Norway - Grytereids Glacier glittering above drifting clouds
( Originally Published 1907 )
Direction—We are facing west. Surroundings—Behind us rises a very steep mountain pasture, where these goats have been feeding.
The shining white above those fleecy clouds is solid ice—a part of the great Jokul (glacier) of Jostedal, the biggest in all Europe. It was just such a Jokul that Boyesen described in that wonderfully beautiful opening chapter of Gunnar, sparkling and glittering under the spring sunshine ; "it was almost merry, for it smiled at the sun's trying to melt it." And it was such a lake as this that he pictured as hearing the swallows tell about far-off lands and about the sea.
The lake waters at our feet have a greenish tinge, and at the same time are somewhat milky in effect, because they hold in suspension so much finely powdered rock-waste washed down from the glaciers that cap its high walls on both banks. That low hill just opposite, on which the farmhouse stands, is an old moraine, or deposit of debris, left there by a glacier of long ago, which evidently once filled the steep valley above. Indeed, we have right before our eyes at this moment a sort of condensed, illustrated history of the material earth on which we live, brought up to date.
Away up there next the sky are big, ragged ridges of the original stuff of which the earth is made, just as it cooled from liquid form, only broken by the con-traction and wrinkling and bulging of the hardened crust. Those clouds floating past are practically the same thing as the storm clouds of winter that blow over the heights in blasts of bitter cold, dropping their watery burden in the form of snow. The glacier, as we know, is snow compacted into solid ice. The moraine down on the lake shore, facing us, is an accumulation of ground-up fragments of rock, torn from the cliffs during the descent of an ancient arm of the glacier, and pulverized under its moving weight, as barley is pulverized under a stone mill-wheel. The mosses and lichens coating the rocks right here at our feet show how vegetation first appears, feeding on bare rock, digesting it and crumbling it, ready to serve as food for plants more critical in their appetite. The grass and bushes over on the moraine in their turn serve as food for browsing goats : the beasts, by means of their own simple, vital processes, turn grass and juicy twigs into milk, flesh and hairy hide, ready for the food and clothing of primitive man.
And over there on the farther bank at the right gleam the walls of a home made by a twentieth century man, who tills the ground with cleverly devised tools, and harnesses the melting waters of the very glacier itself, making them grind his oats and barley.
A little farther southward up the lake on that same west shore, two or three neighbor farms lie close under the mountain on another old glacial moraine, which gives soil for good fields. Our standpoint on the opposite, east bank, is marked 68 (Map 8).