Man, the thought of having a wall of basalt and a cinder cone in my backyard, I tell you, nothing could be better.
If you don’t drive too quickly and get off Highway 1, you’ll find it. It’s a poor, poor farm, but, as Gunnar said, poverty is wealth, because everything the land gives comes straight from faith, as a gift, and gifts are not to be laughed away.
This is Eldborg, “Fire Mountain.”
It used to lie on the main road to the East.
Now it’s out of the way and forgotten in a barren land.
But don’t drive past. It’s beautiful on Fire Mountain.
At Midsummer, the mountain erupts again.
And comes to life.
Or life comes to it.
Hard to say which.
Both at once, perhaps. Note how just for a couple weeks, every glob of stone develops a body and lives.
It is a fantastical riot of life. Everything is alive.
And then the mountain goes back to solemnly watching the Grindavik Road.
All kinds of people.
All kinds of watching.
Volcano with cows:
Volcano with church:
Just another quiet, ordinary day on Snæfellsnes.
in the Hitarádalur, the mountains are playful.
Of them all, though, Rauðakúla is the most joyful.
That’s not a lens flair effect. That’s the mountain at play.
Thor’s Shield, the shield volcano after which all the rest are named, has been cross-stitched with pylons, in this highly-industrialized landscape off the beaten tourist path. That is “nature” in Iceland, and yet look at the ancient stone bird in the foreground. The old country is here, too, but not as a metaphor and not as a transfer of energy into modern forms.
Skaldbreið and Pylons from Uxahryggir
These are the old forms, continuous with forms yet unborn. I am waiting for the writers of Iceland to be the guides that the writers of the sagas were once, who gave us a completely new take on the world, an alternative to East or West. It’s not my place to say whether Iceland’s writers should walk down a path to the yarn-telling of crime literature or not (although most are), but it should give pause that Gunnar Gunnarsson ‘s The Black Cliffs was the first crime novel in Iceland, and it did not shy away from ambiguity, irony, contemporary themes or the deep, deep past in which they are embedded, just as the fallen angel-bird above is embedded in this mountain pass equally with Thor’s Shield or the power line from contentious dams to an American aluminum plant. In other words, the past is with us. It is not possible to forget it, only to silence it, and, thereby, to end the present.
What do volcanoes dream of? (Let’s face it, they sure do dream.)
Why, heading a football for the national team, of course.
Sometimes you have to wait for the team to come, though. Sidelined on a bench. That’s the danger of being an ogre. Well, you take it in stride, right?
It’s hard for a land to evolve into human society, but it’s inspiring that it’s giving it a good Icelandic try!
Pattern, volume, mass, surface, light, line and shade. These expressions make up art. They are also representations of the human body.
(Home of ravens, too.)
Which is a creation of the earth’s body. Iceland feels like home because it is: whether on the veldt of Africa, the steppes of Asia, the prairies of North America or the glaciers of Europe, Asia and Canada, these basic forms, of our bodies laid out for us to walk through under the sky, are our oldest map. Wherever we are going, we are already there.
Old Iceland: Volcano, Glacier, Darkness, and Dawn and Thou.
New Iceland: Volcano, Glacier, Darkness of the Outhouse, Dawn, and Rental Cars.
Without zoom lenses, Icelandic tourism would be a post-modern art form.
The sheepfold under its twin cinder cone, Grábrók:
Forget romantic tourist images. This is Iceland.
It’s not just in Snæfellsnes. It’s everywhere, really: clods of earth like curds in whey on the ground, glopped out of volcanoes, more made with a plow and seeded with pasture grass, and glops of earth in the sky, called clouds, that shade the earth like stone and make you pull a sweater around your shoulders and look up to the fields of the air.
Clods of Earth Falling from the Sky
The old saying, mocked by the Christian parable Chicken Little, which laughs at a chicken who imagines that the sky is falling, of all things, is given its original context if you stop driving around in Iceland and stand still long enough to become the wind, where the old words aren’t old. Iceland is always full of surprises like this.
This is the original world of the islands of the north that gave us the capacity of speech, and if we call only tilled soil clods now, while the ones from volcanoes are called lava and the ones in the air are called condensations of water under pressure regimes, we still draw a sweater over our shoulders when a cloud obscures the sun.