A Bookish Saga

On my first trip to Iceland, I naively bragged that I had read all the sagas. My listener was too polite to do more than quirk an eyebrow. Of course, I had not read all the sagas. I had read that giant paperback Penguin Classics Deluxe collection, The Sagas of Icelanders, plus The Saga of Burnt Njál. At the time, I didn’t know that more was possible.

For English speakers outside of academia, the ten sagas and assorted short stories of the Penguin compilation remains definitive. But there is another. Continue reading

Unfamous Falls

 

I’m in Iceland right now, but this photo was taken on an earlier trip. Seljalandsfoss is one of the most famous waterfalls in Iceland, and deservedly so. Those majestic 63-meter falls are quite photogenic, with a trail that runs right behind the cascade. No wonder it swarms so thickly with tourists you can barely see the water.

But right around the corner is a second fall, Gljúfrabúi. Harder to say, easier to see. Hardly anyone knows it’s there. It has cut a channel back into the rock. Visitors follow the stream back to the hill, then walk through a rock channel into a cave. The waterfall has carved out a doughnut-hole in the roof. You can climb up on a big rock in the middle, look up at the open sky, and feel the fine shower of waterfall spray on your face.

Eistnaflug: The Movie

Earlier this year I was contacted by Siggi Jensson, the creator of the Eistnaflug 2014 10th Anniversary four-DVD box set. Was I interested in receiving a press copy for review? Unfortunately, I had to say, ‘No’ because I had already purchased the box set in question. But why would I sit on a historical document like that without reviewing it? No reason at all. So here it is. Continue reading

Skallagrim’s Horse

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In the middle of a small park in a small town not far from Reykjavik, there is a grass-covered mound. No fence protects it from climbing feet or digging hands, but a placard nearby reports that it contains the bones of the horse that belonged to Skallagrim, the father of the legendary saga character Egil. (It perhaps also contains the remains of Skallagrim himself, and/or Egil’s son Bodvar. I can’t tell because the sign is in Icelandic.)

Only The Music is Dark

petzlFifteen years ago, I spent three months in India. Before I left, my husband gave me two gifts – a really nice pocket knife, and a Petzl headlamp. Both proved invaluable. Although the knife was later stolen, I still have the headlamp, and I still use it. It has accompanied me to multiple continents. I’ve used it on night hikes, to find the bathroom at state campgrounds, and harvesting vegetables from my back yard late in the season. It’s one of the best gifts my husband ever bought me. He ended up buying one for himself, too.

But when we were packing for our recent trip to Eistnaflug, the heavy metal festival in a remote fjord in Eastern Iceland, I pulled both headlamps from the pile on our bed of things to be packed.

“You don’t think we’ll need them?” he asked in the voice of careful doubt men reserve for moments when they suspect a woman has lost her mind.

“We’re not going to need them,” I answered.

When I left the room, he put them back in.

“They don’t take much space,” he said, tucking his headlamp into his backpack as I pulled mine back out and put it in a drawer.

Continue reading

Bridge to the Unknown

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In 2014, I attended the first annual Iceland Writers Retreat. At the time, I was contemplating leaving my day job for a freelance writing career. Walking in the natural area around Perlan, I saw this bridge jutting out from the path, not appearing to connect to anything on the other side. It was so rickety-looking, I wasn’t even sure if it was meant to be walked on. It seemed like a powerful, and somewhat frightening metaphor for my present circumstances.

I did not walk on the rickety, open-ended bridge. I didn’t want to be the dumb tourist who destroyed an art piece, or the dumb tourist who fell and needed rescue from a natural area inside the city. So I stayed on the path, which soon switched back below the bridge. From the lower path, the bridge looked like this:

I did not go back to cross the bridge. But I did go home and quit my day job.