Monthly Archives: December 2018

Iceland’s Stones of History

It is the horizon that marks the way across Iceland. It is there, where soft rock broken apart by fast-moving glaciers shows itself against the low, high-latitude snow, that one sees the difference between the impossible jumble of the near and the impossible formlessness of the distant.

It is the most basic cultural act to set up a human marker in that spot, in the most recognizable shape: a human guide. The jumble and the white-out become intimately more human, as a deep, psychological break between darkness and light. It clears the mind …

… and you find the way, exactly at the point, the ridges, where the wind blows the snow away. For most of Iceland’s history, these cairns were the difference between life and death as one travelled across country. Here at Litlafoss, it guides herdsmen out of the canyon pastures and away from the cliff where the raven nests and waits for you to slip and break your head. You can see some of these cairns on the left of the image below, although the one above was on the right and out of the image.

For Icelanders, these cairns are some of the deepest history in the land, and one of the historical markers of the creation of Icelandic culture.

They are to be approached with the reverence with which one approaches the caves at Lascaux or the Sphinx, and so are the glacial rubble fields that inspired them. Walk lightly in Iceland. Nature here is historical space.

You pass through history to get to the falls.

Litlafoss

To find the falls, you must go deep into the earth.

Icelandic Austerity is Beautiful

Time and again, Gunnar wrote that poverty is the greatest wealth. Here’s an example from his childhood fjord. Here, every farm i needed a source of fresh water. The smaller the farm, the more precarious the source. Here’s the water source of a small croft near Bringubakki.

Look how the water flows with life within the remains of winter’s cold, just as the life flows through the family that brings it into their house. This small, austere pleasure of this correspondence is a great richness.

What You Missed on Your Summer Trip to Iceland

So, you came in the summer. The grass was awfully nice. So pretty. And you were bathed in light and danced.


Here are the deeps of the island, that you missed:

Look how the light has a left the sky and gone into the things of the world. The sun shines from there. You’ll have to come back. There’s no way around it.

Magical Icelandic Light

In mid-November, there is no break between sunrise and sunset, just a switch in the spectrum. Here’s the pink morning light at Hafnarskógar, looking up to Hafnarfell.

As you can see, when you live in such light, you become inspired.

And the moon shines all day. Here it is around 2 pm, looking out Rauðanes way. Enough to inspire anyone.

At this time of day, the blue and pink start mixing it up.

An hour later, over on Rauðanes, it gives a last splash…

And then darkens …

… and both deepens and thins at the same time …

Tungokollur over Borgarnes

… until the next morning when it begins again, later yet.

It’s a wonder every Icelander isn’t a painter.

 

Art for the Eye in Reykjavik

Ásmundar Sveinsson sculpted things for the eye, to give it delight as it sorted light and form before sending information on to the brain for further massaging. A trip to Reykjavik is just a pub crawl if you don’t get to the Ásmundarsafn, the gallery set up to show his stunning work.

It was a concept that has not yet seen its day. Perhaps you will be the one to expand on it?

These weren’t intellectual interpretations of human forms, human work and human engineering. These were delights made for the eye. Go on, don’t you think your eyes deserve some glee?

Note that the quality of the light is part of the effect that he was sculpting. I’m afraid that moving these away from their native environment just wouldn’t work. Off you go, now. Treat yourself!