The Art of Walking

Myvatnsveit, in Northern Iceland is a place where you can get a view across great distance. It is a view (vita) across distance. You see (vita) it and you know it (veit.) What a sight!p1350047

In the modern world, an English speaker, trained (as we all are) in Enlightenment philosophy, would likely say “I see”, “I got a good view at last,” or “could see a long way.” It’s the same in modern Icelandic, because Icelanders are all trained in Enlightenment philosophy, too, but the old sense in Icelandic (and English) is different. The view is there. The possibility of sight is there. We enter it, and then the sight has a centre. It is a point of movement, which we calling “walking”. We see out of it, to where we are, which is in the middle of a veit.p1350009

We even have a term for this in English: “I’m in the middle of nowhere.” That’s an alternate way of looking at a veit; it’s a waste, or a wasteland — a place that is not home. You’d better start walking, if you want to get out of there, but you will remain within it until the last step. In English, the word “wide” fills a related role. It is the space of a walk. It remains in material form between the walk’s beginning and end, which can only be re-experienced by another crossing, which brings it together or makes it near. (Read more on If you enter this wide space, you enter that walk — the time (and place) that I, or someone else, made in the past. It comes alive in you, but only when you move.


Until you come out the other side you are in the walk; the veit fills you. Only when you come out at the other side does that life slide off of it and back to you and you can see. Whatever is on the trip is on the trip; only what you carry out doesn’t stay there.


And when you look back, you see where you were, but you aren’t there. It has become something complete, which you see, and can, if you choose, reenter.


These are old word meanings, but they are the gifts of our ancestors, who knew about walking. For them, it was the communication which today is, well, taking place in this combination of words and images.


We are, in effect, walking here, in the flat light of Iceland, that shows no distance, no near or far, or, rather, shows a land made of light, quite different from the one we watch from.


It is a cold place.

p1350067 Grundarfjörður

From our green fields, we can see into it. There are trolls there. Our bones ache in recognition. When we are in it, we see within it. When we approach the end of our walk, we see out of it, to the future we are walking towards.



And then we are there.



It is the same for every moment. We can cheat and drive a car, but if we want to be alive in a moment, we have to walk.


For creatures like us, sight is a glimpse into a possible future. Walking is being there. And when you come back the being remains there, not where you are. Amazing isn’t it. There’s a technology for binding past and future across the empty space of a walk. This is a way, or a path.



It is a protective charm that cuts across the unknowability of a veit (the consciousness that is your body walking, not your mind thinking.) Forget sight. It’s not primary. As long as your feet don’t stray from your path, you will meet your future. Mine, as you can perhaps make out, wears a blue coat. Good to know! Well, looks like I’d better catch up. See ya!

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