Art and Nature in a Quarry: It’s an Icelandic Thing

Eldborg, the Tephra Cone that translates as Fire Mountain, in Krysuvik…is a beautiful place, rarely visited….

… is a beautiful place…

You can get close to life there.

The road’s not even busy.

Two generations ago, when it looked out over an active quarry, …
… it was a major site for native Icelandic tourism. One of Iceland Air’s original jets is named after it.

Does this look like a jet to you? No? If you’re Icelandic, it might.

It was part of a network of walking paths, where Icelanders could celebrate all things Icelandic, including the beauty of Kjarval’s paintings, which a few aging Icelandic hikers still do by lunching in Kjarvalstaðir, his gallery in Reykjavik…

… but that’s about it. Icelandic artists are too worldly now to make much of his trolls and elves and such like.

Eldborg

They’re into environmental protection and other more modern mythologies, which they have embraced with great verve, but it’s good to remember that in Icelandic culture the capacity remains to see art, nature and a gravel quarry together, as one thing. The same can be said of rivers: quarries, all.

Bessastaðaá

Yes, a quarry.

 

The Irony of Laugavegur

Laugavegur, in Reykjavik, has always been the people’s street. It started as a public work project, a cobbled road to make the work of washerwomen more efficient. They could take their laundry down to the hot pools by the Old Harbour in a cart rather than in baskets while stomping through mud, rendering the act of washing moot. This project increased general Icelandic productivity many times over, and, what’s more, was done primarily for women. During the economic crisis, the storefronts abandoned when Iceland moved into its suburban mall were snatched up with people selling whatever they could, to make whatever money they could. It was a kind of flea market to attract tourists. Well that worked, even if now they’re full of chain souvenir shops and none any different than the rest. Even the kitchen shop has moved to the mall now, yet even though Icelanders no longer cruise the street in their Old Timer cars, and young Icelandic women don’t pass down the street so much in their party clothes, and old Icelandic men don’t hang around their drinking holes (those are for tourists now) construction continued, even last summer. In a country desperate for housing for the poor or even lower middle class, more hotels was the solution private money found.

June 2019

Now it’s Covid Times. Tourists aren’t rushing in. The old idea does seem best again. Not so much cobbles, maybe, for women to lug their laundry along, but a roof over their heads, so they don’t have to commute long distances in the dark and somehow care for their kids. I’m guessing, only the government can pull it off, but in a country in which men …

…spend the summer driving in circles on a tractor to make hay, while watched by their horses, so they can feed it to their horses in the winter while they watch them…

… and make an economy out of that solid relationship, a little help to the women seems wholly within their power and capacity. What do you think, guys?

They’re asking for our vote.  And, like, more than a bus shelter.

The Birth of a Dragon

If the tide is right, as you walk along the cliff path in Arnarstapi, you might be so lucky as to spot the birth of a dragon, right where the water and the land touch.

If you open the picture in a new window, it will be larger and you will see the dragon clear as day.

And if you look back, you might spot its midwife guardian.

A good place to walk with respect!

 

Puffin Guardians at Raudanes

The puffins at Rauðanes…

…are well-guarded. Note the troll, whose hair they live in, and his peek-a-boo stone seal.

Plus, a whole guard team on shore. Here’s one at work.

All this help allows puffins to build a pretty lovely set of penthouses in peace.

Just respect the management’s rules, that’s all, and yield at trail intersections!

Three Rules of Promenading in Reykjavik

Always look in the back alley. In Iceland, its the contrast between glitz and reality that sells the place.

It makes humans feel right at home. At the same time, always check out the windows.

 

They aren’t for seeing into, as alleys are, but for giving you eyes in the back of your head, and multiple perspectives at once. And while you’re at it in Reykjavik, always pay attention to advertising posters. They are the user’s manual for the art installation.

Note how the sign is a smart phone screen, the guy on the right has the idea, as do the tourists behind the woman in red. Well done, everyone!