Posted by: jeanne | July 4, 2014

midnight sun psychosis

well, not yet, anyway, but i’m hoping to come down with it.

IMG_0865 how it looks from the seawall.

i seem to have settled in after 3 days.  i consistently get up at 7:30 am.  i try to go back to sleep, but my core body temperature comes up and makes it uncomfortable to remain under the quilt.  i go to bed somewhere around 11:30 pm, which for me is a very long day, but not to worry:  i usually take a long luxurious nap somewhere around 3 pm.  so that’s good.  i’m not eating much, and i’m doing a great deal of walking, so i have lost about ten pounds since my journey started.  i think that’s stopped, tho, because i’m at least eating regularly.

the first thing i did when i moved in was to make a loaf of bread, which i have as toast with strawberry jelly (not jam or preserves, tho, i’m not used to seethru jelly that shakes) and loads of WONDERFUL icelandic butter.  i use two coffee pads in the coffee maker, split open and poured into a filter, and this makes up to the 6 cup mark (3 cups of coffee, what kind of coffee cups do europeans drink out of?  thimbles?), so i have coffee with WHIPPING CREAM all day, and then around 4 (after my nap) i have a cup of tea (earl grey, hot) and a chocolate digestive biscuit (cookie).  once i’d settled in, i went to the one supermarket here, which is teensy tiny, but still seems to have everything.  the market (samkaup urval) has all sorts of specialty foods.  i suppose for the rich icelander on vacation or the rich artists on residency.  there’s an organic section.  there’s a chinese section, and a mexican section.  and then there’s the rest of the store, that has icelandic food.  and all the ingredient lists are in icelandic.  so when i bought a sack of white flour and a sack of whole wheat, there’s no telling what i was actually buying (mainly because i try to puzzle it out myself without asking the locals).  i figured out later that i got the right white flour, but the whole wheat flour was actually rye, which is fine because it has gluten and i can make bread out of it.

i put a sourdough starter together next, and stuck the container in my bedroom and cranked the heat on.  it’s been bubbling inside the container, and today i put it in the fridge to temper, and tomorrow – for the welcome party – i’ll make my first loaf of sourdough.  let’s hope it turns out better than the first loaf of bread (400f = 200c), which came out still a bit pasty inside, and had to be refrigerated solid before it would cut properly.  we ate it anyway, and it still makes great toast.

two of the other residents are here; we’re still waiting for the fourth to arrive.  each picked out her own room, unpacked, and then went for the store.  we’re dividing the cabinet and refrigerator space one shelf to one person, so i have the bottom  shelf in the fridge and one of the cabinet shelves (except for the big box of cereal one of the girls put on my shelf, and i have yet to require the space so there it sits).  the kitchen is well stocked.  but i should have brought my our new kitchen knife (thanks ginger) and/or a really good bread knife because you should always take your basic cookware with you.  i should also have brought one of my cast iron pans, because they use teflon here.  fortunately they’re new teflon pans without scratches yet, but still.  teflon is from satan.

teh next thing i did was to open all the windows in the house and studio, tho i have since had to go around closing them, because yesterday when it started raining it was 50f, and it’s going down to 43f tomorrow.  so right now i’m wearing two pairs of leggings, a tshirt and a wool sweater, with socks.  that’s okay, i brought nothing but atlanta-winter clothes with me, but gee wasn’t it nice when the sun was out and burning my skin…

the hot water and the heat are provided by mother nature here in iceland.  you can’t run the hot water out taking a bath or shower, either.  it all comes geothermally – all over iceland they have hot water exchange systems connected to boreholes tapping the hot volcanic water, and these pipes run under the sidewalks in places, under the floors in the houses, and into the sinks and tubs.  it’s great for visitors who are used to taking 5 minute showers, or used to turning off the tap when lathering their hair and bodies.  ENDLESS HOT WATER.

the natives are friendly to wave to.  i haven’t accosted anybody in the street yet, as i’m the visitor rather than the denizen.  they say ‘hi’ when you pass them and nod.  the proper greeting is ‘daginn‘, which means ‘day’, but it seems to be interchangeable.  i have noted elsewhere that everyone in the world says ‘ok’.

one more funny thing.  as everybody gets settled in out of whatever timezone they came from, our eating schedules are way off from each other.  it’s a one-ass kitchen, as well, so at this point everyone has been preparing and eating their meals separately from one another.  perhaps this will change, but i don’t mind.

we seem to be a quiet lot, very considerate of each others’ space.  we’re all here to work, and we all got right down to working the day we got here, and in the beginning of a stay everything is so fragile that you don’t really want to become comfortable.  it’s like waking from a dream.  you don’t want to get involved in your day while you’re still trying to recall the dream.  so we tiptoe around each other.

it has to do with the daylight, i suspect, as well as common courtesy.  since it’s daytime no matter when you open your eyes, it’s easy to get up in the middle of hte night and go to work.  so we keep our doors closed at night (and i’ve got mine closed now because they other two are still asleep) and try not to make a lot of kitchen noise.  i must say that i’m sleeping very soundly here.  not like at home, when i’m up half a dozen times during the night.  i get up once to go to the bathroom, decline to check for what time it is, and then sleep solidly until 7:30.  i know i’m technically awake for some minutes before that, but i’m greedily grabbing another dream, which i still can’t seem to recall.  perhaps my dream recall will emerge after i’ve been here for a minute.

IMG_0896 at the level of the snow. it’s just snow, i needn’t have bothered but for the view.

yesterday, before it started raining, i decided that i simply had to march up the hill to the snow.  little pockets of snow that are rapidly melting off the mountain.  it looked really close, and was, technically.  the valley is no more than a mile wide.  but after you leave the road it’s all uphill.  the lower slopes are so lush that it makes for hard walking, especially when wet, and being a mountain the slopes tend to be boggy, but bog cotton is in bloom, so if you avoid it then you also avoid the marshy spots.  the upper slopes have gradually less vegetation and more exposed rock, and it quickly becomes scree, which scares me, as i have a very vivid imagination and can see getting myself covered in lots of tumbling rocks.  a cairn, if you will.  but at times i had no choice, and the slope kept getting steeper and more dangerous.  and at some point 3/4 of the way to the snow patches i got discouraged.

a word about discouragement.  depression is a side effect of detoxification.  it’s a side effect of illness in general.  and depression makes you want to give up and die.  but the trick is to separate depression from a death wish.  they’re not the same thing.  when i was a teenager i discovered that my depressed periods always went away, and that all i had to do was to avoid doing anything i would regret when i was no longer depressed.  like killing myself.  being deeply depressed and acting on it was what gave me cancer, anyway.  people i tell this to always argue with me, but it’s true.  i gave myself cancer because i was desperately depressed after 9/11 (when we went to war instead of asking how we came to cause it ourselves).  so when i was up on the hill feeling dejected and wondering how the hell i was going to get down, considering calling for a rescue (sure), i just took an extra long rest on top of a rock and had a good look around, appreciating the beauty of the place, feeling the mist dripping off my hair and down my back (with gratitude), watching the wee sheepies watching me and getting ready to run away.  that’s the cure for depression, finding something, no matter how small, to be happy and grateful that you are alive to cherish.  works for me, anyway.

i got the energy to get all the way up to the snow after a good rest.  well, after many good rests, because every few feet i was out of breath and my heart was pounding.  the slope only got steeper the higher i climbed, after all.  and boy was i glad i had spent all that money on hiking sticks, because it was all the difference between scrabbling on my hands and knees and being able to use 3 feet to climb with.

before i came, i agonized about all the expenditures i was making.  i bought a laptop, my first pair of boots in 30 years, my first down jacket, my first down sleeping bag, a bunch of woolly tights, gloves, and finally at the last moment a pair of hiking poles.  it seemed a horrible indulgence and waste of money to buy all these things.  they cost hundreds of dollars, and i just don’t like spending money on myself.  my attitude is make do or do without, and being an artist, it has stood me well all these years, as i continually cut back to my level of income (which is nonexistent).  however, they were necessary to come to the arctic and live comfortably, so i bought all these things.  and so far they have all proved themselves cheap for their usefulness.  i am very happy to be able to snuggle under a down sleeping bag, and i luxuriate in my down jacket, i love my boots, and now that i’ve used them for their intended purpose, i’m now deliriously happy with my hiking poles.  which is reassuring.  nothing worse than money ill spent and regretted.

IMG_0890 my little town from up on the mountain.

now it’s a new day.  the sun’s been up forever, but the new day part means that it’s a new day to me.  it’s raining and windy and cold.  the low clouds keep getting lower on the hill and i can see them coursing overhead, flowing from the north.  we’re in for a week of weather, and we might possibly get the remains of hurricane arthur, once it’s finished destroying the outer banks.  i’ve been investigating a side trip to asbyrgi, because it’s the home of many elves.  it’s close by, an hour or two away.  i can take the regular street bus for lots of money, i could take an excursion bus for even more money, or i could rent a car for a day, which is also horribly expensive.  or i could hitch.  it’s safe to hitchhike here, so i might try it.  or we’ll see if the other residents want to pool resources and split the rental on a car.  but not until the weather clears up.  we’re also planning a hike around the mountain to this great little hidden valley where the mountains to both sides are tall and sharp and there is no access except by foot, or perhaps helicopter.

one of the other girls is up now, i can hear here fussing around in the kitchen.  it’s almost time for my second cup of coffee and a piece of toast.  i might start work on a painting this morning.  yesterday i got my laptop connected to the printer, and printed out a panorama of kerlingarfjoll, which i am going to paint.  i also need to make another loaf of bread (but not sourdough yet), and something else, i’m not sure what at this point.  but it’s early.  most of my yank friends and family are still asleep at 5 am…



  1. btw infonya keren and berguna. ,


    • i’m sorry, i don’t get what you’re saying.


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