Around 10:30 pm.
When the wind hits 33 metres per second at the Buðahraun, the only shelter is down among the dunes, but even there you have to put your back to it to make an image, as the sand driven into the snow hits you like a blast from a shotgun. It’s better to take that in the back.
So it is on December 21, the shortest day of the year, but far, far from the least powerful. Here (above) it is around noon, looking North. And 6 months earlier, on the longest day, around 10 pm…
That’s Snæfellsjökull, the volcano and glacier that makes all this magic here out in the middle of the Atlantic. That was our year: two trips through these spiritual lavas. I expected the contrast to be between light and darkness, but it wasn’t that. There was no contrast. There was just power, stronger than the seasons.
The black church at Buðir still has the power to draw people to it, even though its town pretty much vanished long ago.
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 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.
Some people just don’t get it about elves, not to mention trolls and ogres, and think that these creatures have to be empirically present or not exist at all. With that kind of thinking, they just won’t see an elf or look into the other realm. However, if you go to the Buðahraun on Midsummer Night, you will find elves in every collapsed volcanic hollow, in wondrous variety.
Every is a doorway, through which the other world spills. Usually these are dangerous places, but on Midsummer Night they are full of delights, and then the worlds begin to fall out of alignment again.
It builds for days…
A dragon curled around its flame.
(Its right eye is just below the middle of the image. This image and the ones of transformed rocks and flowers that follow are taken on Rauðhóll.)
…with flowers bringing stones to life…
An Elf with a Crown of Flowers
… sometimes in humanly-recognizable form…
The Horse Sleipnir Carrying þor as a One-Eyed Moon on Its Back
… and sometimes not (which is the most amazing part) …
.. but then, in the low, late evening light on June 21, the hills rise up around you in the horizontal light. It’s just that night. The next morning they begin to ebb away, not all at once, but you can notice the difference. On midsummer night, though…
… you truly live between worlds and can see the past and future. Lest you feel special, just remember, the sheep see this all the time.
Life is indeed good.
The 101 district of Reykjavik is famous for being trendy. It is, admittedly, a great place to stare at the architecture that replaces a view, in generic spaces full of cars, dumpsters and starlings, all most familiar and comforting…
…but you could go to Frambuðír and have a view deep into the Atlantic and Iceland’s heart.
Easy to get to. Just fight your way out of the city, north on Highway 1, turn left at Borgarnes, and before dinner time, with the Snaefell glacier looming over you, turn left to the little church at Buðir. Park, and walk west on the path closest to the sea. Within an hour, you will be staring out of this old farmhouse. Because you won’t want to leave, there is, conveniently, a hotel right beside the church. You can shelter there.
When you come back to Reykjavik, if you come back, you might see it more directly.
Here’s the trail for me.
It leads to Buðaklettur, and then west into the November sun.But make no mistake, it passes through the mind along the way. Imagine, walking through your deepest thoughts. When I walked here last November, it took all my strength to put one foot in front of another. I found it nearly impossible to keep walking. I wouldn’t call it being lost, or being in danger of being lost. I wouldn’t even call it being found. It sure was good not to be alone. I’ve never made a journey like this, although this was only a small part of the journey that is to be made. What that journey is, I don’t know. Well, “I” doesn’t know, but the rest of me sure does. This is the path.This is a dangerous place. A place where the path travels where wakefulness and sleep take on different forms.If you step off the path, what then?
The question is nonsensical. To stay on the path is to step off of it. To step off of it is to lose it.
Go with someone you love. Go together. Hold on to each other. You are your line back home. I’m not from Iceland, but I know home when I see it. The wind blows there. At 45 m/s. Well, sometimes. This time.
It is a place to lose yourself, and then, as a completely different person, to lead it back home. I can’t explain it. I am only drawn there, like a beast on a line.
This is poetry when it has left all words behind.
This is the Buðahraun.