Monday, July 2, 2007

The Rest of the Trip

We had trouble with our adapter and had no power for the computer. I, however, took copious notes and sketches and can finish the Iceland blog fully powered from the steelcase desk in my office.

Saturday June 23.
There has been a pattern to our days here. A day of indoor elucidation followed by a day of outdoor excursions, followed by another day of lectures. We've been very lucky with the weather. Today we went outside and sat on the front steps of Kithagil (Phonetic spellings as I don't have Icelandic letters on my keyboard) to receive our education. As we listened to papers on curatorial philosophy and Jeep culture in Iceland, Iceland stole the show. The mountains as background, a river flowing through the flat glacial cut valley, swans flew by in pairs to land and graze in the new grass.
After lunch we went inside to discuss early Icelandic views of nature, not surprisingly dominated by the sense of nature as being malevolent-volcanoes the maws of hell, blizzards whipped up by glaciers. Yet appreciation- The bard of Iceland, Jonas Halgrimsson wrote: "Thou wonderful medly of frost and fire-where fell peaks and plains, skree and oceanwaves meet-how far to new art there and wondrously dire-glaciers, fire at our feet."
Late that night, or early in the morning, after a great deal of conversation, and wine (13.00 per mini bottle of-gulp-Sutter home) with the sun still up in Icelandic June, I belted out a very messy rendition of Red River Valley on my harmonica, Chad singing along.

Sunday June 24
Louis and I went running this morning along the gravel road down to the bridge, along the river. It was good going, but coming back the wind was against us and by the time I'd returned, my arms ached with the cold, my face and legs bright red.

After breakfast ( muesli with skyr -a yogurt type product- and jam) we boarded a bus for the river heath to see ruins of an old farm. Volcanic rock foundation with turf walls. These places were often not heated, relying on the body heat of the inhabitants for warmth. It is hard to imagine spending an Icelandic winter in those conditions, the night unrelenting.
The heath was so soft in the area, the grasses hummocked and thick, it was like walking on the back of a gigantic sheep.

Next, Lake Myvatn, Midge Lake. We were lucky that the wind was brisk and we did not have to fight the midges. Further, the cold made us all the more happy when we went to the geothermic spa. We rented towels, showered and then waded into the hot water, black volcanic sand at our feet. The pool of water was considerably hotter toward the source. People situated themselves accordingly. I, predictably, stayed at the hot end, though the temperature fluctuated and every so often those of us soaking up the heat would shriek and flee a scalding stream. It was like being in the shower when someone turns the dishwasher on.

I think the combination of midges, the cold, and the steaming waters stirred something up, loosened constraints, as by the time we got back on the bus, things were getting crazy. The Brits in the back were telling jokes like, "Do you smoke after sex? I don't know, I never checked." After dinner (more Sutter Home or boxed wine the Icelanders called the cow) it only got more strange. As a tribute to Vithar and his lecture on "The Crucifiction of Sheep" several workshop participants did animals calls. One called Moose, another called the chickens, someone called the cows and I (yes) did my pig call. ("Soooooooey, pig, pig, pig", or the more Anglo Saxon, "Hey Pig, pig, pig!") That was strange enough, but then someone called "Mo-om!" Another said she pretended to be a dog when she was a child and, barking, chased a scribal scholar around the table and two professors pretended to be trees who said nothing when they were cut down by another.
Then the dancing started. Punk mosh dancing confused me (bruised me) and after getting shoved around thinking that this was some sort of Icelandic tradition, I sat down. The Icelandic punkdancer then threw the guy from Canada over her head jujitsu style and he landed flat on his back on the dance floor. He wasn't injured. Once all could see he would walk again, thought it hilarious. By the evening's end someone had been bitten, someone had passed out on the couch and someone had informed me that her husband's pet name for her was "hedgehog."

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