Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Mid March

Thursday March 14th
The Romance of the Stone

Last August I placed a particularly beautiful stone from the cave of Pythagoras (on the Greek island Samos) high on a ledge of basalt columns by a nearby lighthouse. Pink marble with flecks of mica, it sparkled prettily against the jet-black rocks. On Thursday it was windless and sunny so I thought I’d go see if the stone was somehow still there. Halfway I remembered Jeri’s admonition that once I placed a stone I shouldn’t go back. She is right. I pulled off the road onto a driveway that faced the eastern mountains and where a small field was surrounded by a wire fence. To get a photo of the mountains without the fence, I proceeded up an incline to the edge of the property. Just beyond the fence the land dipped down to a shallow ravine, revealing several junked cars. I was reminded that rural Vermonters use similar car disposal methods. The romantic ideal of pristine views of raw nature in remote Iceland slapped up against the harsh truth of rural life.

Drive to Saudakrouker

It was a very clear, cold day – temperatures hovering in the low 20’s – but not windy. A perfect day for a drive up over the Skaga peninsula and down to Saudakrouker on the  Skaga -iord.

Tarrvi, my housemate from Estonia, Melody, from Australia and director of Nes, and Scott, also from Australia accompanied me. 

 Notice the small pink house in the middle ground.

 This is an important rock because there was a turn off and an sign. But the sign was in Icelandic so its importance remains a mystery.

The Icelandic Men’s Choir

Scott from Australia and Stephanie from France and I drove to Blondus in the evening to hear the Icelandic Men’s Choir. Fifty men, from their 20’s to their 80’s, filled the front of the town church in three neat rows. Each wore a burgundy red blazer with black lapels and an ornate round insignia over the breast pocket, starched white shirt, maroon suspenders and black bow tie. Their hair styles gave some hint of their day jobs. Some were carefully coiffed like proper office staff and functionaries, others had long hair tied in ponytails, a few had shaved heads and several were a bit shaggy with full, untrimmed beards. When they sang they were magnificent. With all 50 voices together, bass, altos and tenors, the music swelled so that it felt too big to fit in the building. As they sang they only moved their mouths and shoulders, their stoic stances belied the emotional power of their nations’ songs - songs that told of the beauty of their land. The Icelandic effect was augmented by the late arrival of two elderly gentleman who discretely chose to sit in back, behind us, most likely because they were aware that they smelled as if they had just left the barn (a familiar smell from my years in rural Vermont). After several traditional pieces, the repertoire turned contemporary and things became, to my mind, a bit surreal. It was when the choir broke into a lively rendition of “La Cucaracha” (spelled “Kakkalakkinn” in the program) in Icelandic that I thought I had entered the twilight zone.

Northern Lights

There was talk in the studio about the recent coronal mass ejection and the probability of auroras that evening. At 9am I received a text from Melody which simply said ‘go outside”.

Pictures taken by fellow artist Andrew.

It was the best text I ever received.

Storm Day March 19th 

Yesterday warnings were issued. Up to 50k winds and horizontal snow predicted for the late afternoon and this evening as a storm front moved down from the arctic. Artists were told to plan to either go home mid-afternoon or to spend the night in the studio.

The week before I got here there was such a big storm that artists who stayed in the studio couldn’t get out for three days. Two of the artists who had special blizzard goggles brought them food.

One of my early independent reading memories as a child growing up in the mid west was a Reader’s Digest tale of two young sisters caught in a sudden prairie blizzard. They dug themselves into a snow bank and the older girl took charge. She lay on top of her sister to keep her warm and made her tell stories to stay awake. When they were eventually found the younger was still alive but her older sister had died.

There are stories all over Iceland of people, young and old, “gone missing”. Their bodies are never found.

Last night as I left the studio I packed paper and paint and printmaking materials into my backpack and headed out for the ten-minute walk towards the mountains and the house. The wind started to howl around midnight and in the morning the sky was white and I could see little out the window. Then things calmed a bit and blue sky broke through clouds to the west and there were shadows on the snow. But then the wind returned and the sky to the north turned dark blue gray and spirals of snow flew up into the air. But as soon as I write this everything has changed again and there are flurries out the west window and everything is whitish gray while out the north window there is horizontal snow up to the ten foot level then a layer of mauve clouds topped with a yellowish white and everything capped by a luminous baby blue sky. And now white is the predominate color out both windows and I can’t see the big mountain to the east.

It is 9:30 am and I think I’ll just stay where I am.

Shots below were taken within 15 minutes of each other.

The snow shovel is left inside the house for a reason. All the exterior doors in Iceland open in so you can open the door to dig yourself out after a big storm has covered the house in snow. A comforting fact.

This is the view out my bedroom window just before night fall.


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