A Lesson From Iceland

Not everything is about settler culture…

… and its failures…

A Canadian Outpost in Vernon, Cascadia

… and all cultures hold an indigenous heart.

Any Celt Knows What to Do Among the New World Hazels of the Monashee Mountains

If we can set aside the re-creation of European indigenous life…

A Troll in the Ásbyrgisskógur, Ísland

…as fairytale, as was done during the Romantic period, in which elves and dwarves, trolls, ogres…

An Ogre (or a volcanic dike, if that’s your mythology) in the Suðurdalur, Ísland

…witches and other organic understandings of human-Earth relationships took on sentimental human form…

…and life was removed from the Earth…

Umtanum Creek Canyon, Yakama Illahie


…and given to biology…

Borgarfjörður Eystri, Ísland

… we should still be able to read the rock as something more than mineral. It is the nature of being indigenous to be of a place.


Elf Stone Marking the Old Road to the Glacier, and the South, in Villingadalur

This does not mean that one inhabits it solely as an isolated biological body…

Girl Out for a Ride in Skarðsfjördur, Ísland

…but that the place and you are also one. One of the consequences is that you will see your mind and body around you and read your thoughts out of the land


By moving across the land, you really move through it, and really are moving through yourself.

Summer Elves in Villingadalur

Itseyehyeh’s Fish Net on the Kooskooskie, Nimiipu’u Illahie

You can stop sometimes and have a look at what you, as the Earth, are thinking.

Neskaupstaðir, Ísland

The simplest way is to read the stone, such as the cliffs at Ásbyrgi. It’s easiest if you remember that before a troll was a mythical, romantic being…

… it was a stone, or a person, anchored to a place and defining it. The understanding was that place has power.

Elf at Home in the pasture where the Iceland’s most beloved painter, Kjarval, learned his craft as a shepherd.

And not just as a romantic artform called “nature”.

Heraðssandur, Ísland


The Columbia Gorge, Looking to the Cascades

That is beautiful enough, but it has a lot in common with romanticized, humanized elves and looks, most of the time, like fairyland.

Úthlíðarfjöll, Ísland

It is, of course, but not literally. It is cartography. Lithography, let’s say. Or better, the writing on your bones. What is literal is the rock, and how you can read your thoughts there.

Complex thoughts of many kinds.

It is not an indigenous skill you lose by being placed outside of Europe.

Thompson Grasslands, Nlaka’pamux Illahie

Once you have seen through the romantic veil to that, you can relax and read the trees.

Your Sisters in the Ásbyrgisskógur, Ísland

And the forest floor. As any celt would.

Big Bar Lake, Cascadia

Such observations are usually called pre-modern thinking, but it would be both more fair and more generous, more respective of human nature, to call it non-individualized consciousness, or even earth consciousness.

Ásbyrgisskógur, Ísland

Not a spruce tree and not fairyland. This is your body being conscious. You can learn to speak this.

And we need that. Saying that this is a human world, without including the world as human, will lead to more settler culture, and it lives nowhere.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.