Tag Archives: language

The Language of Iceland Herself

“A volcanic wasteland”? Hardly. Here are some terms to help you navigate the intricate environment of Iceland.

Pile or hillock:

Tussock, or Mound:

Note that on this island, those are both islands. Here’s another eyeland on an island, aye.

Mess, heap or scatter:

Makes you thankful for eye lids! Here’s a nice variation on the tussock and island theme:


And here is a…


Note that it’s in the lee of an artificial pile called a wall. Here’s a variation on the wall, made not of stone but of sod and a couple flowers (in the lower left below):


And as for drifts, well they can be of stone, too, not just of life. When that’s the case, they are alive and are called a flow, as in a lava flow:

Now, put them together in the so-called volcanic wasteland, and you get…

Islands within islands within islands in a sea of sand.

Winter Birdsong in East Iceland


Well, it’s freezing in Hallormstaðir, and the Lagarfljót isn’t, shall we say, a great place for swimming today, but while the weather stations are warning of heavy snow and ice ahead, let’s remember the ice of April, as it breaks on the shore with the music of a flock of 100,000 tiny birds. The ice is the birds, as it shatters and lifts, and refreezes and tilts and falls, and washes in on the waves, all written with the record of a year.

What wondrous runes telling of every moment the winter through.

It’s beginning now. If you go down to the lake, you might catch the first words, but do stay safe on those slick roads.

And if you can’t, well, there’s April, when the ice plays its recording, just once, in birdsong.