Monthly Archives: December 2016

Glaciers and Humans in the South

Glaciers are beautiful, as you can see.

glacier

Skaftafellsjökull

The human body extends itself into them, and is magnified, just as the sun is. Without them, we are small. With them, we are powerful…

skaftafellsjokull

Skeiðarárjökull

…with a power we must give over to them. Then they draw us to themselves.

p1310367

Sólheimájökull

Gladly.

 

Iceland’s Lonely Shrines

Groves like the one below are ever-present in Iceland. They are a cross between a will to live, a claim to land, a museum and a graveyard. They are houses for both the living and the dead, on the sites of old turf houses. Almost every farm has one.p1340417

They are places of deep feeling, loss, and connection. A cathedral in France or Germany is a more expensive form of this same art form, but no more permanent, just as these groves are worthy of no less honour and respect. They are, in a sense, what viking ships become after 1000 years.

Beyond Literacy in Iceland

On the south coast of Iceland, the world is being made out of primary forces. It is not happening in the past. It is happening right now.p1310165

These forces of wind, water and air are like primary colours.

p1310122 Which are primary ways of seeing: moods of the day.p1310117

It is possible to live within this palette.p1310048

Power structures will be expressed in its physical terms.

strand

Once those terms form a new palette, they become a new language.p1310094

It turns the earth into a place from which technology is the shelter.

p1340379

It tries to cast light on this place, because that is what it knows. There are ways.

p1310043 The world may not be approachable by language, but it is still there. In it, even water is light.p1360065

Even light is water.

p1360004

Out of the loneliness where there are no words for such light, Icelanders snuggle into the dark and write novels. Then they live in them. Sensible, really. A defensive strategy, although a bit transparent.

yellowrey

While they are at it, they invite foreigners to meet the old world of this book…

p1330714

… for which they have no words except some old manufactured rubble they read in novels: nature, beauty, wonder, the old carny shows. It is enough, though. It is sweet honey.blow

Words like this allow people to come here to meet themselves, often for the first time, between the lines or right in them.p1330870

While Icelanders wrestle with batteries in the mist then give up and go in for a cup of Nescafe.

p1340934

The mixing goes on, regardless. It braids old battlefields …

p1400402

… and old shores of grief and shipwreck …p1310487

… into that place where the only difference between sea and sky is not made by land but by wind alone and the human capacity for being present in the wind.lone

Here a man is wind. If you want to speak with him, you will find him there in the ruins of what can no longer be spoken: like a collection of Grecian marbles in the British Museum.

p1330195 The image above and the image below are the same.p1380578

And again.p1370090

And again.

p1310195

They are all books. Look at them shouting for attention.

p1330218

There is, however, still a world.

p1320271

It’s not what we think. Let us dare to use the old word again.

p1400536

The one the eye sees before the mind.

 

 

Christmas Between the Worlds

On the woman’s hill on Viðey, it is possible to walk between worlds.p1340121

It is here the stones speak a language that is neither Icelandic nor English. It is an eruption of physical presence.

p1340118

Whatever words we who are human speak, it is no less and no more than this ability to walk through bodies lifted into the air until they become it, and then to breathe them in the same moment as our walking.

p1340119

This breathing is our way of talking to our ancestors, who the living call the dead. They’re hardly dead.

p1340127

Not as long as we keep walking among them.

p1380553

Not as long as we continue to honour them with devotion to each other.

storm

Let us listen with all that we are.

p1350597

Let us trust the old paths of care.

p1380550

 

Let us honour the conversation and the giving forth and the point at which we become the earth at the point that it becomes us.

p1320994

For it either goes on without us or with us, and we can so be there.

p1380569

Let us go give thanks by being there.p1310489

Let us be honourable children. Let us be there.

three

Let us give praise, however we can.

p1310671However you can, let us find the silence at the heart of speech. Let us stand aside. Let us give each other that much honour.p1400536 Let us be the speech at the heart of silence. Let us be gathered in.

p1380464_2

For we are all the living.

cover17

We have much to talk about. bright2

We have much to walk together through the stillness that gives us movement and stills us at the same moment.troll

 

Let us rejoice.

How the Land and the Sea Create Men

In the understanding of people who live off their land, water is not a substance but an expression of the live-giving quality of slopes with certain qualities: not to collect water, exactly, but to amass it, like gravity. It is this coming together of forces which is water.
watersea An ocean is a different thing altogether. It, too, is not water, but, if the expression of a water out of the land can teach anything, I think it’s that the image below is identical to the one above, with one exception: in the image above, the ocean below is transformed by the lens of the land into the concentration of energy called water.lone

This ocean, Gunnar Pointed Out, is the great sea of undifferentiated life and death. They are only sorted by passage through a shore.

p1360004

In effect, this passage is the same one created by the forms of the land that created the small lake above the sea I showed you above. Here it is again, so you can compare.

watersea

The product is the same: you are looking at human life being formed by the land.

The Frost Giants At Work in Iceland

Look at this lovely patterned ground on the path to the waterfall Glymur. Glymur was hidden behind a flood river, but the way that far was beautiful and austere.patterned

Patterned ground is created near glaciers, where ground freezes and thaws dramatically. Stripes in patterned ground are created by slopes of 2 to 7 degrees. This is ice talking under the ground. Think of it as a balance between water …

waterstuff

… stone …pebbles

… and frost.

p1320740

In Iceland, life doesn’t just come from heat.

What Every Icelandic Sheep Could Tell You

I’ve been thinking about walls. What are they for? For shelter, yes, and seemingly to keep sheep in, or out, but into or out of what? I mean, look at the pastures under the Snaefells Glacier.

p1380546

There’s precious little for sheep in the neighbouring pastures below, and any shepherd is likely to break a leg stomping after sheep in this stuff, and why? There’s as little grass on one side as on the other.dritvikwall

Assuming that in the past Icelandic farmers were as sensible and economical with their energy as any others, might there be a reasonable, but lost explanation? Could the walls be to direct sheep, not to make pasture but so that they herded themselves, a kind of large sheep fold, like the one at the edge of the lava (below)?

p1380448

Driftwood helps. Is drifting the principle here? To reap the benefits of summer labour in the winter, when labour is just too exposed on the open earth?

p1380464_2

Or is it to direct the snow, to bare some slopes for sheep and to bury others with snowdrifts, to provide fresh water in the spring and early summer? It could be. I don’t know.

drifted

 

It wasn’t a fence to guide human walkers in the fog and the dark. Cairns were used for that.

p1380775

Might it have been to separate the fields by the shore from the fields by the mountain…

p1350699

… to keep sheep from drifting away from survival food, winter’s seaweed…

p1350933

Sheep Pasture at Dritvik

…into perilous holes in the lava?

p1380860

Is it, in other words, about thinking with the land? Is this the wealth that Gunnar Gunnarsson said was at the heart of poverty? Is this an extension of the principle “when you run out of hay anything is hay, anything at all” to land itself, on the lines of “when you run out of pasture anything is pasture,” even if it is only an extension of the poverty of one man over another? Could this be love of land?

p1310618

In a country in which only a landowner could wed and have children, the impetus to own any kind of land, in any kind of poverty whatsoever, must have been intense. Is that what we’re looking at here? Love?

p1380569

The stubbornness not to disappear of a people from whom the benefits of community were continually removed, often by foreign traders?

p1370090

Is drift a way of holding on by bending the way a path goes? I don’t know. Is it still going on?

p1330218

Is this the principle of drift? Are some fences made of the mind and duty?p1330714

Is this how 1,500,000 tourists are safely guided through the cold every year by a few hundred front line Icelanders?

wetpair

I bet the sheep know.