Tag Archives: North Iceland

Haunting Iceland

This image from North Iceland haunts me. This was once a prosperous farm, as the driftwood fence shows. In a country without wood, to have rights to pick up Siberian wood from the beach was enough to make a farm pay. Now they’re inexpensive  replacements  for more expensive metal posts, and not a cash item.

Speaking of economy, look at the tun, or house field in the centre of the image. It would have been manured with the manure from the winter sheep barn… just as far as a man could carry it with his strength. The point is, that was economy: this concentration of the energy of the land in such a way that it gave forth more richness in the year to come. This principle was applied after the Second World War, when the country embraced foreign modernity to maintain the old economy. In this case, the fuel tank, and a tractor that went with it, looked like a path to a bright future. Maybe it was for Reykjavik, but after 1,000 years no one lives here anymore. It’s still farmed, as a hayfield. The main field, the tun so to speak, is up against the ridge on the upper right of the image, bright green and fertilized with nitrogen fertilizer: an industrial product, that must be paid for with cash the land can barely spare. That’s where the edge of maintaining Iceland by bringing in foreign technology has lead now. Without it, there’d be no economy, yet if it had always been this way, there’d be no Iceland. This has always been Iceland’s bind. Gunnar Gunnarsons’s attempt to solve it by bringing modern German farming to the Fljótsdalur in 1939 lasted only a couple years, before he had to give it up. In fact, this might just be a universal human bind: one looks for permanency and must accept transience, yet the dream of permanency continues to exert its pull.

What it says is that we are haunted by the world as much as we haunt it.

Tracking Elves in the Icelandic North

While searching for elves in North Iceland, I found this farm. It has a church and a manure spreader and a human house, so pretty well-equipped. Plus an elf house, of course.

Cold Rainy Day!

Here’s the elfin view of the, um, colonial improvements. A tractor and mower, too, as you can see, just south of the Arctic Circle. Brr.

It’s always this way. It’s not that there were elves here before humans. They came along in human heads, but they needed a place, and so houses (and churches) were allotted for them too, which means that the humans had to choose well. Here’s the view out over the human camp to the sea.

And look at the tumble of elves crowding up agains the road, unable to cross! Tut tut.

Humans are sweet. When you build a new house down by the water, in the wind, you put a graveyard in the old one, where your ancestors lived while alive. They can live on there, with their elf neighbours.

So, all in all, a good social relationship!

Watch Your Head!

The Arctic Tern, Sterna Paradisaea, more lovingly known by its piercing cry, Skría, makes any visit to North Iceland a treat in the summer.

They go right for your scalp, screaming. The trick is not to duck but to hold a stick above your head, the Icelander’s say, which is fine and beautiful advice …

… in a land without trees. I think this is why rams have horns. Just a guess.