Posted by: jeanne | February 13, 2018

our winter break adventure

imagine my surprise, in the middle of january, when i realized that both grandkids had the same winter break schedule.  out friday, february 16, back in on monday the 26th.

i opened a private window and brought up a bunch of travel and airlines sites.  where could we all go for 10 days without breaking the bank?  there were no $99 sales at wow airlines, and no domestic specials i particularly wanted to visit in the winter.  i found a website where you can see sample fares, and zoomed out to view the whole world.  we could go to india for $600, but it would take forever.  we could go to orlando for $49, but i’ve sworn off disney products.  we could go to venice for $700.  i know venice.  we love venice.  but avery’s never been there.  and that settled it.


i talked to jim about it as we walked around the block with the dogs.  i’ve spoiled him.  once you live somewhere for months at a time, the idea of spending fewer than ten days sucks.  so he said no right away, and i cooled down.  besides, the costs weren’t negligible, and they would add up fast once cards were plunked down.  however, thru long years of living beneath our means, we had already stashed most of the money i was thinking about spending, and it was just sitting there for just such an ’emergency’.  but, since i’m always sort of planning our next trip, it might be better if we didn’t blow it all in ten days.  so i backed off the idea.

but not for long.  without too much trouble, i convinced myself that i was fully capable of herding two brothers around venice for a few days by myself.  we’d get vaporetto passes, we could find a room near a playground, we could eat pizzas.  no worries.  no art museums, either, but i would hardly notice, because venice.

i decided to sleep on the idea.  oops.  my $700 fare was up fifty dollars when i checked it the next morning.  i already had a range of rooms picked out, and there was still a choice after narrowing our search to the ‘local’ area of sant’elena (where there are still plenty of kids).  but there were very few cheap choices to get to venice, and i had to act fast on the flights.

our artist friend marie came to visit us when we stayed in venice the first time, in 2015, and the second time in 2017, and both times she chose turkish airlines, because it was as cheap as using wow airlines, but they fed you well, and it was a one stop flight (wow airlines to venice took 3 flights and 4 airports).  the plane food was amazing, it was easy to schedule a layover, and istanbul was cheap – she loved it, and recommended the hotel niles.


looking at the schedule, i saw that we could get to venice with one stop, even tho the window to make the connection was only an hour.  but there was a long layover between the flights home, so we would be spending a night in istanbul.  we’d be arriving in late evening, and would need to be back at the airport around noon, which didn’t leave much time.  i searched for one way flights, and added a day to the layover.  that made 4 nights in venice, and 2 in istanbul.


the hotel niles had a junior suite that would hold 3, and it was the low season.  the flat on sant’elena was right around the corner from where we stayed in 2015 (playgrounds), and tho it was only a bedsit with a single/double bunk bed and a hot plate, we didn’t need any more than that.  we’d bring rain gear, and even if it rained all day we’d still only use the room to eat, sleep, and play video games (or write blog posts and manage the day’s photos).


so, after checking with avery’s dad and connor’s mom, i bought tickets and booked rooms.

but is it safe?  weren’t there bombings there during new years?  are you sure nothing bad will happen?  i decided to hire a guide, and all indications are that it’s a big modern city just like atlanta is, and while you can get caught up in crossfire in atlanta, it’s usually on a movie set.  things are usually safer than people fear, the same way that horrible thoughts at 2 am hardly ever happen.

the tickets were bought three weeks ago.  we leave on friday.  in between i found a mistake.  when i got avery’s passport out of the safe deposit box, i remembered that his name is his middle name, and the ticket only said avery.  this is a very big bad.  it has to match exactly, and no oops about it.  so i petitioned for a ticket change, and they said i had to cancel and rebuy with the correct name, so it cost another $200 because the price has continued to climb.  i stuck him in the seat in back of me and connor.  the planes are still  half full.  i also had to change my visa – you need a visa to enter turkey!  i missed putting my middle name on my visa, and the same conditions apply as for ticketing.  that was only $20.

we’re only taking backpacks with our clothes and essentials in them.  the boys are taking one change of clothes and  half a dozen pairs of socks and underwear, and i’m taking my computer and camera gear and wearing all my clothes.  i’m bringing a tiny carryon as well, with our water boots and extra bags in case of shopping.  we’re allowed 2 bags on board.  the plane is half empty, they have great food and lots of entertainment choices, and the flight over is only 10 hours.


the only possible hiccup (aside from document issues) is that we may well miss the flight from istanbul to venice.  in which case we are put up in an airport hotel or given a free city tour, and shipped out first thing next morning.  but this means arriving in venice a day later, and only spending 3 nights there.  and still spending 2 more nights in istanbul.  if we miss our connection, i’m going to see if it’s possible to delay the return flight a day, so we can have our original time in venice.  i have no idea what it would cost, or whether they would do it, but i’ve checked with both places we’re staying, and it’s okay with them if we play fast and loose with the bookings.

it’s tuesday now; we leave friday night.  friday at 2 i’m going down to avery’s house and get him from the bus stop.  that’s a three hour tour.  when we get home, we’ll pack the boys’ stuff in their school backpacks, change clothes, and head for the airport.  i’ll start writing then, because the planes are almost always over an hour late taking off, and i’ll probably have plenty of time.



Posted by: jeanne | September 3, 2017

the curse of endless travel

i love to travel. new places, favorite places, new friends, old friends, thousands of photos, new words in different languages, different perspectives, different foods.
but in reality, i love to be in different places. i don’t particularly love getting there. not when it involves staying packed, sitting uncomfortably for long stretches, being bounced about in the backs of buses, waiting in endless lines at airports, squinched into tiny airplane seats, driving for tortuous hours on turnpikes and back roads in the dark, sleeping in spare bedrooms, waiting aimlessly for others to have the time to go places and do things. most of that hasn’t happened yet, as i am merely at the beginning of the journey home, so i am anticipating the worst, and basing it on past experience rather than future outcomes. but still.

let me begin where i left off, in the middle of francis’ visit.

on wednesday, first thing in the morning, i took francis to the straeto bus stop for the 6:57 bus to akureyri. he decided he liked it when we passed thru on monday, so he went there for the day. later, i found out that asta reads cards, so i sent her a message saying i would like her to give me a reading. but she didn’t respond that day, so after a couple of days, i tried again. we set up a time, but then she got sick (somebody at the berjadagar festivities must have spread it around, plus all the kids went back to school this week and that means the whole town will get the same cold). so we put it off again. i think i’m missing something here, because the events don’t add up.

on thursday at 6am i was due at listhus 12 to pick up stephanie and sarah, who have to go back to their college for the fall semester. i left connor at home with francis. we stood around for awhile, talking about olafsfjordur and iceland. while they were here they did a bunch of walking and invited the artists and townspeople to go along. but they didn’t want me to stay with them until the bus came, and it was a warm morning, so i said goodbye and went straight to omar’s wall. as i was passing the church, i heard a raven. i saw a lot of the raven family when i was here in 2014, but this year i had only seen them rarely, like when i was up on asgeir’s wall and doing the car troll at mulatindur. but there she was perched on the cross on top of the steeple, a very big raven, cawing roughly and pointing in the direction of omar’s wall. i was at that moment considering whether i should alter the painting to be more like jim drew it the first time, and less cartoony. and the raven cawed a bunch, ignoring my greetings, and then flew off. but by that time i had decided to go ahead and change the mural. it was the first troll drawing that jim had done, and it was more of a drawing than a cartoon, with lots of dark shading. and the troll looked like him. and people thought it was a drawing of odin, because jim is an accidental shaman. he did a cartoon drawing later on when we were in the middle of the process, and i hung the first drawing on the wardrobe of my bedroom, but i always wanted to put it up somewhere special. so i got out the black paint, and went at omar’s robe with the wide brush, putting in texture and shading. i liked it a lot better when it was finished.


then i went to bjarney’s house and stole the big ladder, walking it over to the pool and setting it up before going back to move the car to the pool so i could get the paint out of the back and touch up the swimmer. she wasn’t home, so didn’t need the ladder or the black paint.


i also was there to meet the sterna bus to reykjavik at 9:30, because when i left laura off a couple of days ago, she had left a bag with some stuff in the car, and i was to give it to the driver, who would convey it to reykjavik. and since i had some time to wait, i got up on the wall and painted blue over the too-long toes of one foot, and black over the gray on the eyes, and blue again over the gray on the neck. and then i took black and painted the hashtag identifier under the forward arm – #olotrolltown. it’s what we decided to put on all the trolls, halfway thru the summer. i managed to tag most of them, but bjarney is going to have to get the rest.

after finishing the swimming troll, i got back to bjarney’s with the ladder and we worked on her troll foot, which was then almost done.


and then i went to ala’s in the afternoon, with connor, to finish her wall. she wasn’t home, but kara was because she was getting over the cold that everyone has, and she played with connor and shared her cold with him…

they can look at their murals from the hot tub, foreground

in the afternoon we all went swimming, connor and francis and i. he had declined to go earlier in the week, and i warned him that he would be sorry. and so he was. he didn’t much enjoy the big pool, but he loved the hot pot, and looking around at the mountains, and talking to the others in the pool. we only stayed an hour and a bit, but as we were leaving he said he should have gone earlier. yep. i made the same mistake when i was here in 2014, only going after i injured my shoulder falling off the bike. and then i was really sorry i had thought it was somehow a silly idea to want to get wet and sit outside in 50F weather. that’s why i bought a year’s pass this time.


for dinner, francis took us to a moroccan restaurant in siglunes gesthouse in siglufjordur. it’s a funny place to put a moroccan restaurant, admitedly, but it’s a great favorite in the area, and the food was really wonderful. tajine, it’s called, and it’s baked on top of the stove in a conical-hatted clay pot, and it’s tender and juicy and very tasty and spicy, without being hot. i had the lamb, of course, and francis had the fish, and connor had spaghetti with a too-sweet tomato sauce that he asked the waiter to replace with a savory sauce. it took forever to do, because the cook was busy doing people’s dinners, and when it came out, it was very fragrant with cumin, and quite salty, and connor had eaten so much of my dinner that he wasn’t very hungry… we got an order of icelandic pancakes, split it into three, and ate it all up. and then, horribly stuffed, we went back home and i piled connor into bed and joined him only minutes later, with the shortest call yet to jim.


the next morning was friday, and i drove francis to the akureyri airport for his plane to reykavik. he was planning to do a bus tour of reykjavik in the afternoon, a golden circle bus tour the next day, and then back to barcelona in the evening.

then connor and i went to the akureyri pool, which is much bigger than the olafsfjordur pool, with a 100m salt water pool, a lap pool, 3 hotpots, a steam room, a medium slide, and two enormous slides. this time i had to go on the slides with connor; otherwise he wouldn’t be able to go on them. so i did. 61 steps, cold metal steps. fortunately enclosed in a clear tower. then at the top, your choice of the slide to the right and the slide to the left. both were bad choices. the one to the right put us into a flying saucer shaped chamber where we were hurled around the walls, gradually slumping to the middle, where we were dragged down another chute to the pool. i got water shoved up my nose the first time. the other slide was more straightforward, slamming me from side to side into the walls, and shoving me into the pool at a horrible speed. i don’t like the slides. but we had a great time at the pool, and the hour was over very quickly.

on the way out of town we dropped all the glass bottles i’d been collecting at the recycling center, but it wasn’t open yet, so i didn’t get any money for it, and just left them there for some lucky patron to turn in.

again, i’ll have to check my daybook to see what i did, because once we got back to town, i went straight to work.  all i can find is that i finished the troll foot (actually, the entry reads:  francis back to rek, akureyri pool, bank, glass recycling, lanka, finish troll foot)


on saturday, connor went off to akureyri at noon with angelo, elisabeth, and gummi, and they stayed all afternoon, going to a movie because it rained. i worked on the troll foot with bjarney lea, and we finished it. then once connor returned, i took him down to the lake and he played with tristan and vincent and the dog, while bjarney lea and i did more on the troll statue.


she had gotten runar down there with the drill the night before, and they put in more rebar, so we mixed up cement and added another layer of rocks to her. we’re on the torso now, trying to build it up with several layers of rock before putting on the shoulders, the neck and the head. at this point we’re assembling the layers on the statue, then putting them aside and mixing the cement before permanently attaching to the statue. the next layers are getting to be our height, so in order for bjarney to finish it, she’s going to need stepladders and a guy to help her lift the stones. the neck stone has to be large in order to anchor the shoulder stones (more like wings, really), and that’s going to take tommi’s lift to accomplish, but i won’t be there to see it done, and all the credit will go to bjarney lea. you go girl.


when we were done with that, we took a tour of all the troll walls in her car, so she would know where they are. we counted 13 locations, with a total of 20 walls. in two months!

i think that evening at 8 i went to tjarnarborg to get asta to read my cards. she said a great many things, which i don’t remember, but she told me i would be back to olafsfjordur in a few years, and that i would write, either finishing my novel about antarctica, or writing one about olafsfjordur. and i’ve been thinking about doing that, letting my mind play with general ideas and small plot devices. if it’s a novel of olafsfjordur, how do i put in the people of the town without offending them? if it’s a crime novel, will it be the tourist who does the crime, or a troll? do i set it in hedinsfjordur instead, which is uninhabited, and do i make it a ghost story? what about the tunnel, is it the entrance to the huldufolk world?

it rained in the evening on saturday, and i wondered if connor would be able to play on sunday, but it was a glorious morning, so connor went with jonina (his swimming teacher) and her kids to husavik, for a last soccer tournament. i cleaned the house.


after about 10am, it rained all day where i was (tho not in husavik), so even tho i was supposed to put signage on kaffi klara, and write hashtags on several walls, i couldn’t. ida decided to do something different for her sign, anyway, so that was good, as i was prepared to spend several hours on it, and wouldn’t be able to get everything done at the house in time. but as it was, i got the whole place spectacularly clean just in time to wash and vaccuum the car before going to get alice at the airport in akureyri. i even just had time to drop off the picture of lenka and her family to her house in dalvik, tho they weren’t there. in fact, i dropped off the rest of the kids’ tie-dyed socks and all of the gift tie-dyed socks to everybody i’d done murals for, and most of them weren’t home, so i wasn’t tempted to go spend half an hour having coffee and talking to them. bye, folks.

alice’s plane was late, but that gave me time to finish cleaning the inside of the car and sew a patch on the seat where the driver’s butt had worn a hole in the fabric. it was a piece of lambskin, part of the bag i brought home, that now a bunch of people have pieces from – kara and the ladies at galeri ugla and now karolina at menntaskollin.
alice and i stopped at the indian curry hut in akureyri (best naan bread in iceland) and got MILD lamb curry and chicken tandoori, and brought it back to the house, the car reeking of curry spices all the way. when we got home i discovered that jonina did not have my phone number, and connor was playing at her house, so i went to get him, and we came back to eat.


then i sent him to bed and finished packing. in the end, everything fit, but my suitcase was a little overweight. i decided to wait until i got to siggi and runa’s before deciding i was going to have to wear my boots on the plane. i so wanted to pack them… alice and i settled accounts then. i had to pay the mileage for the use of the car all summer. in the way of things, the amount i owed her was pretty much what i had been paid by the school for the mural of lara and the mythical beast. thanks lara, thanks alice.


on monday, bright and early, we got up, stripped the bed, straightened up the room, put on our travel clothes, put the bags into the back of the squeaky clean car, and went to the pool right after it opened at 6am. there were only the old people in the pool, and the young ones in the gym, and connor. we talked to people we hadn’t met before, including one man whose name is gestir, which means guest.


then we went to kaffi klara for breakfast, meeting vala and ida there. connor got to say goodbye to angelo, and had a waffle for breakfast. he ate it all. i had a sandwich with hangikjot and cheese, and coffee coffee coffee. we waited until 9 for alice; i’d left a note saying that’s where we’d be. but she didn’t come, so we walked to the house. i’d left my keys inside on purpose, and we knocked on the door a few times, but she was asleep, and we left her sleeping because she’d been traveling the day before. we got the bags out of the car (good thing i decided not to lock it) and rolled them the block and a half to the pool, and then waited. i had to leave connor with the bags while i went in and filled the water bottles, and then i stayed with the bags while he went to the bathroom. then alice came to see us off, and we talked until the bus came, and connor had to go back to the bathroom. it was the same bus driver we’d been seeing all summer, every time we’d picked up and artist or dropped them off. this time it was our turn.




there was only a chinese tourist on the bus, in the front seat. so i sat behind him, and connor went to the back of the bus to play his tablet. our first stop was siglufjordur, and there was a 15 minute break, so i walked to the bakery for goodies, and saw two artists from the residency, and also gummi and bjarni and the recycling crew, all having coffee and sweet things.

the spikes on the top of the mountain look like gravestones, but are really a snow fence

then it was back on the bus, and out thru the little tunnel, and away from trollaskaga. bye, troll peninsula.










connor fell asleep and stayed asleep all the way to saudarkrokur, where the bus stopped to change drivers.

it was the end of the line for one driver, and a different driver to take us to reykjavik. i knew both of them. both of them were polish. connor got ice cream at the gas station, i got a hotdog, and the drivers got a huge plate of boiled sausage and cabbage and vegetables. i asked the old driver if he would still be there next time i came, and he told me he was probably going back to europe because iceland wasn’t a great place to work. it was easier driving in england or germany, because of no snow, and it paid the same.

and then we headed out with a new driver. we went over the mountains to blonduos, bypassing varmahlid and the ring road for awhile.


it got foggy, and then cleared at the top, and then got foggy again as we descended. we went past a place where they were gathering the horses to bring them off the mountains for the winter.






we went past bifrost, a place in the lava with a famous volcano. i’ve heard the name bifrost for some time, and didn’t know why it was famous. it’s famous in norse mythology, not for its volcano. but it’s really scenic.

soon we were in borgarnes, only an hour or two from reykjavik, and stopped again. again, connor got ice cream. the tourists were all covered in raingear, but i thought it was warm, and enjoyed the rain on my face and thru my sweater.


from there it’s only a hop, skip, and a jump to the capital. on a clear day you can see the snaefellsness peninsula from reykjavik. and vice versa.

reykjavik in the distance, under the pretty clouds

the other side of hvalfjordur, where ragnhildur lives





we could see that the weather was much better in reykjavik as we got close, and the traffic was horrendous. the bus was 20 minutes late because of it, and runa had to wait and wait.


tourist-led beautification project in front of the harpa

but we got to the harpa, and she greeted us, and we went to pick up siggi from some appointment. then i took them to dinner, and we drove down to hafnarfjordur to eat at a noodle house (with a branch in greenland, too), and then back to the house by way of a greenhouse where siggi picked up some spent wheatgrass for his chickens, and some for runa’s cousin, who lived down the valley a little ways in this adorable little cottage in the woods.



we slept in the spare room. it was full of stuff, but runa and i made short work of it, and while she and siggi entertained a family who was buying a bird from them, i vaccuumed and connor went out to play in the park. and then we went to bed, and i was too tired to do more than say hello to jim at home.


on tuesday we all woke up way late, and i prepared the photos for this post and pottered around with the bags until about 2pm, when we got around to going to hvalfjordur to visit ragnhildur and larus on their farm. but first we stopped into town to buy a dna knife. it’s called a dna knife because you will inevitably end up leaving some of yours on it when you handle it, it’s that sharp. damascus steel, japanese, really expensive. runa bought siggi a set of them and i had to have one when i saw them (and cut myself). so i was really pleased when they gave me a discount and i bought two. my present to myself.

the trolls of this mountain produce wicked winds that knock trucks over



it’s always wonderful to see ragnhildur. we didn’t have a lot to catch up on; her arm is mending and i told her my huldufolk and troll stories, but mostly she and runa talked, and siggi and larus talked, while connor played with the legos, and the dogs, and jumped off an elf rock until the chickens started to chase him.











we stayed until it was getting late, and then drove home by way of the kronan grocery store, where we got spaghetti, sauce, and garlic bread to make at home with westfjords ground sheep. we ate it, i sent connor to bed, weighed and repacked the bags, and then went to bed. but not before i loaded on a bunch of games to connor’s tablet so he’d have something new to play with on the plane.

this morning (okay a bunch of mornings ago as i finish up this post) we were up at 9 and had breakfast. connor played outside until we were ready to go, and then we went by the national museum to buy me a blank notebook to start on my olafsfjordur novel. then to the airport, where we said goodbye to our good friends, and headed for the rigamarole torture that is the modern airport. which is the main reason for the blog post title.





but the lines were short and the people were nice, and we got seats at the gate, and he found a couple from texas who haven’t had kids yet, and then a nice lady took the extra seat in our row and connor played with her on the tablet until she put the earphones and neck pillow on. we had stopped at the bonus store on the way to keflavik so we have had our sandwiches already. it’s 7pm iceland time, 3pm at home. the visibility sucks outside – all clouds – so no watching greenland pass. we arrive in almost 3 hours from the time of this writing, and it’s straight to the car rental place for a 4 hour drive to mikie’s house, where we will be spending the following day. but more about that when i continue this post. with luck it’ll cover all the way home, and then you won’t be hearing from me for awhile, until the next time i travel.


it’s sunday now, and i’ve been home less than 24 hours. i made the whole trip at 80mph even tho i had to drive thru hurricane harvey. now i am noticing mosquitos, traffic noises, the hot sun, new construction with white people on the advertising hustings and the reality of our mixed neighborhood, my skanky dogs, jim’s dishwashing abilities. i needn’t go into any of those.

but on thursday, after sleeping it off at mikie’s house, we went to see mom at her new nursing home, where she isn’t happy at all. but then, mom’s never happy, so she’ll just have to get used to it. it’s not a bad place, a sunrise assisted living community, but clearly she’d rather still be on her own, even tho it’s too dangerous for her now.

mikie’s kids at homeschool. shan is a wonderful teacher and tiger mom

mom, wondering if i was really going to take her picture

the kids, moving too fast to capture

uncle davie

and then we were off.  the sun rose as we were heading to charlottesville for our first stop, breakfast at bodo‘s and a quick visit to my old friend from college days, jimmy.



the rugby road bridge, where the nastiness of the past weeks is fought, if symbolically

jimmy pointing out a raccoon way high in the tree across the creek in his back yard

after that, the rain started.  we hit the northern edge of hurricane harvey, and it rained for most of the next ten hours, rain band after rain band.  sometimes hard rain, sometimes sprinkles.  i was glad to be on i-81, where it’s mainly truckers, who know how to drive.  the one accident we passed was a car that had skidded off and flipped.




at some point, at the bottom of virginia, the temperature began to climb, starting at around 63 degrees.  within an hour it was 88.  i’m not used to that kind of heat, and it’s not any kind of humidity like what i’ve known in the north of iceland.  in fact, you can’t really equate the temperatures.  63 in iceland is warm, very warm.  63 in virginia is cold and damp, not at all comfortable.  of course, in iceland i had on two layers, and here i had on shorts.  but still.



then, long after one of the mapping apps says ( 7 hours from dc to cchhaattaannooggaa), we arrived at emma and dallas’ house on the river.  they are always so welcoming, and their house is so comfortable, and surrounded by woods and the ocoee river.  i love stopping there, even if it’s only for a couple of hours.  in this case, it was overnight, because i’ll be damned if i’m rushing home.

connor likes dallas’ moustache wax on his hair

the view from their deck

the next morning, even tho it was still cloudy and cool, we abandoned my plan to go floating down the river in a tube, and instead went to the lake to swim.  the water wasn’t heated, the way we’re used to, but it wasn’t ice cold, either, so connor and i went swimming.  for me, it was the chance to wash all the chlorine out of my hair, because now i’m going to let my hair’s natural biome keep it clean (the water in atlanta is not very nice).  for connor, it was a last chance to swim.


the scenery is every bit as nice as iceland, only more lush, and less spectacular

IMG_9601 ocoee dam, a mile upstream of their house


and then we were off again, with a two hour drive home.  we got home about 4.  allison arrived to pick up connor to go to granny’s funeral (bye granny, watch over us), and jim and i walked the dogs, ate dinner, and went to sleep.  i got almost 12 hours of sleep, and now that i’m finished with this post, i will be adjourning until i have to go back up to northern virginia to help clean out mom’s house so we can sell it.


sorry to subject you to such a long blog post; but that’s the nature of endless travel.

Posted by: jeanne | August 23, 2017

an excursion with francis and connor

i thought i wouldn’t have time to do another post before francis left, but i managed to fit it in.  this last week is all about the art of fitting things in.  and there’s just enough time and energy to do it all.

on friday there was a big rain, meaning significant rain, pouring rain, windy rain.  44mm, or a couple of inches.  so i did stuff inside.  i cleaned, packed, washed out and ironed my scarves and took them over to galeri ugla, where they will live until someone buys them, and then i’ll make some more.  nobody’s doing silk scarves here, so i have given all of the silk painting supplies to karolina, who is interested.

while i was at the gallery, they showed me one of two knitted trolls they have made to go outside the gallery as eye catchers.  they’ll also feature in the school’s troll parade later in the year.


on saturday the town had berjadagar, or berry days, a classical music festival that drew some hundred people, which is a lot in this town.  as contrast, tho, two weeks ago they had fiskidagar, or fish days at dalvik, which has been going on for years, and now draws over 40,000 visitors and huge traffic jams.

i had volunteered to help ida with the festival, because she had decided to combine the musical evening with a tapas dinner, and two of her staff had recently decamped for scandinavia, and she was expecting 110 to dinner.  so starting at 10am i showed up in the kitchen and did what i could until i had to go get francis at 2:15.  this was one of the few days when connor and i didn’t go swimming because there was so much to do.


there was a kid’s rap workshop at 2, and i left connor there while i went to get francis, and then took him and haldor up to the old folks’ home at hornbrekka for a singing concert that featured a bunch of people i know.  it was interesting to hear the old songs.  connor played with the kids, on the stairs and the elevator, and i fussed at them quite a bit.


then i dropped the boys up at hlid and went back to town to deal with the listhus exhibition that needed my attention.


i had dropped francis off at the house for a nap when he arrived, but went back to gather the goodies i’d bought, the cookies i made, and fresh popcorn, adn went over to listhus to stick things on the wall prepatory to the exhibition opening at 5.


the show had quite a few more visitors than usual, partly because we’d been advertising to the festival crowd.  it’s always gratifying to have the locals come see what we’ve been doing.

graycloud’s work

but i slipped away around 6 to go back and help set up at tjarnarborg.  we spooned goopy vegetable and meat stuff onto bread, and like tasks, until the show started at 7.  then we stood around prepping while a wine distributor extolled the virtues of his wines to the crowd.  then we went thru the crowd giving tastes of wine, and finally were able to start putting food out.  we filled a central table, and were surprised at how orderly people got up to mob it.  i’d expected a free for all, but it seemed they were going table by table and only getting as much as they could fit on a plate.  totally unexpected.  the food was soon gone, and we stopped pulling trays out of the fridge for awhile, because the music was on.  tjarnarborg can seat 100 easily, and has a good stage and fine accoustics, and the singers and musicians were all first rate.  arias and lieder mainly.  screechy sopranos and tony tenors.  spanish guitar.  piano.

and then we served more food.  and more music.  and more food.  and more music.  and dessert.  and more music.  and finally it was over, so we got to work clearing tables and washing plates and glasses.  i sent connor home with francis when the musicians stopped playing, and then we worked around the performers while they ate the rest of the food and congratulated themselves on a fine evening.  it was past 12 when ida and i poured a glass of wine and didn’t finish it (not the best whine btw)

on my way home i discovered that i’d lost my keys, and was going to go look for them in various places, except it was mostly dark and i could look for them where the light was better tomorrow.  but as i was crossing the road, i saw a bird hit the wall opposite me and fall to the ground.  omg.  it was a fledgling, with a long beak – francis says curlew – and its wing was broken.  i took it back to tjarnarborg and asked what i could do.  one suggestion was to wring its neck.  but i couldn’t.  gummi found a wine case and i put it in that and took it home to see if it would last the night.  but it didn’t, so oh well.


being a late night, i didn’t get up early on sunday, and only went out to start omar’s wall around 10:30.  i was just changing to black paint to start drawing in the figure when my phone rang.


it was francis, and he was in a panic because he’d set off the fire alarm when he didn’t understand the meaning of the stove glyphs and turned all the burners on instead of only one.  burners with pots and pans on them.  the smoke is still there in the house, days later.  graycloud and someone else came to the rescue, and no lasting damage was done, but i’ve washed all the curtains and will be scrubbing the walls when it comes time to clean up before i leave.  only a couple of extra hours work.  and because i’d tried to help the bird, the elves made sure the whole house didn’t burn down.  thanks, elves.

after cleaning the kitchen and asking francis to get all his meals at kaffi klara from that point on, i went over to skuli and guffa’s wall and put in the second coat of local color on everything.


when guffa discovered me outside, freezing my butt off from the wind, she called me in for coffee, and i found some of their relatives in attendance.  they live in siglufjordur now, but grew up here, and offered to let me paint their walls next time i come.  also there was a guy i met the last time i was in olafsfjordur, a man whose son lives in wisconsin.  i’d had the same conversation with him last time, so i remembered him.  he speaks excellent english, so we spoke about important matters in the town and he spread it around the table better than i could have done.  but then i had to go, because listhus was having a popup exhibition on the walls at ida’s cafe at 4.  they turned up there a few minutes later, so that was great.



katrine faber told a story about how music came to the world


after that i went back out, over to bjarney lea’s wall, where we plotted out how to do the work, and drew her foot to use as the model.

then we came back, ate i forget what – oh yeah, leftovers from the festival that ida forced upon me – thanks ida.

that night connor and i slept upstairs in the attic, on a bed a bit smaller than the one i’ve been in for three months.  it’s quite comfortable up there, and the view from the window is spectacular.  in fact, i saw northern lights for the first time ever.  they were faint, rolled and twisted, grew in intensity and faded as quickly, acted like contrails or low fog, and generally had me questioning whether i was seeing something real or just reflections from the windows.  but no, definitely auroras.  coolness.


on monday, we had been planning to take the ferry to grimsey and back as our excursion, but people had been warning me for some time not to do it.  not only would we be seasick the whole way, but the birds are leaving the island, and there’s nothing to do but hike, which francis isn’t able for.  so we decided to reprise our trip to myvatn instead.

but before we left town, i’d been having a slow leak in the other front tire, so we stopped at the garage to have them find the leak and glue the rim back on.  they never found a leak, but willie let connor help him glue the rim, and steinni wouldn’t hear of my paying for it because of their mural.  thanks, steinni


so we were an hour delayed starting on our trip, which meant that when we reached akureyri, the indian curry hut as well as the hot dog stand was open.  we stopped because francis needed to buy some waterproof bandages, and the apothecary is on the same street.  and while we were eating our hotdogs, we noticed the sale price on the lopapeysa sweaters, so francis got one for himself.


and then we stopped into the curry hut to say hi (he still remembers me, and our conversation picked up where it had stopped two months ago).  so i got lamb curry and lamb something else for later, since they’re only open until 7 and i had a feeling we’d be gone later than that (and we were, so the dinner sat in the back of the car odoriferizing all day long).

showing connor how they make naan bread – the best in iceland

and then we were off.  first stop, godafoss, where we pulled into the parking lot at the other side of the river and walked in.  francis refused to do this, so he got this view of the lower falls while connor and i went to the actual named waterfall.




but then i relented, adn we went back to the official side with the tour busses, adn he got to go up to see it closeup.  connor, having been there before, ran around until i noticed the horrified looks the tourists from the tour buses were giving me.  they were sure i was going to let him run right off the edge.  very hostile, they were.  good thing they didn’t speak english or i would have said something sarcastic…


then we drove to myvatn.  its name translates to ‘midge lake’, and it’s so true.  those little white specks in the photo below are midges.  millions of them.  they got all over our peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.  protein, yummm.


connor picked up a couple of motorcycle tourists he’d seen before, and actually used that famous line – didn’t i see you at the place before?


we continued to dimmuborgir, and sent francis on the short route (750m), while we took the slightly longer route (850m).  one of the interesting things was a cavelet done up in early outlaw.  the cave wouldn’t be good shelter as it was too open (thus the brightness), but connor grabbed the only dangerous object inside it and wanted to break, i mean hit, something with it, so we left…


dimmuborgir is one of my favorite places.  everywhere you look there’s a troll face, and these lava structures are a dozen meters high or more, just scattered around the field.


after that we went to the krafla area, up in the mountains behind the big power plant, where the volcanos actually go off now and then.  we got as far as viti, with krafla in the distance.  but we didn’t feel like the hike, so this is as far as we got.


then we went back to the ring road and across it to the geothermal fields at hverir, where fumaroles and boiling mud pots and loads of tourists dotted the landscape.

typically eschewing photographs, francis insisted on one at this spot

then we started back.  actually, being close to 6pm, we decided it was time to stop in reykjahlid gas station for a hotdog and a bathroom break.  while we were there i stopped into a fine gift shop, with some wonderful watercolors of local landscapes, and chatted to the women, who were knitting.  one woman was knitting a sock using 4 needles – something i’ve never seen before, but then i know nothing about knitting.

it was time for the eclipse, which while total at home, wasn’t even visible here.  all we got was sun dogs.  but hey, that’s pretty cool, too.


we got back home at 9, and i found i couldn’t eat the curry because it was too damned spicy, so connor and i ate rice, and francis finished off the meal.  thanks, francis.

again, there were northern lights, so i slept only fitfully, always checking for a show, and actually catching some pretty brilliant little 5 second rolls of green in the sky.  i was just as impressed to be seeing stars.  and there was no question of catching it on film – i tried.

on tuesday i got up really early and went over to omar’s house to start painting, and slapped on all the local colors.  i was out early enough to hear several people go outside for their first smoke of the day – hacking for a few minutes and then slamming their doors as they went back inside.

later on omar came out and caught me painting on his wall.  he was astonished to see himself on the wall, because when i’d showed him the sketch, it had jim’s self-portrait on it.  but i’d found his picture on facebook and put it in.


then as it warmed up, i went to skuli and guffas and did everything but the faces, which i always find the hardest to execute.  jim draws a great face, and i can transfer the rest of his drawings to large scale, but i can’t seem to get the faces, and can’t use my usual tricks to do so (turning the drawing upside down, for instance).



at 10 i went down to the lake, where bjarney lea had already gotten tommi to come by with his forklift and put a huge stone up on top of the drilled rocks.  she was busy cementing smaller stones to fill the gap, and i mixed more cement and continued filling in, while the boys played by the lake, as usual.  i’m not sure i’m going to be around to see the statue finished, but bjarney lea will send pictures.  we’ve got the troll woman’s bottom half, tho, and the rest is a pile of smaller stones (that we can barely lift by ourselves) suggesting her torso and head.


i had to make bread for dinner, so had to go back to the house several times in order to progress the breadmaking, and while i was there got an email from the bank, saying they wanted to pay me much more than what i’d asked for, which was a nice surprise.

somewhere in there, connor and i went swimming, and at 4 went over to kaffi klara to celebrate angelo’s second birthday.  connor gave him a bunch of toys we’d gotten from lenka (whose house i’m afraid i’m not going to be able to put a troll on at this point).


and at 6 we went over to listhus 12 for an artist dinner to celebrate our month’s residency.  connor got hold of michael’s drum machine app and entertained everybody.


today, wednesday, i put francis on the early bus for akureyri, where he wanted to spend the day wandering (the botanic garden), and then it was straight on to omar’s wall.  i had to adjust the size of the raven, and the length of the arms, and i have to repaint the background and do a bit more to the face, but i got an afternoon session in when connor spent time and lunch at kaffi klara.  so it’s almost done.


it was close to freezing when i went out at 7am, and i was very cold, but the moment the sun came over the mountain (while i was on skuli and guffa’s wall), it warmed up ten degrees.

at 9 i checked one of the artists out and took her to the rekjavik bus, and then i went to barney lea’s to help her continue on her wall.  she’d done the gridding, so we chalked in the foot and started right in on the body color.  it’s the same blue as the swimming troll, which is nice, because they are both in direct sight of each other, and perhaps her foot is bigger than his, i’m not really sure yet.


i could only stay a little while, because i had to meet with karolina, who is teaching art at the junior college, and will be taking care of both the troll parade later this year, and the map to the troll sites, which perhaps tommi will print, and the students make an app for.  so much activity going on here.

while i was back at omar’s wall after lunch, i had a little accident, dropping the black paint on the ground, which splattered all over me.  guess i’m f’real leaving these jeans when i go home.  as well as my army-surplus swedish army sweater, which i adore.  i’ll get another one when i get home, maybe.  but i have so many lopapeysa sweaters now, so maybe i won’t need one.


after the paint dried, connor and i went to ala’s where we have a lot of work to do to finish her four panels.


but i love her, she’s just like me, and nina came to visit, whom i see also at guffa’s every now and then.  she was passing out crocheted kitchen cloths, so i snapped one up (thanks, nina).  and when i was leaving, ala presented me with a pair of hand warmers for myself, a pair for jim, a set of mittens for connor, and a pair of socks for him.  omg people are so wonderful here.  takk fyrir, ala.


then we went swimming, connor and i.  his coach was at the pool, so connor spent his entire hour following the coach around and trying to drown him, while i sat in the hotpot talking to orlaith, one of the residents.  neither of us want to leave, and she wants to come back, so i was passing on hints.

and then it was time to pick up francis from the bus, but i’d left my house key at home so i couldn’t get the car to go get him, and the bus was 10 minutes early anyway, so we walked, and he had his set of keys (the one from under the mat), so everything was fine.  and now there’s a chicken and potatos in the oven, and connor is out playing with his friends, and francis is just up from his nap, and i’m done writing this.

Posted by: jeanne | August 18, 2017

wonderful wonderful Ólafsfjörður

let me gush.

i fled my little college town because everybody was dating everybody else and i couldn’t stand to be that well known.  i thought being in a small town meant that people had to conform, that everybody knew everything about everyone else, and felt stifled just thinking about it.  but now that i’m old, i realize that in a small town you are free to fly your freak flag, and that conformity lies in anonymity.  here in olafsfjordur, everybody knows everything about everyone else, but that doesn’t mean you have to be like everyone else.  it means that everyone’s differences are part of what makes that town special.  it’s a damn good thing everyone’s different, because there are so many things that have to be done by very few people, and if you didn’t have unique special skills and predelictions, there wouldn’t be enough energy and diversity to accomplish all the things that make a town survive.  in a huge city where everyone is anonymous and nobody knows anybody, there is a lot of fear of people and what they might do, and a lot of pressure to be bland and homogenized because peoples’ differences are hidden and therefore unacknowledged.  difference is shameful, not celebrated, when it is hidden behind closed doors.

yesterday i saw omar in the pool, and he gave me permission to do the final mural, and i went as far to test which white paint matched his wall (because i have a whole mess of different ‘white’ paint in the back of the car.  omar is physically disabled, and spends part of each day at the pool, as do we.  i recently discovered that he speaks fairly good english, so we have started talking.  so i asked if i could throw up a mural on his house, naturally, because i just happen to have one special one left to do.


there are actually several murals that jim has designed that i’m going to have to leave for bjarney lea to finish – the factory long wall (220′), a troll leading a horse and icelandic dog, tommi and the troll statue, and lenka’s family troll group.  but this one, a portrait of jim with a raven, is special, in a different style from all the rest, and has been hanging pasted to the closet door in my room all this time.  i’m glad to be able to put it up finally.

anyway, we were at the pool, sitting in the hotpot talking, and connor’s coach, örn elí came to the hotpot with a friend, along with another guy with a developmental disability.  in america, the disabled tend to be invisible; people in general avoid them as if it were catching.  when i lost my breast to cancer i was horribly insecure about it until i discovered that my mutilation was invisible, and then i relaxed.  but to be completely invisible is a horrible punishment for being different, and as a society we are guilty of this.  what i noticed in the pool yesterday was that disability is accepted and catered to, not ignored and turned away from.  everybody talks to omar, who turns out to be funny and smart and kind.  and the friend was included in their talk as well, and even tho he was not very responsive he still took everything in and i could tell he was engaged in the process.  when he decided to go up the big slide and made his careful way up the stairs, örn got out of the hotpot and into the pool at the bottom of the slide, and waited until the guy came sliding down, in case he had trouble or was afraid as he splashed down.  it’s a huge difference from the way disabled people are dismissed back home, and it made me feel very happy to have seen it.  it’s that attitude that a less than perfect body reflects a moral deficiency; it’s similar to the attitude that poor people deserve their poverty because they don’t work hard enough.  my country is too intolerant as a nation, and that has to change.

it’s raining today, otherwise i would be too busy outdoors to ever sit here writing a blog post.  big rain, too.  they’re expecting 44mm – that’s a couple of inches – and the blow in the night had all the windows whistling and moaning (a sound i love).  nobody’s out, and the only work i can do today is cleaning, which i must do anyway.  and finishing a watercolor or two.  and continuing to pack.  the only outdoor thing we’re going to do in all this rain is to go get wet in the pool.  the pool doesn’t care what kind of weather it is.

on friday of last week, i finished the bank troll, so connor was at kaffi klara while i put the final touches on it.  when i came to get him, there was a wedding party going on.  not really, but a stylist was making up this couple to look like a wedding party, because the chinese manufacturer of a drone had commissioned wedding pictures on our little picturesque beach in order to advertise its drone, and they were taking advantage of the warm sunlight and sheltered patio to finish the makeup prior to going down to the windy beach to get their shots.  it was very amusing.


the bank troll isn’t jim’s work, by the way, and has gotten very different responses from the people who see it, including one man who was quite angry, and told me it shouldn’t be that way, but didn’t explain further because of the language barrier.


i neglected to take connor down to his riding lesson that day, because i completely forgot about it.  so he missed out on that.  but i did take him down to the lake so i could put rebar and cement into the holes drilled by bjarney lea and her boyfriend last week.  you can’t see the holes in this picture, because i only remembered to take a photo after the work was done.  it was windy and cold in the wind, but connor didn’t care and spent all his time down by the water.


the flowers that are out now are different from the ones i photographed on this spot several weeks ago.  the season changes so fast here.


on saturday we went up to the farm at hlid and worked on the two walls some more.  connor played with svanfridur and gunni’s grandson, named haldor, running around and playing games with each other around the house.


in the bright sunshine it’s hot, even if it’s chilly and windy in the shade.  i couldn’t persuade connor to wear any more clothing than shorts and a tshirt.


then we went up the valley again, pretty late in the evening.  there are blueberries out now, and tho they’re not very sweet, they’re still pretty good.  after it stops raining we’ll go back up there and pick a bunch.


sunset lasts for hours now, with red light on the mountains even when the valley is in shade.


connor found a knife-shaped rock (the kind they warn you can pierce your tires in a moment on the unpaved heath road that used to be the only land-based route in or out of town).  he’s standing on the troll rock that marks the beginning of the trail up the valley (which is actually halfway down the valley, but where the car tire tracks end).  there are sheep tracks that are probably hundreds of years old, evenly spaced and quite resembling car tire tracks, except they waver.


i’m always interested in this mountain, because it’s the one that rises up behind the town, and from the town you can’t see that there’s a bowl up there.  i wonder if there’s a lake, or if it all just drains down the mountain in a river.


the sheep have gotten massive over the summer.


on saturday morning we could see the moon.  it’s not very impressive in the blue sky, but it’s visible, therefore remarkable, in the valley.


another trip to hlid in the morning to put more touches on the murals.  i can only spend about 2 hours at any one mural because of the way our days are structured.  even on the weekends.  i have, by the way, abandoned my no working on the weekend rule, because there’s just not enough time left.  i think the trolls and elves don’t mind, because nothing bad has happened to prevent me from doing so.


svanfridur is amused, and likes what we’ve been doing to her walls.


i had to leave at this point, because the big boys were having a soccer game, and connor and the younger kids had been asked to escort the men out onto the field, so i dropped him off and wet up to put in an hour on asgeir’s wall.  but just as i got there, my phone buzzed with a message that rán flygenring and her partner were down at the bank, looking at the mural she designed.  so i capped the paint and climbed off the scaffolding, and drove down to the bank.  they were very happy with the work, but we all agreed that the scale was too small.  her idea is to design a much larger troll to go in back, stretching up to the top of the sign or higher, making the troll that’s there into a baby troll compared to the mama troll behind her.  she also wants to put a tourist in the space to the right of the wall, maybe being drawn into the clutches of the troll that’s already there.  this will be a job for bjarney lea to execute.  yay!


i excused myself and ran back up to asgeir’s wall, because i had only half an hour before the soccer game started.  i got all the body color on, and now have only to put on the black outlines and sign it.


i missed the first few minutes of the game, and so missed this shot, but someone got it for me.  thanks, gudny.


the weather here is so strange sometimes.  it was bright sunshine during the entire game, but just a mile down the valley it was very interestingly cloudy.


connor didn’t pay any attention at all to the game, tho i watched every bit of it.  he was busy playing with his friends all over the place; down on the field, back behind the stands, wherever kids were to be found.


evidently the troll under the bridge game is alive and well in iceland, even tho it’s a norwegian/swedish fairy tale.  in iceland the trolls are too big to fit under bridges.


at halftime i finally broke down and bought connor some candy, and myself a chocolate bar.  he wasn’t interested in a hotdog, so we didn’t go across to the gas station but lined up at the little house instead.  and then we looked down and found a 100kr coin!  so that’ll be added to connor’s saturday half price candy fund.


on monday i dropped connor at inga and ingimar’s house while i went up to asgeir’s wall for some more work.  it’s too dangerous for him to play around the scaffolding, and asgeir and kristin work at the factory all day, so he can’t play inside and eat all their poptarts.

and then it was time for his riding lesson, so we had lunch and went down there.


after that we went straight up to hlid, where i was still having trouble with svanfridur’s face.  i’d taken pictures of her singing the time before, but since it was in sunlight, she had her eyes squeezed shut against the glare, and so the photos were only a little bit useful.


but at least i got more progress leafing out the tree and blacking the outline on the farm troll and his flock.


and since svanfridur, her daughter, and connor and haldor were all down at the summer cottage by the lake, trimming trees and digging a new septic line, i was all by myself at the farm, and took a nice coffee and homemade kleiner break behind the greenhouse, watching the clouds go by across the lake.  it was sunny and hot, and i took my sweater off and basked in the quiet, listening to the wind rustling the trees.


at home, later, i finally sorted thru all the tie-dyed socks the kids had made, and labeled them with their names and addresses.  it was quite the job, because even tho i had taken pictures of each pair of socks with their names on the bags, the socks only superficially resembled what came out of the washer, and i had to match and rematch them in order to get them all right (and even then i had two mismatched socks left, but isn’t that the fault of the laundry elves?)

after that i went down to omar’s house to take a picture of the working space, and when i came back, the light was on the mountain for sunset again.  such a beautiful town.


on tuesday i dropped connor with inga and ingimar one more time, and went up to finally finish asgeir’s wall.  (but the next morning, after telling him he could remove the scaffolding, i remembered the hashtag identifier that bjarney lea and i came up with – #olotrolltown – and so rushed back up there with the black paint and dabbed it in.)


then more  horseback riding.  the corral was quite muddy, so connor wore his rain boots, but i kept forgetting mine and had to pick my way around the puddles.  IMG_9111

there was a fog rolling in from the north, and the waves were way up; i could see them from asgeir’s wall.  olafsfjordur has world-class surfing in the winter, when the waves are furious.  but now they were loud enough to hear from the stables, so after his lesson we went down there and i looked around while connor sat in the car.

back at hlid that afternoon, the strange fog kept rolling in from the sea.  it would come in, cover the town, and then the sun would break thru it and it would dissipate, and then another batch would roll in.  up on the hill it was sunny the whole time, tho every now and then a wisp of fog would come creeping by.



finally signatures on the walls.  that never means i’m done done, only done and looking for things that still need to be finished.


when we were talking about the tree, and now nicely it’s filling out, svanfridur mentioned that the tree should be a troll tree, so i came back in with the house paint color and incised eyes and a mouth, and made sure that several branches were reaching for the troll woman’s head.  nice touches, sort of subtle.  when you’re standing in front of the wall, behind the clothes drying tree, you can’t see the tree’s eyes and mouth, and it’s only when you’re looking for awhile that you can see the fingers reaching for her head.

after that, we took haldor and went to the pool while svanfridur and her daughter went back down to the summer cottage.


the next day was just as cloudy, but the fog had gone.  i left connor, and when i came back, i saw them all trotting in a group back to the stables.  they keep going up on the mountain, up the valley that connor and i walk.  i didn’t know he’d gotten to a trot on his horse – named kjoi.  the woman who runs the school had him on a second lead, riding next to her.  and one of those afternoons his horse stumbled and he went down, but didn’t get hurt, and didn’t cry more than a little bit, and then got right back up on the horse.  good boy.


so back up to hlid to finish both trolls.  since i had missed roast lamb for lunch and had been told i could ask for leftovers, i did so, but of course they’d finished them.  but asking meant that svanfridur and her daughter then went thru the freezer and stumbled across some smoked lamb sausage they’d put up last fall.  so they asked us to dinner!


i left connor and haldor playing down at the summer cottages when i was finished, and ran down to start on skuli and guffa’s wall.  it was going to rain, and was cold and windy, so i chalked in the grid and went at it with black paint right away, because i knew the chalk would dissapear.


then, after collecting the boys and taking them swimming, we went back up to the farm and had dinner with the family.  smoked lamb sausage, beets, cabbage, tiny new potatos and cream sauce.  connor ate everything on his plate with a big smile on his face, to my delight.  and then svanfridur whipped out a rhubarb pie (from farm stock), and ice cream, and connor loved that too.  i’m getting used to him not wanting to finish dinner at home, but when he’s out i am mortified and end up eating everything he leaves so as not to waste anything.  he left nothing at all this time, and i would have been hungry except i’d had several helpings myself.  the picture below is all that was left of several kilos of sausage.


on thursday, tho i don’t have any pictures, i went to ala’s house and started back on her wall.  it had been a few weeks since i’d been there, because of the sports center and how i had to drop everything for the lift, and ala wasn’t there, but her son was, so he played with connor while i put face color on all the trolls, except for one wall where water was dripping down from the rain last night.  then after connor’s last horseback riding lesson, i dropped him off with haldor and came right back to put on the first coats of body color on skuli and gufa’s wall, stopping to have a cup of coffee and some conversation with them and skuli’s brother who was visiting from reykjavik.  then up to hlid to collect the boys and go swimming, where i ran into omar, who said i could paint on his wall.  then i baked the bread i’d been letting rise all day, and made pizza with the rest, and after dinner, went out there with the paint and tested the white, and would be out there right now, but it’s still raining.

it’s actually starting to brighten up, but it’s still wet, so i’ll package up the scarves i ironed last night, then run over to galleri ugla with them, make sure they know what to do with the bag of sheepskin trimmings i left in front of their door, and then go collect haldor and go swimming.  i still have those paintings to work on, tho.

my friend francis has landed in reykjavik, and will be coming up this way tomorrow, so i have some preparation to do.  i’ll write about his visit next post, which will be my last in iceland for this time.   waaaaaaaaah

Posted by: jeanne | August 10, 2017

finishing murals and more

we’re now at the end of the three week mark, so i’ve abandoned my vow to not work weekends.  as it happened, i got the lift precisely because it was a weekend, and a long holiday weekend at that.  so my hands were tied.


it’s a large lift, a nifty 170, with a 17m working height.  i didn’t get it that high.  it also stretches out almost 9m, and i used that a lot.  the image is longer than 9m, so we had to move it twice, which, while supposedly it can be moved by hand, we had to attach bjarney’s car to it every time.  it also bounces, and until i learned to release the power button before releasing the lift controls, it bounced horribly and hard.  once i learned how to actually use it, not just the basics, it became a joy to use, but i still came home and felt the bounce long after i’d gone to bed at night.  that first day, i got the grid up and the blue line drawing of about half of the troll.


in the evening, anna kristin came over to do a watercolor, and i worked on this piece from the medieval days a few weeks ago.  it’s not finished yet, duh.

later that evening, connor and i decided to go back up the valley because it had been over a month since we’d taken the walk, and my view of the valley was enhanced from the top of the lift, so i kind of couldn’t resist.


this time he had no trouble at all getting on top of the troll rock at the head of the path.  the ground was dry, the streams were mostly dried up, there was sheep dung everywhere but no mushrooms because no rain in a long time.


but there were sheep.  and we got pretty close to several of them.  i know enough now to realize that this is a male sheep looking at us, and had to caution connor not to move too fast because those horns are sharp and that sheep is strong.  but he watched us pass and then went back to doing what he was doing.


it was about 9pm, and still only working toward sunset when we came back down.  that far run of mountains is on the other side of eyjafjordur, and would take hours to get to by car, if there were any roads going the length of it.  which there are not.  but there are stories of people who had to walk the length.  in winter.  with broken legs.  ah, iceland.


the river down the valley is much reduced, and the elf island is almost accessible.  not that anybody around here would be foolish enough to try it.  across the lake, you can see the farms hlid and trollakot.  hlid has a troll mural i have yet to finish…


i woke at dawn that morning, which is about 4am now.  the light was hitting the mountains to the left of the valley we’d walked up the night before.  there’s almost no snow left at all, and none in the foot of the valley, where the town is.


back up onto the wall.  i started in with the body color.  haukur took me over to the paint store (which his son runs), and i picked out a nice light gray blue, because i knew the limited supply i’d been using all summer would run out immediately, and i had no idea what actual color that was.  the color i picked is called malmbratt.  i got a gallon.  i had the crazy idea that i could put on two coats with a gallon.  hahaahhah.


in the afternoon i went over to fix the wings on the mythical beast at the school.  lara had noticed that the wings were both on the other side of the beast’s body, so i had to go extend them down and paint the local colors and then the accent lines and the black outlines.  it took two coats, which mean it took two sessions.  it was coldish and the paint didn’t want to dry.IMG_9850

then back up on the wall at the sports center.  it was saturday of a bank holiday weekend, and i was almost out of blue paint, so i had to call haukur and ask him to get me some more.  the paint store was closed, but he came to the pool, where connor and i were swimming, and asked me what color.  i told him the empty container was on the lift, and he went and got it, then went and got paint, and left it in the lift for me to get once i’d gone home and changed.


that evening i had to take a break from my work to host the artist’s greeting meeting.  everybody brought food again, so we all stuffed ourselves, and then sat down to introduce ourselves and talk about our work.  i keep my introduction to a minimum, hoping they’ll follow suit, but they never do, so it was a three hour meeting.  but this month’s residents are a very interesting bunch, with several academics and a lot of non-americans.


then it was back up onto the wall.  i was there until midnight, when it got too dark to see.  it was kind of strange.  gradually everything got quiet.  no birdsong.  no kids playing.  no cars going by.  just me and the whine of the lift as i kept moving it.  and the bounce.  and the wind aloft.  even a couple of meters is enough to make it cold and windy, even when it’s warm and still on the ground.


my view


on sunday i had to check out the last of july’s residents and take him to the bus, but he didn’t want me to wait with him, so i ran back up to the wall and put in another long day’s work.


and at 9pm connor and i went out to haukur and bjarney’s family bonfire by the summer houses on the lake.  it was already going when we got there, a big bonfire (where did they get the wood?), and haukur and someone else on guitar, with the whole family singing along out of a songbook.  it was actually a lot of fun.


connor certainly thought so, of course.


i stood around and smiled a lot, and hummed along to the various tunes i recognized, tho i had no hope of actually singing along, because it was all in icelandic. of course.

the little girl found a dead and dried fish, and came to show the family.  everybody took pictures, and then she ran off to throw it into the fire, but couldn’t get close enough, so various older kids helped until they lost interest.


svanfridur, from hlid, showed up, and i thought she might be related to them, but no, she’d heard the singing from the farm, and came down to join in.


sunset was just after 10, and it actually set.  connor and i left after the fire died down, and we were not the last to leave.  at some point they set off fireworks, which is totally illegal since it’s not xmas time, and someone else threw a bunch of gas on the fire, which is totally unenvironmental, but boys.


of course i went back up on the wall after the party, and worked until it was too dark to see anymore.  i made the mistake of trying to put shadows on the figure, and had to spend an extra hour or so covering it up with blue paint.


and on monday i was back up on the wall again, trying to finish so the lift could go back and haukur and the mayor could stop paying for its rental.  bjarney and her boyfriend had to come and help me move it twice, so i could get the hands and feet.  it was starting to cloud up, and the forecast was for rain, so i was in a big hurry to finish.


after dusk, when i went back again to actually finish (except i’m not), some of the local kids came out to watch and play around.  they all like it.  when i was done, it was dark, and the next morning i realized that i still had a few touches to do, but the lift got taken back, and so i’m going to have to get a big ladder and deal with it later.  but every time i see it, i can see the glaring mistakes, so it will get dealt with before i leave.


on tuesday we went across the river to the stables, where connor is now enrolled in riding lessons on icelandic horses.  the cost was very cheap compared to home, where we have no opportunity to go horseback riding at all, so i couldn’t pass it up.


we got connor into the smallest of helmets, and they wanted to put him on a kid’s saddle, but the stirrups wouldn’t go short enough, so he ended up on a regular saddle with severely shortened stirrups.  it’s been 30 or more years since i’ve been on a horse, but it all comes back – how to check the belly band, how to adjust the stirrups, how to brush the horse, how to get the mane out from under the pommel, how to hold the reins.  and connor got really tired of me telling him to sit up straight, and insisted he knew how to do it.  so i asked, and the lady running the school told me i didn’t have to be there after the first lesson.  which was a relief, because the walls.


on the way back from the ring, i got a call from bjarney, who was down at the troll statue with the boyfriend, drilling holes into the rocks so we could sink some rebar to keep the thing together once the kids discovered it.  i’m going toh ave to set the rods myself, because bjarney has gone to reykjavik for a week or so, and we won’t be doing much with the statue until she gets back.  except tommy is supposed to come and put a huge rock on with a crane on the back of his truck at some point.


so i went to the bank, and started on the troll that someone else has designed.  it’s meant to be a tourist attraction, and the designer and i have been going back and forth about how high that pinching hand is supposed to be, and the color scheme, and all sorts of things.   i’ve been messing with the grid for some days, but the ground slopes, so i had to get her guidance about how to deal with that.  so i found a level on my phone, and started.


on wednesday we had the sock tie-dye workshop at tjarnarborg, with the kids and several moms and grandmas (thank god).  asta, alice and i had been advertising this workshop for a couple of weeks, and connor and his friends passed out printed invitations, but it was asta staying up all night calling people around town that really did it.  we had a packed house full of kids, and almost ran out of socks.  i had ordered 9 pairs each of large, medium and small kids socks (thru graycloud – thanks a bunch), and brought my dyes.  last time i was here we had a tie-dye workshop for adults, so this time i thought it would be twice the fun to just let the kids loose on them.  and so it was.

graycloud came in for a few minutes to take pictures of the kids for his album of olafsfjordur faces, and i gave the kids minimal instructions, and let them go.  unfortunately i had forgotten to warn the parents that the kids would come home with their hands stained by dye, because it’s not something i think about personally.  i hope none of them were upset; the dye wears off after a couple of days, especially if you go to the pool.

the first thing i realized was that i didn’t have enough dyepots.  so i had to gather up a bunch of drinking glasses from the tjarnarborg kitchen, split up the dye i had premixed, and mix some more.  i couldn’t give each kid a brush and an eye dropper and a squeeze bottle, so i put a bunch of these on the table, stuck the brushes and eye droppers into the dye pots (and still they got mixed up and the yellow turned green).  i showed them a couple of pairs of my own socks for inspiration, and then just tried to make sure they had enough of each color (cyan, magenta, yellow, black).  then when they were all done, in about an hour, i gave them a plastic bag and a rubber band, and passed around the only pen i’d brought with me, and asked them to put their names and addresses on the bags so i’d know which socks were whose.

of course, bringing them back home to batch on top of the radiators, i realized that i would have no idea whose socks were which once i took them out of the bag to rinse and wash.  so i had to photograph the socks and the bags, and when they are dry, i’ll have to go and match them with the pictures.  and then i’ll have to find the kids’ houses according to the (sketchy and blurred) addresses.  this will give me the opportunity to also go around with the troll houses from the first kids’ workshop back in june.  the pictures have been sitting on my steps for almost three months, waiting for me to go around and glue them to various outdoor structures.  (and in the meantime i’ve gotten horrified looks from parents when i ask them about pasting up their kids’ drawings onto the cement walls at street level.


immediately we were finished with the workshop, i had to get connor to his riding lesson.  it was rainy, so he wore boots, and i didn’t, and was sorry.  the farmyard was sodden, with horseshit everywhere, and it was hard to walk.


but i went back to the wall and put on the first coat of the local color.  in the rain.

that night was a dinner at ida’s, because anna kristin is off to denmark or sweden, or maybe norway, for 4 months of college, and i won’t see her again.  ida made 3 pizzas and we ate until we were stuffed.  connor ate 3 pieces!  he loves her food more than he loves mine, and that’s kind of a family tradition at this point.


this is the boring view from their house.  i could sit there forever.


when i put connor to bed i went back to the wall to put on the second coat, and left around 11pm.  talked to jim for the usual hour last thing before bed – up in the attic since it turns out that graycloud, downstairs from me, can hear every word and it keeps him up at night.


this morning we caught anna kristin doing her final transaction at kaffi klara, taking care of some guests who wanted coffee.


connor had fun stealing bjarni’s glasses.  he told everyone that i am difficult to live with, and as a grandma, i’m kind of proud of that. somebody has to be.


after breakfast at kaffi klara (a waffle with cream and chocolate sauce – thanks anna kristin), we went home and i rinsed out the socks, and then washed them twice before i was satisfied.  they’re on the radiators drying right now.


but i went to the wall while connor had his lesson, and went back afterwards while he played at kaffi klara, and now it’s mostly done, except for the texture on the rock and restating the black lines.  the designer visits this weekend, and i hope she likes it.


i’ve got three walls to finish, and as many more as i can manage before we leave, in almost 2 weeks.  i’m so going to miss this place.  even if it only hits 8 degrees and the wind blows the rain into your face even sitting in the hot pot.  people know us now, and it feels like home.  but then, we have a home to go to, even if it’s hotter than hell and toxic politically.  it’s still ahem home.

Posted by: jeanne | August 2, 2017

first days of the august residency

so it’s been a whole week since i last posted.  and it’s not because i have nothing to do.  it’s because there’s too much to do and too little time.  four weeks.  gak.

last thursday morning i got my times confused.  usually i set my phone alarm for 12, 12:30 and 3:30 at a minimum – these are the times i have to have connor fed, ready for soccer, and picked up from soccer.  but i was thrown off partly by having to go down to the sculpture site at 10, where bjarney’s eldest boy and connor played in the tall grass and threw stones into the lake while we sorted rocks and decided we needed some help, arranging to meet again later that afternoon.  so connor and i went to the school and while he played on the soccer field, i got up on the wall and worked on the mythical beast.  it wasn’t exactly overly windy, but it was coming from the north, and there was a whistling around me as the wind cut thru the scaffolding.


then we went back to meet bjarney lea out at the statue site.  she’d called in a reinforcement, runar – a man to do the heavy lifting – and we got the largest couple of rocks we could lift onto the huge base gulli had left in place a few days ago. we mixed up some cement and plastered down the two large rocks, then dashed in some pebbles to cover that cement look.  bjarney washed cement off the rocks to preserve the wonderful colors and textures in the local rock.  you can just see her boy in blue in the middle ground, where connor is hiding in the tall grass.


then we spent some more time working on the troll woman and the mythical beast while i kept cursing my phone for not going off as scheduled.  until i realized i was an hour early for the clock.  but by that time we’d packed up and were ready to go back to eat lunch.

so we went up to tommi’s to talk about getting him to come down to the statue and drill some anchor holes and stick rebar in there.  because the kids are going to climb the statue when it’s done.  and the teenagers are going to try to topple it.  while we were there, connor played with some of tommi’s workers, and i took pictures of tommi with his elf ears for a mural on his roof that i may or may not have time to get to.


once i’d dropped him at soccer, i went up to asgeir’s house and talked to him as he ate his lunch.  the scaffolding wasn’t quite ready, so i went back to the school and did some more, half an hour’s work, before going back up the hill and starting work on his mural.  it was even windier, and right before i left, the ladder i’d just gotten down off of blew over.

the factory having its roof painted.  still haven’t started repairing and buffing the wall, tho

it was a lovely day, and this is the view from his house.  shaky damned scaffolding, tho, and i had to be extra careful.  and, interesting to me, i managed to toss down my ruler, stirring stick and small paintbrush into the grass, rather than trying to carry them down, and then completely forgot about them until today, when i fetched the ruler only – the dog having scavenged by stick and paintbrush (else that or the elves took them).

the wall’s surface is very rough, and very hard to paint.  it’s some sort of cement board, and wore my chalk right out.


but in the end, i got the outline of asgeir on the wall, and then had to go rush off to get connor and go swimming.


late that night, around midnight, i took this photo out of the bedroom window.  it’s beginning to get dark at night.  not all the way dark, but dark enough that i’m having to use the room light to write this (at 1:19am).  when i made hot chocolate for myself a few minutes ago, i had to turn on the kitchen light for the first time – i didn’t know where the light switch was until just now.   hahahah.


the next day was friday, and i came down with some sort of flash illness that anna kristin had a few days ago, and lizzy – one of our artists who came to the statue site and helped us lift a few stones that we couldn’t have otherwise gotten up there – came down with the day before.  so i had a migraine all day.  i attributed it to the elves, who have heard me promise not to work on the weekends, and then heard me say oh maybe i can start the wall in dalvik on saturday.  but maybe it was viral.  anyway, i was in bed most of the day on friday.

but on saturday i felt much better, and made bread, cookies, and spaghetti, paint two scarves, and start a little mini painting.

and on sunday, i dropped sonja off at the bus stop, using the time we waited to have the kind of chat we never had time for in the two months she was with us.  the bus came, it didn’t look anything like the regular sterna busses (it was green), and when she wrote an email to us later in the day, turns out it was over booked, and people were sitting on each other’s laps before they got to reykjavik.

later, anna kristin came over to finish her oil painting (we’d mixed up some oil paint several days ago and she started a painting of clouds, but then got tired of working with it and abandoned it), and it turned into a watercolor painting instead.  connor did a few paintings to add to his collection, and i colored in the drawing i’d made the day before.


then on monday, lizzie left with her friend at 9, and we sat and talked at the bus stop about life in general (they’re so young), and then i went back to the downstairs apartment and saw anno and his wife out at 11, and then it was back out onto the sculpture site at 1, where bjarney and anna kristin and i loaded up another layer of rocks, including the big mother that had been intended as support on the ground because we’d thought it was too big to lift.  but get three women together, and you can do anything.


there was a bit of an issue when one of her kids fell into the lake, but after ten minutes she was back, long enough for anna kristin and i to sit on a nearby bench and soak up some sun, and then mix up another tub of cement.  there was this cloud over the mountain that was there all day long, and we all thought it was very interesting, and paused to take photos of it.  it remained there even while connor and i were at the pool, later on.


i spent the rest of the afternoon and much of the evening cleaning the main residency house.  tho the artists had each left their rooms cleaned, nobody had dusted or swept under the beds, the kitchen needed super cleaning because one of the artists due in has a severe nut allergy and the artists in july had a huge tub of peanut butter they’d gotten part way thru.  also, the gallery was a mess, and the art supply room was in tatters.  i cleaned up the supply room, and anita, who is staying another month, went around with white paint for the walls, and cleaned up and rearranged the furniture to make everything nice and homey – thanks, anita.

i came home, intending to apply to a last minute award program for artists with kids, but completely missed the deadline because of all the cleaning that needed doing.  oh well.  who needs funding, anyway?

on tuesday, i went around to the other house and cleaned.  it was kind of strange doing so, because fiona and bastiaan were still there, sleeping late, and there i was cleaning the kitchen and making sure the bathrooms were clean.

then back out on to the wall.  it was only slightly less windy, but still it was painful to be at the school, because i was in shadow all day, and it was damned cold.  45F, perhaps.  but i had to finish.  and i had to meet several new residents.  orlaith (pronounded orla), from northern ireland, came on the reykjavik bus, the same green one, at 2:15, so i was on the school wall for an hour at a time, going back unwillingly after showing her around and giving her the keys.  and i can call teh wall finished now, except lara texted me from poland, where she’s attending a meeting, and pointed out that the wings are both on the far side of the beast’s body, so i’m going to have to go back up there – after i’d told gisli to get the guys to take the scaffolding down.  oops.  i’ll do it maybe tomorrow…


in the evening, laura (from italy) got herself here from akureyri, tho the friend who drove her had car trouble.  and alfredo (from spain) drove himself in and arrived without notice, and found his house, and showed up at the door for the keys, escorted by bastiaan, who is staying a few more days.  so i went to bed.

this morning, i think it was this morning, bjarney and i showed up at the house behind us, where the guys had been using a lift to help with their roofing project.  they’d taken three weeks to do the roof, taking long breaks, quitting around 3, and when tommi told me they were related to skuli and guffa, i asked ida to call skuli and guffa to ask them to call their relatives and ask to borrow the lift, which was two doors down from their house.  i wanted the guys to drive it over to their house when they quit for the day, for several days, and let me put a mural of skuli and giffa on their wall, which faces the webcam, which skuli runs, and which pauses dramatically in its panning right there at their house.  it’s my trolls’ window to the world, and i think it might be the most important wall, because it’s the only one that can be seen from the webcam.  so i had had jim design a troll couple waving at the webcam, and got skuli and guffa to pose waving for the camera, and was all ready to put it up, except i couldn’t possibly put it on their stairs without killing myself.  so it was all very problematic.

but when i talked to bjarney about it, and how i would never be able to do the sports center mural if i didn’t have a lift, it turns out she’s related to the mayor’s assistant, haukur, so she called him up and lit a fire under him, and he and the mayor decided to pay for the lift themselves, and rented it from the guy who owns it, who happens to be the guy who owns the house in back of us, whose lift i have coveted to paint skuli and guffa’s house.

and when i went over to show guffa the design jim made, she was sitting in the living room crocheting with the mom of inga and ingimar of the crutch and raven mural, the one who’s been bringing me lopapeysa sweaters ever since i finished the mural.  so it’s a really small town.  and for the first time in my life, that doesn’t give me hives.  it’s why i left my college town, after all, when i realized it was like a big game of musical chairs, where everybody would be dating and everybody else in town, one at a time, going around in a big circle and getting incestuously intense.  but now, at this time, and since i’m an outsider, i don’t mind.  it’s kind of comforting.

so there we were, getting the guy who owns the house and the lift to show me how the thing works (very complicated – i filmed the process on my phone), and then bjarney and i went over to tell guffa i was going to do the wall after all, except we weren’t going to be able to move the lift right past the owner’s house without him noticing… but guffa pointed out the area beneath the stairs, which while smaller and less impressive, can still be seen from the webcam, plus i can do it with a step ladder.  so that’s yet another wall added at the last minute.  that makes 7.  to do in 4 weeks.  and the week is now half over.

today i saw fiona (from the states) off at 9, with connor playing on his tablet in the back seat while we waited for the bus.  orlaith came by on her bike, and told us she’d left her expensive camera on the bus yesterday, along with two bottles of wine she’d bought at the duty free.  in the states, or even in ireland, that would be gone forever, but in iceland, the bus driver brought it back to her in a plastic bag, with a big grin on his face, and didn’t want to take the nice bar of chocolate orlaith had brought for him.

then connor and i went to asgeir’s on the hill, and he played with his tablet and watched tv while kristin, asgeir’s wife, did home stuff on her day off, and brought me coffee, and talked to me about her eldest daughter, and having red hair, and getting older, while i painted in the parts of the figure i’d drawn in last week.  it was cold, and windy, but the wall is sideways to the wind and i had my jacket on.  the jacket is getting quite the speckled effect from all the paint i’ve been spilling on it.  as well as my sweater, and never mind the jeans.


then after connor went to soccer, i collected sherry (from canada) and we went back to the farm to do some more work.  bjarney met us there, because she needs to learn how to do walls if she’s going to continue the work after i leave.


i grayed in the remaining figures, checking several times to make sure the mama sheep was right, and neglected to put any black on because the girls had the black and the think brushes, and i was working with the 3″ brush.


there’s some more left to do on both walls, but it’s great progress, and i should be able to finish it in only two more sessions, sherry being back to canada and bjarney going on vacation next week.


after swimming, i went and collected two more artists, a pair from canada who are here to finish a book they’ve been working on for a year.  they’ve got a contract, and a deadline.  it’s very full circle for me, because i originally came here to work on a book, my unfinished novel about what happens when the ice melts from antarctica.  it’s  dystopian novel, and all the bad crap i was writing about has started coming true, so i stopped.

connor went out with two friends to deliver invitations to houses with kids, because we’re having a tie-dye party with socks next week.  and while he was gone i went up to asgeir’s house, because i suddenly remembered what happened to my ruler and brush.  while i was there i noticed they’d been trimming the bushes.  because people have begun looking at their house from the main road.  he was still out when i got back, so i went to the bank and started chalking the figure in, except i ran into some questions, so came back here and emailed the designer about it.  and i’ll start it mañana.

and late in the evening, our last artist arrived, all on his own, my having left his key under the mat downstairs.  we have two more coming, but not until next week, and the orientation is on saturday.  so that’s all the running around i have to do for awhile, and i can go back to concentrating on the various projects.  i would be out on the school all fixing the little mistake if it weren’t nearly dark, which is why i’m writing this post now, at 2am, because the artist downstairs went out for a few photos and left his keys inside, and the door closed behind him.  it happened to me, but not before i’d hidden a spare key in the yard.  so i gave him his spare key and told him to do the same.  but he’d woken me up, and then i couldn’t get back to sleep.   now the hot chocolate is gone, and i’ve finished my post, and i’m going to try to get that sleep before going to the sport center in the morning.

Posted by: jeanne | July 26, 2017

last days of the july residency

it’s not my last days, but my current batch of artists is getting ready to pack up and go home.  we’ve already said goodbye to jason this morning (and i almost had him miss his bus because i didn’t realize he was waiting for the bus to akureyri instead of the bus to reykjavik).

in the meantime, i’m doubling down on work on the walls.  on thursday morning connor and i went around to six different walls to measure and make sure everything was ready to go.  that’d be the two murals at the farm at hlith, the back of the house at ala’s, the second floor of asgeir’s house up on the hill, the tall wall at menntaskolinn (the junior college), the bank, the family house in dalvik.  this leaves a few walls that are still maybes – the factory wall, tommi’s roof, the sports center, bjarney’s side wall, skuli and guffa’s stairway, and the small wall at kristin the scrollworker’s shop.  and five weeks.

once i took connor off to soccer, i met sherry at the cafe.  sherry’s been helping ida on a work share program, and she had some time free, so i asked her to research the plants that are native or at least prevalent in the north part of iceland.  ida had a book, and they went thru it and marked the right pictures, and we came up with half a dozen plants.  i took pictures of the pictures with my phone, and several locals chimed in with varieties that actually grow here, and their icelandic names.  most of which escape me at the moment.  then we went to kristin the scrollworker’s shop to talk to her – it was her idea and she also has a book – but she wasn’t there, so we tsk tsked at the condition of the wall she wants me to paint, and went back to our separate jobs.

the guys doing the addition at the school provided me with scaffolding in the morning, so after meeting sherry, i went up on the wall and started gridding.  i had chosen yellow chalk, and i don’t know why, because it fades immediately to white, and the wall was white.  so i got out the light gray paint and put a dab at every intersection.  the scaffolding was wobbly, and only covered part of the wall, so i could only measure part of the entire surface, and that proved problematic when i realized my scale was wrong.

i’d spent some time in the gimp (photoshop for linux) cutting apart jim’s drawing, separating out the troll woman from her mythical beast.  she was fine at 12′ tall, but the beast was way too small.  this is important because you can see the wall all the way from mulatindur (auto repair shop) halfway up the hill to the tunnel to dalvik.  so i had to enlarge it to double its size, and put it on the ground surface.  it’s not exactly ground, either.  the scaffolding had to be erected on top of a plywood sheet resting on the trash container, which is a concrete and wood structure about my height.  and it was erected to be in one spot, with supports to compensate for the fact that the board, and the scaffolding, were wider than the container.  and once i moved it to grid the rest of the wall, it lost its support, and boy did it wobble.  if i’d realized that there was a danger of the board cracking and the scaffolding coming down into the parking lot, i wouldn’t have moved it, but i didn’t, and wondered why it was so wobbly.  i learned, and moved it back, and haven’t moved it again…

then anna kristin came over and we made dinnner. that is, she made diner with ingredients collected from her house and the cafe and combined with stuff i had here.  chicken curry.   then we went thru the bag of sheepskin trimmings and she took the largest pieces to make a rug for herself.


on friday i worked all day on the school wall.  in the pictures you can see the blue lines of the beast drawn in, but i realized quickly i wasn’t going to be able to continue at that scale, and just concentrated on the troll woman.  connor played with his tablet until it was time for lunch, and once he was off to soccer i went back to the wall.


saturday morning, we went to dalvik for connor’s soccer tournament.  he surprised everybody with his skills; he and a little girl named greta ran after every ball and took all sorts of initiative trying to get the ball away from the other teams, who were much more alert and won all the matches.  but nobody cared.

here, for the connoisseurs among us, are a thousand photos of connor.  actually, i took about 350 on saturday.  he’s such a star.


here’s connor’s coach congratulating him for scoring a GOAL!!!!

the little girl in the red hair is greta, the other ball buster on the team



between matches that only lasted 11 minutes, the kids swarmed their coach





betwwen matches, the kids played near their parents, and greta proved dominant here also


connor finally learned how to do the congratulate members of the other team thing

the proud team members after it was all over

and their congratulatory hotdog, which are made of mostly lamb here in iceland



you can’t walk three feet without coming across trolls in this landscape


approaching dalvik, a really nice part of the troll peninsula

connor was asleep only moments after we finished our ice cream that night.  but we still went swimming after we got back.

on sunday anna kristin came over and made us icelandic pancakes, or crepes, with powdered sugar and in my case, strawberry preserves.  i forget what else we did, but i don’t work on walls on the weekend at this point, just to have a break.  oh yeah.  i made bread, finished dyeing a scarf that hopefully won’t fade like the first two did, and we went walking up the avalanche ramp in the late evening, it being so sunny and warm.  these days it starts out at 60F and goes up from there.  it hit 25C in the north, with clear blue skies and really intense sun.  it was too hot.  roasting.  nobody was in the hot hotpot at the pool, and the kids were jumping into the cold pot and splashing everybody, with nary a complaint.

for mommy

the view from the top of the ramp

we walked along the slope of the mountain until we came to the highest houses

on monday, connor and i went to the school and i worked on the wall until it was time to go to lunch and get ready for soccer.  connor mostly played on the playground nearby, and ended up playing soccer with some teenagers who were hanging out in the sunshine.  i was working in my t-shirt and jeans, with no leggings, no sweater or vest, and no shoes or socks.  the glare off the wall was devastating.


after he went to soccer, i had a bowl of gazpacho at kaffi klara (thanks ida) and took sherry up to hlid to start work.  except that they hadn’t yet painted and repaired the walls we were going to do.  so i showed them jim’s drawing of the troll getting rammed by the sheep.  i had spotted the problem awhile back, because i had given jim a photo of a sheep butting heads, but it was a longhorn ram, and needed replacing with an icelandic sheep.  but i had replaced it with a male sheep, so they straightened me out, and pulled up a photo of one of their own mama sheep, and i took a photo to use.  the difference is the length and curvature of the horns, and a more rounded nose on the female.  who would know but a sheep farmer?  can’t get that wrong…


then sherry and i went to ala’s house to begin drawing in the many figures that go on her wall.  ala’s wall is different from anybody else’s because not only can you not see the mural from the main road thru town, but it’s on the back wall, where nobody can see it from the street at all.  but that’s okay.  it’s the hidden troll mural.


while we were there, kara, her daughter, made us some lovely waffles, and we sat down with coffee and talked for awhile.  sherry gridded up two of the walls, and also chalked in the designs on them.  it’s her first time doing a wall mural, so i’m making sure she gets to do everything so she can go back home to vancouver island and start working there.  maybe not with trolls….


the mural on ala’s house features not only her whole family, but also their pets.  so i got a nice picture of their dog, a rescue that bites everybody, but loves me and connor.  it’s because she looks so much like connor’s dog lilly that we both fell in love with her.

on tuesday we got up extra early to go swimming, because we knew it was going to be too busy later.  and after that we headed to ala’s, where connor had a wonderful time jumping on the trampoline with kara and playing with ala’s grandkid’s legos, and trying to get her oldest son to put minecraft on their tv so they could both play it.  lunchtime came too soon.  but it was also incredibly hot on her back patio, and a bunch of her friends came over and sat around with their tops off drinking coffee and talking.  i worked as fast as i could, but still 3 hours passed in just a few minutes.

after lunch, sherry and i went back up to hlid, where she gridded the wall of the main house, drew in the birch tree, and started painting it in.


while i did the same thing on the wall of the sheep barn, and managed to get the colors on the little grandson and the dog.  not all the colors, and not the right ones on the dog at least, but it was a good start.


again, the wall was blistering in the sun, and i was quite burned and blind when i was finished.  and i was only finished when my alarm went off and we quit to go get connor.

that evening, we had the final exhibition and dinner party for july’s residents.  we gathered at 4, put our artwork on the wall, opened the door, and actually had a few local people come by to see our work.


it was very gratifying to show people around, explain how we did things, and discuss what we’d been doing all month with each other.


jason’s knotted nets and ropes were a big hit, and ida decided she wanted them for display items for an upcoming marine festival.


we all loved the big rope work, and called in lara to see if she wanted to hang it in her school, and she told us with wry irony that in this town, discarded bits of rope are truly trash, and nobody here would appreciate art made with that kind of trash.  so as nice as it is, it’ll probably end up in the dump, where perhaps one of the august artists will decide to do something with it.



dinner was fun, with everybody bringing something that they made.  i made bread, of course, and also used some of the cod in my freezer to make a casserole.  people have been giving me cod fillets.



and after dinner was over, no sooner were connor and i out of the residency house than a bunch of his friends greeted him, crossed the street to us, and gave connor an enormous water canon, which he duly used on them.  they came over to our house with it, and they all played in the little parklet across the street until 10pm.


this morning, i was up bright and early to get jason to his bus.  we sat at the pool waiting for it to arrive, and it was 15 minutes late, so we had lots of time to talk about how much we both love it here, and what he could do if he came back.


and then i found out that he was going to akureyri, not reykjavik, and should be waiting for the straeto bus out on the street, not the sba bus at the pool.  so i shouted for connor, who was off playing on the soccer field, but he went running off to the sports house to return a ball, and at the same time i saw the straeto bus go by, and i had to make a decision.  so i left connor there and ran after the bus, which stopped in the middle of town to pick up an old lady.  so i pulled in front of it and let jason off, and thank got he made it because i would have had to run him to akureyri.   connor was a little put out when i came back to pick him up, because he wondered if i was going to leave him there or what, but it was safe to leave him there, and he understood after i explained it.

then we went back to ala’s house, and while i worked in the sweltering sun, he played with kara on the trampoline, and ala talked with neighbors over the back fence, starting with anna kristin who was walking her dog, and ending up with i don’t know how many others, all speaking icelandic while the dog barked at the kids laughing and giggling on the trampoline.


i really love working when all that fun is going on around me.  it’s so much better than having headphones on and listening to music.  which i would never do, anyway.


when it was time to go, connor didn’t have his accustomed fit, but he wasn’t happy about leaving.  i still have the details to do, so we’ll be back.  i love hanging out with ala, she’s just like me and we have a great time sharing and talking.  that’s what i love about doing all these walls.  it’s a very personal thing, both for me and the people whose walls i’m painting.

after dropping him off at soccer, where they all got on the bus to siglufjordur for the afternoon, i went back to the school.  but the wind kicked up as soon as i got there, and when the wind is up here, it’s a gale.


i didn’t mind getting on the scaffolding to put a second coat on the troll woman’s dress, and to paint in the red on the tiger, but the ladder kept shifting in the wind, and whistling thru the pipes, and at one point tore the paint can lid off the board and sent it flying across the parking lot and across the street, so i took it as a warning.


and when bjarney came to tell me that gulli had finally delivered the rocks he had promised us for the troll statue (which i guess i forgot to talk about so far), i quit work on the wall and went out to the lakeshore, where we took half an hour or so to shift the pile of rocks, sorting it into sizes (can’t budge, can barely heft, can throw, small rocks) and figuring out how we’re going to do this.  we only have a few days until she has to go away for awhile, so the troll statue is going to get made now.  she bought cement (i need to see if it’s portland cement, or do we have to add lime to make it into mortar), and she’s going to get a friend to come help us shift the large rocks into position around the huge flat rock that gulli brought us for a base.  it’ll be interesting.

these yellow flowers lining the stream weren’t there earlier in the week

when we were done with that, i went to hlid to work on the troll man.  it was so windy that the birds weren’t flying, but that particular wall is on the leeward side of the farm, so i was again baked by the sun.  but at least the paper wasn’t torn out of my hand…  the troll man ended up being too short and stumpy when i drew him in using the scale that would fit the wall horizontally, so i had to enlarge the scale vertically, and then he fit just fine.  i haven’t outlined him in black yet, because i thought i would start with the color and go from there.  maybe saving myself a step by not having to restate the outlines.


and then it was time to go get connor.  and we went to the pool in a gale.  and all the birds were hanging out on the hill; nobody was flying.  and it was too cool in the pool, for me at least, even tho connor wanted to continue doing dives and swimming the breadth of the pool underwater.  but i wanted to get into the hot pot.  so i let him go in the kid pool and mess with some tourists, and then let him get floaties and go down the big slide a few times.  one of the obvious things about three or four days of sweltering sunshine is that both of us lost our sniffles, sore throats and coughs during it.  now that it’s windy, i can feel my throat scratching again.  and i thought it was the vitamin c and echinacea.

tonight’s dinner was leftover sausages and noodles and soup and baked beans, and he went outside again.  we were actually waiting to be called back to the troll statue site for some heavy lifting, but that’s been put off until tomorrow, so i can finish this and call jim.

it’s back to being 9C outside, and it’s still blowing.  there are some low clouds / fog on the mountains and out to sea, and it’s forecast to get back to cool and rainy this weekend.  so we’ll see.  more of the residents leave this weekend, and on monday i have to make sure all three buildings are spotless and ready for the next artists, one of whom has a deadly peanut allergy, so i’m going to be very busy cleaning the kitchen and pantry, because everybody in that house loves nuts.

Posted by: jeanne | July 21, 2017

a twelve hour tour

262 kilometers, 4 hours and 30 minutes.  that’s roughly 60km/hr or about 30mph.  what’s wrong with this picture?  it’s like ireland, where you’d think you could cross from dublin to limerick in an hour and a half, but it takes 3 hours even with the new highways.  everything is farther and slower than you expect here.  so when i was figuring out the mileage, i was sure that it must be 262 miles, because it would take 4 and a bit hours to go that far at home.  but no.  and actually, it took much longer, because i told the artists not to hesitate asking me to stop for photos, and after seeing me stop in the middle of the road a couple of times, they didn’t.

but first, the day before the trip i finished the mural of the troll car eating the mechanic on the wall of the mechanic’s shop.  the shop where they painted the whole damned building because i was going to put a mural up on it.  i worked on it for two days, before connor’s soccer (he stayed with inga and ingimar, bless them), and while he was at soccer (bless the soccer coaches too).  as i was finishing, steinni came up to me with a sandal in his hand and asked me to make the workboots into that sandal, because everybody would then know who the mechanic was.  i had designed it to be steinnisson, but agreed because why not, and then when they paraded willie out to see it, i told him that the troll would now take the painted figure and leave him alone.  sounds good, even tho i’m in no position to assure them of anything like that.  on a whim, when we were talking about them painting the building, i took a picture of steinnisdottir and put her behind the wheel.  so i’m pretty pleased with this, my third troll mural of the season.


so the next morning, connor and i got into the car with sonja, jason, and lizzy, and we all went off to the west of the troll peninsula and past it.  we were going to saudarkrokur because i needed to buy some fish skin leather for the proprietor of those shoesthose shoes, who told me he was interested in seeing how it worked on those shoes.  so a few weeks ago i asked if any of the artists wanted to come with me and share the gas/mileage expenses.  i told them we would repeat the itinerary that siggi and alice took a carful of artists on three years ago – hofsos pool, glaumbaer turf house museum, the fish tannery factory, and the cod drying racks, with a stop for lunch at a bakery/cafe that’s been in operation since the late 1800s.  so three of them jumped at the chance.

the thing about olafsfjordur is that it’s an isolated little valley, and after awhile you get valley fever and want to go anywhere just to get away for a day.  iceland is so full of wonderful and unique scenery that it’s a real shame not to get out and see the place.  but being artists, most of us just don’t have the budget for renting a car and jotting around.  plus i find that i don’t want to go anywhere when i’m here; the place is enough for me, and even going to siglufjordur, 15km away, is too shocking, so i tend to stay put.  you can walk thru the entire town in 20 minutes, and there are 4 nearby valleys to walk up, and a beach, and many many hiking trails.  and bikes.

but journey out we did.  first it was thru the two tunnels (7km and 5km) that were built in 2010 and are wide and spacious.  then thru siglufjordur, which had loads of campers in the campground, and lots of tourists walking up and down the lakeshore paths.  then up the side of the mountain to a tunnel built in 1967, a one lane tunnel.  but it was earlyish and there was no traffic.

once we were out of the tunnel and on the tip of the headland, the road got pretty rough, with unpaved stretches everywhere there are frequent avalanches and rock falls, and it’s just not cost effective to keep paving the road every time.  having blown out a muffler and soften up my tires on gravel already, i slowed down to 30kph every time we went onto gravel.  the mountain went up very sharply in spots, but it was very beautiful as well.


i didn’t take any shots at this point, until we topped a hill and the vista opened up in front of us, and then i stopped in the middle of the road, right below the crest of the hill.  that was stupid, but the elves and trolls kept the traffic back long enough for us to finish taking photos.  at this point it was just me and jason in front taking photos, while sonja and lizzy were talking in the back.  this is before they realized i was serious about not hesitating to say stop when they saw a composition.


after awhile we passed a cute little goat farm with two sheepdogs, and got out to briefly take pictures.  it was only after getting back into the car that one of the artists told me that the sign said it was a petting farm and that we should donate 100kr (a dollar).  connor played with the dogs.


we kept pulling over to take pictures.  the day was milk, tho not so warm as it was in olafsfjordur, where the thermometer on the kitchen window read 22C when i got up.  it never really rained all day, even tho the clouds were lowering.  it’s like that here.



then we reached a bridge, and after consulting my map app i realized we had to continue on the coast road instead of crossing, because glaumbaer was closer to varmahlid, which is way down the fjord where the ring road goes.  so we turned around after taking a mess o’pictures, and continued on.


i asked if anybody wanted to stop and get a hotdog when we hit varmahlid and its huge gas station/cafe, but nobody did, so we went on another 20 miles or so to glaumbaer.


it’s an old turf house complex given to the state several decades ago, and maintained as a museum ever since.  it’s difficult to do, because the techniques of maintaining a turn house have been mostly lost.  it’s like that with thatching houses in ireland – only a few people know how to do it anymore, and they’re mostly old now.


there are two wooden framed houses on the property.  one is the gift shop, and the other is the cafe.  inside the cafe is an old lifestyle exhibit in the attic, with everything laid out and a guy in period costume who spoke flawless english and knew about all the things, and made sure nobody touched anything.  he and connor had a good time talking about who the people were in the photographs on the wall.


building turf houses is an interesting process.  in this case they stacked the cut turf in patterns and let the grass grow back on the top of it.  the grass anchors the turf, which is just peatmoss after all.  this summer has been so hot and dry that the grass is already dead in spots, and the turf is drying out.  it’s very lightweight when dry, and a good wind could tear the house apart.  because it’s modern times, there’s a layer of landscape fabric or mesh plastic over  most of the roofs, anchoring the turf down.  and of course they’ve had to put up signs telling the tourists not to clamber up onto the roofs, because tourists.


turf houses are constructed as individual huts linked by a central passage.  the first thing you pass when you go inside are the guest quarters, which tend to be the coldest because they’re at the entrance.  and turf huts are not heated.  they’re insulated, instead, by extremely thick walls that thump when you hit them with your fist.  and the floors are packed earth.  every little room (every separate hut) has a different function.  there was a still room, a pantry, a kitchen where the only fire was (and i couldn’t see a vent hole, so it must have been full of smoke), several workshops, and at the very back, the family quarters, with all the beds, and all the work people would do in the winter – wool spinning and carding, wood carving, music and reading.  connor of course talked with the person there to make sure nobody touched anything, and to explain things to visitors.


when we finished traipsing around the farmstead, connor and i went out to see the horses and wait for the others.


then we headed up the road to saudarkrokur, and went straight to the cafe.  they had asparagus soup (ida’s is better), and connor and i argued over the pastry for desert, finally settling on a huge caramel covered cinnamon ring.  it was pricey, but everything is, and we really enjoyed our meal.  then we went across to the red cross thrift store, which we were excited about, but it was closed, as it was the last time i was there, three years ago.  maybe it’s a pattern.  maybe the same stuff was in the window as last time…


after that we went to the cod drying racks down by the docks.  there was an information sign there, saying how open-air drying is so much better a process than heated drying, and how most of the fish goes to nigeria where they turn it into fish soup.  that’s just the market for north icelandic cod; dried cod elsewhere is turned into bacala and salt cod for the european market – they love it in venice.


but these racks, tho maintained, had no fish hanging off them.  which was a shame, as we really wanted to see that, and to hear them clacking in the win, and to see the flock of ravens who hung about the place the last time we were here, dropping feathers that i collected and brought back.  but no, it seems to be abandoned.  or maybe it was the wrong time of year, but i don’t think so, because we were there at the same time three years ago.


so we played on the beach instead.  i walked up and down looking for cool rocks; lizzy found a bunch of tile she collected.  the shoreline seems to be shored up by a bunch of building rubble, and it was hard to tell sea-washed cement from sea-washed natural concrete rocks.

we went to the factory then.  it was very close to closing time, and we got in and started  pawing thru the bargain bin racks, where skins cost 495kr (the display rack skins cost from 1050-1450kr each).  i got 25 skins, for the those shoes guy and for a friend who does leatherwork and makes the skins into eye patches (arrr).  we overstayed closing time, and the artists were disappointed that we completely missed the factory tour, but oh well.  we’d had so much fun on the beach…

then it was time to head for hofsos pool, which we were now afraid we’d miss completely.  but we needn’t have worried.  it has become such a tourist attraction that it’s now open until 9pm, and we got there just after 5.


it’s an infinity pool, designed by the guy who designed the blue lagoon.  not nearly as expensive, tho.  and smaller than our pool, with only one hot pot and a tiny kid pool.  but we didn’t care.  the view is magnificent.  and the tourists were relatively well behaved.  i heard mostly french, a smattering of german, and plenty of american.


then we walked down the very steep steps (thank god there were steps at all) to the columnar lava at the base of the hill, carrying our free coffee available at the pool (thank god for coffee).


the lava was wonderful; we stayed there a long time and got quite chilled because our hair was still wet and connor was underdressed.  we were all kind of underdressed because we’d left temperatures near 70F back in town, and weren’t prepared for the completely different weather in a different fjord.



then we doubled back, because i finally found the tiny little church the name of which i constantly forget.  it’s only about 2 km south of hofsos, in a field, and it claims to be the oldest church in iceland, built in the 17th century (there are older churches, like the one in gasir, but that one is a grass covered ruin).


the only problem was that the church was locked.  it hadn’t been three years ago, but tourists.


and then we went home the same way we came out.  we didn’t stop for many photos on the way back, partly because the weather was darker and gloomier, and partly because the artists and finally connor fell asleep as we drove.  so i got to witness the spectacular scenery all by myself.



then we were back, and it was still 18C, and everybody went to bed except me.  i stayed up to process the photos for this post and to call home and talk to jim, which i do every night.

the next morning, knowing i only have 5 weeks left, i went around to six different locations where i have walls to paint, and measured them.  this is the farm up the hill where i’m going to do two murals, and so i brought connor so he could meet the sheepdog.


we’d also been to ala’s house where i’m doing the family as trolls, and where connor had tons of fun jumping on the trampoline with the daughter.  and to the school, where they put up scaffolding so i could start that day.  and to the factory owner’s house to measure the wall, and to his office so i could get a profile photo to add to his troll.  it was a busy morning, and the moment connor went to soccer i went to the cafe to meet with sherry, who has researched the local flora so we can put up an educational mural about the local plants, for the benefit of kids who just don’t get out much anymore…


Posted by: jeanne | July 17, 2017

three days of festivals

we’ve just finished a very busy week, capped off by a troll festival and a medieval festival.  also, i almost started another wall, except the owners decided they needed to repaint the whole building first, so i put it off until the end of the weekend.  and i got a small wall where i can put the troll mother and her kids, but that also needs repair.  also, i’m collaborating with an illustrator – rán –  who has been commissioned to design murals for all the branches of arion bank in iceland, and she has drawn a troll for olafsfjordur, so i’m going to be putting that up at the bank.  and i’m going to collaborate with sherry, another artist to put the local flora up on a wall, because the kids don’t know what they’re trampling on.  i’m also doing the preparation for starting a troll sculpture out of local rock, collaborating with bjarney lea, the unofficial tourist industry official hereabouts.  and i’ve got a wall in dalvik to do now, that jim hasn’t gotten the portrait photos for, so it’s still on the long finger.  that just by itself is busy.  but it gets better.


connor doesn’t know from busy.  he’s got his soccer and playgroup, and his swimming, his tablet and his legos, and several more changes of clothes than i do.  so he’s happy just to pose for me now and then.  doesn’t he look great?


and he’s been drawing.  this one is a troll with several extra arms and a sword, and electricity all around him, and he’s surrounded by open mouths ready to eat him (ready to be battled), and he’s been charged with doing good deeds forever.


the flowers are everywhere in bloom and some of them are massive, and they’re all attended by flower fairies who are very busy making things grow.  things grow very fast here.  i’ve even got salad leaves coming up in my little garden out back.  and when it rains – not very often – the soil soaks it up and dries again instantly.  it’s very fine soil, with not much clay to hold moisture.

on friday, one of our artists – sonja – held a workshop to draw circles and spirals on an enormous piece of paper she got from tommi the sign guy.  she’d invited the town, but mostly it was resident artists who showed up, and we spend an afternoon making abstractions on paper.  it was quite relaxing and very fun.  sonja does these workshops all over, and sometimes the participants get out into the snow with snowshoes and make these designs in real life.


after soccer was over, connor came up and did some circles as well, hanging out with lizzy, of whom he seems particularly fond.


as for me, i took the opportunity to hang out in the windows of bank building’s attic floor and just look at out lovely valley.  that’s our alice’s house in the middle ground, with flowers painted on it.  the yellow house behind it is the one that’s still getting the roof put on it.


when we were done with the art project, we retired to kaffi klara, where ida had made us some wonderful cauliflower soup and homemade bread.  we ate it all up.


saturday was the busiest day.  connor and i got up in time to be the first ones in the pool.  it was raining, relatively hard.  when it rains on the pool, it turns the surface opaque, and tiny little beads of rain float on the surface like will o’the wisps.  the cold rain falls on your head and face, but you don’t care, because the rest of you is submerged in warm or hot water, depending.

after a short swim, we went over to the residence, where anita painted my face so i’d look like a troll.  lizzy painted connor to look like a zombie.  it took forever, and i was 45 minutes later than i said i would be to kaffi klara, where i was helping ida with the crowds.


connor just had to look at himself in the mirror for awhile.


when we went to kaffi klara.  several of the artists were participating, doing troll drawings and painting faces.  i’m going to put the drawings up around town along with all the drawings the kids did in their june workshop.


i got a chance to wear my new icelandic sweater; it’s all green, and goes with everything i brought to wear.


then connor went over to learn how to make a felt troll out of local wool.  the workshop was held by ragnheidur johannsdottir, and i snuck away to join them later in the day.  i brought stuff to make felted house shoes, but so far the materials are still in the closet, and i might have to wait until i’m back home (i mean i will definitely have to wait until i’m back home) to tackle it.  but now i know how to needle felt, so that’s one thing.


when i took some troll soup over to galleri ugla (the owl gallery), i was told to go across the street to the woodcarving shop where the woman wanted me to paint a troll on the front of her store.  it’s a small space, only a couple of feet high, but i will be able to put the mama troll and her kids, slowly turning into rock as the sun comes up.  she wanted something with a story, and that’s about perfect.  her wall will need preparation, tho, so it might be close to the last one i do.


here’s one of the things she has made; she’s a very accomplished scroll saw worker, as well as lots of other crafts.  one of the things we talked about was the need for the local kids to know the local flora.  alaskan lupins were introduced here some years ago, and they are very invasive, and take over, so the local plants – some of which are unique to the troll peninsula – are becoming endangered.  plus, the kids don’t know what these plants are, because like all kids these days, they tend to stay inside and play videogames.  so she suggested i do a wall of local plants, and after discussing it, i thought that the base of the sports center would be the perfect place.  our helper artist (kaffi klara’s helper who is an artist) will be working with me to put these up.  i love collaborations.


here’s ida getting her face painted.  she had a few moments of downtime during the afternoon.


people lined up for cotton candy, hot chocolate, and troll soup.  inside was lots of cafe food and hot coffee.


in the museum, the felted troll workshop was going well, with people stopping in all day.  there was also some live music, and people were singing along while it lasted.


connor stopped in to the face painting tent to get his makeup refurbished, and jason put lots of blood on him.


it had been raining slightly thru the afternoon, but then it dried up, as it often does, and the sun even came out as the afternoon went on.


what they say about babies in iceland is true – mothers routinely leave them outside in their baby carriages to sleep in the open air.  it’s so healthy.  this one was starting to wiggle and whinge, so i rocked him back to sleep.


lara got her face painted, and looks just as dramatic as ever in her witchy troll face.


while i sat in the soup booth and served up troll soup and hot chocolate.  and drank loads of coffee.


and that’s iceland for you.  rain and sun at the same time.


friday evenings, ida serves tapas and has musicians in to play.  it’s always sold out, and this evening it was as crowded as ever, so i volunteered to help out, and got to prep salads, replace empty trays of food, wash a bunch of dishes, gather used plates, sweep up, and hang out, stuffing my face.  i haven’t done actual restaurant work in decades, and it was very rewarding for me to get my back into it.


did i mention that it was ida’s birthday?  happy birthday, ida (in the apron)

on sunday, sherry our helper, connor and i drove almost all the way to akureyri to participate in medieval days.  they’ve held it for years on the approximate site of a medieval trading post, and it’s a chance to see how people lived and what they did way back a thousand years ago.  about a hundred people participate, getting themselves up in costumes, practicing all the handcrafts, having battles and eating soup.


the incongruous thing is that everywhere you look, there’s someone with a camera, in a down jacket, wearing jeans and tennis shoes.  but after a few minutes, you start ignoring them the way the folks dressed in costume do, and go about your business.  my business was taking photos of the participants, to give us some reference material when we go to paint icelandic paintings once we’re back home.  i took almost 700 photos on sunday.


this lady was on a hillside perch, away from the crowds, with antlers on her tent pole and other witchy attributes.  she would tell your runes if you had some pocket change, but all i had was plastic.



connor got into the act, of course.  he got them to teach him how to play the medieval version of lacrosse.  it was supposed to be a demonstration, but i don’t think anybody minded if he got into it.  the participants were all camped out there for three days, living the life, and i think it was fine with him to join in instead of standing on the periphery taking pictures, like i did.


he also got into the archery field, tried the bow a few times, and spent some time helping retrieve arrows after others had their shots



we got there just in time for everyone to have lunch, and tho connor told me the soup was free, only the costumers had any.


i wandered off to explore the area while connor flatly refused because he was having so much fun hanging out with people. i went out on the rocks and took lots of distance people with my long lens, and got a nice shot of the rain fallilng on the hills opposite akureyri, which you can see in the far distance, shining white.


and of course connor found a kid to hang out with.  this kid – barefoot!!! – was whittling wood, and connor desperately wanted to have his chance.  fortunately, the tools were for the participants, and they weren’t shy about telling him so.


then they announced a tour to the old archeology site, where the lady led us down to an old church, and an old storehouse that they’d found lots of stuff inside.  this isn’t the current site, where they were digging a new port, and found a burial ship with loads of stuff in it.  that site is across the inlet from this site.  we could see it from where we were.  they’re doing really exciting things at the new site, finding things they never thought they’d find, things that are changing what they know about the area and its past.


we walked back to the encampment by ourselves, and finally connor raced ahead.  he’d found 100kr (a dollar) on the ground, and was bursting to see if he couldn’t buy something with it.  i suggested maybe a tumbled stone that i saw someone selling, but he wanted a sword.



connor is not embarrassed to go where he’s not supposed to.  there were people inside the tent, and he was curious, so in he went.



then he found someone he’d been playing ball with, and ran him thru with his sword.


and after that he found some kids, and they all played together.  when connor went to strike someone, he did it in slow motion.




and finally he found a girlfriend.


and the blacksmith, of whom he asked endless questions.


but it was time to go, and we ducked into akureyri to stop at the indian curry hut, but gasp – it was closed until 5:30, and there was no way i wanted to wait around for an hour, so we went across the street and got a hotdog, and then let connor meet the trolls.


then it was back home, but we stopped at this delicious waterfall right before entering the tunnel to olafsfjordur.


and that was the end of our trip.  connor was asleep before very long, and i stayed up to size all these photos.  now i’ve had another busy day on monday, but i’ll report on that real soon now.  up this week, a trip to saudarkrokur’s fish leather factory, the turf house museum at glaumbaer, and a swim in the pool at hofsos.  and maybe a visit to the horse farm and dog kennel to see if i can do a mural on their wall…

Posted by: jeanne | July 13, 2017

a cane and a raven

this is about my second mural, and also what connor and i have been up to in the five days since the last post.


on sunday there was a bach recital. a local woman and her cello, and a local couple doing readings and singing old icelandic songs in between movements. cello suite #1, one of my favorites. connor and i sat in the front row of the museum gallery, and he was just a little fidgetty and bored. halfway thru he sat on my lap, and i wrapped my arms around him and we listened. from a distance of only a few feet, the sound of the cello went right thru our chests. i love bach.


when the concert was done, we started home, but ida came to the door of the cafe and waved us back.


she told me that the woman who sang the folksongs and her husband who read excerpts from some story (the only word i understood was indiana) wanted me to do a mural on her wall, so i went back into the gallery and waited to talk to them. svanfridur and sigurd are their names, and they live up the road on a farm. more about them in a little while.


when i said i was done with ida’s walls, i lied. i went back the next morning and painted over most of the lightning bolts, and then drew new ones. i’d run a photo of it by jim, and we talked about how to make it look better, so i took out the ladder and extended it another couple of rungs, and crawled up there to paint more steam and smoke, and a few more lightning bolts sticking out around the top. it was kind of perilous being up that high. i get vertigo now that i’m old, so i had to be extremely conscious of what i was doing with my body. ladder yoga.


on one of these days it rained. it hasn’t been raining much. my little garden has a bunch of tiny seedlings, and the sprouting potato i stuck in a pot has dried right out. so oh well. it’s also abnormally hot these last few days. today the thermometer outside the kitchen window was showing 18 degrees, and that’s not even sweater weather. connor and i are getting very tan from being at the pool, and his hair has turned strawberry blonde, like mine was when i was a kid. strangely, loads of sun doesn’t do much for the white part of my hair, but the lower bits are back to being red after years of going dark.

while it rained i had time to mix up some dyes and start making scarves, and to do a quick watercolor on some pieces of clayboard i’d brought with me. it’s 4×6″, and the clay tends to crack when it gets wet. i’ll have to be gentle getting it home, and then put a coat of wax on it to keep the cracked bits from actually falling off the board.


that night the sunset was spectacular, so i got out of bed at midnight to get a photo of it.


on monday i went over to inga and ingimar’s house to start the mural, but they weren’t ready, so i worked on the scarves. i didn’t bring soda ash with me, so i had to make some by putting a mess of baking soda in the oven and heating it for an hour, making a chemical reaction that changed it from one form to another. cool. so i mixed up some sodium alginate resist and went to work on a dragon scarf. it took much of the day to draw it in with resist, and to paint it all, and to do the various bleeding things that make it interesting. and then i hung it up and didn’t know what else to do with it. i don’t have a steamer, so i can’t steam the scarves, so i looked up a method of setting the dyes with soda ash and tried that. but i’m not sure of what i’m doing, so i’m not expecting good results. works in progress; gotta love ’em.

on tuesday connor and i went over to inga and ingimar’s. they’d gotten me scaffolding, which was great. connor sat inside with them, playing on his tablet and teaching them how to play minecraft, etc. and i went out to work. at first i did the grid in chalk that you can just barely see in the photo below, standing on the ledge above the door, and the wooden scaffold that has been there since they replaced the window to the right. it was very perilous, and i was quite nervous about being up there.


but after i took connor to soccer, i came back and got them to help me move one of the foot boards to make a bridge between the scaffolding and the wooden structure. that was much more secure, so i was much happier. but then i put a ladder on top of the scaffolding, and it was back to perilous.


i’d drawn the first figure way too small, so i had to redraw the grid, stretching out the vertical more than the horizontal but enlarging in both directions. i put the troll as far up as i could, 100″ tall, and that meant i had to adjust the angle of the troll’s arm and the position of the raven, so i left it for the second day and painted in the contours in case it rained. but when i saw it from the street, 50 yards or so away, i could barely see the lines, so i planned to go back and use the 1″ brush to make wider lines.


but by that time it was 3:45 and time to pick connor up from his soccer/playgroup and go swimming.  it was very warm.  we swam for two hours.  anna kristin was with us, and she took a hand in connor’s instruction.  he paid attention to everything she told him, and learned to blow his breath out underwater as he’s doing his flips and coming up for air.  he’s able to go a whole length without floaties now, and can almost tread water, and almost do the crawl.  he does a mean canonball and can do a flip into the water from the side.  he has also discovered that he can see under water without goggles, so now he’s not wearing goggles.  he’s gotten so confident in the water that he’s actually dangerous, and i’ve caught him getting into the big pool without me twice, and spoke to him about it both times.  i’d show pictures but i don’t have any, not a single one, of him in the water.

it was so warm on tuesday evening that we decided to take a walk up the mountain around 8:30.  we didn’t take our jackets, only our vests.  we drove to the quarry/dump and then walked up a gravel (hah!  fist sized rocks and larger) road that went up alongside an actual forest of birch trees and then switched back to continue up the side of the mountain.  we got high enough that the farm buildings that look far up from town looked puny and nearly to the flat from the edge of the waterfall.  there’s a small building up the mountain, with a waterfall that is actually the endpoint of water that’s being piped down from the hanging valley 1000m above.  they discharge the water after it runs thru the building, and you can see it gushing from town.  i was out of breath and tired by the time we got up to the building, and tho the road continued up toward the mouth of the hanging valley, we stopped there to rest and wait for the sun to go down over the mountain.


it didn’t go down.  tho the sun descends at quite an angle as it goes down, its position relative to the mountain, and the mountain’s descent at roughly the same angle, meant that the sun never actually set on the building, even tho the shadow crept right up to it.


we sat up there for half an hour or so, every now and then shading our eyes to see where the sun was.  connor spent some time throwing rocks off the building, and hunting around for things.  he found a chinese brush that someone had left there, and so took it home to use as a paintbrush the next time we do a painting.

the upper middle of this picture shows a face in the glare: the troll of the mountain

IMG_8893i do believe that’s grimsey in the distance.  it’s 30 miles off, and right over the arctic circle

on our way down i took another photo of the cascade’s lower reach.  we were just about to come out of the shadows and back into the sun.  it was close to 10pm.


we came home, ate some ice cream, and connor was out like a light.  i spent much of the night working on my scarves.  when i washed out the first one, it faded all the way down to pastel shades, the blue most fugitive.  what am i doing wrong?  i tie-dyed the bamboo socks i brought with me to give as presents, and they dyed a lovely rich dark green.  but what is going wrong with the silk?  i might figure it out.  for the second scarf, i added more black and blue pigment to the water, and more soda ash, but then the dye wouldn’t move at all when i put salt, or later water on it.  wtf.  the next try will be to soak the scarves in soda ash first and then paint them.

on wednesday morning i got up on the wall and thickened the lines, then drew in the rest of the figure – the arm, cane, and raven.  at that point i decided i needed some color, so i got out the light gray, the dark gray, and the white, and colored everything in.  it’s visible from the road now!

connor had loads of fun inside with inga and ingimar, who turned on movies for him, gave him endless potato chips, and even presented him with a spinner, which he now keeps under his pillow.  he wanted me to let him live with them.  but i told him we’d be finished with the mural by the end of the day, and he wouldn’t be able to spend time with them any more.  he was quite saddened by this, but then he went to soccer practice and forgot all about it.


at 1, anna kristin and i went up to the farm to see their wall and talk about what to do for it.  she’s an artist, and we’ve been working together painting.  i recently got some pigments, and i’ll be showing her how to mix her own paints when she has some time.  we stopped by the mural, and she said the raven looked more like a dodo bird, so i decided to download a proper photo of a raven and redraw her.  for that i needed the housepaint, so i asked inga and ingimar to locate it for me.


we went up to the farm, it’s a place you can see from town, halfway up to the hanging valley behind them.  they have a border collie (i love border collies) who kept bringing tiny little pieces of gravel for us to throw, and by dog found the tiny bits of gravel no matter where we threw them.  what a smart dog.

we went around the farm, looking at the buildings.  the obvious wall, facing the road, gets too much snow and wind in the winter, and is in constant need of repair.  so that was out.  they wanted me to put something on the wall facing the courtyard.  a troll.  with a sheep.  and some chickens.  so i went around taking pictures of everything.


and the dog.  and the baby.

there was another wall as well, the wall behind the clothesline.  svandfridur suggested a tree for that wall, since the clothesline was on a sturdy treelike post.  she showed me her birch trees, very large and old.  they have 30 year old rowan trees, as well.  and a greenhouse.  everything is well sheltered and very sunny.  then they took me inside the house to see a costume she has that jim can use in the drawing, and showed me some nice paintings, and the incredible view from the windows.  i want to live there.  i’m very much looking forward to going up there again to do the painting.  connor’s going to have to come with me, because he’s going to love it there.  but it will be a week or two before i get to it.


after we were done talking to the farmer and his wife, i dropped anna kristin at the cafe for her shift and went back to my wall.  i’d found a picture of a raven, but it was facing the wrong way, so i had to hold my phone in my left hand, standing on the wobbly scaffolding, and with my other hand paint in the reverse of the picture on my phone.

i find this mural deeply symbolic for several reasons.  first, ingimar was in a car accident some time ago, and broke both his legs.  he still uses a cane at times, so jim and i decided to show him with his cane, but not using it to walk.  rather it’s being used as a perch for a magical raven who has befriended him.  but there’s even more significance, because it turns out that inga’s name is rafnsdottir (raven’s daughter), and so she’s the raven.  i love it when this happens, because i didn’t know her name when jim and i designed the mural.

i spent so much energy up on the scaffolding and the ladder that i was exhausted when i finished the wall by the end of the afternoon, and took an extra long time soaking in the hot pots at the pool.  connor and i swam, of course, but he spent a lot of time in the kid pool with other kids.  it has been crowded all this week, and the hot pots are as full as i can comfortably stand.

this morning i woke to the sound of the guys up on the house behind us, redoing what looks like all the roofing and most of the siding.  they make a wondrous noise at 8:30 in the morning, and then take a coffee break at 9 and everything’s quiet again.  i’m taking it as an alarm clock.  because no matter how beautiful it is in the morning, there’s no guarantee it won’t rain by the end of the day, and i can’t work in the rain.


so we went up to the garage halfway up the hill to the tunnel to dalvik, and asked if they were ready for me to start.  they said yes, and we discussed the wall placement.  i had originally wanted to use the cement wall in the middle and the garage doors to the right of the photo below, but they are plastic, and housepaint doesn’t stick to plastic.  so they showed me the corrugated wall to the left of the cement wall, and said it was okay to paint the window white, since it was blocked on the other side anyway.  i thought about it, and decided that if i reversed the drawing jim made, it would work nicely.  so i went away and got connor ready to go to soccer, then loaded up my materials (rulers and tape measures, a pencil, chalk, a step stool) and went back up there after 1.


when i got there, they were washing the window for me.  the wall needed some repair, and the white of the metal wall wasn’t the same as the white of the wall, and there were grease spots.  so i had asked if they had some housepaint so i could prep the wall.  but they had other ideas.  the daughter was busy picking out housepaint colors.  i asked what she was doing, and she pointed out that the addition was a different color, and it was plastic, but they were going to repaint the entire building (i felt guilty for a minute) and had to match the color of the addition.  that meant i couldn’t start today.  but that was okay.  i gridded part of it and drew in that part, just to see if it would fit.  yellow chalk doesn’t show up at a distance.  it fit, and it’s going to look great, but since they were sending one of the mechanics to akureyri today for enough paint to do the whole building, it was going to be a day or two until i would be able to mess with the wall.  so i said i would come back on monday, since this weekend is going to be super busy.  reversed-car

since i had a little time unexpectedly, i went around to tommi’s shop.  tommi makes all the signs in town, and carves all the headstones, and sculptures, and is also the head of the local search and rescue team (is that three jobs?).  i need his help to make a troll crossing sign, and also to make a display sign for the troll woman on the hill opposite kaffi klara.  so we talked about it, and i’m going to get jim to finalize a troll profile, and tommi’s going to print it out on a sticker, and we’re going to appropriate a sign and put it into place beyond the bridge over the river on the way to the tunnel to hedinsfjordur.  he said he’d been thinking about getting me to paint a troll on his roof, and that might just be doable, tho i’m reaching the end of my stay already in terms of how many walls i can do.  i’ve only got five weeks left here (and that means my stay is more than half over).

then i went to kaffi klara to meet bjarney lea, who is new in town, but has a lot of experience in tourism.  she’s had a few ideas for this town, and is very excited to have me here doing some of the work she’s wanted to see done.  we talked over coffee, about her ideas for the campground, about troll things, about moving the gift shop to a more visible location, about doing a huge troll on the hill.  she offered to help me build the small troll beyond the bridge, and that’s great, because even tho i got permission from the city, i had given up on that as a viable idea in favor of getting a lot of walls painted.  but she knows who to ask to move a quantity of smallish stones to the site, and she’s going to akureyri to get a couple of bags of cement, and we’re going to get somebody to give us a length of chicken wire so we can wrap the stones and put dirt and moss and grasses on it.  she’s got the next three weeks free, so we will start sometime next week, as soon as we get the rocks organized.  before i left for my next appointment, she whipped out a list she’d been compiling, and we went over it.  evidently there are 5 trolls in this town, with 5 different stories, and the idea is that eventually there will be 5 troll statues somewhere in the area, and of course maps and tours and the whole deal.  she’s full of ideas.  i’m so glad to help.  she offered her house for the large troll foot, and that was something else i’d despaired of.

then i met with the manager of the local bank.  i’d talked to the regional manager on the phone, and then someone in reykjavik about the project, but helgi is the guy on the ground.  he brought a drawing that rán had done.  she is the artist that arionbanki has commissioned to decorate all their branches, and she has drawn a troll for the front of their bank.  i will be executing her drawing, and that’s fine with me because otherwise they’re all jim’s trolls, and it’s good to have a little variety.  it’s actually a great drawing.  but she’s not done with it, so we’re going to wait until the beginning of august to proceed.  it’s good to be collaborating with other artists here.

and then it was time to go get connor.  today we didn’t do any swimming in the big pool, because he found 4 boys in the kid pool and they played the whole time.  i got some laps in, and sat in the hot pots until i was tired.  then we came home, i roasted a chicken, we had ice cream for desert, and connor went outside to play with the neighbor kids.  now i’ve read him his bedtime story (rumplestiltskin) and he’s upstairs playing with his spinner.

the weekend is going to be super super busy.  tomorrow one of our artists, sonja, is holding a workshop.  she’s going to make a ‘troll’ drawing on a giant piece of paper she got from tomm.  then on saturday we’re having the troll festival block party around kaffi klara, and on sunday they’re having medieval days at gasir, near dalvik, and i’m taking connor to that.  it’s going to be hectic, but i’ll report back.

Older Posts »