Well we had an amazing little holiday travelling round the West of Iceland: lava fields, volcanic craters, natural springs, waterfalls, seals, a glacier, crazy mossy/ lunar looking landscapes, snow-topped mountains, a Viking… But the reason for being there – the Nordic Geographers Meeting, also far exceeded expectations. I’ve had a really good time there meeting new people, gathering ideas and generally absorbing lots of key insights on the conference theme – Geographies of Responsibilities.
I’ll try and summarise the highlights in this post...
After what seems like a very, very long wait this year, summer has finally arrived in Mid-Wales, and it’s stunningly beautiful. You can kind of hear, smell, sense and see the relief and joy the sun and warmth brings. And we’re leaving. It feels exceptionally ‘wrong’!
I’ve been planning this first set of Arctic trips for months, immersing myself in films, images, novels and academic papers about cold places for even longer. Desperately trying to imagine myself there surviving the cold and doing research. And yet the body’s call to stay at home, re-living happy summer times: soaking up the sun, running in the hills, playing in the sea, growing fresh goodies, is extremely strong. We battled hard against this as we packed up all our gathered wet and cold weather gear and set out into the sunshine.
These past few months I’ve also been working with people who have already been to Svalbard, who have been sharing their memories and experiences with me and each other. They have been incredibly interesting discussions: a heady cocktail of useful practical advice, exciting stories of Arctic adventures and fond memories of the places, people and feelings that talking, thinking and drawing (!) about Svalbard invoked.
It is these memories I have been paying particular attention to. This is one avenue of looking at how ‘Svalbard’ as a place, is reproduced across space and time. These discussions allowed me to try out some research methods which I hope facilitated a fun and easy way to reminisce and share impressions and encounters with the spaces of Svalbard. The two small groups of participants were invited to bring souvenirs, photos and any other items to the meetings to help spark discussions and recollections about the time(s) they spent there. We also did some sketching as a way to portray differences and similarities in public and personal impressions of Svalbard.
In Iceland, I’ll be presenting some of my initial findings and reflections on this methodology in the ‘Emotions, Space and Memory: in search of methodological openings’ session at the Nordic Geographer’s Meeting. So, despite journeying back to autumn/winter temperatures, I’m looking forward to what promises to be an inspiring and interesting conference, and exploring a bit of Iceland of course.