Monthly Archives: October 2017

Succulent Iceland

Succulents, which combat heat stress by a form of photosynthesis which allows them to store solar energy in a chemical form during the day, with their water-losing pores closed, and complete photosynthesis in the night, with their pores open, seem to be thriving in Iceland, which is not known for its heat. Luck at them here (bright green), in a colony of mosses and Icelandic purslane: a little tidal pool at the base of the wall of the Hengifossá Canyon.I suspect that greenhouses of snow cover, left empty by the effects of the wildly-varying height of the stream nearby, play a role here, but, really, I just think there’s room for extensive study here. I’d say it’s not just lichens that live in community in this climate, but all kinds of creatures, which do better together than apart.

After all, we are talking about an island which is an edge ecosystem: warmed by the Gulf Stream  while cooled by winds from the north. Anything is possible here! The whole country is a hot house!

The Out of This World Lichens of Iceland and their Gardeners

When cliff faces are too cold, lichen can do just fine by growing in a tension with heat conserving mosses.
But tufts of arctic grass gnawed to mounds by sheep work just as well. Look how purslane, grass, moss and lichens all work together to create a balanced environment, conserving heat, gathering rain, relatively impervious to sheep, and even collecting soil ot of the wind. Clumps like these, and there are billions of them in Iceland, are like reefs on a continental shelf, or miniature planets in the cold of space. The missing co-conspirators? Ah…

 

The Earth Gives Birth

Iceland is a “settlement” culture, not a “colonial” culture. This orientation continues today. There are times the Earth reminds the human body of its own birth.

Skriðuklaustur

At those moments, the human mind and body unite to give birth to a new self at one with the earth. That is settlement. It’s like taming a horse.

Mosfellskirkja

The most beautiful church in Iceland.

Mosfellskirkja, Mosfellsdalur

And probably the most political. Like all churches, it is a face of the state. If you want to know what political power looks like, look here. That most Icelanders don’t actually go to church is not the point. It’s not about “going to church.” It’s about the survival of an ancient balance between outward and inward lives, i.e., in modern terms, Iceland. In other words, this, too, is church:

Hafrafell, The Mountain of the Sea

And ravens. Mountain of ravens, too.

It is about holding on. So, when you come to a church in Iceland, don’t drive by. Stop.

Kirkjubær

That’s the old church in the foreground, in memory at least. But, a thousand years, what’s that? Nothing at all.