Author Archives: Harold Rhenisch

About Harold Rhenisch

www.haroldrhenisch.com

Respect Iceland’s Internal Borders

Icelandic horses came over with the first settlers. They know a thing or two. Here in Eiðar, you can see the technique for getting at the good stuff: you can strrrrrrretch that border, but you never, technically, really, for honest and for true, cross the line.

Also in Eiðar, you can see just how flexible this rule is below. The Icelander on the left has one hoof back behind the line, and the one on the right has the line running right down his midline.

No matter how you cut its, lines are lines and that’s it.

The Gang at Nýigarður. 

Sort of.

The Problem With Cairns

In Iceland, the major architectural monuments from the past are also way-finding cairns of stones passing across inhospitable terrain. They were essential for commerce and the maintaining of a low technology culture in a harsh environment. They are now essential links to the past, as important to Icelanders as, say, the pyramids in Egypt or the Strasbourg Cathedral in France. In other words, they led somewhere, and still lead somewhere important, even as people continue to try to read them.

Aimlessness at Þingvellirvatn

Unfortunately, many contemporary visitors to Iceland, being humans and liking to make their own presence into lasting magical gestures, a signature of their kind, obscure the landscapes with their mark-making. Please don’t. It’s ugly and aimless. They don’t let you do it in Paris. Respect goes a long way towards creating beauty.

Photography Out of Bounds

The National Geographic will tell you that Iceland looks like this. Kirkjufoss, they call it.

National Geographic

You will be astonished how much trespassing you have to do to get a shot from that angle. In truth, though, Iceland looks like this:

We call that moss. Those little silver plants there? That’s a forest. Please, stay on the trail. Beauty becomes photography, taken from awkward angles, with weird blurring things going on, if you don’t.

What’s in a Word: Veit

A veit is a vein. It is a space of the blood pounding in your ears, the loneliness you feel when you are alone, and the connectivity bound to that. If you are alone in the earth and connected to it, you are the earth. You are huge, and walk through yourself. Welcome to Myvatnsveit.This is the most beautiful Iceland of all, a place between other places, a place that is, in other words, not a place but a spreading expanse of time, which does not exist, between places, where humans can settle. You can’t settle in a vein. You can only walk, or drive, or die. A vein is the same space within your body: a place between, where travel takes place. We need veits (wide-ness, vistas, and their winds. Only here …… can you find yourself.

Or get lost. Although it follows the land, the road is not the map.

 

Erosion in Iceland

Well, the whole island is eroded down to bare stone, but that’s not what I mean. I don’t mean a negative force but a positive one. Look how the water flowing from one of the thousands of nameless falls of the country erodes a path that leads humans to it.And look how the erosion of lichen makes a path, which humans will follow, although it is no more even than any other line through the rock. And look how water carves a quite different path. By the looks of it, it was probably a farm or fishing hut path, which humans or their animals made and water has followed. And look how the erosion of a new post-glacial slope has concentrated its finer deposits, creating an environment for life. Amazing!

Iceland Old and New

The lush fields of Iceland are created by nitrate fertilizer. This is the new Iceland. It’s not prosperous. Look how it relies on old buildings in disrepair, or ignores them completely. That is the reality of survival when most everyone has gone to the city, yet still needs to eat from the land. In the image below, you can see, perhaps, the buildings of the post-war years tucked behind a hill, the old house field, the tun, that kept the farm alive in the foreground, beneath the oil tanks, and the new, industrialized fields int he distance. The old is still here.Here in the far north, the progression is even more clear: driftwood from Norway or Russia, an old turf house, the tun gone yellow with wild flowers in front of the slope where the old house once stood, a rusted oil tank, and an old fish-drying shed. The new, industrial fields are in the upper right. It’s cold here on the Greenland Sea.The pattern is repeated everywhere, as it is here at Kirkjubærjarklaustur: new barn, old barn, new industrial fields, the tun plowed over, but a gate from the 1970s, and that Siberian driftwood once again.If the Icelanders are saying their country is prospering, don’t say no. They want to stay a part of the world. It’s hard to do so. The land, however, is crying.