Category Archives: Land

Three Ways of Looking at Iceland

One way to look at Iceland is to visit a popular tourist site. Gerðuberg, for instance, a half-kilometre-long chain of basalt blocks.

The government sees to its popularity. The project is to keep tourists moving, and to give them a stop or two now and then to refresh. It’s a technique learned over a thousand years of sheep herding. Humans aren’t sheep, of course, but we do have physical needs. Air, for instance. Light. Spiritual purpose. That kind of thing. For that, some places are better than others. Gerðuberg is a great one: the first place you’ll stop, two hours out of Reykjavik on your one-day-long and way-too-quick way around the Snaefellsnes Peninsula. You’re going to want to stretch your legs by that time. But don’t be fooled. By the time you get to Gerðuberg’s natural wonders, you’ve already passed the second way of seeing. It was on the road in.

You see, every natural wonder in Iceland is framed by a long history of human struggle. These post-war North American metal sheds are used as barns everywhere. It’s no longer the fashion, but hundreds are still in use, just as they are (for instance) on the Canadian Prairies. You can see Gerðuberg and its crater in the background. You are getting closer to Iceland now. Crater? Yes.

The Third way of seeing. Well, you passed it, too, probably wondering where you could stop to take a photo.


This is Eldborg, or Fire Mountain. There are numerous Eldborgs in Iceland. This is a fine one.

The answer is: off a little side road, and then along a 2.5 km trail across private land. Other than that, no-one has made a spot for you to stop, except for Gerðuberg. But there’s a trick to this third way. You will probably be lulled by Gerðuberg. You might just miss Eldborg, because you’re looking the other way. And that’s the secret to the third way of seeing in Iceland: turn around.

A Social Lesson in Climate Change from Iceland

Time is a tricky thing, even in Iceland. On the South Coast, for instance, where lava has taken many farms away since settlement over 1000 years ago, and where people with no better means to independence eked out a subsistence living between the moss and basalt, power poles walk across the landscape towards Reykjavik. It’s there, in “modernity”, that most Icelanders now live, yet the power that sustains them and guarantees them the wealth to maintain their independence in a global world, walks across their past to get there and turns it into nature.In other words, to look at this landscape is to look at time, over a thousand years of social time included, through the lens of a great emptying. This sense of time is the price Icelanders must, perhaps, pay to belong to the world, but the cost is emptiness. It empties out the land, and empties out the past and empties out the soul. In short, one becomes dependent on the present and can no longer live in the fullness of time.  This is not just an Icelandic issue. Today, as the Earth empties of life, we are all paying the price for this defense against each other. What a tricky balance!

Dangerous Icelandic Lagoons

Lagoons remind us that the “shore” is a zone made as much by the sea as by the earth.

And no place for humans. It is a dangerous place, where energies are not settled.

We can visit, but to live there? No, we’re too fragile. And yet, from them we draw life. No, not this one:That’s the effluent of a geothermal power plant, sexed up. Don’t be fooled.