Author Archives: Harold Rhenisch

About Harold Rhenisch

www.haroldrhenisch.com

The Mountain at the Centre of the World

Snæfellsjökull (Snow Mountain’s Glacier) makes its own weather at the Western end of the Snæfellsnes (Snow Mountain Point) peninsula and its 100 kilometres of volcanoes thrusting into the Atlantic. They came to it, not it from them. The volcano sat here alone for 300,000 years, washed by waves, formed by entirely different rock than the others that followed it west. Now, it creates clouds out of living air and holds them to its ice.

This image shows a strong gale (90 km/h) lifting the cloud away minutes before dusk, the sun coming in horizontally across the sea to the left, striking the ice, and shooting vertically into the cloud, lighting it from below. This moment stars in my poem “Whirlpool” in my book of spells and blessings weaving people and land into a cloth, as the mountain sure does. The poem begins in wind, with its lines snapping apart, barely held to the frame of the loom.

This thread appears again in the poem Findings, where Syrian refugees and the refugees who fled Germany in 1929 and gave me life, meet and feast together. It raises its back out of the Atlantic that is book, here again in Lifting the Sky. This time, this wave that lifts the mountains into the sky appears in Eyrarfjörður, the great “Estuary Fjord”, far to the Northeast.

Both poems answer this question with their weaving. You can find the answer in the book. In the meantime, here’s a farmer in the Eyrarland (The Estuary Country), dealing with his roof. No ladder needed.

I have no idea how he got out of the cab, up over the hydraulic arms, over the bucket, and up there, but he did. After all, for half of every year his sheep have to live in there, while the mountains and the sea do their thing outside. Curious? I hope so. There’s a link to the right of this page where you can order this book. While you’re waiting for it to arrive, here’s the south wall of Snæfellsjökull…

… where

This is just one of the many landings in Landings: Poems from Iceland. There was once an exodus from the Earth. Now there is a return to it. I hope you will come along.

A Missed Artistic Opportunity in West Iceland

So, you’re an artist and you meet a blank canvas under the volcano. What are you going to put on it?

On the Dagdeverðerá by Malaríf

This?

Granted, there’s not much light at the winter solstice, but, hey, you probably did it in the summer, so would you paint this?

Maybe if the original owners had been able to spray paint their love on their walls, they wouldn’t have given up in the gloom and moved to Canada.

Catching the Sun

When the wind blows at hurricane force, it lifts the cloud from Snæfellsjökull. The glacier on the volcano’s peak captures the sun and beams it up to the clouds.

This is one of the central images from my new book: Landings: Poems from Iceland. It contains poems written on a trip across Iceland. Many were written in Grundarfjörður, after this glorious day trying to stay vertical in the lava fields.

An Old Gate Post Without A Farm

If you explore old farm sites in remote areas in Iceland, you will find boulders, set at the boundary of a tun, a house field manured from a barn. This, in Icelandic culture, is a yard, or garden. A pretty special place. With a boulder.

These boulders are all chosen. Many have animal shapes. Many of those are ravens. Some are dwarf stones. Here on the old road up to Vatnjökull from the Fljótsdalur, it’s a raven, which is fitting, because when you walk up the trail, the ravens are watching the whole time, to see if you’re going to tumble down into the gorge and become lunch. it’s best to honour wise creatures like that.

A Little East Icelandic Shopping, Anyone?

Krosshöfði

Before there was Egilsstaðir, the service and shopping hub for East Iceland, there was Óshöfn in Krosshöfði. Alas, the harbour filled in. That’s it in the centre of the image below.

But back in the day, it was a h happening place. Men would travel perhaps a week with their horses to pick up the shopping here.

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1904: Those people of Hérað who so wish, can have any sort of groceries delivered to Öshöfn next March-April, providing that they deliver their orders to the store in Bakkagerði, Borgarfjörður before the New Year.

Bakkagerði is in the second fjörd to the south. Hérað is a vast district in the East, including Gunnar Gunnarsson’s childhood home at ValÞjófsstaðir, a long five days’ ride to the East. Chances are, the walnut he received for Christmas as a boy, which he broke in half and made into a boat, which he sailed down the pastorage stream, dreaming of going to sea, came from here.

The land has other ideas.