Category Archives: Uncategorized

A Culture of Settlement

One thing that makes Iceland dramatically beautiful is that its culture and landscape look like they were just plunked there recently and haven’t really taken yet.

Looking North from Meidavellir

That’s what you get after 1100 years of cultural replacement in response to environmental erosion. With very few exceptions, the buildings are less than a century old. With very few exceptions, the living landscapes are far younger. A century ago, the scrub above would have looked much like the outwash plain below it. The people, whose memory is longer, are in a constant state of change, unsettlement and resettlement, just as it was when they first arrived, a little over 1100 years ago. Settlement was the originating impulse, but it was driven by men, who felt unsettled in Norway. These tensions are still written in every moment of the land.

Land Conservation by Colour

Water and stone both flow. That the tephra cone (Eldborg) and the stream (Bólulækur) are the same colour on this June day is part of the mystery.

Both are coloured by the sky, which gains its colour by heated oxygen, which, to complete the pattern, is (more or less) on fire. The skill at recognizing these correspondences are one of the ways in which poetry adds to human knowledge of the world, and maintains it. Once you have made this realization, you will harm neither stream nor mountain.

Jewelry for Iceland Herself to Wear

It’s time for the Christmas tree right now outside the Akureyri Art Gallery, but the spring tree waits, covered in blizzard stuff.

Look how it springs up as a decoration across a treeless Icelandic landscape (which is also an artwork.) A fine reminder in the snow that everything other than the ice is art, whether human made or not, and that both kinds of trees are botanical treasures imported from another world.

 

 

Big Wind in Sandvatn Takes the Lake Away

From a little patch of dried clay the size of an average bedroom, the wind howling off of Þorsjökull did a pretty great job of stripping the land down to its bones last week.

Wind speeds were a mere 45 km/h, which, by Icelandic standards, is a brisk afternoon breeze. Remarkably, a pair of swans and a few shorebirds were hanging on, even though the lake and the river flowing from it have almost vanished. If you’re in þingvellir these days, a trip over behind Thor’s Shield certainly won’t disappoint!