Ogre in Njardvik Fog
It watches us and has intent. Well, it does that in Reykjavik, too…
…but at least there one can ignore it.
Humans. The dears need their fantasies!
In downtown Vopnafjörður, right across from the slaughterhouse, there’s a fine elf hill. Gunnar Gunnarsson grew up in this neighbourhood. He would have seen this hill everyday, and no doubt climbed it often.
Now, it might be hard to visit a “real” elf here (at any rate, it’s out of your control), but you can visit Gunnar.
He has flowers and birds, and place for you to sit down.
This is a pre-Happy-Camper kind of Icelandic travel. There are a lot of Icelanders honours with their very own copper head in the trees. To visit them is a kind of pilgrimage.
If we can set aside the re-creation of European indigenous life
as fairytale during the romantic period, in which elves and dwarves, trolls, ogres,
witches and other organic understandings of human-Earth relationships took on sentimental human form,
and given to biology,
we should still be able to read the rock as something more than mineral. It is the nature of being indigenous to be of a place.
This does not mean that one inhabits it solely as an isolated biological body,
but that the place and you are also one. One of the consequences is that you will see your mind and body around you and read your thoughts out of the land
By moving across the land, you really move through it, and really are moving through yourself.
You can stop sometimes and have a look at what you, as the Earth, are thinking.
The simplest way is to read the stone, such as the cliffs at Ásbyrgi. It’s easiest if you remember that before a troll was a mythical, romantic being…
… it was a stone, or a person, anchored to a place and defining it. The understanding was that place has power.
And not just as a romantic artform called “nature”.
That is beautiful enough, but it has a lot in common with romanticized, humanized elves and looks, most of the time, like fairyland.
It is, of course, but not literally. What is literal is the rock, and how you can read your thoughts there.
Complex thoughts of many kinds.
Once you have seen through the romantic veil to that, you can relax and read the trees.
Such observations are usually called pre-modern thinking, but it would be both more fair and more generous, more respective of human nature, to call it non-individualized consciousness, or even earth consciousness.
Not a spruce tree and not fairyland. This is your body being conscious. You can learn to speak this.
And we need that.
I wouldn’t exactly call these birches a forest, and “wood”, or “copse” or “grove” or “thicket” are also plain wrong. Even the Icelandic, “skogur”, can’t be right, because it applies to any kind of group of trees at all, and, well, these are very special. They’re more like people.
“Community” seems rather generalized, and “congregation” is too churchy. What about “band”? That’s more like a line, isn’t it, and not this spreading out and appearing. We could say it is a “bosk,” though. That’s an old word for a kind of thicket, with the old proto-Indoeuropean sense of “appearing.”
Any celt would have been happy with that, and there’s a lot of celtic memory in Iceland. The French are happy with it, too, and would just call this a “bois.” A gathering together, and what is a gather but a clump, or a thickening, that is held by an external force, in this case, the cliffs of Ásbyrgi.
Look how they are alive with this sense of “peopling” as well: a busk, or bois, or gather of stone. There is an energy leading all these forms to come together in this pattern, and it is this energy that is Iceland. Just ask a puffin.
Some people just don’t get it about elves, not to mention trolls and ogres, and think that these creatures have to be empirically present or not exist at all. With that kind of thinking, they just won’t see an elf or look into the other realm. However, if you go to the Buðahraun on Midsummer Night, you will find elves in every collapsed volcanic hollow, in wondrous variety.
Every is a doorway, through which the other world spills. Usually these are dangerous places, but on Midsummer Night they are full of delights, and then the worlds begin to fall out of alignment again.
Arnarstapi is marketed as a quaint fishing village. What that means is tour busses from Reykjavik dropping off crowds, who line up at the fish and chips shop, not that fish and chips is anything other than a British dish, but what the heck.
Here’s the fishing fleet in the harbour. In the depleted seas, it survives by catching fish for the fish and chips shop.
Yesterday I showed an image of a couple of puffin philosophers in Borgarfjörður Eystri. Now a glimpse of some of their concerns. Because puffins erode their hillsides (and have to move on), the community has laid down netting to prevent them from digging just a wee bit too much. The result is a near perfect mathematical placement, likely related to the reach of a human’s arms.
A puffin could complain, but the alternative is to be gobbled up by invasive minks, also brought by humans. The project is financed by people donating to this benevolent intervention. Not that that will stop the puffins from deliberating over it for years, of course.