I found a weighty, rectangular stone about one meter long and half a meter tall and thick. Marina saw me eye it and pleaded no, but when I heaved against its side it rolled. All four of us building the cairn joined in rolling it—and yet it was still a struggle. We developed a rhythm to our roll like a four person engine. Agnes said rolling this stone made her think of the large temples built in the Andes in South America. Push by push, the strain of her body against stone elevated the pitch of her voice until it (and her energy) faltered. Without her, we fell out of rhythm and halted. Together we turned to rest and sat on the stone like a bench with our backs supporting each other. Looking out, the fog now completely surrounded us. What time is it? Day? Century? Everything beyond about five meters was obscured. Time and place only observed peeking through a keyhole. 13 million-year-old basalt rocks, fragile grey moss, the sensation of someone else leaning into my back and me into theirs, a soft mist, and that empty Icelandic silence.
Originally published in Failed States issue no.1: island, September 2017. Photographs by Jay Simpson
Jay Simpson is a photographer, educator, and wilderness guide, and is co-author of the forthcoming book Hiking and Wayfinding in the Westfjords of Iceland.