Category Archives: Land

Iceland is Beautiful But the People Are (Almost) Gone


Seyðisfjörður without boats…

Churches without mowers with scythes…

Mountain villages with neither people nor sheep.

The fishers walked away.

The settlers made little mark.

The farmers went to Canada.

There are reasons for these things. They have to do with emptiness and inhuman power.

That too is a human strength, but not for the young.

Skaftafell

Mysteries.

 

Secret Falls

These are my secret Icelandic falls. I’m not telling you where to find them, because it does not matter. What matters is the finding. If I told you, you wouldn’t find them, and finding is such a pleasure.

And the leaving again. Even if I came back, I’d find something else.


No, what you need to find lies somewhere else, but I promise it’s there. This one, maybe?

Or this one?

Look at that hill. If you’d come in the right season, you’d find 50 of them, and leave each one to find it in your heart again. Off you go!

 

What You Need Right Now Might Just Be an Icelandic Rock

After a long time between languages, it’s time to go down to the shore.

 

And pick up magic rocks and hold them in. your hand.

And put them down.

And leave them there to talk to the sun in their nonhuman tongues.

And walk back up through the library of the birch forest.

And the lair of dragons.

Give one last glance to the lake.

And go back to the skáldverk in silence.

And begin again.

The Tangled Relationship of Humans and Ravens

Humans, it is commonly said, live on Earth and ravens in the air. Not so in Iceland. Look below.

Humans: Hjarðaból

See that? The humans have a nice farm with lots of light and air, although they walk about on the land like old rocks. The ravens, though, who fly through the air with the greatest of flashiness, have a home deep in a dark, opened crack of the earth, where they hunker down. See it there? If not, I’ve highlighted it below.

Ravens: Stekkalækur

Humans and ravens: the perfect pair. Just ask Oðin.

 

The Most Beautiful Thing About Hengifoss

Well, first off, Hengifoss is cool because to get there you have to walk at the top of this 80 metre high cliff, and you don’t see it, which is good.

And then you get to spend a couple hours, and finally you get to walk up the river.

You never reach the falls.

Distant views are good, though.

And a bit of dilly-dallying along the way.

And the sandstone, like, that’s cool, too.

And, well, this stuff:

Not to mention a bit of cooked seabed. Very shiny!

You’ll never get to the falls, though. Here, let me show you why:

Sinkholes! Worth a peek. All this ice is hollow like this. Tricky.

And not just that. No path to the left:

No path to the right:

 

The whole time, the falls are calling out with the sound of artillery going off as boulders are bonking down off the cliffs. You can’t get close to the cliffs or the water, but who cares.

 

You can just sit around waiting for the sun to get out from behind a cloud.

Definitely that. There is, you see, a mystery here, and I don’t just mean how gorgeous these falls really are, but, well, dragon blood:

And the best of all is you don’t get to the falls. That’s key. The cliff along the way plays a part in this. That’s it in shadow at the left of the image below. 

Here, maybe the following image will make it clear. The water doesn’t matter, except to focus your body and your eye. The mountain makes a space, and in that space water has no floor. It falls straight towards the centre of the Earth.

And you are in that space, falling with the water. You are in the centre of the Earth.

You can’t go further because you are as far as anyone can go. In the heart.

The Four-Directional Icelandic Cross

Following the Old Norse prototypes that long ago divided Iceland into the quadrants of a compass (Still used by the Icelandic Government’s tourism promotion board to label the country as West, North, East and, South Iceland [and don’t you dare travel around the country in the other direction; it only works poorly]), the Icelandic Cross is not divided into two axes, the vertical Heaven axis and the horizontal Earth axis, meeting at the heart, or Christ, but into four quadrants, blending the living and the dead with the action of the mind. It’s why Lazarus is so popular as a figure on Icelandic altars (Christ raised him from the dead, maggots and all), and why the Valþfjófstaðurkirkja looks like this, drawing its graveyard deep into thought.

The pre-Christian rowan trees of the graveyard are welcome as well.

Don’t Be a Stranger in Iceland

Public access to beautiful things in Iceland, including stunning waterfalls like Hengifoss…

…is privately maintained and crosses private land at private expense.

The Way Back from the Falls is a Great Journey Too

So if the trail is muddy, give thanks. It was given to you as a gift. To be respectful, stay on it.

It’s a way of giving thanks and preparing the way for the next traveller.