Other intersections of solar radiation and the Earth are equally beautiful. In late November, these colours change so rapidly that the change is physically observable. You are part of the turning of the Earth, and you can see it, way out there, where you are, in Space.
Iceland is a good place to get to know your place in the solar system.
Tourism is an industry. Here are some industrial views of Kirkjufoss, the most-photographed mountain in Iceland.
Tour busses race past Kolgrafafjörður …
Why would you rush past such a dawn?
… to get you to it. If you go on December 24 (not in a tour bus. It will drive past), Kirkjufell might look like this at sundown:
Mind you, if you turn around, you might see other miracles:
Few do. There is no time. The 8 p.m. Aurora bus is waiting in Reykjavik, and it’s many hours and a world away. Besides, industrial images are soooooo seductive:
I don’t think this is quite how people in Grundarfjörður experience the mountain. This is certainly one way, though:
The Eastern Burbs
The forest walk from the campground in November.
Iceland is real.
The November view from town.
It takes time for a mountain to speak. You can’t force it.
At Raudanes, they are free to do as they wish. As you can see below, the result is quite different.
There are fewer puffins, but they are wilder. Ain’t that the thing, eh.
One of the seductive things about Iceland (for outsiders) is that the possibility of being completely alone with the Earth, in a completely simplified life, seems to be promised.
Here on the Skagafjörður in mid-December it seems so accessible, too. It’s just an illusion. Sure, you could achieve it, but you would have to change your life, and if you did it would no longer be simple. Do you dare? Do you dare stop and stay there forever, and let everything else go? Well, Icelanders made that choice 1100 years ago, and look how simple their life is, making you feel at home:
Will you walk into the dark?
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.