Anthem

July 31, 2017 at 8:37 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , )

I’ve been thinking about beautiful things lately.

One of my stories, ‘Akathisia’, has just been published in the Beautiful Things column of River Teeth. This gorgeous literary journal of non-fiction narrative is one I’ve long admired, and this column is a perfect example why. It celebrates the golden moments in life: ‘the glimmers, reflections, river shimmers, keyholes, and cracks where the light gets in.’ I’m so honoured to have my work published by them, and recommend you go take a peek through some of their stories.

The column has inspired me to reflect on the beautiful moments in my life…and lord, there are so many.

  • Watching winter light pass through my writing room, and the gaze (and occasionally, the gentle snores) of my cat as she accompanies me.
  • Listening to the glorious voice of Mahalia Jackson in those moments I feel my balance faltering. For a punk little pagan, I sure do love my gospel music.
  • That email from an editor saying ‘Yes, yes, we love your work: we want to publish it.’ Nothing. Like. That. Feeling. In. The.World.
  • Walking in the forest behind my Wolf and his Cub, watching their animated conversation in the most gorgeous light, and feeling so privileged to be part of their journey.
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Ms Marlow, familiar and judge of procrastinating dance outbursts 

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Mount Macedon majesty

  • Standing knee deep in snow again outside my first writing residency, up near the Arctic Circle in Iceland, that most treasured of sacred spaces for me.
  • Workshopping my novel with the Wolf, also a writer, with a scarlet sunset outside, a jug of creamy stout on the table between us, and his hand on my thigh.
  • Seeing the joy on my nephews’ faces as they run towards me, calling my name.
  • The industrial edge of my new home in the west of Melbourne, and the enormous bridge at the end of my street that I always stop and smile at.
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Siglufjörður, far northern Iceland

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Spotswood sunset for scribes

  • The fur, feathers, skulls and skins in my writing studio, tracing the journey of the protagonist in my novel, and by extension, expanding my collection.
  • Watching my beloved best friend’s dimples flash on a cliff top in Italy in April, glass of sweet wine in hand, plate of lemon peel pasta in front of me, and the most extraordinary of ocean views before us.
  • Reuniting this week with an old pen pal from twenty years ago, who once took me in and showed me around Hollywood, and whom I’d always rued losing touch with. Bless the internet! The Pagan Profiles website introduced us all those years ago, and filling in the blanks of each other’s lives since will be a joyous journey. I already have an invitation back to LA, and I just might take it. The power of letters cannot be underestimated.
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Studio snake skins and skull

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The Amalfi Coast, shared with my beloved and her dimples

The story of mine just published in the Beautiful Things column is my 101st published, performed or produced story. There are always days where rejection letters hit the heart, where the pen falters and pages remain blank, or criss-crossed with the red lines that say ‘I doubt this, I doubt that, and I doubt myself.’ But when I read River Teeth’s description of the stories they publish in the column, I’m reminded of Leonard Cohen, and his wise words.

Even his pen must have faltered sometimes, but he still knew to pick it back up again.

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in

Leonard Cohen – ‘Anthem’

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Medusa knows best

May 30, 2017 at 10:55 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , )

My friends are particularly adept at selecting stellar gifts for me. These range from a taxidermy workshop to Culture Club concert tickets, a bat skeleton to a tattoo design. An artist friend drew me an astounding Medusa for my thirtieth birthday; she decorates my left arm with her mesmerising stare and defiant pose, reminding me whenever I need it most how to straighten my own spine.

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Icelandic fortune cards found at a Reykjavik flea market: ‘Let go of it.’

This present, however, was not on my birthday but as a random I-love-you-and-I-thought-this-would-make-you-happy gift.

The Wolf bought me a DNA test.

I’ve always known my heritage to be Celtic. My grandfather was from Belfast, and passed on to me both an adoration of books, and an Irish passport, in addition to my Australian one. I overdosed on the Pogues and Van Morrison by working in an Irish pub for almost a decade, and studied Gaelic for years (although it’s so challenging that all I can do now is order a Guinness, and tell someone to fuck off – a heady combination).

But while I’m deeply grateful to be able to travel so easily through Europe, it’s not Ireland or the UK that I’m drawn to.

I head for the fjords, every time.

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Ólafsfjörður, northern Iceland

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Siglufjörður, northern Iceland

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Akureyri, northern Iceland

I’m so smitten by the snowy lands; always have been. Last month I returned from my beloved Iceland, with my Wolf and best friend Lisa in tow. We drove from one side of the country to the other on ice slicked roads in gale force winds, Lisa and I sharing capfuls of duty free vodka to stem the nerves. I showed them the tiny fishing village up near the Arctic Circle where I did my first writing residency, and where my novel ends (or will, when I finish it, all muses considered). I walked around Siglufjörður and Ólafsfjörður in my army boots and red riding hood, tracing where my protagonist eats, drinks and dreams, and then headed to Reykjavik to consider her stomping ground down south.

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The street in Reykjavik where Elva lives, the protagonist in my novel

It was my fifth time in Reykjavik. The city – and country – spellbinds me. The bright primary colours of the buildings, the veneration of literature and language, the crunch of boots on snow, the glorious northern light, the stench of sulphur water when you turn on the shower….wait, that last one was kind of hard to cope with, actually. But the magic worked again, as I suspect it always will in that otherworldly land. I’ve returned to Melbourne even more full of a desire to head there again and again, and importantly, to pour out more of my novel as often as I can.

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Downtown Reykjavik

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Blues gig poster, Reykjavik

My muse works well in sub-zero temperatures, as writing residencies in Iceland and Finland have shown me. She’s standing over me with a bowl full of Skyr and a snow boot tapping impatiently, reminding me to WRITE WRITE WRITE.

My DNA test results came back. When I saw the circles drawn on a map of Europe, showing me my ancestry origins, the 36% Irish surprised no-one. There were tiny traces of the Iberian Peninsula, Central Asia and Jewish heritage, which fascinated me. But damn, the intake of breath when I saw the second biggest area of ancestry, a circle drawn around the northern countries I adore.

Nordic: 35%.

The Wolf was right: happiness guaranteed.

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Siglufjörður snow in day

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I have been her kind

June 30, 2016 at 11:14 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , )

I like things I’m not supposed to.

When every other person in Melbourne is looking out their window and cringing at the grass bent heavy with frost, the skeletal trees and the sky darkening with storms, I’m secretly beaming. When I can pull on my red riding hood coat, pour a glass of mulled wine, and reach for my leopard print ear muffs, it’s a fine day indeed. Born on the cusp of the Winter Solstice, this is my favourite time of year.

Winter witch

Winter witch

Red riding hood in Iceland

Red riding hood in Iceland

Winter solstice bonfire, with my Wolf and his Cub

Winter solstice bonfire, with my Wolf and his Cub

I like things I’m not supposed to.

I tore into my birthday presents and instead of wishing for jewellery or something silky to slip into, my eyes lit up at what fell out of my card. The exquisite image of a woodcut graced the outside of the card, and my Wolf had written such gorgeous words within that I almost forgot the present. But then I opened the paper that had fallen into my hands, and found a voucher to a taxidermy workshop that made my heart flutter.

The opening scene of my novel is when my protagonist, Elva, attempts her own taxidermy of a mouse on her kitchen table in Reykjavik, Iceland.

In the process of writing it, my flat has slowly acquired an Icelandic dove, a bedraggled duck, a deer skull with magnificent antlers, dolphin vertebrae, a bell jar of snake skins, a kingfisher skull, a birthday bat skeleton, a striped quail, and a snow goose suspended above my writing desk, his wings outstretched towards me as I type.

Knowing my beloved people have allowed me the privilege of experiencing the art myself, is such a blessing.

Birthday bat skeleton

Birthday bat skeleton

Snake skins and deer velvet

Snake skins and deer velvet

Pearled antlers with coronets

Pearled antlers with coronets

I like things I’m not supposed to.

I stood backstage and watched the hall fill. A sold out show of 260 tickets meant a hell of a lot of noise, and as people settled I straightened my little black dress, readjusted the red flower in my hair, and went over my story again. It was my second time performing at the Williamstown Literary Festival with Stereo Stories, and my excitement at striding onto the stage had just grown with time. I know public speaking is something most people dread, but I absolutely love reaching for the microphone, looking up at the lights, and telling my tale. It’s just as well, as on Saturday I’ll be repeating the performance at Melbourne’s Newport Folk Festival, with my spot at the Write Around the Murray Festival booked in September.

Stereo Stories (Tony Proudfoot Photography)

Stereo Stories (Tony Proudfoot Photography)

I like things I’m not supposed to.

Welcoming winter, flesh eating beetles and admiring bones. Army boots slipping on mud, hood up to catch snowflakes, bonfires warming frozen fingers. A watchful crowd, a waiting microphone, steps to a raised stage.

Solitude, snow and solstice.

And stories…always, always, stories.

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The Sarah Awards

March 26, 2016 at 11:51 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , )

There are some characters that are difficult to pour into a notebook, and then leave there.

I’ve been spending time with Elva, the protagonist in my novel. She’s a half Australian, half Icelandic taxidermist living in Reykjavik, hiding the darkness of her obsession between the lavish pelts and flesh eating beetles of her profession. Sometimes when I’m writing, I can hear her boots crunching on snow, and smell the sulphur of the underground hot springs.

My time in Iceland is never far from my mind.

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Then there’s the foul tempered barmaid with a Welsh flower tattooed on her chest in ‘Early Dog Violet‘ and the kleptomaniac southern son in ‘Elvis Would So.’ I still smile at the Australian backpacker mistaken for a member of Lithuanian Big Brother in ‘I Like Your Deer’s Moustache, and Other Lithuanian Tales’, the sinister shadow puppeteer in ‘The Old Man With Birds For Hands’, the cherry beer swilling voyeur of ‘Street of the Candlesticks’ and the woman counting her rib bones on Rachmaninov’s old bed in Russia in ‘True, False and Floating.’

But I have a special place in my heart for my surly, splenetic taxidermy flamingo with a smoker’s cough, a foul mouth, and the inclination to sing Tom Waits songs on a Melbourne tram.

The resultant story in its ABC podcast, ‘Almost Flamboyant,’ will never be far from my heart now, as it’s just won a Sarah Award in New York. This competition from Sarah Lawrence College celebrating ‘the best in audio fiction’ is being advertised with the byline ‘Movies have Oscars, TV has Emmys…now audio fiction has The Sarahs.’ This definitely made all manner of exclamations fly out of my mouth, believe me.

I was on a packed peak hour tram to work when my producer, the amazing Lea Redfern, rang me to gasp that our story had been announced one of three finalists, with the first, second and third places being announced on Friday April 1st at the award ceremony in New York. Ahem. And did I, perhaps, feel like going with her to pick up our prize, with assistance from the organisers?

To my utter amazement, my flights are booked, my dress is laid out, and I’ve given Lea the address of my favourite café on the Lower East Side to meet her on Friday, just before the award ceremony. It’s being held in the Greene Space, in the New York Public Radio’s headquarters, organised by Ann Heppermann, a producer from This American Life.

The first thing I’ll do when I see Lea is reach over and give her a firm, ebullient, and utterly amazed ‘I-Can’t-Believe-We’re-Really-Here’ pinch.

So wish us luck! And as always…I’ll bring you back stories, people.

I promise.

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Fire Stories

May 28, 2015 at 11:08 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , )

To awaken quite alone in a strange town is one of the pleasantest sensations in the world – Freya Stark

Amen to that.

A recent writing competition asked for ‘A letter to the trip that changed my life.’ Let me tell you, I had so much joy in pulling out my old photo albums and diaries. My background in linguistics and my ever present need to trawl for stories often leads me to new lands – working three jobs and living in an unheated flat all seems worth it when I can tumble off a plane and onto snow, or cobblestones.

But I always come home.

Click here for a video of me explaining my love of Melbourne

Click here for a video of me explaining my love of Melbourne

There’s something about being Australian that just leads to battered passports, I think. We’re so far from the rest of the world, and I’m forever stirring that isolation into my stories. I love writing about characters who are missing some link in the chain of intimate connection, whether the isolation is literal or psychological. A month in a remote Icelandic fishing village up near the Arctic Circle taught me my utter comfort in solitude is only growing with my years, and I’m not unhappy about this.

At all.

I won the ‘Letter to the trip that changed my life’ competition, for Penguin Publishing and Women of Letters. I wrote about being a teenage exchange student in Brussels, and how that whole incredible year opened my eyes to the wild and wonderful adventures available in this beautiful world of ours. And it made me realise just how much my travels are woven through my stories.

So here are a few snippets of recent news that combine my pen, and my passport:

– The Vignette Review has just accepted a story of mine, ‘Honey Island,’ set in lush Louisiana. It’s for the inaugural issue too, which I’m so happy to be part of.

– I’m back in the ABC studios tomorrow to record a story that combines my love of Iceland with my adoration of Big Mama Thornton – bliss all round, then.

– I’m booked in to perform at the Williamstown Literary Festival next month as part of Stereo Stories, who’ve published several tales of mine set in Berlin, Mississippi and Melbourne.

I had a fabulous time in the Australian countryside recently with the Stereo Stories crew, performing at the Newstead Short Story Tattoo as part of Fire Stories. We had a fat little moon, flowing wine, blankets to rug up in, and flickering bonfires as we climbed on stage…one of the best ways to tell stories I can possibly think of.

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Big love to my man, Tony Proudfoot, for both the stellar photography and the perfect road trip music.

Oh, and so as not to jinx it, I’ll tell you at the very end that I’m one of surely thousands that have just applied for a Travel Writing Scholarship with Lonely Planet and Word Nomads.

I’ll just leave that snippet here, and quietly head back to my notebook.

Don’t mind me, people. As you were.

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Stories for a rijny day

March 7, 2015 at 11:38 pm (Uncategorized) (, , )

    Tigers die and leave their skins; people die and leave their names.
    ~Japanese Proverb

My name confuses people.

Rijn.

I love the way it looks, with the two tittles hovering perfectly symmetrical over the bottom strokes, as though they could, if they wished, just reach over and hold hands.

See, a tittle. Even the dots above an i and a j have a name.

The first time I held a book and saw Rijn Collins in the index of stories, I remember placing my hand over my chest. I didn’t speak. I thought that if I could feel my heart hammering, could feel that thump against my palm, it was proof that I was standing at the book launch with my elated friends and straight whiskey and highest heels and not, as I suspected, still asleep and dreaming.

The day I see my name down an actual spine will be pure gold.

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So the problem’s not how my name looks, it’s how the hell to pronounce it. This is especially important given that I’ve been working with ABC producers to adapt my stories for radio. Go on, have a go at pronouncing it, don’t be shy: we’re the only ones here.

Lean towards your screen and try it.

While my last name is Irish, my first is Dutch, so don’t feel bad if you’re frowning. It’s pronounced ‘rain’, and is the Dutch word for the Rhine River. There.

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The night I met my boyfriend, he added me on Facebook to send me an invitation to a gig the next night. And I felt a little thrill when I saw his surname: Proudfoot. I couldn‘t have written it better myself.

The students I teach come from multicultural backgrounds, and often have an English nickname. In the ten years I‘ve been heading a language class I‘ve taught Biscuit, First, Melon, On, Off, Lotus, Golf, Zero, and Bong, amongst others.

When I asked the latter if he knew what a bong was, he gave a Beavis and Butthead laugh that told me, oh yeah, he knew.

Naming characters is a challenge. If you’re planning on throwing them into a short story, you’ll probably have your own process for this, if you name them at all, that is. But a novel…well, if you’re going to commit 70,000 words to someone, you better get it right.

My novel has just gone through a complete shakeup, including rewriting the first 30,000 words. I’d tell you more, but then I’d have to eat three plums counter-clockwise, set a snakeskin on fire, and do the Nutbush in my bathroom. Just in case I jinxed myself, you see (not that I’m superstitious…no, not at all).

So I’m in the process of renaming some of the characters. It’s not helping that it’s set in Iceland, where choices must be approved by the Icelandic Naming Committee (itself going by the rather fabulous moniker Mannanafnanefnd). And here I thought naming my short stories was the tough part.

poison berries

I secretly love that, though. Scrolling through my titles, I can see I‘ve had great fun plucking words from the air and stringing them on my story necklace. If you haven‘t read these, pour a glass of pinot and feel free to take a peek.

And then they all ate poison berries, and died
The old man with birds for hands
Elvis would so
I like your deer‘s moustache, and other Lithuanian tales
Early dog violet
Shelter for the shipwrecked
True, False and Floating

And the title of my novel?

Well, I’ll let you know…just as soon as I do.

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Red Riding Hood strikes again

January 31, 2015 at 11:46 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , )

‘Just sign in at reception, they’ll be expecting you – you know the routine.’

To my delight, I did. I was smiling before the doors had even swung open. I had on a black pencil skirt, a fire engine red blouse tied with a pussy bow, and matching red lipstick. Although no-one could see me on radio, it was my version of armour, and it made my spine just that much straighter as I strode up to the ABC reception desk.

‘Rijn Collins, here to record for Radio National.’

It was a damn good day. The whole process is extraordinary, from sitting in the booth with headphones and enormous microphones, to the gentle guidance from the wonderful producers as they coax my stories from the page and out of my mouth.

Last week I recorded two of my stories for Australia’s national radio station, and loved every minute. One was set in a Paris metro station, reuniting with a beloved pen pal to a soundtrack of Bikini Kill. The other was set on a bus as I headed north from Reykjavik up to the tiny Icelandic fishing village that was to be my home for the next month.

To my amazement, the latter was my ninth story recorded at the ABC, and my 70th story acceptance.

To add to my joy, I’ve just been accepted for another writing residency, this time in rural Finland. In October I’ll head off to the forest, reach for my leopard print earmuffs again, and wait with my hand outstretched for snow.

Until then, this is a story I recorded for the ABC about my last trip to Finland, where the lure of that quirky, glorious country first took hold of me. I can’t wait to get back to this rockabilly restaurant, sit at the hot rod tractor, and order a glass of cloudberry liqueur.

I promise to bring you back stories, ok?

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Telja

December 31, 2014 at 3:18 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , )


Margir eru marlíðendr.

Many kinds of people sail across the sea. Read the rest of this entry »

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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.

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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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Postcard #4 – Iceland

October 19, 2014 at 5:06 am (Uncategorized) (, , , )

I’ve almost stopped noticing the smell.

Almost.

It doesn’t help that my favourite place to sit and write is down by the docks. There’s a line of black rocks separating the harbour from the beach, and I love to curl up there with my notebook. I watch the waves roll in, and I write. It sounds idyllic, and while it is, here’s the thing: it’s really bloody cold. Minus ten this week, in fact. And even with my red riding hood up and a scarf wrapped around my mouth, there’s no hiding the ever present fish smell.

Ólafsfjörður is a fishing village, after all. It’s on the mouth of Eyjafjörður , the longest fjord in Iceland. And it’s so beautiful I can’t quite face the thought of leaving next week.

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I was expecting a different smell. The last time I was in Iceland I stood half asleep in the shower that first morning, and turned the hot tap on. And immediately, overwhelmingly, the stench of sulphur assailed me. I shrieked, jumped back, hit my head on the screen – mornings are not my strong point – and ended up on the shower floor, one hand on the back of my head, the other up in bewilderment to stop the flood of rotten egg water pouring down on me.

Turns out the hot water comes from underground springs, which are plentiful, useful, and unbearably stinky. It’s the kind of thing you’d like to know beforehand, really, but never mind. I haven’t noticed that in Ólafsfjörður. Maybe it’s there and I just haven’t realised, I’m too spellbound.

It’s entirely possible.

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Oranje''s pic
In the next village over I went to an exhibition opening, paired with a flea market. I bought a beautiful taxidermy dove and apparently kept stroking its head while I spoke to the artist. And I was told ‘You have the staring eyes of a bird yourself, you know.’ I didn’t know, but I took it well. In the car coming home, I rolled our village name around my Australian tongue and spat it out into the tunnel. Siggi shook his head. ‘You’re not saying ‘Olaf’s fjord, Rijn,’ he told me. ‘You need to say Ólafsfjörður.’

I watched my bird’s eyes glint in the semi-darkness.

‘I am saying that…aren’t I?’

‘No,’he shook his head. ‘You’re saying ‘Olafsfjöður – it’s different.’

He said both words for me. Again. And again. I understood the faces of my ESL students when I tell them the difference between St Kilda beach and St Kilda bitch, emphasising the vowel lengths, only to have them whisper ‘She’s saying the same thing, right?’ Ólafsfjörður and Olafsfjöður, whispered down to a dove’s head in the back of a darkened car.

‘What am I saying, then? Is it even a word in Icelandic?’

We came out of the tunnel, white mountains on all sides. The sky was so pale it was difficult to tell if the snow had stopped.

‘It is – you’re saying ‘Olaf’s feather.”

Of course I was. At least I knew what to name my bird now.

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Three nights ago I was writing when Cilla called my name. I was listening to Big Mama Thornton, and thought maybe it was too loud. But then she bellowed the words I’d been waiting ten days for. ‘Rijn, it’s the northern lights! Quick!’

I stood up and turned in circles for a moment like a mad cat. Do I grab my pen, my coat, my camera? Olaf shook his feathered head and told me ‘Just run!’

So I did. And I stood under an Icelandic sky and watched the aurora borealis shimmer all over this village I’ve been calling home.

I did, I did.

I’ve been trying to find the words for you. My camera was useless and anyway, I was too fascinated to try more than one shot. Three glowing green ribbons shot out from the mountain behind us. They were iridescent in a way I’d never seen before. They fluttered in three enormous strands, then floated together and entwined themselves over our rooftop, and then let go again. They snaked all over the snow on the mountain tops, danced closer to us, then darted away. I stood barefoot in a singlet and totally forgot to be cold.

It was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen.

Little bit special, this place.

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