þriðjudagur, nóvember 29, 2005


Winter is here! I overheard someone say yesterday. Rain is here, certainly, and cooler air, but I have not seen winter. He is taller, thinner, as I recall, and he wears a hat. At least he used to. It has been a little while since I saw him last.

mánudagur, nóvember 28, 2005


The answering machine blinks one red eye from across the room. I regard it with dread disguised as skepticism. I am boiling water for tea. Do not speak to me of my e-mail queue.

miðvikudagur, nóvember 23, 2005


Midmorning I stepped over the rumpled and empty-seeming carcass of a rat. It was lying among some red leaves on the sidewalk, flashing its white belly upward in an ultimate gesture of submission to the universe.

mánudagur, nóvember 21, 2005


It is possible that the place I dream in is somewhere close to Finland, if not geographically, then in some other way that I have yet to work out.

This dream took place near a sandy shore, bright with northern summer light. It was not Helsinki and it was not an undiscovered island in Breiðafjörður, but it reminded me of both those places. There was a festival of some kind. There was a vast snaking procession that went up and down the broad flights of white stone steps that led, everywhere, up to neo-classical buildings. The snaking line was the dragon, the festival embodiment of a dragon, though I do not remember anyone carrying a head out in front. Perhaps the man in front was the head, somehow.

A woman was chosen, I think from the people assembled in the Aula, to be married, ritually, to the dragon. That was to be the climax of the festivities. The rest would be eating and drinking, most likely, and the enjoyment of the long, mild, summer day that would not grow dim until sometime near midnight. I was not the one chosen, but I had not expected to be.

There was a bottle, gold-colored glass with a black paper label, white lettering saying something in Danish. It was full of memory, but otherwise empty, and the cap had long since gone missing. It had never belonged to me, but I remembered it belonging to someone else. There had been laughter. The sight of the bottle brought it back to me, or halfway back. Not really all the way back. Not close enough to grasp.

At some point there had been another bottle, and it had been mine. I remembered this now and realized that I had forgotten years ago that it had even existed. The object itself was gone. It might have been blue.

sunnudagur, nóvember 20, 2005


I have two bottles of vodka here. One is packed nearly full of cranberries. Full, that is, except for where the vodka is, and the vodka fills the rest of it. The other is not so full of cranberries. They float at the top, and in the space below hang several curling orange rinds like long fish beneath winter ice. A sprig of thyme pokes out from between the berries and extends down into the clear space beneath. It is less clear every day as the orange of the rinds colors the vodka and gives it a warm tinge.

All of this is set to steep for the week.

The steeping verb in Icelandic is trekkja. It is a drawing word, a pulling word, and just the same as Norwegian trekke it is used for drawing a card from the deck or a watch out of your pocket and for when the air is being pulled through the room in an uncomfortable fashion (these are cold countries) by a draught. It refers too, it would seem, to the drawing out of flavor, of aromatic oils, through the action of hot water or hard spirits.

All the same I have opened my most recently published edition of the Icelandic dictionary and consulted the entry for trekkja. There is no mention of tea, though I know that Icelanders use this verb if they are steeping tea and must for some reason talk about what they are doing. The entry mentions only coffee, the brewing thereof, and most especially the practice of pouring newly-brewed coffee back through the filter for a maximally strong drink koffínslega séð. Perhaps tea consumption was not deemed sufficiently Icelandic to warrant inclusion.

föstudagur, nóvember 18, 2005


On the right is firethorn. On the left, I believe, cotoneaster.

I had thought it might be bittersweet, but I was wrong. That is just as well, I think. Bittersweet and firethorn sound like the names of a pair of twins, heroines of some regretable fantasy novel. Nothing against a good fantasy novel, mind you, but my thoughts of heroism are elsewhere today.

miðvikudagur, nóvember 16, 2005

rómi blíðum

Fjallkonan fagra
fylgist með
gengi máls mörlanda;
Fegin og fagnandi
færum nú þökk
Jónasi jöfri skáldanna

Æ, smá leirburður sakar vel ekki í tilefni dagsins.

mánudagur, nóvember 14, 2005

räven och ulven

Apropos yesterday's view, I am reminded of a story.

It is from Sweden.

The fox and the wolf are travelling together. They have a long way to go, and they will be walking all night. They are tired and hungry and have just about run out of conversation by the second half of the night, and the fox says, I have an idea. Let's agree that whichever of us sees the light of the rising sun first has to catch breakfast for the both of us. The wolf looks down at the fox and thinks for a moment, and then he says Sure. And the wolf sits down facing east to wait for sunrise. The fox sits down next to him, facing west. The wolf thinks to himself that the fox is very stupid, but he doesn't say anything. He knows he's sure to win the bet.

They sit and they wait, and they wait and they sit. And the pre-dawn wind picks up and blows in the wolf's face and picks up the fur on the backs of the fox's ears. The eastern sky starts to change color, and the wolf leans forward, waiting for the disk of the sun to come over the horizon. He knows it will only be a short time now, and then he will have won this foolish bet. He is thinking about grouse and watching the horizon when the fox cries out There it is! Let's have you get us something to eat, what? The wolf whips his head around to tell the fox what an idiot he is, but before he can open his mouth, he sees what the fox saw: the first rays of the sun striking the peaks of the mountains to the west.

hittast vel á

From here you see the very last rays of the sun at sunset, the ones that fly over your head after the sun has dipped below the horizon. If you are watching westward, you will miss them entirely. They are always in the east.

If you are lucky, the moon will be rising through them.

laugardagur, nóvember 12, 2005

tíu dropar

After lunch, a cup of coffee.

Not a clunky mug or (angels and ministers of grace defend us) the supersize abomination of the pint glass. The latter is, to me, ever depressing. Its proportions and the dark color of the liquid contained conjures the subliminal thought of a rich-flavored, warming stout, and the watery drip coffee that actually hits the palette suffers greatly from the unavoidable contrast. Coffee good enough and brewed strong enough to stand that comparison is not something a sane person would wish to consume by the pint. In fact, no coffee I know should ever be consumed by the pint once the prospective drinker has passed the age at which life includes things called final exams. The pint glass is in no wise an appropriate receptacle for coffee, and the serving of coffee in such containers by local cafés only provokes the desire to begin drinking well-hopped alcohol that much earlier in the day, and as none of the local cafés serves the stuff (not in pint glasses nor in any other fashion), the frustration is great --- the greater, even for being fueled by an entire pint of steaming coffee.

My after-lunch coffee was neither of these, no, and not any paper-cupped pool either, girdled with some recycled, corrugated strip stamped with advertisements for a) raves, b) wireless access, or c) web-based ventures too ill-conceived to fully penetrate my awareness. It was instead a civilized amount of coffee, 8 oz., brewed over a gas flame in an aluminum mocha pot, a poor man's espresso served in a plain, white, straight-sided German china cup. The cup's exact career is obscure, how it came to me I have forgotten if I ever knew it. But it is empty now, its slight translucence observable again, and the outlines of a few stray drops are visible on the saucer.

fimmtudagur, nóvember 10, 2005

idée fixe

After spending a pleasant morning reading a chapter of Peter Davidson's The Idea of North, I know much more about the Aurora Borealis as seen from China and from the Mediterranean. I have an increased respect for the influence of Hergé's Tintin on the imagination of the North, and I should probably stock up on issues of Tinni when I next have the opportunity. I also know where Phillip Pullman is likely to have gotten the surname for the Texan æronaut character Lee Scoresby in his Northern Lights trilogy, and thanks to that William Scoresby (as quoted by Davidson), I understand finally what I saw from the stony beach of Seltjarnarnes when I looked across the sound towards Snæfellsnes and saw what seemed, impossibly, to be the great glacier standing like a tragic actor on cothurni and Arnestapi looming thousands of feet high.

Furthermore, I am thoroughly chilled, despite the local mild climate, and I have come in for a pot of tea.


Lightning flash, no thunder.

It makes you question your senses. It might even move you to poke a finger in one ear and twist it around awhile, trying to get the sound back on. If you had an antenna, you would bend it this way and that and grumble at the reception.

þriðjudagur, nóvember 08, 2005


There is no gable beam in this house, but if there were, I would swear that some ill vættr were riding it. The wind blew up some time last night and every hinged and shuttered thing is a-squeak. Outside, the air is rushing through pineneedles and branches, over roofs and around housecorners, doubling ever back and never tiring. It is less striking in the dark than in the day that something so great and so invisible - the air, look you - can writhe and twist so violently.

contra natura

It was recently suggested to me that I take up migrating from pole to pole, following the winter's night.

Contrary to how it might seem at first, this suggestion was meant in a joking, helpful spirit and not as an invitation to fara norður og niður. Helpful because (and I had just mentioned this) I work best after sundown. The darkness removes from my field of vision a thousand things that might draw my attention away from the little marching words that somehow, despite much prodding, still refuse to march wholly in step. A flickering candle nearby can help. The motion of the flame, when I see it, reminds me that my gaze has drifted away from my task. But having the rest of the room dim, and blackness out the window, that is far best for my writing self. So perhaps it is not so foolish, this joking idea of becoming the seasonal traveller, spending September through April in, say, Longyearbyen and May through August on Elephant Island. Assuming I could keep my ink from freezing, I would produce volumes.

But if I were to indulge in this lifestyle, what would sort of perverse being would it make me? An öfugkría? I see no such creature listed in Jón Árnason's þjóðsögur og ævintýri.

sunnudagur, nóvember 06, 2005


So, yes, I realize that it isn't unique, but it is nonetheless a mite startling when they float up out of the mist to the very windows of the house. It was especially foggy this morning, but I am sure I saw Svínoy and Fugloy drift by. If I'd only had the windows open, I would certainly have heard the cries of birds.


Remember, remember the Vifth of November
Gunpowder, treason and plot,
Pray tell me the reason why Gunpowder treason,
Should iver be vorgot.

Guy Fawkes Day in a part of the world that doesn't celebrate it, where Mischief Night, such as it is, it attached to another holiday and has already taken place, and where the smoky smell drifting up to my windows is not of torches, bonfires, and firecrackers set off by parading revelers but only of domestic fireplaces.

Nonetheless, some part of me would have liked to have been taking part in such festivities, chanting along and lighting firecrackers and swinging the effigy aloft for the sheer satisfaction such participation can bring. At the same time, I cannot shake the knowledge that the holiday is a traditional celebration of anti-Catholic feeling, and I have no desire to take part in that manner of thing.

What do English Catholics do on the famous fifth? The practice of Catholicism is legal now in Britain, but is the anniversary of its legalization remembered or celebrated by anyone?

Is there any of these old traditional rites that is not inherently exclusionary in some way, that does not involve unpalatable ideas about people in some way different from ourselves?

What to do with the desire to be a singing, torch-waving participant without doing anything actually incendiary?

Update: Little did I know that Guy has a blog. V would be proud, I think.

miðvikudagur, nóvember 02, 2005


Culled from recent dreams, the following:

Seaglass found on a pockmarked shore

Being in Brazil, among Danes

Waking and finding oneself disappointed to have been in Brazil rather than in Argentina, for one would have liked to have met Borges.

eftir á

Good heavens, is it November already? And how did my living quarters get so out of hand? It's not merely the dishes piled up in the sink and the newspapers in paper bags, no, it's worse than that. There are bits of minotaur and what might have been a sphinx all over my front room. Here, what's this tail doing here? Fancy leaving something like that around. A person could trip over it and take a header into the bookcases.

þriðjudagur, nóvember 01, 2005


On the way to the train, striding past the high, dark grove of eucalyptus, I see bats overhead, darting and wheeling after the night insects.
Hvaðan þið eruð