The rest is improvisation.
Back in the days before lava covered the best of Iceland and people had to move up onto the hills with their sheep…
The basalt column marks the old church.
… were famous for keeping a group of nuns, well, orphan girls for the most part, over at Kirkubærjarklaustur, for the pleasure that could be gained from that …
… in just the place the Irish monks (who were on Iceland before the Icelanders) were camping out in caves in the cliffs and living off bird eggs (and then abandoned because a bunch of noisy pagans and their Irish women [slaves aka wives] had moved into town), and I wonder, you know, if the priests didn’t choose the place because the falls are like a bridal veil.
… that flows down the hill separately, splits around the rock (fine Christian symbolism there) and then unites as one — before flowing through the cloister. We’ll never know, but we do know that the young women were set to work embroidering cloth, and that Icelandic cloth was the best in the world. It would be a surprise if the amorous priests missed out on the symbolism, or didn’t point it out to the girls left in their charge. At any rate, the falls are beautiful, and richer for a history older than Iceland, even though the lava took all the best land away, some say to punish those lascivious priests.
Still, the land’s still good enough for zipping through on a tractor, so all is not lost.
Presumably, the boundary in the image below meant something once. I’m no expert, and please correct me if I’m wrong, but it appears to be a turf wall, laboriously cut and stacked, replaced by a wire fence, and replaced by nothing at all except memories of where a boundary once was.
This is not likely a sign of increasing wealth. Nor is this near-obsolete set of boundaries at Kirkjubærjarklaustur. There’s a stone wall, and a row of birches, for the graveyard, and then a mysterious fence, with one electrified strand, even, serving no purpose now except to mark a boundary for a summer student with a weed whacker.
Still, these other boundaries speak of something profoundly Icelandic. Here’s the churchyard again, with its wall…
Trees and stone: that’s two walls, one for those looking out and one for those looking in. The turf wall is no human barrier…
… and neither is the churchyard:
But it matters a lot whether you are looking in to life, from grass to stone to trees to grass, or looking out from grass to trees to stone to grass. Isn’t all of this the behaviour of people who have spent a long, long time with sheep?
And with the gentle ways of herding them?
When the Norse and their female Irish slaves arrived in Iceland in 870, there was already a colony of Irish monks on the south coast, living in caves and living in splendid isolation with their God. There are accounts of them living in what became known much later as the monastery site of Kirkjubaerjarklaustur. There is just something about the place. First, a look around in the summer sun.
Here’s the “Nun’s Falls”, from a much later catholicism.
Unwilling to share the purity of God with heathens, the monks left in their skin boats. Their ghosts remain. I wonder if the women were sad to see them go.
With arts and sciences of dissection, we wind up talking about the arts and science of dissection, which does the planet no good at all, nor us. Let’s not forget the Icelandic sculptor Ásmundur Sveinsson, who saw his task as reducing the complexity of surfaces to elements the eye could see before the mind, and then the construction of technologies that the eye, not the mind, could think with. Things like this:
Of course, he kept the mind busy at the same time, which is always polite. Following his principle, are two eye-poems for your eye, which I showed you yesterday. They are not word poems:
Book poems and mind poems are different things again. Poetry, though, ah, that’s a thing of the world.
It is our home, but would we not be blind to call it our own? Let us just give praise.
And help with the braiding …
… and the weaving of the fibres of this poem …
Rushes in Lower BX Creek, Okanagan Lake