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.
An Icelander looking at you, who you cannot see, creates your desire to be seen in a way matching your desire for the Icelander — to strip away the cold gaze for intimacy, and to be in the secret group looking out.
People, this is chess.
Most Icelanders live in Greater Reykjavik, and most live in beautiful subdivisions and new apartment neighbourhoods between the mountains and the sea. Everything is practical, tidy, and simple, in keeping with a people having to pay for maintaining a country in the face of large currencies and their power. Things get a little harder out in small towns and in the countryside, as they do in downtown Reykjavik. That’s the old part of town, the one with the greatest need for being rebuilt to better standards, and the only one that lower-earning Icelanders can afford to live in. It’s also the place where the (estimated 2.5 million this year) tourists settle. The significance? Tourists (like me, blush) with the power of foreign currencies behind them are displacing a vital part of Iceland. In touring the indigenous parts of Reykjavik, I have failed to run into other tourists, not in the suburbs and not here, right downtown. The separation is, sadly, complete. How could this be good for the soul?
Isn’t this a better tour than another visit to geysir in the orange muck?