Tag Archives: Snaefellsnes

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.

The Birth of a Dragon

If the tide is right, as you walk along the cliff path in Arnarstapi, you might be so lucky as to spot the birth of a dragon, right where the water and the land touch.

If you open the picture in a new window, it will be larger and you will see the dragon clear as day.

And if you look back, you might spot its midwife guardian.

A good place to walk with respect!

 

My Favourite Farm

Man, the thought of having a wall of basalt and a cinder cone in my backyard, I tell you, nothing could be better.
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If you don’t drive too quickly and get off Highway 1, you’ll find it. It’s a poor, poor farm, but, as Gunnar said, poverty is wealth, because everything the land gives comes straight from faith, as a gift, and gifts are not to be laughed away.

Mountains in the Sky

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.

Marking the Path on Snaefellsnes

If you follow a troll, you will find more trolls. You will also be on no set path.

If you follow a cairn, you will find more cairns. This is called pathfinding.

If you follow a human figure looking at a pile of trolls, you may or may not find a path, but you won’t be alone.

If you follow a cairn among trolls …

…  or  a troll cairn among lava bits…

… you are still not on a known path. Mind you, paths might be overrated. There are also walls. If you follow walls, you will find other walls.

But here’s the trick. Once you’ve wandered off like this, you have made a path. It’s what you find along the way that will guide you into getting back. As the sun goes down, you will be glad of these troll sheep guiding you home.

It matters not if they are ‘real’ or not. They are the path.

Three Ways of Looking at Iceland

One way to look at Iceland is to visit a popular tourist site. Gerðuberg, for instance, a half-kilometre-long chain of basalt blocks.

The government sees to its popularity. The project is to keep tourists moving, and to give them a stop or two now and then to refresh. It’s a technique learned over a thousand years of sheep herding. Humans aren’t sheep, of course, but we do have physical needs. Air, for instance. Light. Spiritual purpose. That kind of thing. For that, some places are better than others. Gerðuberg is a great one: the first place you’ll stop, two hours out of Reykjavik on your one-day-long and way-too-quick way around the Snaefellsnes Peninsula. You’re going to want to stretch your legs by that time. But don’t be fooled. By the time you get to Gerðuberg’s natural wonders, you’ve already passed the second way of seeing. It was on the road in.

You see, every natural wonder in Iceland is framed by a long history of human struggle. These post-war North American metal sheds are used as barns everywhere. It’s no longer the fashion, but hundreds are still in use, just as they are (for instance) on the Canadian Prairies. You can see Gerðuberg and its crater in the background. You are getting closer to Iceland now. Crater? Yes.

The Third way of seeing. Well, you passed it, too, probably wondering where you could stop to take a photo.


This is Eldborg, or Fire Mountain. There are numerous Eldborgs in Iceland. This is a fine one.

The answer is: off a little side road, and then along a 2.5 km trail across private land. Other than that, no-one has made a spot for you to stop, except for Gerðuberg. But there’s a trick to this third way. You will probably be lulled by Gerðuberg. You might just miss Eldborg, because you’re looking the other way. And that’s the secret to the third way of seeing in Iceland: turn around.

The Spirit of Water and Air

The beach at Hellissandur showed her spirit this morning.

As you can see, it doesn’t take a lot of light, or, better, the light goes inward rather than out. So is it with the long, low angles of the sun on Christmas Day. Look at the water erupt from the sand and say its name in this light.

It is a day on which the whole Earth is alive. We found that around this mountain at Midsummer.

And now, this force is just as strong. What welcome energy!

What life! This time, it’s not just the Earth that is alive. Look at the sun going down over Melariff at 2:30 in the afternoon!

The view is from the 1100-year old Viking Farm at Saxhóll. A few minutes later, the sky revealed a dragon.

And just after that, many stories all at once, enough to meditate on for a year.

As the sun left and rain fell across it in the West, the energy lingered, not in the sky but in my self that was the sky.

And so we carry ourselves, just as the Earth, the Water and the Sky carry us. It is we who are spirits of Earth, Water and Sky.