An Icelandic Forest

If the trees you’re used to seeing are willows scooting down behind rocks the size of golf balls for a bit of shelter from sheep and wind, or maybe the occasional lone birch in a canyon somewhere, like this …

 

treerock

 

Hengifoss Canyon

Flótsðalur, Iceland

… imagine what trees must look like when a valley of stone and grass is turned into a forest. Would they not look like the most exotic things?

pinePines from Alaska…

…planted in the 1960s.

Now, in Canada, trees are so everyday that it often seems like a good idea to cut some down to get a view of something other than their gloomy shadows, but in Iceland, where there’s a view everywhere, from every house, farm or corner in the road or path or even just some lonesome straight length of road across a volcanic wasteland that looks like the face of a planet circling a star in space, it’s not like that. In Canada this would be, well, a nice bit of a tree plantation starting to come in nicely…

P1420236The Forest of Hallórmstaður

… but in Iceland, where the next size of tree is often like this …

fungus1The Old Ones of the Grasslands

There before the grass, and still there after it, blooming under the trees.

… a forest is a magical place, planted by human hand in a pasture, in a way like any other agricultural crop (forestry is under the aegis of the Ministry of Agriculture in Iceland), and in a way like pure poetry.

P1410975Seeing Pines for the First Time, Ever

It doesn’t matter if they’re alive or dead, because either way they are among the most exotic creatures going, ancient ones compared to the grasses …

twignet… that never cease to astound …

P1420033… and never cease to delight …

starcones2Larches from Archangelsk

When all you’ve seen in the sky are birds and stars, then that’s what you see in the trees.

And if you should ever, somehow, get tired of looking up and seeing the delight of art that people have made out of the pastures of a country they clearcut a long, long time ago, look down …

funguslargeThen, hey, look around a bit …

fungus6

…and a bit more …

fungus13

Why, you might almost forget the waterfall you hiked uphill through the snow to find …

P1420072Ljósárfoss

I love those Icelandic birches. Here are some Canadian aspens, in contrast…

tom-thomson-in-the-northland1Tom Thomson’s In the Northland

It was the years when Thomson was making paintings like this in Northern Ontario that Icelanders started planting trees in the Fljótsðalur. Canada and Iceland were very similar then. Both legacies remain, a century on, to haunt.

 

 

 

 

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