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.
Well, Grótfjall is a handsome mountain, to be sure. Viewing it from the Njardvik Beach, its easy enough to see that some of it is down here, making the valley floor, rather than up in the sky, making its hat.
But what’s that on the mountain? A dragon? And isn’t the sod collapsing over the cliff into sea, its wings? And aren’t there dragon shapes a-plenty, in the wet-dry patterning of the cliff? You tell me. I just know that walking through this fjord as a dragon story makes every relationship significant, in the way every word and sound in poetry means more than the poem’s sense.
If nothing else, it reveals the more of the mountains lies on the shore than in the air. A flat mountain. That’s a fine experience in climbing! But, wait, isn’t that a troll peeking out from the bottom of the cliff on the left? What’s his story?
It is good to remember that humans are prey. It keeps us on our toes.
In Iceland, so the story goes, you knew you were old enough to go fishing in a small boat on the big grey sea by how heavy of a stone you could lift. A pile of stones was much like a university examination is today. Here is the examination set at Skriðuklaustur, more for fun than anything.
Today no one goes to sea for cod in little wooden ships, but there are still lots of rocks to lift and measure yourself by, and, what’s harder, you can lift the with your mind…
The University of North Iceland
… to learn the language of the rain, now that gravity has torn them from their original story. Much fun can still be had.