While tourists are gazing in wonder at puffins…
…Icelanders are gazing in wonder at trees.
Bifröst: where Icelanders go to get away.
Tourism is an industry. Here are some industrial views of Kirkjufoss, the most-photographed mountain in Iceland.
Tour busses race past Kolgrafafjörður …
Why would you rush past such a dawn?
… to get you to it. If you go on December 24 (not in a tour bus. It will drive past), Kirkjufell might look like this at sundown:
Mind you, if you turn around, you might see other miracles:
Few do. There is no time. The 8 p.m. Aurora bus is waiting in Reykjavik, and it’s many hours and a world away. Besides, industrial images are soooooo seductive:
I don’t think this is quite how people in Grundarfjörður experience the mountain. This is certainly one way, though:
The Eastern Burbs
The forest walk from the campground in November.
Iceland is real.
The November view from town.
It takes time for a mountain to speak. You can’t force it.
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:
Will you walk into the dark?
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.
So are we all.
So are we all.
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.
Funky, eh. Yeah, well, be strong.
Or blend in.