Category Archives: Enlightenment

The Place to Go in Iceland, If You Dare

You can be of two minds, at once. They are not in conflict. A forest full of quick life to take you there, through the web of your thoughts?

Or a forest of slow, enduring life, the cliff of ghosts that awaits and towers above you, your body given face as memory?

At Botnstjörn, the windless pond sheltered by birches  deep in Ásbyrgi, you can be both at once. They are not in conflict.

Surrender, and feel yourself lose all weight.

Preparation is All

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!

Gleðilegt nýtt ár!

Whether you find power in a single wave breaking out of the sea of the sun…

… or, turning around, in lines of thought, humble beneath the ancient forces of ice and gravity …

… or in a glacier setting to sea from the Jökulsárlón in the last hour of light …

… may you find the mountain where you are home.

Thor’s Shield, from Skogarkot in Thingvallasveit

And may you burn like a birch tree in the cold.

Happy New Year. Thank you for all of your inspiration!

Iceland Spirituality in a Culture of Settlement

Settlement is the foundational theology of Iceland. In countries such as mine, Canada, or that of my ancestors, Germany, foundational theologies tend to be about colonization, either of the land and bodies of other people or of the self. Not in Iceland.

In Reykholt, Snorri Sturluson wrote the texts that define Norse theology. If you visit Reykholt, you will soon see that these books represent the landscape around Reykholt more than any historical theology.

In short, they are more a way of settling the land the of claiming it.

Witness the chosen motif for the altar of the old church in Reykholt. The White Christ rises as the sun…

… much like the mountain up the valley, capped with its glacier from before human time.

It is a world in which ancient binary forces, ice and fire, create a human habitat, the world, which is a kind of whirlpool in the sea of the universe, which is, really, the sea.

Human activity has eroded the primal world, but that pre-human time still delivers water and the power that defines humans.

The church itself, exists within an ancient, pagan forest, blessed as the source of nationalism. It is an accurate depiction of Icelandic culture. Sure, it’s planted, but that’s part of the point of living within a settlement.

When summer comes, Icelanders don’t take to the sea, they take to the forests. They already live in the sea. It is settlement they celebrate, and that includes placing them within the forest like the old church at Reykholt. Tourists drive through the birch forests below, take a few pictures, and drive back and away to claim that they were there, but Icelanders turn off into them and settle for the summer.

Just to the north, at Bifröst, they do it right at the bridge between worlds, and that’s the key to Iceland: this settlement right at the point at which power erupts from the land. It’s stubborn.

Perhaps, travellers to Iceland see a forest in the image below (taken at Geysir to the south east).

Perhaps they will call the old pre-human world nature …

… perhaps they will even realize, in a breathless moment, that this nature is not the Garden of Eden…

…and realize that you need tools to settle your panic in the face of such power, such as the fire hydrant in downtown (!!) Reykholt above, one of Iceland’s major urban centres, or in the pre-Christian tools facing the altar from the door to the world of the Reykholt Church below.

Balance, that’s the thing.

I mean, for those of you who can’t just drive on, because when you are at the intersection of all power in the world, either here at Bifröst …

… or here at Reykholt …

… or here in Reykjavik…

… the frame is not the golden power and will of God coming to the world out of nothing …

… but immediate and present power without symbols at all.

It’ll change you.  Do you dare settle, within, in a point of balance?

Or will you make a claim, to display your presence, such as these (illegal) tourists cairns below, above an Icelandic summer village at þingvellavatn?

Or will you turn the ancient forest into the outflow for a hydroelectric dam?

Lagarfljot at Hallormstaðir

Don’t expect the Icelanders to tell you. They don’t have to decide these things. They already live here.

On Middle Earth.

Painting the Town Red with Katrin Jakobsdottir

In some countries, “Get Angry” would not mean to become the prime minister when no one else could find a compromise to unite opposites.

But it does in Iceland. Here’s how it began four years ago.

It’s also a country in which a church fire extinguisher…

… a church door …

… and church bells …

… are all housed in red.

But then, not all countries are enlightened. You have to put your heart into it.

View from the Stykkisholmur Library of Water,
Where Women and Girls are Given Space to Play Chess