Pictures I Didn’t Take

There are some things that I would like to show you about the Faroe Islands, but I can’t take a picture of them that really does them justice.

  • Storms when the wind blows the waterfalls up hill, rather than down.
  • A still, foggy summer night when everything is quiet and sounds are muffled, and the silence is interrupted by birds on the steep hillsides arguing over the best places to sleep for an hour or two.
  • Walking along a deserted road late at night, when people, animals, and birds all seem to be asleep, when a startled bird flies up from its nest beside the road.
  • Same road, same night, everything silent and muffled, and I pass a hay shed in the shadows beside the road and surprise a grazing pony, who neighs loudly in my ears – BWAAAH HAAAH HAAAH Haaah bwaaah haaah haaa….
  • When I open my window late at night to take a picture of the night sky or the mountains or the ships, the only sound I hear is the water on the other side of my fence swishing back and forth in the seaweed.
  • Have you ever had several dozen birds flying in the sky over your head, dipping, diving, swooping, and squawking, trying to scare you away from their nesting grounds?
  • Night and Day

    We have had several lovely days this week, and usually the nights are even more lovely. Even though I have often been here in the Faroe Islands during June and July, I still find the long summer days remarkable. The sun sets somewhere on the other side of the mountain at about 11:30 p.m., but it doesn’t ever go very far below the horizon before it starts to rise again. It seems that often, late at night, the winds die down and the clouds disappear, and everything is calm and beautiful. So here is Fuglafjørður, night and day.

    Up the Mountain Side

    In early June I went up the mountain side with a neighbor, who was going up to mark a new-born lamb. Most lambs are born from late April to the end of May, but this one waited until the first week of June, after the sheep had all been moved back up to the high mountain fields.

    I only went part way up the mountain, then I sat on a rock and waited, surrounded by several curious ewes and their lambs, who were sure that I must have come up the mountain to bring them food. Eventually, I convinced them that I didn’t have anything, and they left me alone. Meanwhile the fog came over the mountain and down the hillsides, making it difficult for my neighbor to find his new lamb. I got cold sitting on a rock, and as soon as I stood up and started to move around, some sheep several fields away saw me and came running, their lambs following them. These ewes were very sure that I must have something for them. Since I don’t speak their language, I couldn’t tell them that all I had in my pockets were a camera and some tissues.

    When lambs are born, the owners must mark them in the first day or so, because after that, the lambs are too fast and are nearly impossible to catch. One ear is tagged with a plastic clip that has the owner’s phone number, and the other ear is notched with a distinctive pattern unique to the owner.

    Several days ago, on a rare June day when it wasn’t raining, I made an attempt to walk up the trail to the pass between the two mountains. I have heard a rumor that the trail goes over the mountain to Hellur. I didn’t ever find the trail, but I did climb a ways up the mountain before I gave up. Even though it wasn’t raining, there were hundreds of small creeks running down the mountain, and I was forever jumping creeks or climbing fences. Eventually a little cloud came over the mountain pass and dropped a few rain drops on me, and I used that as an excuse to retreat back down the mountain. When I got near the bottom of the hill, I couldn’t remember how to find the street that says there is a trail to the pass, and after walking back and forth for a while, I finally just walked through someone’s garden, around the house, and down their front steps to get to the street where I had left my car. Some day I will climb to the top of the pass.

    Nothing in Particular

    Here are some pictures about nothing in particular that I took when there wasn’t really anything going on.

    First are a few pictures of people in and about Fuglafjørður – the young and the old. I actually seem to know a lot of people in this town.

    With rain returning during the last week or two, everything is turning so green, and the wild flowers are blooming everywhere. I especially love the tiny orchids. You have to get so close to them to see what they are. Each plant is just a couple of inches tall. The yellow sólya and white daisies are everywhere.

    After sunny, clear weather for most of May, normal Faroese summer weather has returned, which means a lot of rain, intermittent fog, and occasional brief patches of blue sky. It is only fair to show you the weather when it isn’t perfect, not just when the skies are blue.

    Tórshavn

    Recently I have made several trips to Tórshavn, the capital city of the Faroes, and one sunny day I spent some time walking along the waterfront and the old part of town. Tinganes, a rocky point of land in the harbor, has been the seat of the Faroese government since some time in the 900’s. The dark red government buildings on Tinganes are a Tórshavn landmark.

    There are several large marinas filled with small boats on both sides of Tinganes. The ferry terminal nearby is used by the Smyril ferry, which makes daily trips to Suðuroy, the most southern of the Faroe Islands. The Norrøna also uses the same ferry terminal. It is a larger ferry which makes weekly trips between the Faroe Islands and Iceland, Norway, Denmark, and Scotland; and it stops in the Faroes four times a week. Near the harbor area are the shops and businesses of downtown Tórshavn.

    Trees in Fuglafjørður

    There are trees in the Faroe Islands, lots and lots of trees.

    I have mentioned several times that there are no trees on the hillsides or mountains in the Faroes, but that doesn’t mean that there are no trees. Here are twentyfour pictures of trees in gardens in Fuglafjørður, which I took during a short walk around the town. There are many, many beautiful trees and several small forests in this town, and many of them look as though they have been here for many years. Sorry I don’t know the names of the trees. I didn’t even ask anyone the names, because I wouldn’t have understood the answer in Faroese, anyway.

    Saturday Night

    What were you doing on Saturday night? Here is what I was doing.

    At about 11:30 p.m., I was in a strange city standing in the rain in a parking lot behind a temporary platform waiting for the brass band (called a “horn orchestra”) to pack up their instruments to make room on the stage for the choir. Our choir sang in a language that I don’t really understand and that is pretty much unpronounceable for an American tongue. We started with a centuries old ballad about brave Norse men sailing from their homeland over the salty sea, enduring many dangers (or something like that). We sang about being homesick for the green days of spring, about fishing along the beach in summer, about the green hillsides and the blue fjords, and we sang a song of praise to God. During our thirty minute concert, the rain and wind increased and so did the crowd. By the time we were done, our music was soaking wet and there were about 200 people standing in the rain – people of all ages, from babies in prams and little children running around, to their parents and grandparents.

    On a night like this, I ask myself,

    What am I doing here, and how in the world did I get here?

    The short answer is that I drove in my rented car from my rented house in Fuglafjørður, over the pass near Kambsdalur, through the tunnel to Leirvík, through the long tunnel that goes down, down, down, under the ocean sound, and down a little more, and then up, up, up, and up a little more to the city of Klaksvík, on the neighboring island.

    The real answer is a little more complicated. Eleven years ago, this month, I made my first visit to these islands, the Faroe Islands, far, far north in the Atlantic, to the place where my father was born. From the first, I was fascinated by the islands, the scenery, the people, and the culture. And I keep coming back. Over time, the fascination has grown to a love of this place and these people. This visit is my ninth trip in eleven years, but don’t you think that the time I stayed for thirteen months should count for more than one visit?

    Now, whenever I visit the Faroes, I sing with the choir, or sometimes with two choirs, and we were invited to sing for the Klaksvík festival. That is how I came to be singing in the rain in a foreign language in the middle of the night in a strange city on an island far north in the Atlantic Ocean.

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