Tag Archives: Snaefellsnes

Are Old Roads Better than New Ones or New Ones Better, Hmmm?

Here’s the old road to Gerduberg in winter. Bit of a trudge.

And here’s the new one leaving it and passing up into the hills. Bit of a muck fest.

Right, here’s an old track the way to Snaefellsjökull. Bit of a dodge, isn’t it.

And the new one?

It’s so nice, they’ve given it a go at blocking it off! The funny thing here is that the old tracks are human made and the new ones are made by machine. One gives access to humans, at a human pace, with arrival at a form of human identity, and the other gives access to humans riding in machines, at a machine pace, with arrival at a form of machine identity. Some things must, simply enough, be slow. Sometimes you just have to sit down for a half year, or a thousand years, and get the lay of the land on a human scale until you become it. In summer…

… when there’s nowhere to park, and in winter …

… you’ll find yourself on foot.

Gerduberg Parking Lot in Winter

By car, you’re already thinking of moving on.

Out of the Corner of My Eye

So many photographs are posed in stillness, framed by contemplation, and drenched with light, yet light is not always about vision or seeing clearly, especially in an Icelandic winter, when it becomes a kind of water you swim through, an aether, the ancients would have called it. They meant the liquid eye that sees before the mind does and only lets the mind see a little of what touches it like a finger to a leaf.

This image of Eldborg on Snaefellsnes was made at 80 km/h on a late December dusk, out of the corner of my eye. There was no time to frame it, and before I registered it was there it was gone. What remains is the look it gave me, this drawing of my eye to it, that I had nothing to do with except trust. This watching haunts me.

Snaefellsjökull, The Watcher

The volcano was an island-volcano off the coast, before a completely separate volcanic event raised a ridge of volcanoes out to meet it and then past it into the Atlantic. It watched them come.

It watched humans come, too. Some go there now to watch it. Others go to be watched by it. It measures the distance between those two points of view.

Icelandic Pearls Are a Little Different Than Others

You won’t find them in the glitzy shops on Laugavegur (Laundry Road) in Reykjavik, but if you go out to the Fossá (The River of the Falls), right where it empties into the Sélvallavatn (Lake in the Valley of the Seals) in the Berserkjahraun (The Berserker Lava Field), you might.

Sunrise and Dusk All at Once on December 24, 2019

See them? No? That’s because you have to stomp down through the drifts in the wind and get down on your hands and knees beside the river, just before it touches the frozen lakeshore. See them? Under the goofy elf sheep of snow?

No? Then closer, it is. (Aren’t pearls worth it?)

Just like shark teeth.

Hiding in Plain Sight

While getting boots and gloves and hat ready to go over the lip of the hill last December 24 and visit Sheep’s Falls, one of my favourite waterfalls, many tourists stopped as well: the first stop, it seems, two or three hard hours of driving from Reykjavik. Time and again, they took a few pictures over the Berserkerjahraun to the rising sun, and then posed for each others’ cameras and drove on. It was intimate and sweet.

Still, they had Kirkjufoss to get to before the rising sun was no longer behind the mountain, and they didn’t need me telling them it would be worth it to walk for ten minutes down through the drifts, because they might not have come to Iceland to see the pale, pale winter sun and to learn its nature. They had places to be getting along to, with better cameras and the hope for brighter light, and promises had been made to them, and promises, we know, should be kept.

Just imagine how many times a day any and every traveller in Iceland, myself included, encounters people who know where they are and what is worth seeing and say nothing, because that’s the way of the land itself. As Paul Theroux pointed out half a century ago while travelling by train through South America, it’s North Americans (myself included) who point to stuff.

Land Conservation by Colour

Water and stone both flow. That the tephra cone (Eldborg) and the stream (Bólulækur) are the same colour on this June day is part of the mystery.

Both are coloured by the sky, which gains its colour by heated oxygen, which, to complete the pattern, is (more or less) on fire. The skill at recognizing these correspondences are one of the ways in which poetry adds to human knowledge of the world, and maintains it. Once you have made this realization, you will harm neither stream nor mountain.