laugardagur, júní 25, 2005


I own a French musette bag. It is small and, as befits military surplus articles, olive drab canvas. The flap can be fixed down in either of two positions using the buckles on the front of the bag. The space inside is divided only by a double thickness of canvas joined in the middle vertically by a line of heavy stitching. This musette bag is the perfect size for carrying either (in the main compartment) six bottles of beer or (slid into the two pouches of the canvas divider) two bottles of wine, though not all eight bottles at once.

Musing on this article today, because I have had it slung over my shoulder for large portions of the afternoon, once while toting beer and once while transporting wine. It is apparently named for the French bagpipe, also called the musette, it clearly named for music, and music is named for the muses, and so I feel my idle thoughts are justified.

With all this hoisting (and yet more to come - oho), I expect to see more of the mús, but an unrelated, homophonic mús, not muse but mouse: the muscle in the bicep named after the lively rodent. How pleasing that the Latin and the Icelandic are in agreement here. I'm smiling at it now, feeling my cheeks twitch upward as I do.

Ah, but that muscle is a fish, a kinnfiskur.

fimmtudagur, júní 23, 2005


Placing the wave-rounded glass and stones back in the little bowl, now high on a shelf, after their brief sojourn in a cardboard box, I remember picking them out of wet sand. Now my fingers smell of that same wet sand, that slapping, weed-full bay, and I sniff them for a long minute and think of where I went, sandpiper-like, among the rocks of the seawall, where the bend traps smooth stones like the eggs of songbirds. I will not tell you just where.

þriðjudagur, júní 21, 2005


A new view. From a faintly Hitchcockian vantage, I see not only the rear windows of other buildings, but a stand of bamboo. Bamboo! This is very exotic. Imagine: instead of stray felines and raccoons in my back yard, I might get giant pandas.

And when did the giant panda get recategoried with the bears? Why was I not informed? I expect to receive memos like that when they are still fresh. I am all disoriented, having been raised with the wisdom that the giant panda looks like a bear, but is actually more closely related to the raccoon, is not an ursid but a procyonid. This I got with my mother's milk, along with the whale is not a fish but a mammal, and sugar doesn't melt in water -- it dissolves. Precision of scientific vocabulary counted for a great deal. Somewhere in a related part of my head is stored the information that bamboo is a species of grass.

I may have an easier time adjusting to the novel vista of super-tall grass than to the new taxonomic position of the pandas. Perhaps it would have been easier if Mom had told me about it.

mánudagur, júní 20, 2005

enginn heima

Seen recently in a dream:

The velvet-helmeted rider steps await from her mount for a moment, off to check some detail before her class is called. She returns to find she cannot swing herself up onto the animal and spur him into the ring; where the horse had stood there is only a horsehide. She picks it up off the ground. It is loose, warm, and empty-seeming. She looks into the eye and sees it looking back, oval-pupilled. Clearly, the animal is still in there, but, balky, as horses can be at a show, he refuses to fill out his skin and let his rider press her legs into his flanks, guide him through his paces and over jumps.

laugardagur, júní 18, 2005


Til hamingju með daginn, Jón.

Ég skal ekki kalla þig Nonna. Ég myndi ekki kalla skemmtistaðinn í elstu húsi Reykjavíkur Nonna homma (nema ég væri farin þangað í því tilefni að hoppa upp og niður og öskra 'það rignir karlmenn!'). Ekki Jón forseta einu sinni. Ég myndi mun frekar kalla hann Vidalín. Eða öllu heldur Fógetinn. Já, förum á Fógetinn.

Skrýtið hvað maður er alltaf að vitna í landslag sem ekki lengur er til. Sagt er að sannur nýjórvíkingur þekki alhorfna staði betur en þá sem komnir eru og tali mest um þá. Einkennileg nostalgía er þetta, að vilja alltaf fara á þann stað sem ekki lengur er til nema á bæjarkorti minninganna.

föstudagur, júní 17, 2005


In those days, giants walked the earth. That was before the flood, of course, since it was the deluge that did them all in. I think of giants today because, surveying the growing henges of boxes, I feel like a lowly peasant beholding Dún Aengus, Hadrian's wall, Offa's dike, the Danevirke and thinking (even if I knew the actual history of the matter) that surely giants had been at work at building these things. Only giants would have been strong enough to move such huge amounts of stone and earth to their present locations. Presumably, only giants would be able to move them off again, to a new place, should that be desirable.

This occurs to me, of course, because this is the imminent task: moving the henges. All is damp after today's unseasonal deluge. I do not imagine there are any giants at all left who might lend a hand.

miðvikudagur, júní 15, 2005

cume an spearwa

A sparrow has just flown through the house. He must have come in the kitchen window and, seeing the light coming in the front window, flown through the hall and bedroom in that direction, passing as he did so right by my head.

It is spring, nearly summer, but there is no way I can avoid thinking of Bede's account of the conversion of Edwin of Northumbria and the famous tale told by an unnamed advisor and member of the witan:
Þyslic me is gesewen, þu cyning, þis andwearde lif manna on eorðan to wiðmetenesse þære tide, þe us uncuð is, swylc swa þu æt swæsendum sitte mid þinum ealdormannum & þegnum on wintertide, & sie fyr onælæd & þin heall gewyrmed, & hit rine & sniwe & styrme ute; cume an spearwa & hrædlice þæt hus þurhfleo, cume þurh oþre duru in þurh oþre ut gewite. Hwæt he on þa tid, þe he inne bið, ne bið hrinen mid þy storme þæs wintres; ac þæt bið an eagan bryhtm & þæt læsste fæc, ac he sona of wintra on þone winter eft cymeð. Swa þonne þis monna lif to medmiclum fæce ætyweð; hwæt þær foregange, oððe hwæt þær æfterfylige, we ne cunnun.

I think I cried out in surprise and then in concern when he knocked against the largest, brightest pane. He alighted on a cushion and looked at me with one eye. He seemed unhurt. I opened the side window wider and shooed him out when he flapped aloft again. Whither he flew, we ne cunnon.

There should be a word for the odd mix of anxiety and relief experienced somehow simultaneously when one, all unknowing, turns on the radio and learns that the tsunami warning has just been lifted. The anxiety itself is odd, so contrafactual, it's peculiar one feels it at all.

þriðjudagur, júní 14, 2005


The heat is terrible. I am trying to think cool thoughts, icy blue thoughts, memories of stiff arctic winds, of dark December days.

I remember coming out of such a day and such a wind into the foyer of the Þjóðbókasafn. There I was greeted by a small, orange cat curled up by the wall. I reached to scratch his ears, realizing as I did so that he had chosen this spot because it allowed him bask (from ON baðask?) in the air blasting from the recessed heating vent, air that was funheitt, flaming hot. I praised him for his resourcefulness and turned over the tag on his collar so that I could address him politely, by name. Finding it, I had to smile.

Nú, heitir þú Funi, þá? Flame is a good name for an orange cat on a heating vent.

Oh, but if I were to be a cat in this heat, let me be Drífa, Snæbirna, Hrímgerður ...

mánudagur, júní 13, 2005

vanishing point

In traffic on the bridge, for an instant, my brain misperceives the perspective, and a passing plane seems to be flying upward at an angle impossibly steep for a commercial passenger jet, engine-stallingly, suicidally vertical. I lean forward and gasp, expecting any moment the fuselage to bloom firey orange. Just then the illusion corrects itself like the drawing of the concave cube lit from below becoming a convex cube lit from above. Above, the plane continues its course, the passengers not even feeling the bump of turbulence.

sunnudagur, júní 12, 2005


The shelves look strange without books on them. All the papery things are in boxes now, and the back wall is visible for the first time in months. The bookends are still there, however, two or so to a shelf. They resemble a miniature Stonehenge, steel instead of sarsen, little trilithons arranged in mysterious patterns, carefully aligned with ... what? Pity to have to disassemble the entire array before midsummer.

föstudagur, júní 10, 2005

omnia rodens

Pausing outside the library with my groceries to observe a hopping bird, I am accosted by a squirrel. The little gray animal comes out from beneath a car, not with the characteristic undulations of his tribe, but plodding deliberately, one foot at a time, nose held high and expectant. All boldness and entitlement, he sets his forepaws on the slippery sides of the plastic grocery sack and gazes upwards as if with a mind to climb, should no tribute be immediately forthcoming.

No respect, I say. These rodents are way out of line. I hear myself addressing the forward beast and saying, Ertu að grínast? Ekki sjens! Only when I stomp my booted feet at him does he amble off, disappointed but unperturbed.

miðvikudagur, júní 08, 2005

white oak

On the road, old volcanoes on either side above the scrub and sage, and their profiles recall Vífilsfell, Úlfarsfell, the ridges of Reykjanes. Here too, stuðlaberg, basalt breaking in columns into the sandy dirt. But the sun is much brighter here, almost bright enough to burn off the shadows of those other, distant, lichen-covered mountains. Flying out, you can see the outlines of eruptions and earth stained with iron and magnesium, red and purple.

þriðjudagur, júní 07, 2005


Mountains on both sides, some man-made glow on the northern horizon, last dark blue fading in the west. An occasional shooting star. Scorpio low in the sky. It's been many years since I've seen it so clearly, the head and claws all in one line and the long backwards J of the body and curling tail. For a moment, a passing plane is the point of the venomous sting whipping forward into a hapless neighboring constellation, but then it continues on its path and the effect is lost. But the scorpion remains, resting and waiting, its red giant heart beating in the middle of its starry thorax.

mánudagur, júní 06, 2005

uno, dos, tres

Three sightings:

There, moving, now moving away, through the aspens, up the slope and away into the ever thinner air, ears pricked forward, gray and almost the size of a wolf, almost.

Shadow on the roadbed, big as a hawk. We look up for the raptor but see a raven hanging in the air, low in the hot breeze. Perhaps he is the shadow cast by a hawk still higher up, but it is too bright to see.

They see us when we see them, and one raises the alarum: yipyipyipyipyipyip. Little tan harelike forms dash for the burrows like sailors going below, on the double. Movement on the surface! Dive! Dive! Dive!

laugardagur, júní 04, 2005


The remote is lying in the middle of the turned-down bed when I come in, pointed at the silent television. I pass on the way to the washroom and glance over as I do. On the other side of the black plastic wand there sits a good-sized brown spider. It has a slightly guilty air, I think, crouched there on the coverlet. It had probably been watching Law and Order when it heard me slide the cardkey in the door and, panicking, only just managed to bounce down on the power key with all its tiny weight before I was in the room.

I put my hand on the top of the television. It is warm, but then everything here is warm.

fimmtudagur, júní 02, 2005


Putting the feathers in order and oiling them. It's best if they all line up, black and white, before lift-off.


Terrible thirst. It's only the heat and dust, I know, exacerbated by the fits of sneezing brought on by that dust. I pace, drink water by the pint, and sniffle into handkerchiefs. I think I remember from somewhere that thirst is a symptom of rabies, and that hydrophobia is another name for that disease, and that this combination has always confused me. I have allergies, dust, and a dislike for hot weather, not rabies, I know, but I also have whatever mania makes one look up words even when wracked by thirst and convulsive sneezing, and so I consult the Merck manual.

There I learn that rabies causes

excruciatingly painful spasms of the laryngeal and pharyngeal muscles. The spasms, which result from reflex irritability of the deglutition and respiration centers, are easily precipitated (eg, by a slight breeze or an attempt to drink water). As a result, the patient cannot drink, although thirst is great (hence, hydrophobia).

I am the wiser, if no less thirsty. Rabid I am not, but reflex irritibility of the nasal passages keeps me from ingesting fluids as rapidly as I would like, so that much I have in common with the suffering hydrophobic.

Perhaps I too should call on the patroness and protectress against this disease (as well as storms), St. Walburga. I am a month late for her feast. I hope she does not mind.
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