First it appears in one farmer’s stable…
…, and then another’s.
It is great fun trying to outrun it.
Other intersections of solar radiation and the Earth are equally beautiful. In late November, these colours change so rapidly that the change is physically observable. You are part of the turning of the Earth, and you can see it, way out there, where you are, in Space.
Iceland is a good place to get to know your place in the solar system.
Tourism is an industry. Here are some industrial views of Kirkjufoss, the most-photographed mountain in Iceland.
Tour busses race past Kolgrafafjörður …
Why would you rush past such a dawn?
… to get you to it. If you go on December 24 (not in a tour bus. It will drive past), Kirkjufell might look like this at sundown:
Mind you, if you turn around, you might see other miracles:
Few do. There is no time. The 8 p.m. Aurora bus is waiting in Reykjavik, and it’s many hours and a world away. Besides, industrial images are soooooo seductive:
I don’t think this is quite how people in Grundarfjörður experience the mountain. This is certainly one way, though:
The Eastern Burbs
The forest walk from the campground in November.
Iceland is real.
The November view from town.
It takes time for a mountain to speak. You can’t force it.
Gunnar said there were ships in the sky, meaning clouds, but if you go to Iceland in the winter, you will find whole mountain ranges in the sky, that appear and disappear, created by the mountains out of the wind off the Atlantic.
They’re not exactly shadows and not exactly mirrors. They are amazingly alive. I suspect that the medium (the wind) does that. The image above is near Arnarstapi, on Snæfellsnes. The glacier is just around the corner: one of these clouds that stayed.
And the deeper it gets, the more it shines. It’s counter-intuitive, and inside out, and very cool to meet a colour you feel deep in your chest and suddenly realize that your whole body is an eye.
At a certain point, you see with your chest, not with your eyes. Here with the tide rushing out at Kolgrafarfjörður at sundown around 2:30 pm on the shortest day, the light might be in the air, but it’s really in the water, which you “see” with its substance.
In other words, light is a substance as well, which this photograph, which can only capture the energy within it, can only hint at. You have to be there, because only a body can experience this. However, renting a car at Harpa at 10 a.m. and rushing out to Snæfellsnes, and back to Reykjavik in time for a quick snack and the 8 pm. Northern Lights Bus Tour will only keep you in the light’s energy. You won’t become the sea. There’s not just one Iceland in the same place at the same time. And it’s not just the sea. It’s the Earth as well, here from Ríf four days later, looking up to the glacier.
I think this is what Gunnar Gunnarsson meant in his 1936 essay “Thoughts on Nordic Fate” (Nordische Schicksalsgedanke), when he spoke of salvation — not in the modern sense of rescue through Christ but in an older sense, of the healing of separation. His answer was to go home to Iceland, but I’m not sure it has accepted him yet.
At the edge of night in December, at mid-afternoon, Snæfellsjökull reveals one of the depths of the interaction between Earth and the Sun: light is not the illumination that humans “see” but a glow set up within objects, with differing intensities. Some of these intensities are what humans call “dark.” Well, by that standard, it’s all dark.
Snæfellsjökull from Ingjaldshóllkirkja
Everything in the image above is receiving the same radiation from the sun, but all are speaking it differently. Here you can see how they are sorted out by the human eye, and how the mountain glows with no more intensity and no less mystery than the dark foreground lava hills. Mountains have an inside. You can see that here, at the point at which the light and dark meet.