Tag Archives: Nature

What Do You Call the Birches of Ásbyrgi?

I wouldn’t exactly call these birches a forest, and “wood”, or “copse” or “grove” or “thicket” are also plain wrong. Even the Icelandic, “skogur”, can’t be right, because it applies to any kind of group of trees at all, and, well, these are very special. They’re more like people.

“Community” seems rather generalized, and “congregation” is too churchy. What about “band”? That’s more like a line, isn’t it, and not this spreading out and appearing. We could say it is a “bosk,” though. That’s an old word for a kind of thicket, with the old proto-Indoeuropean sense of “appearing.”

Any celt would have been happy with that, and there’s a lot of celtic memory in Iceland. The French are happy with it, too, and would just call this a “bois.” A gathering together, and what is a gather but a clump, or a thickening, that is held by an external force, in this case, the cliffs of Ásbyrgi.

Look how they are alive with this sense of “peopling” as well: a busk, or bois, or gather of stone. There is an energy leading all these forms to come together in this pattern, and it is this energy that is Iceland. Just ask a puffin.

Walking on the Shore of an Ancient Sea

It’s always a great day to walk out on the shore of the sea, where the seals and eiðars once swam. The sea might change its level, but that’s a bonus for us.

Neskaupstaðir

And the eiðars demonstrate just what it was like here long ago.

Easy does it!

Wildflowers taking the place of eiðars.

The Living Waves of Neskaupstaðir

Out in the nature reserve in Neskaupstaðir (just go right to the end of town), the beach below the trail is gorgeous.

And alive with Eiðar ducks and their ducklings.

Surfing. Scrabbling in the backwash for good things to eat.

In a good wave, the ducklings get tossed a metre into the air, tumbled head to heels, then dragged a metre under water again, only to pop back out.

This is beautiful to watch. For the ducklings, it’s survival. When a skua comes to take one, the whole flock of ducks imitates this scramble. It’s life or death.

I’ll show you that scramble tomorrow.

Paradise Falls: Little Jewel of the Whale Fjord

When you turn off onto Road 5001 at the head of the Havalfjörður to visit the high waterfall Glymur, make note of the gravel parking area to your left. When you come back soggy and disappointed that Glymur is unattainable because of bad weather and high water and muck, why not stop and hike a hundred metres up the stream to Paradisarfoss? She’s a pretty little one, with a fine little forest of wild birches. You need never be disappointed in Iceland.

By Icelandic standards, that’s a very good trail there.

Well worth the trip! And no, this was not sunset. And, yes, the sky was that pink. It was just November 5, that’s all, when a stroll through the rain is like a walk through laughter.

Everyone Can be a Faded Polaroid at the Harpa and Dance with Yoko Ono Now

There is beautiful light in Iceland…

.

… and I mean really beautiful light …

… but tourism survives on images, so the great opera hall, the Harpa, allows anyone to view others as if they are in a faded Polaroid shot from the 1970s …

… or an Agfa shot from the 1960s.

This retro thing, this notion of quoting the landscape in the very moment one observes it, is something the Icelanders learned in graduate school in New York, London and Berlin. It’s charming, but remember …

… every wave that goes to sea in Skagafjörður leaves behind a space for beautiful light. It’s like the sun is right there, you know.

Hólar in the Spring

It is.