Tag Archives: winter

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.

 

Tracking Humans in Iceland

Like sheep, humans leave trails which express the shape of their bodies. Note how this trail leads to the summit of this hill (near Hveragerði), where humans like to perch to have an unimpeded view, but it does not quite lead there directly. It avoids the steepest bits, where humans could topple backwards, given how unbalanced the poor beasts are.Now, a prey species, such as a reindeer, would likely walk along the ridge line, to maintain a sightline the whole way up. Humans prefer to remain hidden. If this were a land with predators, though, such as bear or wolves, humans would use their strong eyesight to advantage, allowing themselves to be hidden not by a hill but by openness and distance and the mind that can work them to advantage. It’s not that way when you put them inside a dump truck, such as here near Kikjubærjarklaustur:

Put a human on that track without a big truck to zoom around in and the animal is likely to climb one of those hills to see what it can see. Without a truck as a kind of surrogate thought, roads make humans blind. That’s why they like to make more-or-less straight lines. They follow their eyes, in the front of their heads, which take in straight light, such as here at Asbyrgi, at dusk.

When they can actually see where they are going, a straight line is best.The poor things get lost otherwise.

Luckily, the brains of these creatures sort out the tangled forms of the earth into lines.And their stumbling footsteps try their best to follow. Look how at Grabrok the wind tries to blow them away.You have to think ahead to be an animal like that.

Horses, no not so much.

Two Speed Iceland

The water swirls, and the wind swirls in the water, and under the effects of a kind of spiritual gravity, they congeal.If humans could move at their speed, they would still be swirling, but we are so fast that they appear still. We are light flickering on the surface of these flows.

And that’s beautiful, too.  That’s Iceland: a country that lives at two speeds, at once.

Gunnar’s Message to the War

Gunnar Gunnarsson described Iceland to the Germans in 1940 as “Our Land.” This land:

Not Exactly Germany

It was a typical game for this sly trickster.

Gunnar Even Conned Me Out of My Hat

Doesn’t he look pleased!

Did he mean, “Your land and mine,” after his novel Blood Brothers?

From the German Book Club Edition of 1933.

Or did he mean “The land of all Icelanders and no one else,” after his 1933 novel Vikivaki?

The 2011 German Edition

A ghost story combining The Little Prince, a Dance of the Dead, and Jacob’s Ladder.

Well, he was playing it both ways, as usual. But then, he was a poet.

And to poets, answers lie in the water, the sky and the land. He meant one thing only:

Bring no war to this place. It is who we are and all we are. No argument.

You can read the heart here, if you’re a poet. If you’re not, isn’t it about time?