Well, forget the tourist pamphlets, that collect old folktales from the 19th century. Those were created in an attempt to sort out folk stories from the many traditions of Icelandic settlers. Truth is, there are no trolls, not as a non-human, humanoid species.
There is, however, a human ability to centre landscapes in human form. It is this centring, this inseparability from place, that you will find in Iceland, if you wander there outside of books. The secret of trolls is the secret of recognition, because they are the same thing. Many Icelanders today look to New York or London for their mirrors. Not all. You don’t have to, either. A troll is where you find it. You are where you find yourself. Now, recognizing yourself when you see it, ah, now that’s a trick.
Going to Iceland. I don’t blame you. It’s beautiful. Gulfoss. The Golden Falls. With its eternal rainbow. What’s not to love?
Well, this, maybe. Hey, but everybody’s as much in love with it as you are. You’re in good company. That’s nice.
That’s not so bad at all, is it. But this?
That’s OK, too. I mean, everyone is safe this way, and that’s good, plus things erode. We don’t want things to erode. Thing is, well… IF … you … turn … around … there … is … this.
Will you go there? Likely not. There are, after all the beautiful falls. Very beautiful. There’s a path.
And you can always go wait for the Geysir up the road. That’s fun. It really is. It’s even more fun to watch the watchers.
Still… IF you turn around (and miss the Geysir) …
Will you go there? The Icelanders hope you won’t. They want you at the Geysir. Ahh, that’s better.
Let’s face it. That’s worth putting your back to the mountains. Or is it?
It’s a tricky dance, to be a traveller in Iceland.
Nature today is the process of waiting around for a moment of surprise. This hour at Geysir, is a good example.
The jolt of excitement it gives (essentially the breaking of your self-imposed exile from self in the act of waiting) especially if viewed in a crowd against which you can measure your response, is then called the power of the natural world. It is the age of advertising, psychology and science.
Half a century ago, nature was much closer. You lived in it.
It was an age of art. As a result, nature was conceived as a painting, which would then influence its observers in both spiritual and practical ways.
Well, it has grown now, as these tree plantations show. This shaping can still continue and is one of the reasons why art must be defended and continually reinvented in conversation with the earth. It is always waiting. Sometimes you just have to turn around.