Posted by: jeanne | June 19, 2017

permission? forgiveness?

it’s only monday, and yet i’m starting another post.  my daughter remarked that i write a lot more than she had expected, so i guess she hasn’t read my posts from venice.  in truth, most of my family don’t read things i write, and yet i’m writing mainly for them, as well as my stated reason of documenting all the photos i take.  that applied in venice, where we took 16,000 photos in 2 months.  but it doesn’t apply here.  because we’re in one place, and there are only so many mountain and cloud shots you can take here.

and yet, stuff keeps happening.

last night we called my mom, avery and connor’s mom, and connor’s other grandma on skype to check and see if everything’s going well.  it is.  it’s kind of hard to call them because of the time differenece (4 hours) and their schedules.  but every now and then i get around to it, and we have a nice hour on the phone with various people.

this morning we had swimming practice, but since the microwave blew up last night, i had to do some running around with it in the back of alice’s car.  i took it to gisli, who takes care of maintenance for the junior college, and whose photo of the northern lights over eyafjord’s mountains serves as the origin of my most popular scarf.  he asked if i’d plugged it in anywhere else, and i hadn’t actually thought of that, so i pulled it out of the car and we plugged it in, and it still doesn’t work.  so i need another one.  alice said don’t bother, but that’s not acceptable, because we broke it, and because it’s a real pain in the butt heating milk over the stove for our coffee.  the pans hate it, too.  so gisli mentioned i could find one at byko, in akureyri, for maybe $100.  and then lara mentioned i could find one on the internet and get samkaup, the grocery store, to bring it to town.  and ida mentioned that there’s a facebook page where people can ask for things they need, and others might have spare ones.  everybody has a spare microwave, she says.  these are tricks people learn when they live here.  lara lived here for two years before she found out about some of these things.  to a newcomer like me this is completely opaque, and that’s why i ask everybody when i need something.

while i was at the school, i looked in the art room for some chalk, which bergthor said he might have.  there wasn’t any, but there was a large jar of titanium white pigment, which i tasted before finding out there was a label – silly me.  and also while i was at the school, i got gisli to print me out a picture of lara with the stone lions that guard the front of the school, because i want to put a troll up on the wall of the school, and lara needs a sketch so she can go to the owners of the building and ask permission.

gisli’s advice was that it’s easier to ask forgiveness than to ask permission.  this is exactly the same thing i heard from the mayor’s assistant, and the owner of the fish factory.  in this town where people are self-reliant and industrious, it makes perfect sense.  it only fails in a bureaucracy.  so in atlanta, there’s an ordinance that you can’t put a mural on private property without the approval of five different agencies – an almost impossible proposition.  here, if they tell you to get a permit to put up a fence, and ask for a drawing, you build the fence and then take a photo of it and submit that.  f’real.

after testing the microwave, i put it back in the car, and then stopped at the local kindergarten on the way back to the house, seeing as there was time enough between connor’s swimming lesson and avery’s.  so i did, and walked in to talk to the head, olga, who patiently explained to me that not only was it the end of the school year, and not only was connor not an actual resident, and not only was she already short-staffed because of people going on their sumer vacations, but that she was jammed full of kids and couldn’t possibly take another one.  so that idea is out.  i need someone to watch connor after jim and avery leave.  there is the playgroup that meets in the same building where they run the soccer camp, and it goes from 1-5, i think.  and that’ll do; we can go swimming in the morning, and i can drop him off with the playgroup with a lunch, and work work work for a few hours.  perhaps i can get a babysitter when that ends.  i’ll check it out.

then i discovered that lara was answering my texts from her office, instead of a meeting in reykjavik.  she was supposed to be there, but the flights were delayed, so she canceled.  and i needed a profile photo of her so jim could draw a standing troll-woman with a mythical beast.  so i went up there while avery was in the pool, and connor played with an abacus in the break room while i posed and took photos of lara outside with the stone lions.  it won’t look anything like you, i assured her, because all of jim’s women look like someone else.


lara mentioned that there’s a story about the troll rock i chalked up the other night, and that there was a reason why i shouldn’t paint it.  she hasn’t told me what it is, but now that i know there’s something about it, i’m really glad i didn’t decide to go for forgiveness instead.


when the boys were done with swimming, we went back to the house and gathered up jim, who has been steadfastly working on his troll drawings, and went down to ida’s kaffi klara for lunch.  she had invited us to come by before the boys left, so since we’re not sure when they are actually leaving, we thought the earlier the better, and trooped on down there today.


the cafe was quite crowded, and practically everyone in town stopped by for lunch.  this past weekend, they had a tour bus come by and let people off to go visit the flight museum, and there were 40 customers lining up to be fed.  but during the week, it’s mostly locals, and people staying at the guesthouse.  lunch was tuna and penne casserole, ham and vegetable casserole, fresh salad, and tomato soup, with bread and butter.  the boys got the ham casserole and then didn’t eat theirs (but i did), and jim got the tuna and ate two helpings.  so he ate two helpings, and i ate three, and a bowl of soup besides, and then half a half bowl of soup that connor didn’t finish.  the boys mostly ate bread.  of course.  and then when we got back to the house they had a peanut butter and honey sandwich.


and then it was time to run down to the soccer field for connor’s practice, so i sent the boys ahead while i helped jim get ready to teach a bit of art to anna kristin, who is already quite accomplished despite her tender years.  jim planned to teach her how to make egg tempera, because making your own paint is always cheaper than buying commercial paint, and anna kristin is just the kind of artist who can use this kind of information – paint is really expensive here in iceland.  so i ran over to listhus where my art supplies are stored, thinking i would bring back the dozen or so dry pigments i brought with me.  but oh damn, i left them all at home because i was 5 lbs over weight in my suitcase.

so i had to go back to the school and borrow bergthor’s titanium white.  i walked down to the school, where i could see that there was nobody on the soccer field and avery and connor were milling around.  i took them around to play on the stone lions, went in, swiped the jar of pigment, and came on back to the house, where jim measured out a single teaspoon of pigment and waited for anna kristin to get off work and come over for her demonstration.

but then it was 2, and avery was supposed to go to siglufjordur on the bus for his practice today, so we all went back down there and dropped avery off.  and saw the bus come.  connor and i got home, connor got on the tablet to play minecraft, and i went back to where he was waiting for the bus with some water and fruit for him.  and he told me that the bus was for connor, not him.  so i sent him back to the house to get connor, and by the time they returned all out of breath, i had spoken to the bus driver and seen the ages of the kids who were waiting, and knew it was for avery and not connor.  result: one very disappointed connor.  but he still got to go back to minecraft, so it wasn’t so bad.

we returned to the house yet again.  my feet were hurting.  anna kristin still wasn’t there, so i walked down to the cafe again, and ida told me she’d gone home.  she forgot.  so ida called her and she came to the house, and jim sat her down and taught her how to make egg tempera, with white pigment,  and then he demonstrated on a toned piece of watercolor paper – a nice little jimlike troll.


avery came home, wondering why the front door was wide open (because it’s almost 60 degrees outside, and the house is stifling),  connor had a hotdog, avery had another peanut butter and honey sandwich, and the boys went upstairs to watch a movie on the pad.  i had started my drawing for the first watercolor i want to do here, but erased it when jim needed a sheet to put a toned ground on for the demonstration (my drawing wasn’t right so i needed to erase it anyway).  anna kristin sat and hung out with us after jim finished; we talked about paints and how hard it is to find supplies here, and how we could make pigments from grinding up local rocks.


after anna kristin went home, jim took a nap and the boys watched something else (the tablet hasn’t run out of charge yet, they reasoned).  then i made bacon and blueberry pancakes (i know) and we had the usual argument about why avery couldn’t have all of them and what food costs here in iceland.  and now they’re upstairs, i’ve washed up the dishes – usually jim does the dishes, but today there’s egg tempera paint all over the place, and i didn’t want the glasses to be milky white when they dried.  and now i’m finishing this, and that’s a typical day in olafsfjordur for us.  i’ll get the boys to brush their teeth in a little while, jim and i will read a chapter of our book, and eventually the boys will stop making jumping noises on the floor above us and go to sleep.  it will still be broad daylight out, no matter when they drop off.



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