Tag Archives: East Iceland

Lessons from a Poet’s House

Kristján Einarsson lived here in Djupalæk.

It’s a bit more exposed than a North American or Continental poet’s house. Here’s the kind of poem you write in a place like this:

Strings

Stones are strings.
The water makes them roar.
Its a delight to know
What lives in the mind of water…

Kristján

Mind you, water is tight these days:

Lots in the Atlantic, but for fresh water for the sheep, it has to be brought in in plastic tanks. Even though it falls, almost daily, from the sky. Isn’t this the real poverty and isolation?

Some Mountains Aren’t Nice (But Say Hello, Anyway)

Throwing stuff at you all the time, and everything.

Quite endearing, really. So, this exclusion is really attractive to humans. We can really identify with it. So what do we do? Build a road so we can dump two piles of gravel at the end of it, just to say hello.

Well, in mountain language, that is.

~

Welcome to the East.

Big Game in Iceland

Not elephants. Bigger. You can spot one in the distance, looming down on Höfn.

Papafjörður

We call them glaciers now, but, come on. Look at it! The Icelanders call them Jöklar. It’s an interesting word. Kayak is the same word. So is a jacket. So is, believe it or not, an ice floe, or even a little iceberg floating in the fjord. A white-capped wave is also the same word. Perhaps you can see the commonality. For a sea-going people, these are waves on the land, and what is a wave but a swell, a well or a welling, and, when it approaches land, a breaker. Look at it break up there! The Germans put it very well. To them, the line of waves breaking on a shore is a Brandung, a “burning.” If you wonder why, just light a fire then throw a bucket of water on it. That’s the spirit of these big spirit animals that haunt Iceland. Humans eke out an existence at their feet, always with a view into the other world. it is never far.

The Bones of Petroleum as an Art Form in Iceland

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…

The Road of the Speeding Camper Vans Crosses the Seal River and Hurtles On

… 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.

Sómastaðir
The oldest stone house in Iceland, rebuilt by Alcoa, and now a National Historic Site, stranded from the sea by the smelter behind it.

The result was a new East Coast built from lagoons and long, black sand beaches…

Your average coastal farm is a long way from the Atlantic now!

…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.

Reykjavik after the economic crisis.

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…

What passes for a sheep pasture today in Starmyrí, as the winds of a changing petroclimate take all the soil away.

… 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!

Spring Fun With Old Friends and New Ones on the Jökullsá

Since the raven and her mate circled around all the time, keeping an eye on things, one day at Skriðuklaustur, when the geese arrived to wait for spring, I sat down on a hill and waited to catch the raven, framed by the geese! What fun! Gunnar’s house is a happening place, out there in East Iceland, I tell ya!

Alas, I failed. While I was waiting, the geese kind of waddled around honking a bit and closed my frame, and the raven was, well, quick! So, not centred. Well, ravens and humans are like that, eh. I’m thinking that the geese are not amused by either of us