Tag Archives: erosion

Gerduberg in Winter

This old farm building below the famous basalt cliff Gerduberg is a good reminder of a changing climate, for even here, in a remote farming district, the wind is taking the soil away. Look at how it is staining the drifts on the hilltop brown.

It means there is no plant life holding it down. No-one needs a farm shelter here any more. Touring Iceland is often a trip through ruins. It’s like a winter trip itself: one freezes terribly in the wind, but can enjoy it because one will soon go in to a cozy room in Borgarnes, with all the lights blazing. It’s a romantic image, though. This is Iceland. Here you can’t go in.

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.

A Dragon Takes Wing to Warn the Humans

Well, Grótfjall is a handsome mountain, to be sure. Viewing it from the Njardvik Beach, its easy enough to see that some of it is down here, making the valley floor, rather than up in the sky, making its hat.

But what’s that on the mountain? A dragon? And isn’t the sod collapsing over the cliff into sea, its wings? And aren’t there dragon shapes a-plenty, in the wet-dry patterning of the cliff? You tell me. I just know that walking through this fjord as a dragon story makes every relationship significant, in the way every word and sound in poetry means more than the poem’s sense.

If nothing else, it reveals the more of the mountains lies on the shore than in the air. A flat mountain. That’s a fine experience in climbing! But, wait, isn’t that a troll peeking out from the bottom of the cliff on the left? What’s his story?

Oh, dear.

It is good to remember that humans are prey. It keeps us on our toes.