Tag Archives: Simplicity

The Charm of Being Alone in Iceland

One of the seductive things about Iceland (for outsiders) is that the possibility of being completely alone with the Earth, in a completely simplified life, seems to be promised.

Here on the Skagafjörður in mid-December it seems so accessible, too. It’s just an illusion. Sure, you could achieve it, but you would have to change your life, and if you did it would no longer be simple. Do you dare? Do you dare stop and stay there forever, and let everything else go? Well, Icelanders made that choice 1100 years ago, and look how simple their life is, making you feel at home:

Will you walk into the dark?

Alchemical Coffee at the Cloister Farm

Ah, for the writer who has it all, a dream month in East Iceland and all that Icelandic Light, when the weather breaks and it’s time for a dash to the sea in a Japanese car so small that it fits on half the width of an Icelandic gravel road but which is no good in snow or wind, what one needs is an early cup of coffee before heading through the narrow dark line cut through the drifts to the sea. This, my friends, is not what you might expect, and demonstrates some of the improvisation I have learned from Iceland in my time here. Let me lead you through the ritual of matins:

1. The Beans.



Only the Best that “Plus” has to Offer Will Do

The body is a spiritual vessel, remember. Spare no expense. $8 instead of $6. You must.

2. The Sacred Tools

P1430818No! Don’t Touch That Thing. It is There to Deceive!

Well, actually, it needs a diaper (Third drawer down. You’re welcome.), but it’s your choice: pour in 12 cups of water to get 4 cups of coffee… and where do you think the other water goes, hmmm? Your socks will find it.

3. The Choice of a Lifetime

P1430822Oh, oh, oh, oh, How?

Spiritual choices are not supposed to be easy. And look at that cup. What a tease.

4. The Choice

P1430828This is a variation on the Norwegian Coffee on the Back of a Canadian Stove in 1931 Method Perfected by My Grandmother, Who Was Only an Honorary Norwegian, But When You Were Starving You Were Starving, so You Look Like You Need a Cup of Coffee, Dear.

In the original method, a few drops of cold water settle the grounds and you are there! But, it proved to be rather lukewarm coffee, so… improvise!

5. Add the sacred Icelandic waters…


6. Do what Earth does when she spins wool and fate…


7. Attach A Fancy Fishing Net Kind of Device to  the Other Coffee Pot…

P1430832Well, it’s a bit of a strain and a shaky balance. You’d think it was meant to go in that temptress of a machine in the back or something. Be firm! Be resolute! Have faith!

8. Now for the Alchemy …


9. Now for Some Technological Suspense …


Is That All?

Wasn’t I promised Extra? Ah, you were, but look at the steam! That’s nice. Warm, like. 

10. The Great Pour


No Starbucks Barrista Could Do This For You.

For this, you have to come to Skriðuklaustur, where every day your learning begins.

11. The Moment of Truth…

gullYou Made it to the Sea!