Tag Archives: Fljotsdalur

The Trolls of Baejarhjalli

On the face of the Austurfell just west of the old monastery at Skriðuklaustur, and at the feet of the Ogre’s Staircase, the trolls are thick. And not just trolls. Have a look:

See them? Here are some hints:

Above: A Family of Fish Trolls Looking Much like a Fish Egg With a Skull for an Eye (or the Moon)

Above: Fat-Bellied SeatedTroll, Waving

Above: Musical  Monks

Above: A  Skull  On  A  Post

Above: Lovers Embracing

Below: Troll With Runes and Spilled Treasure. Beware!

Below the Fell, the land runs with blood in the spring.


Well, yeah.

What You Need Right Now Might Just Be an Icelandic Rock

After a long time between languages, it’s time to go down to the shore.


And pick up magic rocks and hold them in. your hand.

And put them down.

And leave them there to talk to the sun in their nonhuman tongues.

And walk back up through the library of the birch forest.

And the lair of dragons.

Give one last glance to the lake.

And go back to the skáldverk in silence.

And begin again.

The Lesson of Spring Snow

All day I’ve been having enormous fun with books and making a book dance out of nothingness, about things that are among the most important to me in the world, things like the world, and how words are a very old magic given from people who lived with the earth and knew some things about it. By the time I was ready to go out a-walking, a spring snow had hit, although there was no shortage of light.


Migrating Geese Sitting it Out in a Pasture Field

I thought I had a found a bit of nature. Ah, such a naive Canadian fellow. You must be smiling — if you’re not shaking your head. The geese, mind you, had a clear idea about things…


Don’t Worry. When I Walked Away They Came Back

Still, a rickety little camera and a lot of zoom in the snow, boring, right, so I walked on, and on and on, enjoying the snow. I tell you, things looked pretty good in the light. I thought that was the story. New snow acts like a lens for light, which brings up contrast, which makes things look, well, fantastic, like this…


Nature. The Canadian is at It Again

And waterfalls. And ones that no one goes to, yet. Secret waterfalls. Oh, Canada, or what!

And true Canadian that I am, raised on the Canadian myth that things start best with nothing, thought, well, nature, eh, and photography, whoa, and working together yet, huh, and that was pretty inarticulate, wasn’t it. Sheesh. The wind was nice, though, and it was good to feel cold after so many days of sun. So, horses, right. Always friendly and ready to pose…


Well, Actually, Telling Me That It’s Time for Hay

But I thought, you know, the fence, ugh. We want the wild land, the earth, her own face, and what do we have? A fence. What a bust. But then the walking started doing its magic and I started to see, not because of the light, or the camera focussing my mind, but because the world was starting to sink into me after 5000 words of some pretty crazy writing, and this is what I remembered looking at just a minute before when I took a picture by reflex …


Horses at Home

There are no prettily arranged farms in iceland, because they’re not farms. They’re cities. 

And I got to thinking, what if I stopped looking for the earth, would I find it? So I looked around …


A Fence, a Crop of Larches, a 4×4 Track

In Canada, this would be considered a portrait of intrusion on a landscape. Here, it doesn’t feel like that.

What is going on? I wondered. So I looked around some more…


The Neighbourhood Sheep Fold

Of course, by this time I was being observed, because it was still hay time …


The world is physical, and humans are among its recorders. So are horses. 

The idea of nature, as a universal quality, spread across the earth and observable by all humans equally, especially through photography, is just not true. The word ‘Nature’ might be a word whose meaning has been twisted and lost.



Nature is not the wild world? Then what is it?

That horse seems to know, doesn’t it.

An Icelandic Forest

If the trees you’re used to seeing are willows scooting down behind rocks the size of golf balls for a bit of shelter from sheep and wind, or maybe the occasional lone birch in a canyon somewhere, like this …




Hengifoss Canyon

Flótsðalur, Iceland

… imagine what trees must look like when a valley of stone and grass is turned into a forest. Would they not look like the most exotic things?

pinePines from Alaska…

…planted in the 1960s.

Now, in Canada, trees are so everyday that it often seems like a good idea to cut some down to get a view of something other than their gloomy shadows, but in Iceland, where there’s a view everywhere, from every house, farm or corner in the road or path or even just some lonesome straight length of road across a volcanic wasteland that looks like the face of a planet circling a star in space, it’s not like that. In Canada this would be, well, a nice bit of a tree plantation starting to come in nicely…

P1420236The Forest of Hallórmstaður

… but in Iceland, where the next size of tree is often like this …

fungus1The Old Ones of the Grasslands

There before the grass, and still there after it, blooming under the trees.

… a forest is a magical place, planted by human hand in a pasture, in a way like any other agricultural crop (forestry is under the aegis of the Ministry of Agriculture in Iceland), and in a way like pure poetry.

P1410975Seeing Pines for the First Time, Ever

It doesn’t matter if they’re alive or dead, because either way they are among the most exotic creatures going, ancient ones compared to the grasses …

twignet… that never cease to astound …

P1420033… and never cease to delight …

starcones2Larches from Archangelsk

When all you’ve seen in the sky are birds and stars, then that’s what you see in the trees.

And if you should ever, somehow, get tired of looking up and seeing the delight of art that people have made out of the pastures of a country they clearcut a long, long time ago, look down …

funguslargeThen, hey, look around a bit …


…and a bit more …


Why, you might almost forget the waterfall you hiked uphill through the snow to find …


I love those Icelandic birches. Here are some Canadian aspens, in contrast…

tom-thomson-in-the-northland1Tom Thomson’s In the Northland

It was the years when Thomson was making paintings like this in Northern Ontario that Icelanders started planting trees in the Fljótsðalur. Canada and Iceland were very similar then. Both legacies remain, a century on, to haunt.





How to Say Hello in Icelandic

Sometimes travellers haven’t quite managed the Hae! or the Góðan daginn!, and for them Icelanders have a secret welcoming code, revealed here for the first time, ever. Here’s how it goes, step by step. At first, everyone is snoozing with their buddies…


Sweet Morning Dreaming in Fljótsdalur

Sleeping in at 8:30 a.m.

If you didn’t get that, it’s the reindeer people …


and the swan people (and their goose comrades) …


all zonked out together in the same quilt. But will it last? No, it will not. A traveller has come, and needs a proper greeting …

P1400913 At first, a little face to face and then …P1400914…some tra la la and then some honking ….

P1400919 … and then a little bit of confusion because the hosts don’t know if everyone is going out for a nature safari or settling in for breakfast …P1400920

… and then a bit of a gangly entrance (with honking) …


… getting more coordinated (more honking) …


… and, oh, nicely done (Honk! Honk! Honk!) …


… and everyone settles down in the lovely quiet of the morning to pick at the frozen ground, together, that’s the thing, to – ge – ther…


… well, except …


… Oh, rats, all that woke the neighbours up. The neighbours have some thoughts about that …

xingGóða ferð!

(And that does not mean hello.)