25 October 2006

Ansel Adams

Yesterday morning the ride to work was like moving through a monochromatic photograph. The flat black of the mountains was traced in white, and merged frigidly with the low gray velour sky. It's lopapeysa-and-hat weather here already, and the crowds on Laugavegur have disappeared into fur-edged coats and colorful mittens. Winter comes when it likes here, and arrives fiercely, and according to the Icelandic two-season calendar, it's right on schedule. The darkness has also been closing around us like a sleeping bag being zipped up, the crack for air shrinking by almost 7 minutes a day. When it is sunny, the angle of the light reminds me of Decembers in Vermont, and makes me want to listen to pared-down Renaissance music (another peculiar feature of my schooling).

At the pool, a few hardy souls turn out to scuttle like hermit crabs across the frosty pavement and sink gratefully into the toasty water. Yesterday the crowd was particularly slim, since they'd drained the pool for paintwork and were only just refilling it, the water streaming across the empty poolbottom with a merry hotel-lobby fountain sound. I stayed for a good hour, enjoying the sensory experience of lying in the eimbað until I couldn't stand the heat, then sitting outside until frost formed on the edge of my swimsuit, lather, rinse, repeat. I left drowsy and warm, the heat-embers within well rekindled. Cold weather is much more enjoyable when there's a chance to scorch yourself so many different ways, and the hot-pots are MUCH more atmospheric in the velvet dark with the steam spiraling skywards.

Then this morning on the way to work, I got into a discussion with my (very kind and awesome for driving me so much this fall) co-worker about snow here, and apparently Icelandic could teach the world a thing or two about words to describe this weather. There are words for snow that blows during the storm, snow that blows without a storm, and all variations in between. As we pulled into the dark parking lot, he offered one final grand word for the day, hundslappadrífa. It translates literally as dog's-paw-snow, and is used to describe those big fat flakes that look like a dog's foot. I'm going to have fun when the snow starts blowing here!

Ship sighting: Nothing exciting to report in the boat-traffic arena, but the Icelandic Port Association reports that they were at a trade show for cruise ships in Italy, trying to stir up excitement for the ol' RVK harbor and a few others. So more cruise ships to look forward to next year, I guess.

3 comments:

Annie Rhiannon said...

Like the hermit crabs. And hello from a fellow utlendingur.

dtw said...

I always liked the passage in Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy series about Inuits having like a bjazillion different words for snow. But, is there an Icelandic word for the kind of snow that the nuisance for a neighbour brought onto your hallway carpets in their shoes?

ECS said...

Annie! Greetings fellow utlendingur.
DTW- can't say I've learned that word but I wouldn't be surprised if it exists here.

I must have willed it to snow here or something too, because last night as I was at the pool having all kinds of conversation with 2 visitors and 2 Icelanders, it started to snow, enough to surprise and delight the visitors. Of course then today it's above freezing and the air is coursing with that fresh grassymossy smell that Iceland does so well.