Postcard #5 – Iceland

October 30, 2014 at 2:41 am (Uncategorized) (, , )

The sound was amazing. It was different to rain in a way I couldn’t quite put my finger on. At one point I opened the door to get a better look – yet another of my wide eyed rookie mistakes – and was sent flying backwards by the gust of white that came rushing in.

It lasted the whole night through. IMG_6119

I kept waking to peek out the window, but all I could see was a ferocious white flurry. The snowstorm whirled so fast it almost looked like we were moving, picked up in the eye of the hurricane and hurled through the night sky. I woke early, eager to see if we’d been flung down a hundred miles from the tiny Icelandic fishing village I’d been calling home, and tiptoed to the front door. The outward opening front door.

Ah. Problem.

The snow was thigh high. I couldn’t open the door more than an inch. I had a moment of anxiety, quickly replaced by a rush of sheer glee. I started hollering ‘Snowed in! We’re snowed in!’ and then went barrelling through the house like my cat with an attack of the sillies. A built in excuse to curl up in my studio, drink coffee, listen to Howlin’ Wolf, and not have to come up for air – the perfect day! And what if – just saying – there was also a snowstorm when I had to leave later that week? It would be like Iceland saying she didn’t want me to go. And let me tell you…I would not have argued.

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It’s been incredibly liberating to be given a studio, and be expected to write. Sometimes at home in Melbourne I’ve been made to feel guilty for putting a deadline before a dinner party, as though if I really tried, I could put that pen down and play nice for once. Here, I eat my blackberries and skyr for breakfast, a curdled Icelandic yogurt, pick up my coffee cup, and shut my studio door. No-one questions me; my phone doesn’t ring. I just sit, stare up at the mountains, and write. Sometimes I take my notebook outside and curl up on a bench near the horses, or a rock at the harbour.

It’s pure serenity, in a way I’ve rarely experienced.

bench

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Iceland is fierce, wild and utterly bewitching. My first week I was invited to a town meeting to discuss ‘the avalanche issue’, and I once jumped on a school bus and rode almost 40 kilometres just to get a bottle of wine. I’ve loved this entire month, and this unforgettable country.

Discussing Icelandic idioms with Siggi, who can trace his ancestors back to the year 700, I learned that ‘I’ll take you to the bakery!’ is quite the threat here. I was eating pancakes at the time, and had to say that the prospect of a trip to the bakery hardly instilled fear in me.

‘And that works as an actual threat?’ I asked, somewhat dubious.

‘Ja, it’s the trigger for many a punch up. You can also threaten to ‘let someone feel the teawater”, he grinned.

I almost choked on the brown sugar topping on my pancake.

‘Ooh, so first you’re going to take me to the bakery, then make me a cup of tea? Ouch! Make it stop!’

I love this quirky as hell language, and Icelanders’ pride in it and their long storytelling heritage. I love the crunch of snow underfoot, and more shades of white than I even knew existed. I love nodding ‘Góður dagur’ to villagers and eating skyr for breakfast, building my first snowman and standing under the northern lights with my mouth open in wonder. And I will always love the memory of pouring out words in my studio, stories already accepted and even commissioned, with snow dropping gently past my window.

This has been, in all honesty, one of the happiest times of my life, and though I write these posts to share my experience, these postcards are really for me, to return to again and again. And again.

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My last night in Ólafsfjörður, I ran outside to pat a dog, and got talking to Lenka, a local. She exclaimed ‘It’s your last night? Come over for goodbye drinks!’ and pointed out her house. Sigrid and I spent the evening with Lenka and her lovely husband Eggert, eating figs and sunflower seeds, drinking potent Ukrainian cognac and discussing art and Iceland.

It was a perfect way to spend my last night. Every now and then though, I’d check the window for snowflakes, wishing and hoping that Iceland would want to keep me there as much as I wanted to stay.

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5 Comments

  1. thenoveilst said,

    Nice 🙂

    • inkymouth said,

      Thank you so much – and I’m sorry I didn’t notice this comment until now. I haven’t wanted to check my blog because I knew it would make me ‘homesick’ for Iceland…which it definitely has! A sultry Australian summer is my fate instead, it seems. Thanks for reading 🙂

      • thenoveilst said,

        That’s ok; my pleasure. I used to live in Australia. The weather, at least, is good there 🙂

  2. gretchen said,

    This sang to my heart. Congratulations on your new pieces, both written word and the tiny pieces of soul that only truly intertwine nodding ‘Góður dagur’ to Icelandic villagers. Can’t wait to read your latest darling. x

    • inkymouth said,

      Thanks so much, sweetheart…hope New York is treating you well. Maybe one day we’ll be back in Europe together again, swilling vodka, swooning at pierogi, and being able to hear each other laugh again x

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