Postcard #3 – Iceland

October 13, 2014 at 8:20 am (Uncategorized) (, , )

At first I thought it was art.

I’d been wandering around the gallery space for inspiration, picking up pieces and turning them over. Previous artists had left their work on the shelves and benches, souvenirs of their time in this cold, white land. My hands kept coming back to this though; spindly spokes from a circular disk, held together with twine. I placed it on my desk, next to my red notebook. Then I wrote some more.

Cilla caught sight of it when she came out of her studio, hands sticky with paper mache. ‘Do you know who this is from?’ I asked.

It must’ve been hard not to laugh, but she managed it.

‘It’s not art, Rijn – it’s dolphin vertabrae.’

I stared at it, and bent closer.

‘We found them washed up on the beach just before you came.’

I was even more fascinated now. ‘So what’s holding them together isn’t twine, it’s…sinews of some kind?’

She nodded, then tilted her head towards the shelves. ‘And that’s its skull.’

I stood for quite a while in front of the head, running my fingers over the chalky sockets and grooves. Sometimes, I get so entranced by the sensory experiences of Iceland that I forget to write.

But something always reminds me.




I walk in the snow a lot. I have a favourite part of town, down by the harbour. Yesterday I got spellbound by the sounds and just stood there, unmoving, eyes closed. I heard ducks in a furious argument, and a loud clattering of metal from somewhere inside the fish factory. I moved from foot to foot to keep warm,and listened to the crunch of my boots against the snow. The gentle creaking of the ropes mooring boats to the dock was soothing. And I imagined a neighbour peering out of their window at this strange redheaded woman, standing with hood up and eyes closed, as they shook their heads and said ‘She’s doing it again, Björn.’


On Friday I caught the school bus into the next village, Siglufjörður. When I say that my village is isolated, I mean it. There’s one tunnel cutting through the mountain from the south, and another through to the north, so that we sit snugly in the middle, tucked deep in an Icelandic pocket. And I realised how quickly I’d become accustomed to the space, the silence and the solitude of my village, when I ended up in Siglufjörður’s cafe.


It’s not a big town, not at all. But when it hit midday, the doors opened and the trickle of customers became a gentle stream. I watched them chat as they picked up their plates and headed for the buffet lunch. My face began to flush. The door kept opening, and I felt my heartbeat quicken. So many people! My gloved hands curled into balls in my lap. So…so loud. I suddenly needed to lie down in a quiet room. I hurried for the bus stop as fast as my heavy boots would allow me.

I mean, there were at least twenty people in that cafe, I told a Melbourne friend later that night from the safety of my bedroom. I needed a nap after all that excitement.

I have always thought of myself as a city girl. I grew up in the mountains outside Melbourne, with wombats trudging through the rainforest and kookaburras singing each evening. It was undeniably beautiful. I hated every moment. I ran off to Belgium at 17, living above a shop on a main boulevard, soaking up the energy from my windowsill with wide eyes. For the next twenty years I bounced back and forth between inner city homes in both Melbourne and Brussels, always within reach of a tram stop or 3am falafel. I have never really stood with my feet in the dirt, no make up on and no phone nearby, and thought, I am happy to stay here.

This feels so good.

Until now.


There is blissful solitude, but company can be lovely too. On Friday we threw a party for all the Listhús  artists and managers. There was smoked lamb and cheap Icelandic beer, and lollies with names like Hraun and Lakkrís. I sat with my little red notebook and wrote down Siggi’s stories of Viking ancestors, witch burnings and homemade moonshine.



I asked about the avalanche barricades high up on the mountain peak, reminding me of the sinister Forbidden Zone in ‘Planet of the Apes’ as I drank brandy from Oranje’s hip flask. And each and every time I went to get more chips, or a clean glass, I slipped outside to stare up and hope, yet again, for a smear of green against the night sky.

Still hasn’t happened.

But like I promised, I’ll come get you when it does.



  1. Matthew Dalton said,

    Those skies….

    • inkymouth said,

      Sometimes it’s difficult to tell where the mountains end and the sky begins, Matthew, such is the white.

  2. Holly Ringland said,

    Ohhhhh I loved this postcard, honey. Absolutely gorgeous. Such an incredible and rich experience you’ve created for yourself. I am so proud. So. Proud. What a wonderful thing to have happen in your life this year. All that’s missing is a honk here or there. Lucky I can send you those via live recording.


    Love you.



    • inkymouth said,

      You know these postcards are primarily for me, Holls…little gingerbread crumbs so I can always, always find my way back here, to this moment. But somehow, I don’t think I could ever forget.

      What’s Icelandic for honk? x x

  3. Dorie Mol said,

    Dear Rijn, I love solitude… with people inbetween off course. The area is beautiful, but I couldn’t handle that much white around me. Glad you are enjoying it, and I enjoy reading your postcards. Enjoy!

    • inkymouth said,

      Dorie, when I get back to Australia, it will be to heat waves and scorched grass, icy beers and chlorine lingering on skin. I want to soak up all the white I can while I’m here! I already know how much I’m going to miss it.

  4. Jessica Tremp said,

    I so wish I was there with you x

  5. Duncan Waldron said,

    I’m enjoying this vicarious Iceland. Just so you know 🙂

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