We had visited the falls two days before, but when we stepped outside at sunrise on the day after Christmas (11:30 a.m.) and saw the light, we quickly changed our plans. Luckily, the falls were only ten minutes away and the hunch was right. The mountain claims you, that’s what I can say.
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.
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.
And then wraps itself in it. So does the land give voice to the sea.
So many travellers spend a week, or less, driving around Iceland to see everything, in the pattern of a modern “grand tour.” A more-authentic Icelandic experience would be to sit down with a mountain and learn …