Monthly Archives: May 2018

The Best Way to Approach the Sea

Sideways, so sly?

Or head on, so bold?

With a house for company?

With a fence for (ha ha) protection?

Or with a sandbar to still that water down until it turns to swans?

In snow?

In the midnight sun?

From halfway down a ridiculous cliff called, for some reason, a road?

From the land of the dead at the bottom of the cliff?

Among muck-raking sheep?

From the city?

From a place on no map?

From a boat?

From a coal mine?

With a lighthouse?

Through a gate while tipping over in the wind (a common affliction)?

On a lazy evening when horses come to visit and refuse to eat your apples because they’ve never encountered such a strange thing before?

At the end of the road?

Without a road at all?

When the sea turns to silver?

When silver turns to the sea?

When the sky rains gold?

Over the mouth of a river?

Or when the sea flows into a river’s mouth and speaks of deep mystery?

These are the mysteries of people who live after the landing that makes firm ground out of waves that, wouldn’t you know, is not so firm after all. Yeah, best, maybe to just wade out with the trolls.

Waiting for whatever comes!

Having Fun keeping Warm with the Fairies in the Icelandic (Oh Not Really) Cold

Six years back, these ads for warm weather clothing were all the rage.

A melancholy bunch, but they appealed to visitors of European heritage.

Who just want to go where it is cold and to be warm there, or at least are willing to let their bodies remember all that.

Of course, the ads were made in New York.

But their appeal was solid.

Today, the ads are still about superhuman melancholy, about prowess in conditions that would slay most others, but with adventure. No longer is being bodily present in Iceland enough. You have to be an airplane.

And of course, at the same time still be a vulnerable waif, even with a bit of fear and disdain.

Ah, Iceland, still playing with fairy lore after all these years.

Imagine if the Icelanders just got up one day and redefined the human myth instead! I’m waiting for that day.

Perhaps new glasses first?

War Memorials in Iceland

In West Iceland, the aluminum plant in Hvalfjörður, which draws power from the dammed highlands, is watched over by the abandoned World War II fighter base that guarded the British Fleet, and which is now gone to the birds.

In East Iceland, the aluminum plant in Reydarfjörður draws power from Skaftafell, in the cloud at the height of the Lagarfljót, watched over by an abandoned horse-drawn manure spreader on the farm Gunnar bought to avoid the Second World War.

These too are the faces of war. In Iceland, which won its independence during the Second World War while its colonial masters in Denmark were occupied by the Germans, that war is honoured by double-edged memorials such as these.

Beautiful Systrafoss

Back in the days before lava covered the best of Iceland and people had to move up onto the hills with their sheep…

… the priests of Kirkjubær …

The basalt column marks the old church.

… were famous for keeping a group of nuns, well, orphan girls for the most part, over at Kirkubærjarklaustur, for the pleasure that could be gained from that …

 

… in just the place the Irish monks (who were on Iceland before the Icelanders) were camping out in caves in the cliffs and living off bird eggs (and then abandoned because a bunch of noisy pagans and their Irish women [slaves aka wives] had moved into town), and I wonder, you know, if the priests didn’t choose the place because the falls are like a bridal veil.

Systrafoss

… that flows down the hill separately, splits around the rock (fine Christian symbolism there) and then unites as one — before flowing through the cloister. We’ll never know, but we do know that the young women were set to work embroidering cloth, and that Icelandic cloth was the best in the world. It would be a surprise if the amorous priests missed out on the symbolism, or didn’t point it out to the girls left in their charge. At any rate, the falls are beautiful, and richer for a history older than Iceland, even though the lava took all the best land away, some say to punish those lascivious priests.

Still, the land’s still good enough for zipping through on a tractor, so all is not lost.

Reykjavik’s Wall Against the Cold

Why does Reykjavik build a wall to separate itself from Iceland?

To keep back the sea, perhaps. On an island, this may be the way: one is always blocked by water. It can be comforting. As things evolve, however, blocking behaviour become internalized, and then when your colonizers give you cars, why, you can always drive around, right? There remains no price for blocking … or does there? Or does “driving around” still not untie an old, old knot?