I hope these two images from show how before there were roads, making a human map of the landscape…
Near Hellisnes by Fjaðrárgljúfur
…there were lavas and rivers …
… making a map at once spiritual and far beyond the human. Traversing them, each journey is its own map, or, to put it another way, every journey is a story, passed on as story. An ideal writing conference in Iceland would go to the heart of this kind of storytelling. All else follows, or leads away.
70 metres north of the old island, Petersey, one of Iceland’s main elf cities faces the old sea coast on the South Iceland shore. The elves aren’t shy. Interestingly enough, though, Highway 1 runs north of the city, and no road signs point the way. Fair enough. They are the hidden people, after all.
Time is a tricky thing, even in Iceland. On the South Coast, for instance, where lava has taken many farms away since settlement over 1000 years ago, and where people with no better means to independence eked out a subsistence living between the moss and basalt, power poles walk across the landscape towards Reykjavik. It’s there, in “modernity”, that most Icelanders now live, yet the power that sustains them and guarantees them the wealth to maintain their independence in a global world, walks across their past to get there and turns it into nature.In other words, to look at this landscape is to look at time, over a thousand years of social time included, through the lens of a great emptying. This sense of time is the price Icelanders must, perhaps, pay to belong to the world, but the cost is emptiness. It empties out the land, and empties out the past and empties out the soul. In short, one becomes dependent on the present and can no longer live in the fullness of time. This is not just an Icelandic issue. Today, as the Earth empties of life, we are all paying the price for this defense against each other. What a tricky balance!
Just a short jaunt west of the black sand beaches at the Dyrhólaey bird sanctuary, if you take the right back road, you can come upon the elves out of the shadows. It is best that they blind you with the light.