is So Will I by Benjamin Hastings and Hillsong United

Favorite lyric: All nature and science follow the sound of Your voice.”

104 views6 comments

6 Comments


Liz Keyser
Liz Keyser
Jul 11

Oh but Trees need hugs! Now more than ever, in this age of bulldozing these lynchpins of our ecosystems in favor of data centers. But I digress.

Beautiful essay, thank you Michelle for sharing your Puffins experience! ❤️

What a fabulous trip you 2 took.

Like
michelle
Jul 11
Replying to

Well said -- feel free to digress any time!! Sending you hugs and love. ❤️

Like

Peter Corro
Peter Corro
Jul 10

I liked the song you referred us too. The words and cenerary connect.

Like
michelle
Jul 11
Replying to

So glad you took the time to listen! It is a great song!

Like

Stephanie H
Stephanie H
Jul 10

It would be lovely to go to Iceland one day and experience all the beautiful nature that God has bestowed us there. I'm glad to hear that the townspeople help the puffins when they get side-tracked or lost. Thanks for sharing your vacation of Iceland as I've enjoyed reading all about it!

Like
michelle
Jul 11
Replying to

I found the Icelanders to be so kind and welcoming. It's certainly cold there, but worth a visit!

Like
bottom of page