Oct 05, 2010 | By Jean Ellen Forrister
More than a vacation
My husband and I were inspired to go to Iceland by "Art Wolfe's Travel to the Edge," a nature photography show about remote places. Going to "edges" such as Bhutan and outer Mongolia didn't seem feasible for us, but when we looked at the incredible photos of Iceland's land of fire and ice and when we looked on a map, we realized that yes, we can do that.
We were not disappointed in anyway. Every day, around every corner for 13 days was another "wow" "WOW!" Look at that!! We loved the Black Falls At Skaftafell Natinal Park, the earth pulling apart at Thingvelier, a hike along the sea at Holmavik, the colors of the mountains and the hundreds of narrow waterfalls in Vestfjords. Some who demand a lot of glitz with their vacations might say that Iceland is fjord, fjord, fjord, glacier, glacier, sheep. But we loved its elemental quality of extreme nature honed to beautiful edges.
We were also inspired by reading Halldor Laxness's novels. What a wonderful discovery, and we probably would have never found him if we had not travelled to Iceland. Independent People, World Light, and Iceland's Bell are great books. Laxness's epic understanding of his country's history, its peoples' fierce independence and their love of nature and of poetry is moving and memorable. In the folk museum in Skogar,I noticed that the busts of the poets were bigger than those of the politicians.
Our guide book said that 85 percent of Icelanders believe in elves. I do too. At a farm guest house in Kirkjubol i Bjarnardal near Flateryi our hostess had created a haven for her visitors in that "pleasant, thoughtful" elven way that Laxness describes in Independent People. Was it the subtle colors in the bed covers,the artistic water colors in the hall, the little room "for games."? her warm smile and her warm muffins? Could she be an elf? Her place was really no different, no more luxurious or "upscale" than the other places we stayed in, but there was a magical quality there that made me feel good. Back at home, I find sometimes find myself arranging the details my daily life, the dishes in the cupboard, the stack of towels in the closet with an eye to simplicity and grace.
I'm also inspired to ask myself a new question when I'm faced with niggling annoyances in life: what would an elf-woman do? I'd like to think that I can sometimes respond in a more pleasant, thoughtful way than in the past.
After Iceland, we take off our shoes before we come in our house. And we are definitely inspired to keep our eyes open for the arrival of Skyr in the USA.
We'd love to come back.
Jean Ellen Forrister