Black, Green, and White (Iceland VI)

Googling for Black, Green, and White leads to some interesting things. There is black, green, and white tea, of course (to my delight). There are black, green, and white wires that puzzle some hobby electricians. Then there are some countries that have these colors in their flags. Iceland should be one of them, but isn’t.

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Green is not only the color of the moss that covers the older lava fields. You have it with the algae

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and the shrubs,

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always contrasted by water, sky, and earth. The simplicity of the color pattern is contrasted by an astounding complexity and diversity of the landscape.

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Much of earth must have looked like that before man, and maybe will look like that again.

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Ramsey Cascades

In June 2009, I spent a week hiking in the Smoky mountains. There was much to see, and I will focus here on the Ramsey Cascades waterfall, in the northeastern part of the park.

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The four mile, 2,000′ climb with camera and tripod is strenuous, but as soon as you arrive at the fall, all the pain is forgotten. This is one magnificent waterfall.

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Waterfalls are tricky. Being there is obviously exciting, but not being there and instead having to look at pictures is annoying. So I apologize.

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Photographers have tried to get the most out of waterfalls. The rules of the game have become: Avoid direct sunlight, and use long time exposure to get the surrealistic filaments of water. This is supposed to turn any waterfall into a world of wonder.

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Don’t misunderstand me; I like alienation. But there are other ways, too. A waterfall has a personality that wants to be discovered and appreciated. The Ramsey Cascades are a wonderful example with a highly complex personality.

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So this post is a teaser, a puzzle. Instead of showing the entire fall, I only show closeups, highlighting the many different ways how water and rock interact.

Weggebeizt (Iceland V)

I cannot think of a better description of glaciers than in Adalbert Stifter’s novella Bergkristall, where two young children, on their way home to their alpine village, get lost in a storm on a glacier.

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The glacier becomes a symbol of frozen time, and hence death.

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Here at Sólheimajökull, however, the abstract purity of Stifter’s glacier is contrasted by layers of ash, like many glaciers in Iceland.

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Thus the glacier seems to transport time, much like it does in the glacier poems of Paul Celan.

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Scotland in Winter

On of my teenager dreams was to treck though Scotland. Like many things, it never happened, but I could not resist to accept the invitation of a friend to spend New Year 1994/5 near Fort Williams.


The landscape is harsh and appears alpine, even though one is just a few hundred meters above sea level.


In some sense, these are ideal conditions for some mild mountaineering. The little snow there is is very crisp and allows for easy climbing.


On the other hand, the days are very short. One has six hours at most to get up and down again. You don’t want to get lost there after dark.


The Lake District

Winter Break of 1994 I spent in England, and part of it in the Lake District. I had been to Britain only once before, spending time in Wales and London. This time, it was to be a few days in the Lake District and in Scotland.

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I am reasonably familiar with the British literature, and I knew about the Lake District via the Lake Poets, but nothing could have prepared me for that landscape in winter.

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Harsh landscapes are usually simplistic in the sense that there is a barren ground extending to the horizon, where it meets an equally barren sky. In the Lake District, there is often an ominous region in between, hard to define, that seems to open up or tear apart the well defined separation between heaven and earth.

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And there is, of course, the lone tree that would suit many a poem.

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The Galloway cow (I believe) has no comments. She is just happy here.

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Rock Art (Iceland IV)

This image of an expecting woman should make it clear that trolls are not as close to extinction as some try to make us believe.

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Of course they are hard to find. Not only are they well camouflaged by all the lava rocks, they are also in constant migration, like here a small family, with the child being carried piggyback.

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But not only trolls roam Iceland. This large bird should rewrite a chapter of the theory of evolution.

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Then there are the giants, always watching.

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Touching Inside and Outside (Spheres XII)

High school students taking geometry are until this day tasked to locate the incircle of a triangle: The circle that touches all sides. One learns that its center is where the three angle bisectors meet, and that’s that.

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It’s less often taught that there are three more circles (the excircles), touching two sides of the triangle from the inside, but one form the outside. Their three centers are the corners of a triangle in which the former angle bisectors become the altitudes.

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Of course things get really interesting when we move into space. Here the four planes of a tetrahedron can be touched by as many as eight spheres. In the simplest case, it looks like the picture above.

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Curiously, this does not work with the regular tetrahedron, it needs to be either more or less elongated.

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