Saturday, May 26, 2012

How to Call a Seal in Icelandic

          For the longest time, I had wanted to go to Iceland. I wanted to see Geysir, the geyser that gave its name to all the rest.* When we lived in France, I used to beg K to choose Iceland for our next trip.
          I usually did my begging in the bleak midwinter. Why K refused an Iceland winter vacation and instead insisted on Italy is still a mystery to me.
          Finally, worn down by my pleading, he agreed to go. In the summer.

There is less snow in Iceland in the summer.
©Nancy E. Banks

           So we went in the summer. We saw lots of lupine, and astonishing waterfalls, and distant blue mountains. We saw Geysir. It was beyond keen.

Geysir about ready to spout.
©Nancy E. Banks

          We'd been warned about the changeable weather, but we had sun the entire trip. Until the day I said I wanted to go see a glacier calve. As we drove east, to Vatnajökull, the temperature dropped and the skies lowered until visibility was a few hundred yards. Rain alternated with wind, lashing a landscape that was barren even for Iceland. When we pulled into the parking lot by the bay where pieces of Vatnajökull break off and float away into the sea, we had to fight the wind to get the car doors shut. We hurriedly pulled on our rain gear, sleet needling our exposed skin. I have been one other place in the world where the wind blew harder,** but this ran a very close second.
          Visibility wasn't that great, and the glacier calves were less than spectacular, but still—I got to see a glacier calving, and I was thrilled.

The iceberg formerly known as Vatnajökull.
©Nancy E. Banks

More bits of Vatnajökull.
©Nancy E. Banks

          K and I stood on the shore of the bay and watched icebergs like it was a spectator sport. Pretty soon we saw some little brown blobs bobbing in the bay.

See those little blobs in the center right? Those are seals!
(Clicking the photo will make it bigger, and you might  be able
to actually see their little seal noses.)
©Nancy E. Banks
          "Look!" I shouted to K, over the roar of the gale. "Seals!"
          K looked, and then, because they were far away, he clapped his hands several times and called, "Puppy, puppy, puppy!" The seals swam right over and eyed us, so I'm guessing that "puppy" is Icelandic for "herring."
          They were grumpily disappointed when herring failed to materialize, and they turned their sleek seal backs on us and swam off into the mist.

*I grew up near Yellowstone National Park. If it's geothermal, I want to be its friend.
**The headlands at the northern tip of Skye. You could lean on the wind. Literally.

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