Category Archives: Christian Iceland

Going Deep in Iceland

At a certain point, you see with your chest, not with your eyes. Here with the tide rushing out at Kolgrafarfjörður at sundown around 2:30 pm on the shortest day, the light might be in the air, but it’s really in the water, which you “see” with its substance.

In other words, light is a substance as well, which this photograph, which can only capture the energy within it, can only hint at. You have to be there, because only a body can experience this.  However, renting a car at Harpa at 10 a.m. and rushing out to Snæfellsnes, and back to Reykjavik in time for a quick snack and the 8 pm. Northern Lights Bus Tour will only keep you in the light’s energy. You won’t become the sea. There’s not just one Iceland in the same place at the same time. And it’s not just the sea. It’s the Earth as well, here from Ríf four days later, looking up to the glacier.

I think this is what Gunnar Gunnarsson meant in his 1936 essay “Thoughts on Nordic Fate” (Nordische Schicksalsgedanke), when he spoke of salvation — not in the modern sense of rescue through Christ but in an older sense, of the healing of separation. His answer was to go home to Iceland, but I’m not sure it has accepted him yet.

Or  has  it?

Gathering the Living and the Dead

When the winds reach 125 kilometres per hour, I tell ya, the walls of a graveyard are welcome shelter.

The black church at Buðir still has the power to draw people to it, even though its town pretty much vanished long ago.

When you’re out there in the midwinter wind, it’s pretty clear, though, that the church is an expression of Budir, not Budir an expression of the church.

In other words, here under the volcano (cloaked in fog of its own making), in a lava field blown with dunes of stinging orange sand, the broken bits of old scallop shells, in a wind the volcano sends out to sea like a searchlight, there is power and light that exceed our understanding.

It is good to honour them.

It is good to remember that the living have been given their life by the dead. Even our words, even these words, are the work of ancestral voices meeting the world, often in winds so strong you don’t breathe the air, it breathes you. (I am not writing these words. My ancestors are. That kind of experience. To them, I am a mouth — a door.)

Gunnar wrote a book about some of this, called Vikikvaki, a story of the dead coming to life and dancing on New Year’s Eve.

He meant Iceland.

(The wind has passed now in the mid-day solstice light)

The dead meant life. They meant the wind. It is good to enter these forces. It is also vital to have shelter.