Nature

Jökulsárlón - The Glacier Lagoon

Iceland’s deepest lake is formed by the melting of Breiðamerkurjökull glacier.  In 1920, the edge of the glacier reached the ocean. Then it began shrinking. By 1935, there was a small lake made of glacial melt. Today, that lake is 900 feet deep.  Icebergs are calved from the glacier nearly everyday. They drift across the lake until they melt or reach the surf.  It is an unworldly sight.

  Lagoon and Glacier

Lagoon and Glacier

  The iceberg zoo.  These will be gone in days.

The iceberg zoo.  These will be gone in days.

Before your eyes, the pieces of the glacier disappear.  The iceberg below was over two stories tall.  The black stripes are volcanic ash laid down after eruptions and the stripes were horizontal until the berg tipped over.

  Two stories tall...

Two stories tall...

These next images were taken only moments apart of the same piece of disappearing ice.

Some icebergs make it almost to the surf, only to be swept onto the black sand beach where they look like diamonds, if only for a few moments....

  Diamonds for a moment.

Diamonds for a moment.

  Black and blue

Black and blue

Half A Tank of Gas - Half a Country

With only half a tank of gas we made it half way around Iceland.  Our day began by the Labrador Sea, exploring a lighthouse atop a massive rock arch that had been carved by the sea. It was blustery, wind blowing at least 30 knots - the kind of breeze that kept us extra cautious near the edge of this stone monolith know as  Dyrholey. But the hike in the wild gusts was absolutely worth it.  A colony of puffins were taking cover and seemed quite used to friendly hikers.  And the view, even in the grayness of the mist, was stunning.  Bands of color: gray green sea, black sand beach, orange and yellow fields.  And this was just the morning.

  A muted palette seen from the top of Dyrholaey (Doorway Hill Island)

A muted palette seen from the top of Dyrholaey (Doorway Hill Island)

  The Puffin Greeter

The Puffin Greeter

  The Puffin Committee

The Puffin Committee

The south coast of Iceland is growing at a great clip.  Over 2 miles of new landmass stretches out into the Labrador Sea- created by glacial melt and volcanic eruptions, it is almost all black sand.  Some of it supports plant life, but much of it is truly a desert that meets the sea.

  Hay field in the middle of a black sand desert

Hay field in the middle of a black sand desert

We drove for several hours in the rain, knowing that there were glaciers just to the left, but out of sight. Happily the the sun made an appearance – complete with a rainbow!

  Rainbow at the end of a glacier field.

Rainbow at the end of a glacier field.


Cairns and Geysirs

Day 2: Off to Thingvellir National Park – the original home Iceland’s democracy, a spectacular lake on the fissure where the European and North American plates meet.  We were supposed to go snorkeling in that fissure where you can touch both continents at the same time.  A scheduling snafu got in the way of that plan, but cairns, geysirs and waterfalls provided plenty of other entertainment.

 A landscape of green and gray

A landscape of green and gray

 Cairns point the way

Cairns point the way

Our Yellowstone geysers are named such, because of the one here in Iceland.  Scientists have determined it has been active for over 10,000 years and shows up in recorded history as early as the 1200’s.  It had been inactive for 70 years when seismic activity in 2000 caused them to spring back to life. It created a wonderful tourist attraction for Iceland’s burgeoning tourism trade.  These performers don’t have the same color as the yellow and blue ones in the American West, but they put on a good show.  My favorite part is the bubble that forms on the surface, just before the explosion upwards.

 The Geysir bubble...

The Geysir bubble...

Nearby is Gullfloss, a waterfall that has a greater water flow than any waterfall in Europe or North America.   The drop is in two parts and it is pretty spectacular, even on a dreary gray day.


Road Trip In Iceland

When my daughter suggested Iceland as a place for a one-week mother-daughter trip I jumped at the opportunity.  Prior to the word “Iceland” leaving her lips  I don’t think  I had ever considered visiting.  But just like that – there is was –sitting up near the Arctic Circle beckoning.  

Our flight from Boston to Iceland on Icelandic Air took less time than it does to fly to San Francisco.  Flying on an airline that still allows passengers 2 checked bags with no fees was interesting. Without all the jockeying for overhead bin space loading a plane is faster, friendlier and more efficient.  And imagine my surprise to find a pillow and blanket on every seat for the red-eye flight.  The seating is still tight in coach, but the Icelandic's cushions are not so skimpily padded that they feel like metal stadium seats, like some other airlines.  

The clincher of civility happened as we disembarked for the short walk to the terminal in the cool air.  In front of me was a four year old wearing only the T-shirt he had on when he left Boston.  The flight attendant quickly grabbed a blanket and wrapped it around the boy's shivering shoulders while smiling at his grateful mother.   It harkens back to a day when air travel was still a pleasant experience.

But onto adventures in geology and volcanoes.  Just before leaving the US vigorous seismic activity started under the country's biggest glacier. Fears of another airline shut down caused by volcanic ash hit the news cycle and friends started emailing asking if we were still going. The decision was an easy one. Iceland has a great information system and plans for dealing with volcanic activity. They respond to mother nature with science, common sense and respect - not Fox New 24/7 fear.

So, on our very first day here, Amelia and I went to meet a volcano up close and personal. We journeyed down 400 feet into the magma chamber of the Thrihnukagigur Volcano a half an hour outside of Reykjavik.

  The volcano is the one just behind my head.  We were given these ankle length raincoats to wear to keep us dry on our 2 mile walk to the volcano entrance. "Hiking in a ball gown," is how Amelia described it.        

The volcano is the one just behind my head.  We were given these ankle length raincoats to wear to keep us dry on our 2 mile walk to the volcano entrance. "Hiking in a ball gown," is how Amelia described it. 

 

 

 The hike to the volcano was across a lava field filled with lava tube caves and fissures - one side belonging to Europe and one side North America.

The hike to the volcano was across a lava field filled with lava tube caves and fissures - one side belonging to Europe and one side North America.

A special life that carries 5 people at a time lowers you down in to the chamber after you walk about 40 minutes across a lichen and moss covered lava field. The rig was designed by German engineers for a National Geographic special and then turned into a truly unique tourist site.  Deep inside the magma chamber the basalt rock is a rainbow of reds, blues and orange tones caused by the bacteria that live on the rocks, not algae or lichens as I would have guessed. It is as close as one can get to living out Jules Verne’s Journey to the Center of the Earth.

 Looking up at the lift from the bottom of the chamber.

Looking up at the lift from the bottom of the chamber.


 People shadows in the magma chamber

People shadows in the magma chamber

The Garden and the Brook

The spring has been long and cool, giving me time to get ready for summer art shows.  I hope you will mark your calendar for the 2014 Art Drive on August 9th and 10th.  There will be new contemplative landscape imagery as well as work from a project I began last October.  Called the Garden and the Brook, it is an on-going study of natural forms found both in the botany of my garden and in the water world of streams, ponds and tidal flows.

As I try to shape this project with words, not images, it occurs to me how much Garden and the Brook reflects my life-long journey of learning to see.  Although I grew up along the ocean, it wasn’t until I became a river rafter in my thirties that I first heard the expression, “read the water.”  In the whitewater rafting world, reading water is how you chart a course through rapids. It is how you follow the “tongue” into the current, avoid standing waves and other obstacles, and catch the eddy when you want, rather than the eddy catching you. Decades later, along the gentle flow of an autumn stream, I found myself plotting courses for sticks and leaves through “rapids” created by elevation drops measured in inches rather than feet.  Here I was, once again reading the water.  But for the first time, I realized that the shapes and curves created by fluid dynamics and ripple geometry have their counterparts not only in the great rivers of the West, but also in my garden.  This is not a particularly original insight. But back when I learned to read water I knew nothing of gardening and, to me, botany was only a lab course. I never would have made the connection, never would have seen it.  At that point in my life I had no idea that “painting with plants” was something that would become such a great source of pleasure and inspiration. 

Today I am filled with gratitude for this gift of time to discover and see the world anew.

Here is a sneak peak of the Garden and the Brook.

 

 

Mother's Day Macro

I may not be much for clothes and jewelry, but I do like my techie toys.  The latest addition to my collection was a fabulous Mother's Day gift of the 4-in-1 Olloclip - four different macro lenses that fit on my iphone.  Suddenly the amazing details of the surface of paper, the inner warp and weft of blue jeans are accessible, along with the incredible detail of the natural world.  There is much to learn and a little tripod to hold the camera is necessary, but what glorious fun... I have always admired how Lady's Mantle holds morning dew drops in her folds, but now I can see the fine hairs of her leaves, through the droplets!!!  I may never leave my deck again....


Slow Spring

April 21st and it is below freezing at sunrise.  Not great for the daffodils yet to open in my yard, but it makes for lovely mist, frosty sparkles and a timeless quality.

 Sunrise on the Slocum River

Sunrise on the Slocum River

The frost doesn't last long once the sun is up.  By the time I reached this field its new growth was frost free, yet still stark feeling.

I Think I Can......

After a long time away, there is nothing like coming home, sleeping in your own bed and nesting in your own space.  A few days back here on the southcoast of New England and we have been treated to a full range of March weather- balmy days that had me out cleaning garden beds to “alleged blizzards” that did not deter these determined little crocuses.  As I got close enough to focus I felt like I could hear them pushing the snow away and saying, “I think I can, I think I can…..

I_Think_I_Can_Crocus.jpg

Galisteo Basin Preserve

Galisteo Basin Preserve is a 13,550 acre "Stewardship Community" just south of Santa Fe.  It includes trails, open space and several planned communities.  The views go for 100's miles in almost every direction.

  Best seat in the house, found somewhere along Cook's Loop.

Best seat in the house, found somewhere along Cook's Loop.