It’s a hard one, but is it better to drive up to Dettifoss and get close to a wall of water, or park five kilometres away and walk along to goroge until you’re ready to see the falls from a new perspective?
Dunno, but when I got this far, I didn’t want to go further, and turned around, to the forest. It was hiding behind a rock and taking on human form.
It was a message. Iceland is full of messages like that.
Once, these birch forests were burned to smelt iron, then they were nibbled to naught by sheep.
A thousand years of erosion later, they became symbols of Iceland’s independence, and were carefully grown up from their sheep-nibbled stubs.
Then Iceland got to work hosting tourists. The north, and its tourists, were left behind, so tourists were brought on busses as late as 2019. They had 30 minutes to walk through the trails, without history, and then were off to think whatever they might think.
The Icelanders weren’t going there themselves in 2019. They were going here, upriver, by horse expedition:
One of the seductive things about Iceland (for outsiders) is that the possibility of being completely alone with the Earth, in a completely simplified life, seems to be promised.
Here on the Skagafjörður in mid-December it seems so accessible, too. It’s just an illusion. Sure, you could achieve it, but you would have to change your life, and if you did it would no longer be simple. Do you dare? Do you dare stop and stay there forever, and let everything else go? Well, Icelanders made that choice 1100 years ago, and look how simple their life is, making you feel at home:
The beautiful view is closed off now, although the sun still shines in and statues still look out.
And for a palm tree just south of the Arctic Circle, where better? Is it Icelandic? The question is: what isn’t?
But the violinist playing to his city, now playing to an international hotel chain?
It can be exhausting to grow old and famous. Even three years ago, Harpa stood proudly out in the sea. Ten years ago, she was an open public space, with art shows and cool shops everywhere. Now she’s growing up, the dear.
There is an uncanny resemblance between these images. Note the object of the photo watching from within it.
Note how she looks off to the side, leaving the balancing point as white ice.
Note the reaching out and goofy eagerness, set against nature as if it were a part of it.
Note the cool self-assurance by which the non-human actors make the real statement in the scene.
Note the fragile sense of vulnerability of modernity and the troubled gaze out of class, strengthened by class achievement yet never certain.
Note the deliberate dissemination of confusion. You are being led around by people who have been herdsmen and fishermen for 1100 years, after all. As Margret told me last summer, you never know who is the elf and who is the human. You never know,.
Note how Icelanders dress as the visitors do to make everybody comfortable with these arrangements.