Tag Archives: nature

Window

I found myself with some extra time today. I didn’t really like going for walks, but I convinced myself I don’t have anything better to do. Besides, I’ve been working hard and should relax. It was mid-afternoon and the weather was perfect, or at least how I like it. The temperature was warm, with a very high, thin layer of cloud cover that diffused the bright sunlight.

I came upon a park. It was a large grass field with a circular path around it and people from all walks of life. This park just so happened to sit on the top of a large hill. It was called “Reservoir Park,” probably because of the giant water tank fixed maybe 50 feet above the ground, giving life to thousands of houses below.

I started walking counter-clockwise around the park and noticed a familiar looking view. I’d never seen this particular view before, but I recognized it because it looked out over where I grew up. I stopped and stared out at the hill I grew up on. I used to venture into the woods and climb up a tree high enough so I could stare out into the future, unknowingly looking out to where I was standing today, into a mirror with no reflection. I tried to think about everything that’s happened between then and now, all the success, all the heartbreak, everything that’s gotten me to this point so far and changed me from who I was into who I am, but I couldn’t. Nothing came to mind.

From the outside I’d assume that this would be great cause for concern, or should at least worry me in some sense, but I wasn’t even aware that nothing came to mind (funny how minds work). I wasn’t void of memories, but I was remembering, only instead of thoughts coming to mind it was purely feelings coming to heart; the joy, the pain, the love, the longing. I stayed in that moment for quite some time, and after I began to continue my walk I realized I indeed have grown since a child staring out from the tree tops. Never once growing up did I assume I would end up so close to my original home (at least so far). I always had some lofty goal that I would be extremely successful in whatever I did and move far away to somewhere better, some mystical land, wherever that was. But that was before I came out of the woods and went out to live my life. It’s easy to dream when everything looks so open.

Possibly the most important growth that I have experienced is an emotional one. It may seem super simple for some, but I have always been a logical person, using reasoning, knowledge, and whatever else I could prove or validate in order to come to any conclusion. ‘Emotions’ have not been easy for me. I’d get happy and sad like everyone else, but I never got too attached to anything, and would never say, “I’ve got a feeling about this…” Emotions have more or less been a reaction or side effect, so for me a purely emotional response to something is quite amazing, awakening, and somewhat of a miracle. If I can simply look at a view and feel such a wide range and depth of emotions, then that’s amazing. What good are thoughts and circumstances if we don’t feel anything? Every time I asked myself “what do I want to do with my life?” I’ll come up with an answer, and then ask myself, “why?” I’ll do that a few times and it always boils down to something along the lines of “I want to feel happy, feel good, feel loved,” and a big part of that is making others feel loved as well.

I completed my circular walk and looked back across the park to where I stood saw the view, and I couldn’t see it anymore from where I was standing. The trees hid the view from the street, and I noticed if I hadn’t first chosen, logically, to go on this walk, then I would not have ever seen that view, that narrow window into the past. Of course it’s easy to see now, but how many other opportunities like this have I missed? In how many other ways am I still looking out from the trees, waiting to see a reflection?

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Miracle

The human mind is a miracle that can make something more than it actually is. For example, at first a flower is just a flower, but after your mind grabs hold of it it is love, it is life, it is hope–it becomes a memory, still present even after it has wilted and died.

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“You don’t need to know what you’re looking for. You need to discover it.”

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What is wrong with people?

What do you mean?

Like, relationships. You don’t see bears in the woods cheating on each other.

True, but bears aren’t people.

Sometimes it seems hard to tell.

Yeah, but the difference between us and bears is that bears don’t know that they’re going to die. That’s why they don’t just start yolo-ing all over the place.

They can’t be completely clueless.

It’s not called the animal condition, it’s called the human condition.

I beg to differ. Animals in general avoid things that would kill them. I’m almost positive that they know they can die.

Yeah, that they can die; not that they will die. It’s nothing more than a reflex.

So if you knew you were going to die, would you go on a crazed sex rampage, or would you keep to yourself and one other person?

What are you talking about? I’m not going to die.

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Life’s a Birch

I was sitting in an office waiting. There was a painting of a forest of birch trees on the wall.

I noticed that birch trees always have so many knots on their trunk, like they’re falling apart and losing branches right and left. Either it’s bad construction, or they’re the laziest trees ever and simply get tired of holding their branches up. If I was a bird I would only build a nest in a birch tree if I was pinched for cash and needed a place to stay. Even the bark has given up and started turning itself into paper. It’s like birch trees don’t really know what they want to do with themselves. What’s the point of being a tree anyways? Yeah, I get it, you’re supposed to grow and get tall… but why? Is there an optimal height that all trees are trying to reach? Because the taller you get, the easier it seems to snap in half in the middle of a storm, or lose your roots in a flood. Why not reach a modest, respectable height, and stop? Are you really going to benefit from being taller if you just keep dropping branches along the way? They are what built you up in the first place, so how do you think that makes them feel? You sacrifice what you consider to be dead weight just so you can sprout a few more leaves closer to the sun.

What I liked about this painting is that it didn’t show the tops of the trees. It only showed the trunks and the forest floor. All the branches were gone, but everyone could see the knots, the scars left on the trees.

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Butterfly

When night falls dark and shrouds all hope
of mending what has gone awry,
Remember it takes time and faith
to know just when the moment’s right.

Cocoons unfurl new dreams of love.
Above, they dance and light the sky.
You are who I’ve been dreaming of.
You are my butterfly.

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January 29th

Tuesday, January 29th: The day started by sleeping in, eating the familiar breakface, and grabbing a Subway sandwich, of all things, as a packed lunch for later; a small step down from last night’s dinner.

We met our guide for today’s tour, a bearded elf in his 30’s with a kind demeanor and a thirst for adventure. Well, I don’t know how thirsty he was, but we were going on adventure time regardless. We got into a van that has windows and seats 16 people (16 mann). For a second it looked like we were getting into the windowless can for a tour “without the hassle of having to turn your neck!” I imagined we would drive up to something and he’d say, “Oh wow, it’s beautiful,” and we’d all squirm with excitement and hand him our cameras, then look at the pictures and go “ooh, ahh.”

I don’t know… seemed post-modern enough to be true. I also thought that there ought to be a Dutch family out there somewhere in Dutchland that runs a minimal effort vanpool service, named the “VanTour” family (pronounced VonToor). So it’d be “The VanTour Service,” and you’d get in the windowless van expecting a tour and be disappointed by the end of the ride, and Mr. VanTour would turn to you and say, “What’d you expect?”

To quote our guide: “Anyhoo…” I learned many things on the two hour ride to Eyjafjallajökull (including how to spell and pronounce “Eyjafjallajökull”), all of which I will dryly recite in a blithering stream of bullet points throughout the following obtrusively droll paragraph. If you wishn’t to dry out, I would strongly suggest skipping this paragraph.

-Iceland has 320,000 pleople
-1871, guy builds first farm where downtown Reykjavik is now. Called the farm “Reykjavik,” which means “smokey bay.”
-We passed large holes in the middle of a lava field called ‘fake craters,’ created when a lava flow meets water, and explodes.
-Tap water is filtered naturally through lava in the ground. They don’t do anything to it except drink it. The tap is the same as the premium bottled water.
-It takes about 3000 years until trees grow after a lava flow. Iceland’s very green because moss is sometimes the only thing that’ll grow.
-11% of the country is lava field, like plain flat barren lava field, but everything is made from lava. The island is a volcano.
-Over half the country believes in elves. Like, actual elves. For real. It’s a bit silly, but it’s a part of their culture.
-We had to pull over to check our head lights. Sometimes it gets so windy your headlights will blow off.
-More often than not, when there is an eruption it happens in fissure line. All the mountains are made from fissures lines.
-Iceland is where the North American plate meets the Eurasian plates. They drift apart at 2 cm a day.
-There are small earthquakes every day, but since it’s a constant steady diversion, they’re rarely big and harmful.
-In the year 1000 the Elves were all pagans and the Danish royalty were trying to convert them to Christianity, but they wouldn’t budge. There was a big eruption and lava flow and all the Elves converted to Christianity overnight and were baptized.
-They use steam from hot springs to heat water; nothing else.
-After everyone converted, all the chieftains (farm owners/rich guys) built small churches on their farms and served double-duty as priests. That’s why there are so many churches in Iceland, and they only seat about 20-30 elves.
-Vatnajökull is the biggest glacier in Europe.
-The main requirement to be a glacier is that it must move.
-Eyjafjallajökull means glacier (jökull) on top of the mountain (fjalla) of the islands (eyja). The reference to the islands are the Vestmanneyjar (Westman Islands)
-The names always mean something; quite literally. The town of Hveragerði means hot spring (hvera) field (gerði)
-The town of Hveragerði dropped 10 cm in a 2008 earthquake. Many hot springs disappeared, and some new ones formed; one in a women’s backyard, so now they have a pool.
-Selfoss is the ‘water-most’ river in Iceland. Water is slightly green, which means there is glacier water present.
-Hekla is the most active volcano and holds the record for most ash produced over its life. It means “gateway to hell.”
-Elves don’t have the letter “W,” and instead say /v/ like /w/, which makes Vikings sound like ‘wikings.’
-two “L’s” together makes a hissing /k/ sound.
-“Foss” means “waterfall,” and the river Selfoss is named that because seals (sel) would swim up to its waterfall and sit there.
-The sagas are their written history. Often the truth is stretched, but they’re more or less accurate, kind of like a toned down version of the epic poetry of the greeks; history sprinkled with mythology.
-Ingolf was the guy who made the first farm in Reykjavik, and he left the location to destiny, picked by the gods. He had pillars with the gods carved in them and threw them into the ocean saying where they land, he will build a farm. His buddies searched the coast for over two years and found them washed up in Reykjavik.
-The town of Hvolsvöllur is where people are brought in an evacuation, but most eruptions are “tourist-friendly,” meaning people run towards the volcanos when they go boom, and not the opposite direction.
-The guide pronounces /sh/ like /s/, and most “a’s” like “u’s”, which puts the words “ash” and “factory” a bit out of context.
-Driving in ash is like driving on wet snow… you know, in case that ever happens to you and you’re worried about driving conditions and not the fact that mother nature is vomiting on you.
-The defense mechanism, if you get too close to the white birds that fly around the waterfalls, is to vomit on you. It would work on me. That’s just gross—and unprofessional no less.
-Skögalfoss (pronounced ‘sköwafoss’) means “waterfall in the forest,” but now the forest is gone due to lava flows… so now it just seems ironic and cruel.
-Sölheimajökull is the glacier we climbed, and is retreating 60m a year due to warmer climate, however it has scooped a ‘U’ shape in the valley; a telltale footprint of a glacier.

OKAY!
That was boring! Yet edjucational! …wow, I just spelled education with a ‘j,’ like ed-yew-kay-shun-ull… I’ve been staring at elvish words too long.

Driving around Eyjafjallajökull is quite a spectacle. The landscape is very flat, and then there’s this huge plateau with a glacier on top of it. The hillsides of this mountain are sheer cliffs, and around every turn there’s a new waterfall to look at. White birds speckle the green cliffs and dance around the waterfalls, and it’s just keeps on going, like some never-ending national geographic magazine.

So… now we’re on the glacier Sölheimajökull. I know this is getting long, so I’ll try to be quick, and probably fail miserably, but nonetheless I’ll try. We put on crampons (‘crumpons’) on our boots and got handed ice picks. The glacier was pretty amazing. It’s not ice because it’s cold, but rather because it has been compressed into ice… I worded that wrong, and there’s no backspace on this pen, but basically that’s why the bottom is liquid and allows the glacier to move. There are layers in the glacier. White is summer ice, and blue is winter ice. It’s whiter in summer because more air bubbles get trapped int the ice, which is crystal clear. I posed for a photo under an ice cave and the guide told me “next time you’re standing under 5 tonnes of ice: be quick.”

Walking on the ice was fun. Without crumpons, which are basically spikes the glacier would be one giant ash-bruising slip’n’slide, but with crumpons you can walk anywhere super easily. You have to walk flat footed, not rocking the usual “heel-toe,’ and have to kind of stab the ground as you step. The one thing to be careful of is to not fall down any crevasses or “swallower.” What swallowers are is when it rains and a stream flows down the glacier, it swirls like a drain and carves a funnel shaped hole all the way to the bottom of the glacier, sometimes up to 60 meters deep. It’s called a swallower because once you slip, you get swallowed in and don’t come out. Since the glacier churns and moves, they’ve found cameras and ice picks imbedded in the walls years later. What I found cool, is that looking at the walls you can tell where summer and winter were, and where certain eruptions marked the glacier, like rings on a tree. There was a thin black line through the wall which was a layer of ass from the 1918 eruption. Where the line met the surface we were able to collect some ass (don’t tell anyone). I felt like a spy and a geologist in that moment… a spyologist.

*clears throat* excuse me. I seem to’ve had a pun stuck in my throat.

So we watched the sun set frm atop the glacier, and got down. It was windy. We saw a waterfall at night. I for the name of it, but it was pronounced “SELL-you-Lance-foss.” It was pretty cool.

For dinner we stopped at a small restaurant in someone’s farm and ate lamb soup. It was good. We then drove back towards Reykjavik in hopes of finding the northern lights, which was basically the whole reason for the trip. The forecast for the northern lights said there would be a north-facing gap in the sky, but on a scale from 0-9, where 0 is just stars, and 9 is the sky is on fire, the activity was 0, so we just looked at the stars. Our guide kept us entertained/destracted by telling us stories, including one folk tale of how a girl, Ketla, had magic pants that would allow her to run without getting tired, and she ended up running off into the forest by a volcano because she was a rebellious teen or something, and disappeared because of some sort of moral in the story. But she didn’t die; she turned into a troll. So whenever she gets mad the volcano, now named after her, erupts. You could say the volcano is temperamental ‘period’ically.

That was tasteless. Moving on: So… No northern lights, but mumsy did point out a dull white spot throbbing gently on the horizon. You’d have to be crazy to see it. What I mean is it was so dim you’d think it was nothing, and you probably wouldn’t bother saying “I see them,” because no one would believe you. But she pointed it out and I stared in that direction. Through a diffusing layer of cloud cover I could make out the irregular white light. I’d like to think that it was the northern lights. I may not have seen their complete brilliance, but that’s just all the more reason to come back.

(next day)

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