24 August: I’ve moved on today to another island (town of Klaksvik on Bordoy Island); town has about 4,500 people, third largest city in the country. It’s an improvement over towns in the U.S. in the low presence, low visibility commercial establishments and the utter absence to my eyes of a police presence. Communities appear to be dominated by residential interests served by commerce rather than the American way of commercial interests always served by society. I started a list of distinctive, appealing features of the Faroes.
• Small scale
• Slowed pace
• Beautiful landscape
• Restrained people
• An undefinable, so far, feeling I have of a people at peace with themselves and enriched by the land on which they live and arrange their material survival.
It also occurred to me as I drove the mostly one-laned roads (as it did similarly in New Zealand when I came to cross the mostly one-laned bridges) where, when you see another car approaching in the distance, you have to anticipate where the pullouts will be and which of you is closer to one, and in any event you have to take account of the other person…compare to this the two-lane experience of just passing people by without a thought more than that they aren’t carelessly drifting into your lane. Having to take account of others, even in this rather small, mechanical way has the effect, I suspect, of raising their general salience in one’s consciousness. People need to have to count on one another, to look to others for help sometimes and for simply having the courtesy of not dominating the roads other times. I imagine it makes for better society.
I still wonder why houses everywhere are crowded upon one another when land is abundant. Different languages are one of the diversities of human communities that help to identify them, and contribute to their identity, and are probably a good bulwark against the homogenizing trends that capitalist societies foster, so I wouldn’t change them if I could. But at a time like this, when I have so much I want to know, it makes for a loss. Of course, given the reserve of Faroese people, even if we spoke a common language I don’t know how we’d meet. I still miss the campground spirit that worked so well for me in NZ and Australia.