Wonder-scapes

16. October, 2016

I spend the morning curled up in a café-bookshop, sipping sagas and skaldic poetry. Age has only enriched the flavor of the words, with notes of sea salt, licorice, and rye. Norse verses are a highly concentrated brew of blood, battle, and wit. Far more potent than caffeine in my sensitive system, the poetry shocks my imagination into quivering activity.

I want to fold myself into the poet’s Iceland, so I walk east to where the Elliðáar river slices through the city’s outskirts like shards of a broken mirror. Perhaps I caught a shard of that enchanted mirror in my eye because I see the landscape in a fey light. The colors are hypersaturated—birches leafed in topaz and amber, moss and evergreens dusted with emerald scales. Where the shattered river sweeps into the bay, the mountains crown the horizon, dark kings enthroned since the age of magma and ash. A low cave lurks beside the waterfall, and under the water’s thunder you can hear the battle-hymn of dwarf hammers beating anvils.

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An elvish melancholy colors the air; it has the patina of a witch-spelled blade, the scent of runes new-carved in rowan. As jealous winter dusk creeps upon the city, an eldritch light illumines this valley from within. Yellow buds glow like lightning bugs and the birch trees are blazing torches against the smoky grey sky.

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I know why most Icelanders would never boast disbelief in elves. Iceland is a very young island, in its geological adolescence. It was not so long ago that the island was born from the volcanoes in blood-tides of magma. The island is still restless, forging itself in fire and ice, wonder-scapes raw and untarnished. The land glistens with colors not yet named. The dust of ages has not yet settled. In Iceland, the beginning of time was only a few yesterdays ago. Nature has not been hounded to the corners of the land, rounded up and fenced off. Nature is lushly feral, a virgin goddess dewy and vicious. Iceland is so young that Nature is still supernatural, as she was for Odysseus, Beowulf, and Merlin. The Oldfolk—the elves and trolls, their kith and kin—have not yet gone to sleep beneath the stones. The Icelanders keep them alive, speaking their names when the electric lights die on a December night or a ring is found precisely where it ought to have been and was not.

I want to live where the Oldfolk still roam, where wolfish storms howl at my windows, where the Huntress Moon rides the night, drawing her bow and scattering the sky with shooting stars.

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