þriðjudagur, febrúar 28, 2006

self help

Stundum verður maður að gera hluti bara sjálfur.

mánudagur, febrúar 27, 2006


Pouring rain, chill air. I am not surprised that it is chill inside too; it always is. I am surprised to find myself extracting a tired-looking head of cauliflower from the vegetable bin and thinking how pleasant it would be not to curry it with carrots and peppers, as any sensible person would do on a day like this, but to simmer it into a bland, milky soup. It is a very strange urge, this, the desire to recreate the taste of súpa dagsins as eaten at innumerable way-stops on Þjóðvegurinn 1. It is very suspicious. But today, I am too tired to fight it.

laugardagur, febrúar 25, 2006


I was sure I saw a white streak against blue sky this morning, the contrail of a jet high up, but now the air is woolly and white to within a hundred feet of the ground. Perhaps I saw blue out some other window, not the windows of the bedroom or the sitting room, not the bathroom either (those are frosted anyway) or the kitchen. Disconcertingly, I cannot seem to find it now.

fimmtudagur, febrúar 23, 2006

k. 118

This one was new to me:
A lovely phrase. Elding is otherwise a flash of lightning, from a root having to do with fire, eldr, but nætr-elding is not a streak of electricity across the dark sky of night (nótt, gen. nætr) but the break of dawn.

Strange, because dawn creeps up slowly over the horizon in those latitudes, like something enormous, flatheaded, and timid lurking beneath the table of the earth and hoping for a scrap. Fitting, because dawn can make the cold sky erupt in fire, unearthly light, glitský, and clouds like the flayed bellies of salmon.

þriðjudagur, febrúar 21, 2006


Heard toenails scratching on the pavement and a low canine growl. But the alley was empty. Bright sunlight everywhere. It must have been the noonday hellhound.


I'm fairly certain that it's illegal that it be so cold in here. In fact, illegal be damned ... I'm fairly sure it's impossible. I saw sunbathers out on the pavement this afternoon. Now that's just not right.

laugardagur, febrúar 18, 2006

að vorinu

When in the spring I round that corner where the tiny white petals drift down about me, I admire the slender white birch rising through the gnarled black branches of the cherry tree, and I look around warily in case a fox should suddenly drop into sight, brandishing a curved sword, or a band of Ronin come into view, leaning against their horses.

This time, it was only the fellow with the graying beard sitting on a milkcrate, the head of his chihuahua poking out of the neck of his motorcycle jacket.

fimmtudagur, febrúar 16, 2006


I was always fascinated by colors like blesóttur, moldóttur, vindóttur, leirljós, gráskjóttur, glóbrúnn, and I recall a proud moment when I was able to explain jarpur to a city fellow who perhaps ought to have known what color it was all the same. But I am also a city person and no Rasmus Rask, and I doubt I will ever master the colors of the horses who step the tölt.

I may never either master the colors of horses further west, though I may have a better chance there. Just now I am enjoying some of the words themselves as they have taken shape in Spanish-inflected English:
medicine hat

miðvikudagur, febrúar 15, 2006


Two nights ago, between sleep and waking, I felt the entire room shake. There is always the possibility of earthquake, but I am no longer convinced that anyone felt the tremor besides myself. I may not have been convinced at the time, but, still, I crept closer to the center of the bed before falling further into sleep.

Last night, in what I know was a dream, there was lightning, thunder, tumult, a clashing in the dark atmosphere. I had linked two fingers of my right hand with two on the left hand of another person, and we were walking, but our heads were turned away from each other, and there was sadness in our faces.

Today, as I moved through the kitchen, there was a sudden flashing behind me, near me, then again, there on the wall. It came irregularly and went before I could look directly at it, like the leading edge of the uncanny thing that will make the dream you are in (the one you have not yet recognized is a dream) into a nightmare. It flared several times at the borders of my attention, startling me, before I saw that it was the light of the setting sun reflected into my rooms by the glass door of a balcony on a building a ways off through the trees, swinging open and shut in the warm air.

þriðjudagur, febrúar 14, 2006


I'm staring into the indeterminate distance at a café, trying to impose order on a seething welter of information held in caffeine-stimulated memory, tenting my fingers (as if for greater stability) on the eggshell-colored printouts covering the marble of the table when the bubble is burst:


says a knowing voice. I look up, confused, to see two men passing on their way to the door. They do not exactly look at me and they do not exactly smile at me. Then they are gone. The students at the next table, who had fallen silent suddenly, giggle. I shrug at them and try to return to my thoughts.

But now all the thorns and eths are mixed together. I'll be another hour putting this right.

sunnudagur, febrúar 12, 2006


Wake up to an incredible, unlikely-sounding racket of birds somewhere out the window. I think it must be birds, though I consider the possibility that is it the infernal squeaking of some giant person polishing some giant object well past the point that its own cleanliness begins to make an eepa-eepa-eepa sound.

Swearing softly, I realize there is no hope of getting back to sleep, and I get up and slump to the bathroom. There the sound is coming in the window from the roof of the building, giving a bizarre stereo effect. I slump back out into the main rooms. The racket is definitely coming through the bedroom window as well. I raise the shade, not expecting to be able to pick out the source of the noise. After all, jays frequently get into long, drawn-out singing contest from within the foliage, invisible to me. Maybe this is a particularly obnoxious and disoriented bunch of gulls.

I look out. The source is immediately apparent. The roof of the adjacent two buildings (and, my ears inform me, my own building's roof) is entirely covered in turkeys, all gazing hillward and all yodelling and squonking their tiny feathered heads off.

They are huge and stupid-looking birds. As I watch, several tuck their boney feet under their bellies and take off, an exercise that makes them resemble garbage bags being hurled through the air. One flaps gracelessly into a nearby pinetree and regards me beadily for several minutes. As I look on, some ten of them take wing, are replaced by another five or so flying up from somewhere in the underbrush, who then in turn galumph across the roof and fly off.

Now the chimney pots of the houses east of here are graced, many of them, with a decorative turkey. They have quieted somewhat as well.

I think I hear a crow.

föstudagur, febrúar 10, 2006

ásamt risum

Drinking at the hotel bar, I'm sipping gin and tonic between the spiky gray guy I came in with and the burly red fellow drinking 7&7 to my right. We've been introduced. I attempt small talk.

Like the horns.


You file them down yourself?

Used to, but now the Company books this girl to do it for me. Kind of like a manicure.

Right, right. A ... cornicure.

Yeah. Yeah! (chuckles, sips his drink) Gotta keep up the expected image.

Yeah, I imagine. Wouldn't do to go all pointy like my friend here, not all of a sudden, anyway.

(Hearing himself mentioned, spiky guy swivels his gray, three-horned head in our direction.)

No, yeah, I couldn't do that. See, that's great. The one on the nose, too.

(Spiky guy blushes a little mauve) Thanks.

Yeah, that's great to see. You can do that kind of thing if you aren't trying to turn pro. And it's just great. (To me) You having more?

Me? (sucking ice) No, thanks, I think I'm done. Gotta get home before too long.

Well, then, so am I. (Sets down glass) Hey, nice talking to you.

You too. Thanks.

I shake his hand. My friend and I head for the subway, talking as we go.

miðvikudagur, febrúar 08, 2006


Nei, ég held ekki. Varla. Að vísu vísindalega séð hægt, en miður líklegt. Hæpið, reyndar. Hæpið.

þriðjudagur, febrúar 07, 2006


Today I saw several people (Bjarki, Jón, Aðalheiður, others) who were not there. I was not sure whether to be troubled.

mánudagur, febrúar 06, 2006


The cat down the hall has gone missing.

I was told this by his concerned owners. They asked me to keep an eye out for a gray cat with a collar bearing his name: Galileo. I promise to tell them if I see him.

I imagine him out on a voyage of discovery, a round gray body on the move, sampling previously unknown dusts with a curious pink tongue and making notes on the buildings and trees he passes, objects he had only seen at great distance, from the window, but whose size he had never fully grasped until now. I imagine him awed at the scale of the world beyond the walls of the apartment and its close atmosphere, impressed at the speed at which some other things outside move, forced by circumstance to calculate, swiftly, their paths relative to his own.

I hope that his trajectory does not take him ever outward into the great, alien space. I hope instead that he feels the pull of home and loops back. I can see him in my mind's eye enjoying the sensation of familiar warmth as he steps back over the threshold.

laugardagur, febrúar 04, 2006


I saw a pair of gloves on the pavement. Flattened by passing feet, they looked like wings.

miðvikudagur, febrúar 01, 2006


First of the month, and they test the sirens. First the announcement that this is only a test, then electronic bleeps and boops, then the gnawing whine of the sirens. It is impossible not to think of air raids. Blessedly, it does not go on long.

Later, I am downtown, not thinking about the Battle of Britain but about to vanish into the underground on business of my own, and I catch the edge of a pipe tune. Someone is playing bagpipes. The skirl of it ricochets off the buildings and I smile to hear it. I cannot see the piper.

I like the sound of highland pipes very much and stubbornly, which is to say that I will argue with people who do not like them rather than retreat and concede that, well, it perhaps isn’t for everyone. I like the wail of pipe music, and if I am honest about it I would probably say that the muscular historical background of the pipes only increases the appeal for me. Weren’t they a martial instrument? (Weren’t most instruments once martial - brass bands, fifes, drums, even the tinkling Glockenspiel borrowed from Turkish military bands centuries ago?) I heard somewhere that the English Parliament had once classified highland pipes as a weapon.

But that was a long time ago. That particular Border is quiet. Where we do fight now, we do not fight with the same weapons as we did then, and we are free to appreciate once-military music for its more æsthetic qualities. On the train, rushing though tunnels below ground, I have to wonder if anyone will ever listen to those sirens purely for pleasure, with some romantic notion of an earlier time half in mind.


The papers are piling up again.

The monster Sunday edition from Sunday last has begun to slide off the seat of the chair and onto the floor beneath the breakfast table. The paper I recall as overwhelmingly gray seems to contain ever more color, garish photographs in every section. I hardly recognize it.

Hand-scrawled notes on loose sheets rest precariously on every surface of the worktable. The writing is black, spiky and loopy, the paper a gentle, eye-saving green. I like the combination. I should---it is my writing and my choice of colored paper.

But my favorites are the full-color printouts of digital scans of weeklies from the 1890s. There was no technology for color printing then. All papers were black-and-white. But modern techniques have captured the subtle array of eggshell tones that the formerly white paper has turned over more than a century of repose in libraries. Some are rosy, some cream, others bluish green, and none of them perfectly uniform. With the honest black letters on them, the odd n and u reversed, they are very beautiful.
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