Weather and volcanoes permitting, I am taking a trip tomorrow to the northernmost tip of west Iceland, situated just below the Arctic Circle. The intention is to visit an abandoned village named Hesteyri, located in a remote area in Jökulfirðir (the Glacial fjords). It is the location of the book I am presently writing, so the trip is a fact finding mission, an atmosphere intake of sorts. Although I have been there previously I desperately need to be there now when I am attempting to adapt the three dimensional location to the mere two dimensions provided by paper. This is probably the way most writers prefer to work, despite the photos, articles, books, the information highway and all of the other data available for sofa research, nothing beats the 1:1 scale.
Unfortunately I will not be able to stay at Hesteyri for an extended period and write, much less finish the book. The village has no phones, mobile connections, electricity or running water, aside from what passes by in the form of a small stream. It is the penultimate item that makes me squirm and what kicks the feet from under me as an author. I need a computer to write and with no electricity to power it I am pretty helpless. My laptop has such a crummy battery that it can run for just under an hour without a socket connection and there is no way I can finish my book in an hour, unfortunately. My engineering co-workers told me to take a generator along which seemed like a good idea but the more they described it the less I became inclined to rent one. The statement that totally put me off the idea was: “no it’s not THAT heavy, two to four strong, young men can PROBABLY carry it up to the house from the boat. “ I am not travelling with an undecided number of strong, young men and even if I were they would not be all too pleased to find out that once they had stumbled along with the cumbersome and heavy machine all the way, they would have to go back to the beach to get the gasoline needed to keep it running.
I have never attempted to write by hand, the last time I wrote anything of substance pen in hand was when taking notes while at school. Since my main source of writing has been checks but since they became obsolete all I write by hand is my name under credit card receipts, a Y followed by a short squiggly snake and a standalone capital S. The ability to write a novel using a pen or pencil has long since passed me by.
Being at Hesteyri or anywhere in the world where time has stood still makes me wonder about how much has evolved and how easy our life in the west has become. The same feeling is evoked when I read excerpts from history books, the further back the record dates the harder it is to imagine how life was livable. In this respect I am not talking about access to the internet. These thoughts almost always channel down the same chute: when people in the future read about us, what will make them gawk? Will our clothes seem cumbersome and uncomfortable? Will medicine have advanced enough to eradicate illness and our bodily pains and trials seem horrific? Will the food we eat seem unappetizing and disgusting? Will our forms of transport look ridiculous, uncomfortable and slow?
Much thinking about this has led me to a conclusion which is a bit sad. I think our times will be looked at with disdain not because of what we wear, eat or drive. We will be infamous because of our spendthrift ways, consuming way too much of the limited resources available to us without much afterthought or conscience. Instead of evoking thoughts of “oh those poor people, look at what they had to endure” we will get comments like: “what were they thinking?”
Maybe I should write with a pen while at Hesteyri after all. When in Rome…