Spirits in every study . . .

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Iceland:

It is just getting light at 10:30 am. Clouds cover the country, but the light will play with the newly fallen snow on the last road North. At the end of the road there is a hot swimming pool and a hot tub whipped by winds swirling off the Arctic and Norwegian Seas, and here we can charge our blood and spittle with the the energy we need to shoot our way out of the North and back into reality: water, ice, wind, the elements on the go, swishing to rhythms and forces we all feel every minute but somehow must displace with errands to Starbux or Whole Foods or the Internet. Every time I come here this clean corner of the world makes its claim to me of being a photographer's paradise. There is sparkle and pattern in every glance, spirits in every study, and the shutter flicked or fondled gives you a small flood of unexplainable pictures, and by saying this I am trying to step across some frontier of expression which I acknowledge and give homage to but rarely bother to cross. It's not a border of abstraction, not some hopeless descent into art or private interpretation, but a true capture of animistic belief, the way we all looked at the soil and sky before polluting it with religion and bottom lines. It is extraordinary to admit that four out of five residents of this island believe there might be or definitely are elves at play outdoors. Over 80 percent of educated Icelanders will not rule out the existence of an elf. And every story in their literature refers to a rock or a mountain alive with face and soul; the unspoken respects paid to unseen peoples means there is a shadow to every transaction or purpose, and the Viking following his fierce will to better real estate, sword in hand and Berserkers by his side, will pause at a bend in a stream to ask for benefits from a tiny pile of stones on a hill, untouched for hundreds of years, and if not benefit at least not ruin. This kind of fright, for the mischief made in the margins beyond daylight, is the sugar in any traveler's delights. The oddity of place, the foreign inner landscape where your sure facts yield to wonder, is the purpose of leaving home, isn't it?

And with a camera to record your voyage, and with a camera instead of broadsword to extend your vista, we temporarily adopt the rules and roles of other lives, become selves strange to our own systems and strategies, become strangers, those lovely travelers. And until I write this sentence, I haven't thought much about coming back, because I am unwilling to divorce myself from this endless moment, of catching spirits in flight. The writer inside snorts at the shooter to get out of his way so the words can be shaped from sight, but the photographer resists, willing to fight almost, ready to give a thousand images to describe that single word, hunted by travelers and explorers ever since we stopped wandering to set up places of worship less than four generations ago, that single element that can be humanized to defend us from volcano and tides, the only thing our intuitions consistently fear: spirit. You morph, here, from looking at process to becoming not just a poem but poetry, unjudged as long as you are unspoken, and when you do speak the spirits listen hoping for explanations they can bring into their own ephemeral lives, and here is the important part: truth in all its forms is not a mathematics but a fabric of rhymes, and the scientist in all of us admits this first among all claims.

I imagine every day Einstein on his bicycle traversing the puzzles of New Jersey, admitting that of all human endeavours nothing is so cool as a sense of mystery. My little duty, here, is to travel that mysterious path, in pictures that make their own rhythms so I can sing a song of seeing when I am home, and made blind by errand and obligation. So off we go, surfing the planet!