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Sunday, 31 January 2016

Iceland: The Land that God Forgot to Finish

Ideas and Opinions | Milo

In this piece Milo shares his thoughts on the natural beauty of Iceland, and the impact the Golden Circle had on him

The first words I heard from my friend Moose as our plane skidded to a stop atop the runway was: “I expected more snow.” Some might consider those to be a “famous last words” example, however thankfully we are both still very much alive. Indeed once we left the airport we found ourselves constantly caught in the snow, from the tips of our toes to the flakes that fell upon our faces. Snow coated cars, streets, buildings and monuments; perhaps this is why the statue of Leifur Eiriksson stands before Hallgr√≠mskirkja in hardy garbs because even sculptures must still contend with the burring Icelandic snow.

Staue of Leifur Eiriksson

The first night spent in Iceland was a winter wonderland, however every additional second, minute and hour spent dowsed in the snow wearied me. The snow became something that would ruin my only decent pair of trousers if I wasn’t careful, it forced me to wear two pairs of socks, and to dry and air out my scarf and hat in the hopes of reducing the damp odour that had soaked into my clothing.  
I grew sick of the snow, and it became the obstacle it had also been back in London. At least it was until we hit the open road and left Reykjavik to discover the Golden Circle on our own terms. Once free of the civility of the city, the snow once again recaptured its spirit and temerity.

Sight after astounding sight paused me in my thoughts. The black, jagged rock. The thick padded blanket of snow that submerged shrubs, trees and mountains without discrimination. The terror and joy of seeing pages of blank white in every direction. These thoughts cumulated into an instinctual utterance on my behalf: “Iceland is the land that God forget to colour in” because that is how it appeared to my eyes. There is an unfinished quality to the landscape surrounding Reykjavik, random house’s dot the landscape, gates stand without fences attached, towns and other settlements are scrubbed clean of any people. Tiny waterfalls and dismembered attractions, all cut off from the heart of its capital and left to function without mindfulness, malice or menace.  

I’ve heard stories of the Australian outback, of its threat and plethora of awesome and carnivorous beasts that can kill and maim, however the roads and rivers the line the Golden Circle offered no such threat. It was scary at times to traverse this dank expanse alone, but never due to any heightened animal sensibilities or fears of attack. This wilderness wasn’t wild, it wasn’t anything. It was space and space alone. When we arrived at Geysir we found a number of other tourists which broke the spell of silence somewhat, however aside from the car park and the gift shop there was still a curious simplicity to the landmark. A number of signs dotted the walk up to it that warned of the great heat of the surrounding waters and the geyser itself, however aside from a simple rope to denote the pathway, there was no other form of governance or protection. We were left to walk the road to Geysir without regulation, to the extent that I could have jumped into the spitting pools had I wanted.

Geysir Post "Performance"
After seeing Geysir we travelled the short way to Gullfoss, Iceland’s largest waterfall, and it was magnificent. The size and the power of the gushing water was not sufficiently captured by my mobile phone camera and neither was it contained by my mortal ears and eyes. Moreover, in the same fashion as Geysir, there was very little to stop me from jumping over the side of the railing and rushing forwards to greet Gullfoss in a more intimate fashion. Of course common sense and a fear of heights prevented any foolishness on my behalf, and yet I was also stilled by something more primal, something more primitive. The sights reverted my personified imagining of God into something more animistic, where I felt awed on a visceral rather than psychological level. 

It is in this sense that I term Iceland the land that God forgot to finish because I felt unfinished as a person as a I wandered its crevasses and natural wonders. I felt reduced to awe, incapable of either stress or prophesy, and rendered as a temporary scrawl on this otherwise untouched canvas.

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