Among landforms Iceland is a baby. Its first inhabitants simply named it Island. There are no fossils, no 'early man', no human history before 850 AD. Its past has nothing to do with human beings. Maybe that is what makes it feel so benign.

Iceland straddles the Mid-Atlantic rift, the massive wedge worrying apart the American and European continents from eruptions below the bottom of the sea floor. The hem of Europe's largest glacier, Vatnajokull, fingers the sea, imperceptibly pushing and shoving the moraine debris. Igneous, the earth's most tenacious stone, is carved away like butter, swept clean by slow steady movement of the glacier - tabula rasa for a new landscape. Volcanic eruptions, such as the one beneath Vatnajokull in Fall 1996, that burst subsurface icemelt like a blistering flood over the land, are the contrapuntal 'now' to the glacial 'always'.

In late summer 1995 I spent three weeks in Iceland. Instead of reading fiction I craved geology texts. I felt so ignorant of the earth I inhabit and its forces, and at the same time so nourished by this new and wild landscape.

The region of Landmannalaugar was created less than 500 years ago during an eruption of Hekla. The Medieval concept of Hell owes its name to this still-active volcano. I trekked across brand new land, volcanically formed hills knee-high in silt. This soil was mineral-rich - chartreuse, ochre, cobalt green, viridian, violet. Seemingly random marks were part of a larger overall pattern, and everywhere, the core of fluidity that is Earth had left its mark.

The text for this book began as journal entries. To flesh out my journal notes I read geology, natural history, sagas and maps. Back home in the studio I found I didn't want to paint volcanoes so much as to paint volcanically. I began a series of large paintings on the floor by sprinkling powdered pigment and then 'bombarding' this with liquid binder, literally mixing the paint on the surface. This series is called Pangaea: the goddess Ge from whom we owe the word Geology. I pulled contact monoprints from them that became part of the bureoning book. I experimented with pigments to elicit a sense of terra vulcanus. This book began as a gift for my husband and lifelong traveling companion, Macduff Everton, and it is to him that it is dedicated.

-Mary Heebner, Spring 1997