Posted by: jeanne | June 29, 2019

sigh. it’s time to leave. again.

monday. it’s down to the wire now.   we’ve been here three weeks, and we’re well into our fourth.  i’ve only now finished my first wall, and have two more to do in the next 5 days, and now the weather forecast is for rain starting on wednesday.  i’m sitting in the kitchen writing this while the rest of the house is sleeping – breki on the table in front of me, everybody else in their beds.  and i’ve been up since 5 because i have so much to do and don’t want to waste any time.  so rather than lay awake for hours, reading facebook and the news, i got up and grabbed the touchup paint, and corrected stray paint marks and spills, and finished buffing the wall next to the mural.  while i was at it, i lightened the color of the troll woman’s shirt, because you couldn’t see her hair against the dark green.  then i went over to theodora’s house and began sketching in her three trolls, and when i was finished with that i went down to kaffi klara, but the doors were locked, so i came back and started this post.

connor coming down the longest water slide in iceland

on saturday evening, late, with connor down at the bouncy thing and not planning to come back until the air was let out of it at ten, there was a knock on the door.  it was daddi, the guy who runs the jetski tour company.  he had asked me several days before if i would be interested in going on a jetski trip with him and some clients, and i jumped at the chance.  i can’t afford any extras on my travels, and am always very grateful when someone gives me something like this.  so he showed up at 10 and asked how i was.  i was tired, of course, and ready to call jim and go to bed.  i’d been painting, and swimming, and earlier that day i’d spent several hours in the kitchen of kaffi klara prepping a bunch of hors d’oevres for a wedding that afternoon.  so i was tired.  but there he was, looming in my door, looking at his watch.  so fine.  i grabbed my shoes, asked runa to put connor to bed, and left to go down to the dock with daddi.

his company – fairytale at sea – is set up in a shipping container on the dock, with a range of jetskis tied up in the water below it, and a handy dandy lift i’d like to borrow to use on a large wall sometime.  inside the shipping container are rows of wetsuits, gloves, helmets and shoes, a seating area, and a storage room walled off by a curtain.  it smells of neoprene.  and there are cups and hot chocolate mix for when it’s actually cold outside.  at 10pm it was about 50f, so there was no need to break out the supplies.  daddi lent me a pair of thick wool socks, and then pulled out a thermal undersuit that was too big for me, but never mind that.

the other two arrived from dalvik, asked me if i spoke icelandic, and then merrily went on their way getting suited up, getting the briefing (stay away from other jetskis, rock with the waves, etc), and joking.  i didn’t care if i couldn’t understand anything, i was just along for the scenery.  i got on the back of daddi’s bike, and off we went out of the fjord.  jetskis are loud, and the seat is too wide to really hold on with your legs, but otherwise it resembles riding a horse.  or a motorcycle.  or a mechanical rocking chair.  it was quite tiring holding on to the straps of daddi’s life preserver, because i was pushed back every time he revved the engine, but that’s what i did for some time, until i found the handles on the side of my seat, and could let go of him.  then i just glued myself to my seat, and he could stand up and run the machine.  the other guy stood up the whole time, but he’s good on a snowjetski, and his wife was good on a motorcycle and stayed seated.  i’ve never been on a jetski before, and fell off the last motorcycle i was on (is it already 50 years ago? huh).

they were apparently out to watch (chase) whales, but i was primarily interested in the landscape.  i’ve only ever seen the mountains outside of town on a map, and to cruise along the coast was amazing.  the cliffs come right down to the sea, and at one point we passed vikurbyrdha, the second highest mountain in europe (at 752 meters measured from the peak to the ocean, so never mind the alps (the highest is in the faroe islands)), according to the locals.  of course i can’t find anything on the internet about it, but so it goes up here in the frozen hahahahahaha north.

we cruised along the coast north of olafsfjordur until they spotted a whale in the distance.  the waves were nonexistent, there was no wind, the sun was eternally setting and there was a line of clouds just below the sun on the horizon.  the water was a delicate light blue that glowed, and there were golden highlights and dark depths showing in the crests and dips.  as we got further out we started riding gentle swells, but the water was like glass.  so it was no trouble at all to chase the whales.  at first we saw little ones, 2 or 3 meters long, but then they saw a humpback, and couldn’t chase it fast enough.  i really had to hold on.  they caught her on camera as she breached, blew, and slowly rolled, those enormous fins flopping gently over, the tail flipping casually as she dived.  so leisurely, ignoring us even tho we were making huge amounts of noise, while i was wondering if they ever got angry and flipped jetskiers over into the water (apparently not).

daddi told me that he’d never gone as far out to sea before, but there we were, apparently halfway to grimsey, the sun only a degree from the horizon, and it was 11pm.  from that distance it was all mountain, and we could see to the sheer cliff walls at the backs of steep valleys, snow at the top, slopes too steep to grow grass, and obscenely green valley floors.  as we got closer, the mountains began to loom over us, and when we got right up to the shore, the cliffs rose straight up out of the water, thousands of feet, the remains of collapsed cliff faces making a jumble of very large rocks at the base.  the water was absolutely clear, and there was kelp everywhere, and cute little jellyfish i wanted to reach out and touch hahahaha.

there were birds everywhere, nesting in every little nook and cranny on the rocks, and the noise was tremendous.  from afar we spotted a house at the edge of a tiny valley, and as we went up to it, we found there were three people hanging out in front of it.  daddi explained they were people from olo who were hiking (up a hanging valley, over the mountains, and down into the tiny valley (hvanndalir).  and then back again) during the evening sun.

it was now midnight.  we hung out at several sheltered spots near the cliffs; i spotted a bunch of trolls in the rock face.  and then we started back.  the ride back in was very fast, and the wind was quite cold.  the overwhelming impression i got was that olafsfjordur, which is quite large when you’re actually in the town walking around, was so small as to be insignificant when we were at the mouth of the fjord.  like it was smeared over the lowest part of the landscape, and the mountains were the only points of interest.

we got back to the dock around 12:30, and were finished peeling off the wetsuits by 1.  i felt the chill once i was back in my street clothes, and by the time daddi dropped me off at the house i was shaking.  but runa was up, and so i heated some soup and had dinner, and we talked.  the wedding across the street at tjarnarborg was still in full swing at 1, so when i fell into bed shortly after eating, i got to listen to greatest hits of the disco 80s while composing myself for sleep.  i slept until 11:30.  and when i finally got up, i felt like i had a hangover, and really dawdled putting the final final touches on unnar’s mural and gridding the wall for theodora’s mural.  it was a very early evening, and a short conversation with jim.

sunday.  i had a radio interview at 1.  it was with trolli fm, a local radio station, and i know one of the people involved, kristin, tho i’m not too sure where and when i met her.  she had asked if i would talk to them, and asked about next sunday, but her next sunday was my this sunday, and i’d told her i would already be travelling to reykjavik then.  so she sent me a message that we were going to do the interview by phone, and i wondered why, because sound quality, and i could show up at the studio.  so she gave me an address.  i injected some coffee, still feeling like a truck had hit me, and walked up the hill to tungata.  there was a woman fixing a window at the address, and she had no idea about a radio station, so i called kristin, and she told me the address was in siglo.  so oops.  i went back to the house and waited for their phone call, about ten minutes later.  the guy doing the interview explained that he would ask me questions, and i would answer, and then he would translate for those not comfortable in english.  and so it went.  we talked about what brought me to iceland (an unfinished novel about antarctica after the ice melts), and the troll paintings (trolls not elves because it’s the troll peninsula), about the art residency that’s closing and the one that’s opening, about how hot it is in atlanta right now (i may have misspoke when i said 45 degrees C, but not by much), and how much i love being here with connor and all my friends.  i probably spoke too fast, as i do when i’m excited, and he probably couldn’t exactly translate what i was saying, but it was fun, and it brought back memories of when i had a radio show back in college (it was insanely early in the morning, and i was convinced nobody was listening, so i played my favorite music, like three different versions of twisted.

monday.  knowing i had less than a week to finish everything, and seeing by the weather report that it was supposed to rain for the last 4 days, i got up at 5am, put the final final finishing touches on unnar’s troll, then went over to sketch theodora’s figures, it was cold, and i had to come back to the house to warm up and have coffee.  i checked at kaffi klara’s at 7:30, but the doors were still locked, so i went back on the wall and did more.  they were sleeping inside, so i just lurked on the landing, adjusting chalk marks.  when kaffi klara opened, i went down there and had coffee, and then came back to the house and had more coffee.  everybody was still asleep at 9, so i went back to the cafe and found something to do – painting the outside window sills white, because they needed it.  and because they’re all so busy that little things like that just escape them.  so i found the paint downstairs in the storage room, scraped the windows, and painted as far up on the windows as i could reach without a ladder.  it needed a second coat, so i put everything away and put it in mind to come back and finish when i could.  i had my bucket of black paint in hand, so i painted #olotrolltown on the restaurant and the bank.  the early murals didn’t have the hashtag, because bjarney lea thought it up halfway in the middle of my work.

i’ve mentioned check fraud in a previous post.  we were contacted by email from jim’s blog, from a guy whose email resolves to a place in south carolina, but whose english isn’t the best.  he wanted to buy a painting for his wife for their anniversary, etc etc.  it’s a common scam, and presumes you’re more greedy than smart.  so he continued to contact us, and we led him along.  finally i gave him my address so he could mail us a check, and eventually the check arrived, for $3k more than we were asking, and instructions to deposit it, wait for it to clear (almost immediately), and take out the extra money to give to his agent, who would show up for the painting.  the money was supposed to be for the expenses of moving all his stuff to his new home in the philippines.  blah blah blah.   i’d told him i wasn’t going to take a personal check, and only wanted certified funds, and that’s what he sent.  so jim read me off all the details of the check, and i called the bank in south bend, indiana.  they couldn’t find the check number, and said that the signature was by the wrong person, and that we should contact our bank to find out which agency to call in order to turn this character in, because check fraud, wire fraud, interstate wire fraud, all these things.  we won’t be depositing the check.  and we probably won’t be able to entrap the agent because the guy wants a deposit receipt to show we actually cashed the check.  but it’s very diverting, and jim’s having a lot of fun thinking up ways to make the guy’s life miserable.  but because we responded to the one guy, it seems we’re now on a list of some sort, because we got a very similarly worded request from someone else to make the same kind of deal, and i responded that our bank has warned us not to accept any check overages, but that they should direct their agent to cash the check themselves and bring us cash.  we won’t be hearing from the second guy again, but i’m already getting emails from the first guy wondering why i’m not cashing his check.

tuesday.  runa’s last day with us, so she wandered around getting pictures of all of the troll walls, and even came up to hlid, where i’m trying to put the mountains on their barn door.  i’d been having nothing but trouble doing it, because these mountains are incredibly complex, and not easily reduced to a 2-dimensional contour drawing.  so on tuesday, when runa came up to visit instead of packing, i was about ready to tear my hair out, and had already buffed out the marks i’d made.  several times.  i took photos, but then couldn’t see my phone because of the glare.  i sat and drew the mountains, but then couldn’t find the corresponding peaks on the wall.  i tried to draw from life, but the greenhouse and its trees were in the way.  svanfridur was very concerned that i not be upset, but i assured her that it was a process, and i would feel better later.  so i came home and painted a picture from the photos i’d taken.  the problem is that the growth on the mountain changes every day, and the appearance of the mountain changes with every passing cloud.  so it’s very difficult.  and i was quite depressed over it.  so when i was done for the day and we went swimming, i got really fatigued and left connor and runa at the pool and came home to take a nap before starting my painting.

wednesday.  the pattern has been set.  morning work on the greek painting (theodora’s greek), then get connor ready for football and drop him off, then up to the farm to dea with the mountains.  i worked on the sample painting all evening, and it was okay, but then i ruined it by trying to put in one of the dramatic skies we get here.  but that’s okay, because it loosened me up enough that i could go back out on the wall and draw with much more certainty.  it’s been really hot here for the last couple of days – 15-20C (60-70F), and the wind’s been blowing hard, sometimes when i was perched on theodora’s wall i wondered if the wind wasn’t going to blow me off of it.  it was a different kind of wind up on the farm as down in the town.  i can’t really explain it.  the air is fresher up there, and there’s nothing to stop it because it’s on the side of the mountain.  also, down in town they’re very close to the sea, so they get a sea breeze that often wafts the smell of drying fish from the factory.  when it was time to go get connor, svanfridur loaded me up with yet more food.  this time one of her wonderful lamb puddings, some lamb sausages, and some homemade gravlax, only it’s trout, so gravtrout (i’m not sure that’s a word) from their own trout (trout as well as chicken and sheep farming there).  connor was too busy playing on the bouncy to eat dinner, so i ate it all.  he’s been eating sour milk with brown sugar and cocoapuffs (an icelandic treat, except for the cereal).  he finished his book (217 pages!!!) and so he plays on his tablet and watches netflix when he’s not out playing with friends.

thursday.  i got up early and went out to finish theodora’s wall.  it was a relatively easy mural to do, with only three figures, painted in the flat and cartoonish way i’ve been using on almost all of the murals (excepting the troll of iceland and omar’s sorcerer troll).  so it was easily done, and then i went up to the farm and put in the secondary details.  svanfridur has been teaching me icelandic, and so has omar.  this means i stumble thru a phrase, and they correct me, and i stumble some more, and finally forget what they were trying to teach me.  pool, dinner, playing on the bouncy, jotting notes in my blog.  and then there was a pool party for the dozens of teenagers who’ve been doing civic work all summer – planting trees, painting crosswalks, cutting grass), and it only lasted until 10, which was good, because it started to rain and i wanted to go to sleep.  in a town this small, loud music blasting from outdoor speakers goes all over, and i haven’t hear so much recent pop music in a long time.




friday.  and as it gets closer and closer to the time to leave, i get more and more despondent.  it was raining this morning when i got up, so i almost didn’t bother.  but skuli came walking by on his morning rounds, clacking thru the streets on his walking sticks, and i couldn’t stand the competition, so i got up and made coffee.  then i dragged out all the backpacks and all our stuff and started sorting to pack.  somehow i have lost my black backpack, tho i’m sure it will turn up after we leave.  but i’m glad to report that we have enough extra backpacks that i can ditch the nastiness that was my old huge backpack without straps.  it helps that connor has decided to give his beyblade arena away.  everything actually fits into three packs, i’m not sure how.  of course, we still have some clothes and our jackets to stuff in there, and all the elves who want to come to atlanta with us, but there’s loads of room.

after that, i started to clean.  we’ve already emptied the downstairs rooms and swept the floors, so now i took the broom and got both sets of stairs and the both floors above ground.  i’m doing a batch of clothes now, and have two more to do, probably tomorrow.  and then washing the floors, cleaning the microwave and the refrigerator, wiping down the surfaces in the kitchen and bathroom, and straightening things back into the order unnar left them in.  danny, the next housesitter, arrives tomorrow, and she’ll be staying with us, so i can show her all the things and methods, and we’re going to be having dinner at ida’s, so i can clear out the fridge.

right now connor’s having breakfast and watching transformers on his tablet, and i’m on my second cup of coffee, backing up all my files.  and now that it’s done, i think we’ll go on up to hlid and put the final touches on the mural’s outlines.  i’ve made a painting on clayboard of the same scene, to make the difficulties of the composition more understandable to me, and i’m of two minds whether to give it to svanfridur and gunni, because i’ve had a lot of trouble with it.  i should have done it on watercolor paper, because that’s not so hard for me, but i didn’t because i don’t want to take the clayboards home with me (they weigh a ton).  maybe i’ll just leave it here for unnar; god knows i’m dumping enough crap on her.  maybe i should pack it up and give it to the red cross – that’s an idea.  i don’t even have to sign it…

it’s raining too frequently for me to go up to the farm, so i have begged off, and instead cleaned a couple of the hotel rooms and then had lunch.  gisli was up at the school, so i returned the ruler and mahlstick.  connor’s over at one of his friends’ houses, and eventually he’ll meet up with another friend, and then we’ll go swimming.  it’s a very low key day, so it’s okay if i’m depressed and despondent, because it seems appropriate for everyone.

saturday.  connor is up at hlid because his friend haldor ingi has finally come to visit his grandparents, so i’m doing all the cleaning by myself, surprise!  i had breakfast with ida and bjarni at kaffi klara, and am getting ready to do my final rounds, storing paint in various places, giving oxalis plants to people, saying goodbye.  the weather has turned cold, and both connor and i are ready to go.  just one more stop at the swimming pool, and we’ll be ready.  sort of.

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