When Gunnar wrote the shore of life in 1915 and noted the land is ringed with a deadly surf, that one must cross, either for fish or for the world and back home again for shelter, I think he had the eiðars in mind. Look at them here in Neskaupstaðir, fishing with their chicks in the swells. Some of the chicks get tossed a metre into the air, and then dragged down a metre under the waves.
And yet they must be here. If I’m right, this is Gunnar’s image of World War I. So much has gone into portrayals of its butchery and horror and senselessness for a century now. At the time, to deal with his own horror, Gunnar chose an image of life, and one at the heart of the Icelandic soul.
The Shore of Life.Gunnar wrote and published in Danish. Most copies, however, were in German.
Who cares if the forest is only 40 centimetres high.
Nothing beats an Icelandic willow forest for beauty and delight. Oh, the birches and the rowans have their mysteries and dreams, but the willows are just pools of delight making the world a better place. I hope you get to sit down beside one some day and chat!
I once asked a waitress in Reykjavik why Icelandic lamb was so superior. “It’s the berries,” she said.
Well, a lamb dinner in a nice restaurant in Reykjavik, like the Apotek …
… is going to cost CAD$65 for the main course alone, so, you know, $260 all-in for two. For this reason, there are bilberries, which are free for all who wish to marinate themselves in the rain and the wind. Highly recommended.
In winter, there are no bilberries. And no lambs. You’re on your own.
Once there were fuel stations for travellers. They were built on farms and were the modern equivalent of a service economy that had sustained wealthy farms for many hundreds of years. Some even had garage and tire services and predated the Ring Road of Dutch Camper Company fame. Many of the country hotels in Iceland still follow this old model of serving travellers on farms. The fuel stations are gone now as working centres, though. The more remote of them have been replaced with a lone pump, an automatic card reader, a light, and the bright sign of a national chain in a corner of a field. Not at Starmyri, though!
This translation of a bustling service centre on a rich farm is a bitter story. Once on the gravel road north along the East Coast from Höfn, with valuable shore rights at the mouth of the Seal River…
… and a good, sheltered landing, it was isolated by the sea by black sand drifting south by rivers re-engineered in the North during the diversion to create the hydroelectric power for the aluminum smelter in Reyðarfjörður.
The result was a new East Coast built from lagoons and long, black sand beaches…
…beloved of tourists and useless for farms that live in 1100 years of time, not the continually re-occurring present and fictional pasts and futures of 21st century time.
Still, as you can see…
… the whale bones of an older past keep it company now, as if they were the busts of roman senators on their plinths. This is beautiful art-making. You can see 1100 years of life at once.
Whatever Siberian forest this tree grew in before washing west and south and landing on the Starymyri shore, I bet it never expected to achieve eternity like this! And, yes, at Starmyri, where the sheep pastures have eroded away in the wind…
… the shore is blocked by industrial sand, shore rights are extinguished and the road has been moved away from the farmyard, the farm still manages to draw sustenance from travellers.
Each cabin offers an ideal Iceland, framed as a work of art.
Like many important things in Iceland, you have to find the history yourself, on the principle that you only need to know what you need to know and if you find something else, then you know and don’t need to be told, in this country that dresses up as pristine nature, her newest artistic dress.
An old farmer built this artwork in his retirement. The family keeps it in his memory. What a clever man!