September 20, 2015

Who Lives There?

That's what Grace asked in astonishment after looking at my pictures of the Icelandic landscape.  So here's some answers:

The population consists of about 300,000 folks of mostly Nordic heritage...
Who settled Iceland in the ninth century, when Eric the Red was kicked out of Norway.
Some are imposters.

I found a wonderful sense of humor....

Harvest at the marshmellow farm.
 And a love of color.

They have few natural resources and settled the country with what they had at hand.
Old turf home.

Church from driftwood and turf.

Even today, they figure out ways to use what is around them.
"Leather" tanned from wolfish skins

Salmon skin.
The only crop of significance is hay and what isn't a hay field is filled with sheep. As are the roads.
Icelanders also raise cattle, which apparently are ocean-going...
...and the famous, fabulous Icelandic pony.
To maintain the integrity of the breed, no other horses are allowed into the country and if one leaves for an international horse show or a week at Club Med, it is not allowed to return.

Speaking of leaving, drastic numbers of young people are abandoning the rural areas of the country (which is just about everything except Reykavik) and heading into the cities. Deserted farmhouses dot the outer fjords.(We can find a ghosttown anywhere in the world, just dare us.)

The wildlife is primarily birds. I could have spent a lifetime watching them as they returned from their day trips fishing to their clifftop nests.
See the white chalk line in the grass? That is the official protection against falling 1500 feet off the cliff.
And finally, there was this. The ultimate indicator of a civilized culture.
And that, she said, is what I did over my summer vacation.
The End.


Earth Science for Dummies: Lesson 2

I grew up in Michigan, so I thought I knew something about ice. But nothing prepared me for turning the corner and seeing a glacier.
The glaciers are the Rocky Mountains of Ice. But unlike the Rockies, they are on the move.
As they melt, the ice pushes up against the earth,creating astounding formations.

The ice melt forms rivers, which carry the floes out to the sea.

 The enormity of seeing ice formed 2500 hundred years ago (Iceland's biggest Ice Age was 500 BC) end a journey...end an existence...before my eyes was strangely poignant.
As was cradling a piece in my hands. Look what water looks like without pollution.

The ice melt does more than create water (and massive floods, if it happens too fast). It creates the essence of the land and in largely untouched Iceland, you can see the story unfolding right beneath your feet.
Take a walk through an old riverbed and look closely at the rocks. They start like this.
 Centuries of seasonal thawing and freezing and thawing and freezing cut them like...well, like ice. With no one around to disturb them, the fingerprints of the ice stay intact. 

Bigger rocks get cut smaller...

And smaller...
Until they become independent little stones...
Communities of pebbles...
 And then, finally, dust.
I felt overwhelmed by the majesty of this process. I know it goes on all around me in Pennsylvania, but our landscapes are so overrun with blacktop and bulldozers that I have never seen it with such clarity before.

You should go to Iceland if for no other reason than to see this. And you'd better hurry, before Thor smashes it all up.