Category Archives: Land

Good Days and Bad Days in East Iceland

The black sand beaches at the mouth of the Selfljót are unparalleled.

They stretch hauntingly into the distance, almost unwalked by human feet.

 

Pretty fine on a calm day!

 

The sand is so black, every little thing on it is a revelation from a spirit world.

But!  But!  But! Not on a windy day. It would be ghastly out there, as the drifts show.

A blizzard of black sand! Enjoy the good days, I say.

Take your time.

Watch the water and the sand tell its stories, like a good visitor.

Even climb high for a view.

And then go home. You are small.

Giving Thanks in Iceland

Here’s a stone marked by human tools in Neskaupstaðir. It is broken from the old sea cliff behind me, and lying on the old underwater shelf below. Note, too that it sits in a hollow.

That’s not a given. Here’s a sister rock, showing a more natural face to the world.

The thing is, in a country without trees, people burned peat to try to get a little warmth. Peat came from mountain bogs, such as the one that surrounded this rock…

… or this untouched one, in Njardvik, a few fjords to the North.

These bogs are lush, exotic environments. You could say they are the life of the mountain.

When you dig them, though, you are left with a hole and a simplified ecosystem.


They do have the potential to rebuild, however. Here’s one in Neskaupstaðir, hard at it. A photographer could do worse than peer into holes where the Earth is healing the wounds of limited human technology and understanding.

When these bogs run with water, it is often red with iron. It’s hard not to think of them as the blood of the land.

They’re quite wondrous when they spill their blood over the old sea cliffs.

And quite forlorn when, stripped of peat, they run dry out to sea.

And harder yet, when you see them give birth to fantastical creatures.

These now-rare environments are the survivors of a time in which they gave life to humans in the cold. You could say, easily enough, without the long, long life and sacrifice made by these bogs, there would be no Iceland today.

That’s why the mined-out bogs in Neskaupstaðir have been a nature preserve for nearly fifty years now. It is a way of giving thanks for life.

There’s an art to it.

Njardvik: the Green Fjord

The road along the coast behind the farm Borg races on past the Cross on the cape that keeps the ogre at bay, on to the puffins in Borgarfjörður Eystri, and back.

Few stop anymore to walk in this emerald, or to see the path this water makes as it hides itself, as all creatures from the other world do, on to test the walls of the houses of men. It is the greenest fjord in Iceland. This image is made from the old Stapavik trail, the right way to come upon it, unless you come by boat, of course. Imagine the first long boat that touched this beach, and the people that stepped ashore in wonder. They are your ancestors as soon as you get out of the car. And then what? Well, friend, then you are lost. And then you are found.