Springtime in Reykjavik, with Pretty Blooms and Hints of Blue Skies



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I'm reposting a retro Iceland Eyes photo from 2009. 

I really enjoy this shot, and felt lucky to have gotten it when the daffodils were just beginning to wilt after their early spring bloom. That meant that they didn't look so tall and wonderful anymore from a distance but instead drooped from their box at the top of a flight of stairs, seeming to smile a last bit sunshine down towards me as I got up close.  

I'm also glad I got a shot of this iconic large old wood-and-corrugated iron house, probably built around the turn of the last century and located just at the top of Frakkastígur ("Frenchman's Lane," named after the hospital built by the French for their seamen.)

If you're a sucker for history and maps like me, you'll enjoy this report which highlights the history of the block this house is on. It's one of a series commissioned by the Cultural Heritage Agency of Iceland, and is a detailed, fascinating glimpse into the development of Reykjavik and other regions around the country. Another fun website (if you're a cartography nerd like me) is Borgarvefsjá, an interactive map of Reykjavik with all sorts of options under the Opna valglugga button at top left.  

(An aside: The text and sites I linked to are in Icelandic, but don't let that stop you! For the websites, if you're using Chrome on a desktop just right-click on the text and select "Translate to English." For pdf's you'll have to copy/paste the text into Google Translate. It won't be perfect, but what is in this world? And considering that Icelandic is so rare, it's a miracle that Google offers it at all. Actually Google started having work done on translating between English and Icelandic as early as 2000. Why? Not sure, but I know the woman who was doing it for them out in Mountain View. Now there's no excuse not to get your Icelandic on!)

I'm sure many if not all of you who've come here have walked past this house on your meanders through Reykjavík. It's just around the corner from where we live, and for as long as I remember it's been in this lovely, yellow, weathered dress. Even Google Maps shows it that way. Finally, though, the owners had to change the cladding, switching out old yellow for new plain grey. Maybe they'll paint it again, but corrugated iron needs to weather for a few years before it's coated with color, so for now it is as it is. 

Anyway, the text for the original post was written when we were just beginning to feel some hope that we'd survive as a nation, post-crash. So much has happened in the meantime that the sentiments I expressed back then seem a little naive, especially as our path seems to be leading us eerily closer to where we were ten years ago. 

There's a phrase here, which came about after the global financial collapse, where we say that something is "so 2007" - as in it's ridiculous, expensive, gaudy, consumerist, short-sighted, elitist and greedy.  I think we can all agree that the consequences of our góðæri (boom, or "good times") were barely worth the risk. I certainly hope this time we can manage to avoid the profit/græðgi-trap and cool our heels, keeping our hearts warm and compassionate so that we can one day really create the egalitarian society we so hope to be...

From 2009: Springtime in Reykjavik, with pretty blooms and hints of blue skies, is finally here after our long winter of discontent.

New life is pulsing, quickening, in the warming earth and in our hearts. Elections have brought hope to many that our little island nation will survive our recent disgrace and grow again, if ever so humbly. We can't escape our pasts but are forced instead to review missteps, misdeeds, selfish living and a collective disconnect from the land we live on. But Nature, in her wisdom, always grants a new spring, a new chance to plant and nurture, sow and reap. The lessons never go away. They are revisited on us until we get them right, until we learn to cherish, selflessly, all that truly matters in our lives. What we run from comes back to us in ways we never imagined, offering new chances to bloom, and to grow.

In closing, I'd like to wish everyone around the world gleðileg vor! (happy spring!), from our home to yours 🌺 

It's Like We've Always Known Winter This Way

Out at Seltjarnarnes on a lovely crisp winter's day 
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I've taken quite a few Iceland Eyes photos out at Seltjarnarnes over the past twelve years, including shots of midnight golf and walks along its beach, that it feels a bit like cheating to share another one.   It's such a photogenic spot, though, and so close to the Reykjavik city center where we live. 

This isn't the greatest picture in the world, but I chose it for a few reasons. For starters, it shows the snow cover we were graced with a week ago when Reykjavik got more of the "white rain" in one 24-hour period than ever recorded and which, very surprisingly, is still here. It's a crispy, dry, packed snow as temperatures have stayed below freezing for the last seven days. Having that combination, frost and heavy snow, at the same time is actually so common here in the south of Iceland. 

Another reason I'm sharing it is because I took it at the sundial that's at the highest point in Seltjarnarnes at just about 5pm. It showed me that the sun was sitting at exactly southwest in the crisp blue sky, which for some reason I found pretty cool. In addition, that our glowing orb of light and life was that high off the horizon in the last days of February gave me hope for the near return of summer. 

We're getting used to the constant snow by this point. It's almost as if it's been here for ages. I'm starting to be on familiar terms with the bumps and ditches that have formed in the hard pack on the roads around my neighborhood, navigating them with pro dexterity as I drive around town. Channels and grooves and paths have been etched by cars and carriages and feet on common travel routes. Kids are nearly blasé about putting on their snow pants and thick winter gear each morning, and the yellow stains left by pets are becoming a ubiquitous sight. Cross-country skis that've been stored away like relics have been dusted off and taken for runs out at the many nature trails that surround the city, and photos taken, thousands upon thousands of them, of our lovely winter wonderland. 

I'm happy for tourists who picked this time to come, as it's a rare thing to see our land so well-covered, bright and clean, with clear aurora-filled night skies to boot. This is how Iceland is advertised as being, and how we'd most like to see it. A week ago everyone was freaking out because of the weather, and now it's as if it's always been this way! And if the Icelandic Met Office's forecasts are right, we'll get to keep it all for a few more days until it'll all unfortunately melt away...

Our little island, all white, taken by NASA satellite on March 3rd.

New Snow and Madia, My Other Name

Our backyard in the heart of Reykjavik, all prettied with fresh snow

(This post is published solely on IcelandEyes.com. If you've found it reposted without permission on a click-bait blog with any other title or a URL that doesn't include the words IcelandEyes, please do yourself a favor and visit the original Iceland Eyes website instead:) 

In the States I spelled my name Madia instead of Maria. It was a phonetic thing that my dad says he suggested to me when I was going into 8th grade. I'd been kind of a book geek up until that summer of '80 and was socially hung up on the fact that Maria was not a common name, and that my real name was pronounced with the Icelandic rolling R which no one in Cupertino, California seemed to be able to master.

 Even though the US boycotted the 1980 Olympic Games, the name of Romanian gymnast Nadia Comaneci, who scored a perfect 10 in the 1976 Games, was being mentioned as the favorite that year. I remember making the connection between her name and mine, how similar they sounded, and how much more beautiful Madia sounded than Maria.

When Dad encouraged me to try out the new spelling, I did: at the start of each new class in 8th grade I raised my hand and explained to the teacher how I'd be spelling my name, and how to pronounce it. This took serious guts, making a spectacle of myself in front of all my peers, but I was tired of the cocoon I'd been hiding in and wanted to emerge as a butterfly, finally.  It didn't hurt that my sister, Addy, had coerced me into trying out for cheerleading that year, and had coached me so well that I'd made the squad. I was a New Person, book geek no longer, a twelve-year old reinvented to fit the social stage of Hyde Junior High, and later Cupertino High School.

The new name stuck. Out in the States I'll always be Madia Roff. I never changed my name legally, so there's been confusion when the true spelling has been found out. Friends I've known for years who see my drivers license, and the name Maria on it, suddenly get all jumbly and can't pronounce my name. Mardria, Madradia, Madiria, they flub. And then there's the boys I went to junior high with, who thought I was a snot for trying to be different. At the last high school reunion I attended in 1996, I had to chuckle at the fact that the "popular" boys, sixteen years later, still called me Maria, with childish obstinance, and in a pre-teen teasing tone. How cute.

Nowadays I can go to the States and say my name like an Icelander says it, and people say, ahh, ok, no explanation necessary. Unusual names are so common now, and in major metro areas people pride themselves on being international enough to get it the first time around.

Not a big fan of being in front of a camera, but...well here's me ~.~ 

A Pretty Snow Scene, Just for Thor



I feel like I'm expecting that call any day now, the one where my father Thor clears his throat then firmly instructs me that it's time to post a new photo on Iceland Eyes, the last one's getting old. He had that authoritative way about him, but couched in a kind of absolute certainty that what he liked, what he appreciated in this world deserved his full attention and support. So when he felt that

From Dark Days to Shiny Times, Iceland's Seen It All

A quiet moment at the rink, which is usually filled with wobbles and happy laughter


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This year's skate rink down at Ingólfstorg is a far cry from the one I posted a photo of a decade ago. It may be a bit smaller, but it's definitely got more atmo, with all the shiny lights and music filling the Advent-season air. Back in the 2006 post, I mentioned that a storm has come in, a proper wind-and-snow number that walloped the island, Arctic-winter style. This skating rink ice may

Norway Demands to Own an Icelandic Child - in the 21st Century

Leifur Eiríksson standing guard
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A classic shot, and a memorable view for anyone who has traveled here to Reykjavík. This statue of adventurer Leifur Eiriksson ('Leif Eriksson') gifted to Iceland by the US in memory of his travels back in the day, stands brave and tall, silhouetted against an early winter twilight. Son of the famous Eiríkur Rauði, or Erik the Red, who settled Greenland in 986 A.D., and an ancestor of mine 27 generations back, he was also the