Tag Archives: nationalism

True Love in Reykjavik

The ideal woman of Reykjavik, c. 1400…

Mary of the Hallgrímmskirja

Note that she is on life support with an artificial power source.

… and in the modernist period …

P1550132Woman at the Picnic Site

Still with a child. The houses in behind look like Nordhausen. Statues like this show up in Germany at nationalist sites, such as the Dornbürger Schlösser north of Jena. There, though, she has no child.

… and today …


Green Party Election Candidate on a Bus Shelter

What a journey! There’s more …

greenGreen Party Window, Reykjavik

This an unfolding story. The oldest telling of it and the newest are still alive together at the same time. Look …
P1530638Adam’s Hotel for Travellers

Right by the Hallgrímmskirja, too.

At first, it looks like a clever pun, in the old Icelandic tradition, but look, right next door, in a passageway, amidst the tagging …

P1530643Green’s a great colour, but it’s the details that matter. Look inside that tag …


Adam, we blush. In this context …


See What I Mean about Nordhausen, that DDR ruin?

Maybe not. You had to be there in that DDR mining town abandoned by reunification, I guess.

Still, her beau is here…


Adam? Is that You, Bro?

I wish the lovers well.

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.





The Language of ice

Gunnar Gunnarsson’s published a fascinating ghost story called Vikivaki in 1932. Iceland is still writing them. Take a look…


Ghosts, Öxarárfoss, Iceland

What’s a ghost? Why, something that’s neither dead nor alive and which brings a message from deep within your story.

As for people, they’re writing something else. Here’s what visitors to Iceland write upon the body of the land when they visit:

P1260717Troll People, Þingvellir

They just have to leave a record of themselves, it seems, using whatever is at hand.

For people who live within a landscape, language comes from the land, the water, the light and the air. Here’s a piece of just such a language from Iceland:


Language Beginning, Öxarárfoss, Iceland

Forget about cuneiform and Linear B and language starting with bird tracks in sand. There is another way. Forget about writing for purely human audience and deferring the environmental costs of turning from the earth until the future. That future is now.


Language Beginning as Art, Öxarárfoss, Iceland

Compare that to the lines in this stained glass window from the church in Reykholt, West Iceland:


Mary, The Christ Child, and Three Angels


Iceland is a country in which Christianity is uniquely bound to the soil. Unsurprisingly, Gunnar’s ghosts are a surprisingly devout bunch, called forth in a moment of nationalist zeal. This is one lesson I’m going to happily take home to Canada in 6 weeks. Sometimes the hidden people of a country can be the people themselves.

Next: I will explore these ideas further by discussing an Icelandic artist who paints with ice.

Rebirth in the Trees

Every Western church has a window much like this …


Christ Risen

This is a window painted with the art of the mind. Reykholt Church Altar, Iceland

Not many churches, though, have this for a view while you’re sitting in a pew …

Church Window, Reykholt, Iceland

The other cross.

Imagine if a people had cut down all their trees to stay warm in the cold, until the poets came along and started planting trees again, until memory was a live and growing year by year, and you could walk through it. Imagine a people who found their liberty in this way, rather than by war or revolution: by planting trees. Well, it’s the kind of country that might build a road like this…


If You’re Going to Go Through All the Trouble of Building a Road …

… you might has well have it lead somewhere.

Putting towns at the ends of roads is so expensive. There are other places people need to go. Even Gunnar Gunnarsson found his way home.