Author Archives: Harold Rhenisch

About Harold Rhenisch

www.haroldrhenisch.com

Beautiful Systrafoss

Back in the days before lava covered the best of Iceland and people had to move up onto the hills with their sheep…

… the priests of Kirkjubær …

The basalt column marks the old church.

… were famous for keeping a group of nuns, well, orphan girls for the most part, over at Kirkubærjarklaustur, for the pleasure that could be gained from that …

 

… in just the place the Irish monks who were on Iceland before the Icelanders were camping out in caves in the cliffs and living off bird eggs and then abandoned because a bunch of noisy pagans and their Irish women (slaves aka wives) had moved into town, and I wonder, you know, if they didn’t choose the place because the falls are like a bridal veil.

Systrafoss

… that flows down the hill separately, splits around the rock (fine Christian symbolism there) and then unites as one before flowing through the cloister. We’ll never know, but we do know that the young women were set to work embroidering cloth, and that Icelandic cloth was the best in the world. It would be a surprise if the amorous priests missed out on the symbolism, or didn’t point it out to the girls left in their charge. At any rate, the falls are beautiful, and richer for a history older than Iceland, even though the lava took all the best land away, some say to punish those lascivious priests.

Still, the land’s still good enough for zipping through on a tractor, so all is not lost.

Reykjavik’s Wall Against the Cold

Why does Reykjavik build a wall to separate itself from Iceland?

To keep back the sea, perhaps. On an island, this may be the way: one is always blocked by water. It can be comforting. As things evolve, however, blocking behaviour become internalized, and then when your colonizers give you cars, why, you can always drive around, right? There remains no price for blocking … or does there? Or does “driving around” still not untie an old, old knot?

The Amazing Survival of Fishing Culture in Downtown Reyjkavik

Just think of her all day, staring out at that black gable, and dreaming of real life, with her fur hair and her golden elf scarf.

Tax free, too. With butterflies. Icelandic shopkeepers really know how to adapt fishing technology to the new international tourism schools!

The Hunt for the Best Art Gallery in Iceland

Is it goofing around with a culvert at Grandatorg?

Or lunch at the Kjarvalstaðir gallery?

Or goofing around with shop windows on Laugavegur?

Or just goofing around at Laugarnestangi as the sun comes up over Viðey?

Or a goofy farmer’s field on the way to Dettifoss?

Or a whole town goofing off at Kópasker?

Or an aluminum smelter buying allegiance with a pretty thing on Sæbraut?

Or doing more with less on Laugavegur because you need more with your less?

Or just goofing off with a little bit of security magic on Frakkastígur?

 

Or the painting amusing themselves at Kjarvalstaðir, because everyone has come to lunch with old friends, and the paintings are certainly old friends.


Or outdoing Mondrian in a sheep farm in the Fljótsdalur?

Or some weird kind of planting flowers to give children hope in front of some everybody-comes-to-Iceland-with-spray-cans-now-that-the-building-sites-have-been-abandoned-after-the-financial-meltdown, because what else?

Or politics? Is it an art gallery, too?

It’s the cigarette tin, right?

No, wait, it’s the riding stable signage in Akureyri!

No, wait! It’s spilled paint and a stick on a parking lot!

It never ends. Icelanders are a pretty serious looking bunch, even Björk, and they write about gruesome murders and stuff, and their novelists kill off all their heroes and heroines just because, but don’t believe it, because they’re always goofing off, with a straight face. Do you think the horses taught them about this, in those centuries of isolation?

Well, maybe not the straight face part.

Everyone Can be a Faded Polaroid at the Harpa and Dance with Yoko Ono Now

There is beautiful light in Iceland…

.

… and I mean really beautiful light …

… but tourism survives on images, so the great opera hall, the Harpa, allows anyone to view others as if they are in a faded Polaroid shot from the 1970s …

… or an Agfa shot from the 1960s.

This retro thing, this notion of quoting the landscape in the very moment one observes it, is something the Icelanders learned in graduate school in New York, London and Berlin. It’s charming, but remember …

… every wave that goes to sea in Skagafjörður leaves behind a space for beautiful light. It’s like the sun is right there, you know.

Hólar in the Spring

It is.