A Missed Artistic Opportunity in West Iceland

So, you’re an artist and you meet a blank canvas under the volcano. What are you going to put on it?

On the Dagdeverðerá by Malaríf

This?

Granted, there’s not much light at the winter solstice, but, hey, you probably did it in the summer, so would you paint this?

Maybe if the original owners had been able to spray paint their love on their walls, they wouldn’t have given up in the gloom and moved to Canada.

Catching the Sun

When the wind blows at hurricane force, it lifts the cloud from Snæfellsjökull. The glacier on the volcano’s peak captures the sun and beams it up to the clouds.

This is one of the central images from my new book: Landings: Poems from Iceland. It contains poems written on a trip across Iceland. Many were written in Grundarfjörður, after this glorious day trying to stay vertical in the lava fields.

An Old Gate Post Without A Farm

If you explore old farm sites in remote areas in Iceland, you will find boulders, set at the boundary of a tun, a house field manured from a barn. This, in Icelandic culture, is a yard, or garden. A pretty special place. With a boulder.

These boulders are all chosen. Many have animal shapes. Many of those are ravens. Some are dwarf stones. Here on the old road up to Vatnjökull from the Fljótsdalur, it’s a raven, which is fitting, because when you walk up the trail, the ravens are watching the whole time, to see if you’re going to tumble down into the gorge and become lunch. it’s best to honour wise creatures like that.

A Little East Icelandic Shopping, Anyone?

Krosshöfði

Before there was Egilsstaðir, the service and shopping hub for East Iceland, there was Óshöfn in Krosshöfði. Alas, the harbour filled in. That’s it in the centre of the image below.

But back in the day, it was a h happening place. Men would travel perhaps a week with their horses to pick up the shopping here.

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1904: Those people of Hérað who so wish, can have any sort of groceries delivered to Öshöfn next March-April, providing that they deliver their orders to the store in Bakkagerði, Borgarfjörður before the New Year.

Bakkagerði is in the second fjörd to the south. Hérað is a vast district in the East, including Gunnar Gunnarsson’s childhood home at ValÞjófsstaðir, a long five days’ ride to the East. Chances are, the walnut he received for Christmas as a boy, which he broke in half and made into a boat, which he sailed down the pastorage stream, dreaming of going to sea, came from here.

The land has other ideas.

A Cold Day, and a Warm One at Buðir

December 21 is a cold day in Buðir, with not much light. It’s a day when a little human light works wonders.

Distant shots are often better than closeups.

And look what it achieves! By June 21, everything is light.

It works the other way. If you don’t honour the midsummer troll, you don’t honour the midwinter dark, or light up the night to make way for the sun. It’s just the way it is.