fimmtudagur, desember 16, 2004

norðurmaður

I was falling alseep last night, still feeling a little sick, and listening to the wind and rain lash the side of the house. We get some incredible winds here, winds that send bags of groceries careening into the parking lot, snap open your car door, and spray the rain all the way across the dashboard. Winds that people here largely ignore and go about their business.

So I was falling asleep and thinking that here I am, dozing off on the edge of a vast black rock, way up the the North Atlantic. The rock is being beaten down by terrible black-green seas, far from any other land, a place so remote that the sun barely makes it here in the winter. And I was thinking that for many reading this, who have never been here (and even maybe for those who have) Iceland is such a remote place, maybe it exists only in the imagination of most Westerners. It started with the ancient Greeks, who imagined a land they called Thule,

"The most northerly region of the habitable world to ancient Greek geographers. Posited as an island north of Britain, it has been variously identified with Iceland, Norway, and the Shetland Islands." (from dictionary.com)

So I got to thinking, does this place have a mythical image in the minds of Westerners, built up over centuries? An unknowable place, a place that is basically the furthest north you can go and still live? It certainly had that image for me when as a kid I asked my second grade teacher about Iceland and she had nothing to say to me. It's always been the furthest place, the unknowable...

And now that I am here I feel the same about it a lot of times. I feel like I am living in a place that the world and history largely forgot, a place that clings to an ancient language, behind the shadowy curtain of the North Atlantic's winter waters. Maybe that's why people have such a hard time coming to visit: they believe it is a place perpetually beyond their reach...

It doesn't help that we have a local brew here called Thule.

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