Iceland is renowned for being barren of trees. This popular image of Kirkjufell, for instance, shows this characteristic of the country well.
See? No trees. Here is is again:
Got that? Horses, but no trees. Trouble is, it’s a plot. Iceland has forests galore. That you don’t see them is just plain weird, because, well, look:
Looks good, right? So the next time, you see this…
…just realize you’ve been put into a script. The Icelanders hang out in the trees.
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.
The only thing that separates a 4×4 hill climb course and an early winter road is a little blue sign.
To make it even more fun, dusk comes at 2:30 pm in November.
In mid-November, there is no break between sunrise and sunset, just a switch in the spectrum. Here’s the pink morning light at Hafnarskógar, looking up to Hafnarfell.
As you can see, when you live in such light, you become inspired.
And the moon shines all day. Here it is around 2 pm, looking out Rauðanes way. Enough to inspire anyone.
At this time of day, the blue and pink start mixing it up.
An hour later, over on Rauðanes, it gives a last splash…
And then darkens …
… and both deepens and thins at the same time …
Tungokollur over Borgarnes
… until the next morning when it begins again, later yet.
It’s a wonder every Icelander isn’t a painter.
In the cold high desert of Northern Iceland, the water that has fallen from the sky holds it to the last of the light.
You feel it flowing through your veins and lose all weight.
In November, when sunrise and sunset colours continue in unbroken unfolding light from dawn, near 10 a.m., and dusk near 2 or 3 p.m., it comes so quickly that you can see it open and close through the spectrum, as if you are inside a film, a really, really wide-angle 4-D film.
Here is a fraction of a second of its wonder over the volcano in early November, as I walked through flaming heather and pink snow at þingvellir. I shot the image with two much sky to illustrate how unsettling it can be. One feels at times that one can fall right off the Earth and drown in air.
Perhaps it’s called Svartifoss (Black Falls) because it shows itself on a black basalt cliff.
Bad Light Helps One See Clearly Here
Perhaps it’s because the red autumn birches turn black with distance, and still the fall flashes.
Autumn Rain Really Brings Out the Light of This Land
In either case, it’s not the cliff that is named but the water.
It seems that when blackness falls it is visible. Of course, that means it’s not black at all…
… or that whiteness is also a blindness, beyond human life. We marvel. Life, it comes from nowhere, flashes with life, and then returns to mystery.
Svartifoss in Its Pool of Birch Blood
Svartifoss, Skaftafell National Park, South Iceland