Jul 23, 2010 | Siglufjörður, Iceland
Jul 23, 2010

The other day in the morning I was walking to work at the Herring Museum and I ran into Örlygur, who was carrying a large rusted set of garden shears and going in the other direction.

"Good morning," I said when I saw him.

"I am a fighting man," he said, as he got close.

"A fighting man?" I said.

"A street-fighting man," he said, and he clipped the shears a couple of times in the air.

"Where are you going with those clippers?" I said.

"I am going to a protest," he said, "to a kind of protest."

"What are you protesting?" I said.

"They are cutting up the road. Over by my house. They are just doing it, and it is just happening, and they didn't ask anybody. It is not right, and some of us are trying to stop it."

"I heard the noise last night," I said. "What are they doing to the road?"

"They are laying a high voltage cable, to connect the town with the new power supply, but they did not ask the people or tell them what they were doing, and now we are very angry, because it is not supposed to be like this. They are so used to getting their way that now they don't even ask us when they are about to do something. This is not how it should be. They are here to serve us, not the other way around."

"So what are you going to do?" I said.

"We have asked them to stop, and to show us the information about whether or not all of this electricity will be dangerous to the people in the houses. You know, in recent years there has been much interest in this question of whether all this electricity is really so good for us, and what it might do in the long run."

"So are they going to stop it?" I said.

"We don't know. We hope that they will. If they don't, we are going to set up a table in the road, and we are going to serve coffee and waffles and jam, and we will stay there like that until they show us the information. But I have to go now," he said. "I can hear them starting already."

Later that night I walked home past the ditch, and saw what they'd done to the road. It was cut open and exposed, and it was weird to look down into it, into the earth that was under the asphalt. I was thinking how that earth was finally getting to see the sky after all those years suffocating under the hard fake ground, and how happy it must have been at last to get some air.

Part of me hoped they would leave it like that — cut up and open. The long canal of dirt seemed more natural than the flat black tar, and it seemed cruel to think about covering it up again, for another fifty years in the dark.

But by the next morning they'd put down the cable and covered the ditch with new dirt. The new dirt looks different, like the kind of dirt you buy in a store, and I felt bad for the real dirt under it, which was the dirt that had all the soul.

But it doesn't really matter anyway, because pretty soon they'll pave it over, and then both kinds of dirt will be condemned to the dark and we will walk and drive on the stuff that holds them under, because that is what we do when the earth begins to get some air.