They are the kind of People Who Would Make a Little Sculpture out of a Dead Electrical Cord and a Splot of Plaster in a Stucco Wall, that’s who, and likely neither mention it nor notice it when it is done, because it is that natural of a gesture.
Everything catches your eye. The world is not what we expect but what we answer when it calls to us. The two gestures are the same. Preparation is all, even if you don’t know the preparation you have done. When I first travelled to Iceland, we were given an itinerary and sent on our way, and, being curious and easily wowed, kept stopping the car and being late for dinner.
Now I understand that if we hadn’t wanted to be caught, and if we hadn’t been ready to be caught, we would have driven on, and made dinner. Because we stopped, I saw into the heart of the world, and have written two books and am deep into two other manuscripts. And still that lamb dinner calls!
It was all forest once, in the whole country, at least by the water. Even here in Hvalfjörður, it was trees. But the trees were cleared to make pastures and to keep the Icelanders warm, and then there were no trees, and so it remains in most of the country. Because of this history…,
… horses are now trees. Stick a pale of hay in the middle of a forest clearcut 1000 years ago, and there you have it, a grove. As I’ve said. before, in this country everyone is an artist.
Going to Iceland. I don’t blame you. It’s beautiful. Gulfoss. The Golden Falls. With its eternal rainbow. What’s not to love?
Well, this, maybe. Hey, but everybody’s as much in love with it as you are. You’re in good company. That’s nice.
That’s not so bad at all, is it. But this?
That’s OK, too. I mean, everyone is safe this way, and that’s good, plus things erode. We don’t want things to erode. Thing is, well… IF … you … turn … around … there … is … this.
Will you go there? Likely not. There are, after all the beautiful falls. Very beautiful. There’s a path.
And you can always go wait for the Geysir up the road. That’s fun. It really is. It’s even more fun to watch the watchers.
Still… IF you turn around (and miss the Geysir) …
Will you go there? The Icelanders hope you won’t. They want you at the Geysir. Ahh, that’s better.
Let’s face it. That’s worth putting your back to the mountains. Or is it?
It’s a tricky dance, to be a traveller in Iceland.
Like people in all countries deeply impacted by colonial experience, including my Canada, Icelanders love putting on the identities of others, in the way people in non-colonial cultures enjoy putting on a new T shirt.
Just remember, people can take them off just as easily, and that the real person is hidden: first by a self worn as an ornament of status in an imagined elsewhere (which plays out locally) and, second, by a lack of words to describe that self. In Iceland, you can meet Icelanders, but it’s hard in downtown Reykjavik or online, where Icelandic is losing ground to English. In both cases, foreigners like myself are being given a genuine, although guarded, welcome. It is, nonetheless, business, and business is business. It is not to be confused with this: