Tag Archives: Snaefells

Isolation, Poverty and Wealth in Remote Iceland

It’s beautiful on Snaefellsnes, isn’t it, when the gales blow in and the light pulls the mountains out of another world at year’s end.

And the glacier, Snaefellsjökull, is very fine when hurricane gusts lift off its fog and the sun shines from within the ice, lighting up the sea mist, and you have to brace yourself just to stand up.

Just imagine living there!

You can pick up lumps of the lava bed and make a fence, and there are ponds for your sheep and horses and the family cow, plus a little bit of Siberian driftwood.

Also pieces of shipwreck you can use to build a shelter for your cow.

And if you shift enough stones, you can even have a field out of the wind!

Even if you don’t shift any rocks, there’s grass for the sheep, and always the roar of the sea breaking against the lava bed.

And if you lived here, this would be your view. You don’t have a “front yard”, a street, a flower bed, nothing. You step out into the North Atlantic.

 

And this is the modern house, and it has been abandoned. You could only pull this off at a certain stage of technological development, when there was enough economy and technology to bring in supplies but not enough to kill off the need for people to live here and catch fish in small boats, plus not enough opportunity elsewhere to replace this fierce independence with a greater comfort. Notice how even this modern concrete house is built just like a turf house, with incredible amounts of hand labour, too: small rooms connected with odd passages, most of them through the outside air, as they were built one at a time according to time, energy and need.

And always the roar of the sea.

And then the children leave for the modern world that technology has made possible, and this particular modernity, brought to this fierce, remote land at the end of the Earth, is abandoned when the old people are gone.

But it is out of such stubborn independence that modernity was made in Iceland.

And always the roar of the sea eating the land.

The thing to remember as a traveller is that in Icelandic culture you only need to know what you need to know. It is also a proud culture, and if that means selling you an image of vikings donated by Americans, who really like this kind of thing …

… and pride, which is real enough, instead of one of 1100 years of terrible struggle…

… really terrible struggle in more than a human world …

… and what would now be called isolation (but which wasn’t), in which the land is also a sea…

… or selling an image of bold adventure …

…instead of one in which there is nowhere to go to get in from the cold, well, they’ll do that. They are very genial hosts, the Icelanders. Just remember that even if comfort comes from each other …

… and the images the city presents are of funkiness and crazy happiness …

… you are still on a volcano in the North Atlantic, and the sea is still eating the land from under you, the wind is still blowing …
… all you have is a few sheep in an impossible place …

… and everyone around you knows this. With nothing else except each other you must begin.

Christmas Between the Worlds

On the woman’s hill on Viðey, it is possible to walk between worlds.p1340121

It is here the stones speak a language that is neither Icelandic nor English. It is an eruption of physical presence.

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Whatever words we who are human speak, it is no less and no more than this ability to walk through bodies lifted into the air until they become it, and then to breathe them in the same moment as our walking.

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This breathing is our way of talking to our ancestors, who the living call the dead. They’re hardly dead.

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Not as long as we keep walking among them.

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Not as long as we continue to honour them with devotion to each other.

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Let us listen with all that we are.

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Let us trust the old paths of care.

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Let us honour the conversation and the giving forth and the point at which we become the earth at the point that it becomes us.

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For it either goes on without us or with us, and we can so be there.

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Let us go give thanks by being there.p1310489

Let us be honourable children. Let us be there.

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Let us give praise, however we can.

p1310671However you can, let us find the silence at the heart of speech. Let us stand aside. Let us give each other that much honour.p1400536 Let us be the speech at the heart of silence. Let us be gathered in.

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For we are all the living.

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We have much to talk about. bright2

We have much to walk together through the stillness that gives us movement and stills us at the same moment.troll

 

Let us rejoice.

The Secret to Iceland’s Football Success

So, you want to play football. Or soccer. Call it what you like, but there are obstacles to overcome.  Take the town of Hellisanður, for example. Just finding a football pitch is a challenge. p1350586

You’re liable to throw a hoof, too.

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Well, no point in crying the blues.  Stop thinking about the volcano. Easy, boys.

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It’s time to roll up the wool sweater and start looking. Football waits for no lava lump.

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Aha!

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Now, that wasn’t so hard, was it. Tucked away out of the wind, with a view from the pulpit.

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On some days, I tell ya, you don’t need an opposing team. You’re playing against 35 metre per second winds off of the North Atlantic and the monsters that throws up onto the shore.

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But, wait, what’s this…

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Elvish fans!

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A crowd, actually.

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Analyzing your every move.
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Every error is mourned naturally, without holding back.p1350622

Every victory is cheered, wildly.p1350621It’s not a game. It’s a world.
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It’s not just played with a ball. It’s multi-dimensional. It knits together the dimensions. It’s shared.

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Just stop thinking about the volcano.

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That’s all.