East of town, the mountains don’t give of their world so lightly.
It’s as if the world is turned upside down. Only the water, I guess is right side up!
Probably coming home with tonight’s Christmas Eve dinner.
Just in time.
The land teaches that all falling is not vertical.
Hamrahlið, north of Grund
Good to know.
Grundarfjörður, west of Grund
When we were there, parents were being advised to walk their children under 12 to school, as the hurricane-force winds might blow them over. The older kids could tilt, it seems, like everyone else.
Gunnar argued for the independence of Iceland during Germany’s military struggles of the 1940s, on the principle that the land is written in the chain-linked patterns of the Icelandic sagas, with the suggestion that the Icelanders wrote the sagas in response to the chain-link rhymes of the land.
His observation is obvious. Equally obvious is how poor a tool such observations are for deflecting a military conqueror. Less obvious is the point that when you are from the land and have nothing and yet have to do something, you use what you have. Still, the approach has its dangers. It might stress one form of pattern, for instance, but it obscures another. So, let’s look at Gunnar’s saga again. This time, note the story of trolls and ogres written in the rock.
Gunnar was a humanist, a twentieth century man. This tale of ogres and epic battles is one he could have told as well, including how it generates the water of life as cold passes into warmth. That he didn’t is an example of how writers adapt to their audience. It is also an example of how we can re-read them, and free them… and us.
Iceland is renowned for being barren of trees. This popular image of Kirkjufell, for instance, shows this characteristic of the country well.
See? No trees. Here is is again:
Got that? Horses, but no trees. Trouble is, it’s a plot. Iceland has forests galore. That you don’t see them is just plain weird, because, well, look:
Looks good, right? So the next time, you see this…
…just realize you’ve been put into a script. The Icelanders hang out in the trees.
I took this image of Grundarfoss on a very cold morning because, well, how cool is it that the public water supply of a major city of 872 people (huge for Iceland) is a waterfall. Very cool! So cool, I could hardly hold the camera steady.
But look what I missed, at the base of the cliff just to the right of the base of the main fall: a lava tube. Now, how cool is that! But, of course, it’s a public water supply, so no snooping around there. Rats. What about the troll at the base of the hill at the left of the image. I bet they’d let me go visit it.
The approach of winter on northern earth is described by the angle of the earth to the sun, but look …
Light is cold, in other words. This is wisdom, too. If we’re going to beat global warming, that light is going to need the respect now given to mechanics and technology. So is the cold, because they are the same. It’s not a linear understanding; it’s a global one. It is earth-thought.
Technology is not the end to science. It’s great stuff, but it’s not the goal, whatever the goal might be, or if it is the goal, then the goal is not of this earth, and that is a judgement humans have no right to make.
These are hard ironies. If technology is the path away from the cold, it is the path away from the sun.
It is the path away from the earth.
The knowledge and traditions of how to live with the earth are not lost. Here are two operating manuals. There are more.
The poets still know something of the earth.
It can be read by the sun. They know how to do this: how to read the sun, the earth and themselves on the body’s face.
They embody the sun. Fences aren’t for the light, and yet they cut it, nonetheless, …
… until the world becomes a series of fences. These are hard ironies, but not causes for despair; they still catch the light.
We can still follow it, but one thing remains primary. We have a right to the sun, to the earth, and to the cold.
The cleverness of ancient methods of mediation between earth and light are a richness of capacity rooted in ancient verse forms.
Make no mistake. This stuff can be read in detailed literary ways, and that’s an important tool for entering this technology. Read more by clicking here. Still, until you can read it in the earth, you have not entered its light.
Discarding this light, simultaneously of sun and earth and cold and warmth and mind, for physical technology is exactly what it sounds like: discarding them, and all their alternative forms of warmth…
But the path remains the old one.
Here’s one manual:
Here’s the obligatory legal warning to users.
Here’s another one of the manuals.
Here’s Gunnar’s quote from the title page, expanded in its original context:
He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. 2 But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out. 4 And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice. 5 And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers. John 10:1-5
Here’s its expansion:
11 I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. 12 But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep. 13 The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep. 14
In other words, look after your sheep; look after your land; be a man about this:
Gunnar left his hireling life in Europe
… and went to farm sheep in Iceland, from this house at Skriðuklaustur …
Don’t worry. They’ll repeat what they think you said so you can get it right. You’re up to this. Don’t worry. They’ll always have the first word…and the last. But you’re good with humility, right? Sure you are!