Saturday, July 28, 2012

About learning the icelandic thing

I still read minningargreinar, and I'm wondering about, how many people commit suicide during this outstandingly beautiful summer. In fact I'm reading a lot these days, discovering little treasures, like the book "Hetjur og hugavil" (Heroes and complaint) about psychic diseases in the sagas (they were all sick the same way like we are today, full of narcisms and personality disorders, pathological fears and social disorders - you immediately don't feel alone any more, having such a bunch of icelandic celebrities sharing your silly problems)
It's fine to be mad and have good company :-)

And now discovering another treasure "The little book about Icelanders" - no, not just another of these unbearable foreigner-written Besserwisser-books on viking-mentality, much more, as it was written by an icelandic woman who spent half of her life abroad and came here, being almost a stranger. She gave many of my experiences a word and offered explanations to what has happened and why it went wrong.

You cannot turn the clock back of course - but now I know how clumsy and stupid I behaved in this country, guiding myself through rough society waters and running ashore. Now I understand my weirdiness for the Icelandic eye and why people like me are kept away or ignored from community in the countryside. According to the (icelandic) author it seems not to be part of the system to be different. Well ...  ;-)
Anyway, very interesting lecture, and full of a wonderful humour. Like it very much.
The lecture though makes stubbornness grow, of course. If you can't be part of the garden, create your own garden and water your plants, you never know what will happen.

Laughter is dominating these bright and sunny days anyway. Although Damokles has found a place to hang his fucking sword and our small world here might soon turn upside down, it seems as if Someone does not allow depression. He gave us the warmest summer ever in Iceland, a flowering country, smells, lights and sights, and He creates gratefulness for smallest things like wollen hair in a hvannablóm – or a whale jumping out of the water. I will never go again on whalewatching, I have seen a whale, it can't get any better. He jumped out of the water 8 times, right in front of the boat -

And what is more - horses around. Finally the black lady was brought to my village to join me, and she does it in her special ladyesk style, showing appreciation, gently allowing to ask her to follow *g* and taking water only from the basket coming from my hand. She is wise and ever-knowing, she can read and write, and mainly reads my thoughts. A precious mirror of mind and emotion, I am grateful that we've found and were given to each other.

 So what else do you need? Sunny days, good books and blankets, friends to share good and sad days with, projects to do, texts to write, plans to fix and dissolve, thoughts to think and forget, and a heart to beat its rhythm around a name.

Bráðum kemur betri tíð með blóm í haga,
sæta lánga sumardaga.
Þá er gaman að trítla um tún og tölta á eingi,
einkum fyrir únga dreingi.
Folöldin þá fara á sprett og fuglinn sýngur,
og kýrnar leika við kvurn sinn fíngur.
(Halldór Laxness)

The old guy was pretty right :-)

Monday, June 18, 2012


Another month disappeared into sunsets and days of work and nothing but work.
"You turned into an icelandic slave, that's how we are," nodded the woman at the woolshop when I met her for a chat last week. "How do you like it to be an icelandic slave?"
Work is the best drug, I told her, and she nodded again with a sad, warm and knowing smile.

Meanwhile I am able to do conversations in Icelandic. Full of mistakes, but speaking, just speaking, even to the policeofficer, after my riding equipment was stolen. Either you row your boat alone, or you will drown. No one will take an oar, you have two hands, use them. So I learned to speak, to not drown.

Maybe my way to learn the language is the most peculiar one: as there is no one to talk to (apart from the disabled persons I care for in my work, but their language is more a matter of imagination than of understanding) I read. I read like hell, read books, internet, read the national newspaper every day and my favourite pages are the minningargreinar.

Minningargrein is an Icelandic speciality, a neat and touching one - and a window to a people's soul that they are not willing to open in direct contact. But they reveal it - quite strangely - in public. (well, a blog is very much the same.) When someone dies, family members and friends write articles about the person and send them to the newspaper to share them in public.

It is like someone telling you stories (I love listening to stories), gives you the opportunity to take a look into the fraenka-society you are not enabled to enter. You will read about a long familylife, discover exciting stories about passion, about people moving from one place to the other, about coincidences, about dramatic accidents you have been reading in the news like the captain of the sunk trawler, you will find funny, strange and sad memories, and much too often read about a brave and short fight against cancer in young age  - and about unbelievable personal drama, like the flight controller who drank himself to death, with his ex-wife living next door who didn't want to leave him for the sake of the kids. First time that I read about alcohol in a minningargrein. Or the man who committed suicide 20 years ago, and his sister writing a minningargrein in memory of that day to remind about the numerous silent suicides in Iceland.

This one touched me the most: - some Jói died at the age of 51 in his home, no facts about his family, no one left behind, a lonely person without history (though icelandic) - but his neighbour (or lover?) wrote these lines in memory for him:
Jói í kjallaranum.
Jói heimilisköttur okkar.
Svo viðkæmur.
Svo erfitt.
Erfitt að
Ég þekkti þig ekki
og þó þekkti ég þig.
fallega brosið tþitt,
hlyjuna í þér.
Brosið fyrir börnin mín,
og brosið fyrir mig.
Uti að skemmta sér.
Biðið aðeins,
ég ætla ad rugla.
Þad var Jói.
og fann ekki.
Alltaf til staðar
og þó í burtu.
Nú forstu burtu
og ég vona
ad þér líði vel núna,
því þad áttu svo margfaldlega skilið.

(Jói, in the cellar, our cat, so sensitive, so difficult, I knew you and didn't know you. Your beautiful smile, the calm inside of you. Your smile for my kids, and smile for me. Out on party. Wait, I'm just going to confuse. That was Jói. Searching and never finding. Always on the spot and soon gone. Now you are gone and I hope, you feel better, as you gave it back in so many ways.)

These lines mesmerize deeper than 10 minningargreinar.
They remind that there is always a warm, caring heart next door. 

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

1. Mai

I haven't been writing for a long time. Out of words, somehow.
Have been homesick without having a home. Just sick. Women must be crazy.
Three languages on my mind, all three of them have to earn my living.
Exciting and tiring at the same time, I'm obviously not 20 anymore °!° Most people won't understand the struggle.
It keeps you from sleeping and resting and eating (and in good shape *g*). I need silence to calm down, get at the same time killed by silence and need music as medicine to cheer me up.
Women ARE crazy.

Man can definetively be an island. Boats are passing by, but never come to your shore, just waving for visit. As a foreigner you live outside the house of the icelandic "fraenka-society". You may look through the windows, sometimes they are opened for a small chat, but the door is invisible for you behind a curtain of history that is not your history.

So fill your island with flowers and warm thoughts, keep your own door open like you always did, love the one you love and try to live without the fraenka-stuff.
It will feel allright.

Though spring is near and nature awakening, it hasn't yet reached people. Things seem to drown in routine, the bloody slave driver that blindens for beauty. Routine kills.
Sparkling lights, the first small games of the sun that won't go to sleep now for a long time - good for tourists, difficult for those residents who need a *night* for sleeping.
The permanent light makes me feel like a Bordercollie, which is not healthy at all. At least something I share with many people on the island. ;-)

There are only two places I can take a rest.
One of the places is him:

In Germany we used to count the "may-trees" - ribbon-decorated trees that boys had been carrying to the houses of their beloved the night before. An old tradition in the Rheinland-area.
Many may-trees, much love in the air. Some villages without may-trees ...
Long time ago we set a may-tree on the door of a nunnery, with black, pink and violet ribbons. The nuns didn't understand our sense of humour. 

May everybody have a wonderful 1. May in good company, enjoy the day, and think about your may-tree :-)

Saturday, March 10, 2012

No man is an island -

... entire in himself. Every man is a part of the continent ..." (John Donne, 1571-1632)

And right was John.
No matter how 'island' you may feel - you are always part of a whole, and even part of a community, though sometimes you might not feel so because of unsurmountable boundaries like language and nationality.

Weekend days are islands that suck.
They are like quicksand - they look like ordinary days, you set trustfully your foot on the sand - and a hidden power drags you down until you can hardly move.

Working in a community of disabled I found my way back to the old nurse's hamster-wheel:
Brightening up people's life, whipping smiles on faces with simple things, caring for comfort. Being 100% sunny during job. Coming home, and no one there to brighten up, to talk, to share things, to recharge emotional batteries, to whatever. As a consequence talking even more to horses ;-) going to bed early, spending saturday evenings with a glass of wine, and loosing yourself in story projects to be written.
Stories can be recharging companions. In fact they have been companions ever since I remember.

However, the earthly Iceland has proven to be quite a battery-recharger - ground, colours, light. Different every single day, calming down, making humble, adorable and frightening at the same time, heart-warming in its simple pure beauty.
All of a sudden the light has found us here, promising something. Days are getting longer, mornings start earlier (around 7), evenings last longer (almost until 8), and despite of crazy snowy intervalls the summer seems to be very near :-)
You can smell it in the earth. Feel it in the branches. I saw the first swans flying northwards.
Look out for tjaldur (Austernfischer), spring's herald - he will come with his wife, busily running around like a little pinguin and make you smile :-)

Icelandic winter darkness never has scared me (though human icelandic darkness did), candles and fairy lights create enough warmth and cosyness, and really - by the end of summer you can't help but look forward to winter darkness to eventually enjoy the light of a candle.

But that's far away.
Come may, come midsummer, come endless light. :-)
Come colour, come sweet smell, come birds, come life to the exhausted land.
Come life into us. Come blood into our hearts, and courage, and strength.

Til then be a new story my companion - and a small personal dream or two.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The waiting

February used to be the time of changes.
In the area I grew up, it was called Karneval - carni-vale - good-bye to meat, as the beginning of the pre-easterly fasting season, and in pagan times setting fire to the winter spirits and drive them out of the country. (On today's Karneval, however, people mostly pour spirits of high percentage - Schnaps and beer - into their heads and drive manners out of the country, that's why I don't miss Karneval)

Far away are we from this. Far away from driving out anything from anywhere.
The big snow melting had brought a fresh smell of spring into the air, had made birds, horses and men get a little shaky and nervous - but snow came back, covering every vivid feeling under its calming cold blanket.
And made you continue to patiently wait for sleeping beauty to wake up .......

We are spectators of a strange and silent dance: the exhausted land, tired from snow and cold and seeming to be not able to ever give life again - is kissed by the light, a daily growing miracle, that every now and then manages to set things on fire in an attempt to create joy in man.

February is the time of silence, kind of a dead month.
Nothing will happen so far - it's too far away from christmas to remember, and too far away from summer to look forward.
Good to have the kiss of light from time to time.

Few voices are around me to break the silence. Music. Beethoven's "Elise", preferably played at night. Rare brilliant guitar tunes from downstairs. Icelandic cradle-songs like a musical clock in my brain, sofdu ungan ástin min, úti regnid graetur .... The voices of my new project, solemn ones, and still in confusion ... The soft voice of my wonderful mare that tries to please me, to make me overcome fears, and follow dreams.

And his voice.
He's the only one that is talking and asking every day, as much as a horse can talk and ask, he spreads his bright mood and curiosity, he has spring in his eyes and makes you leave his place with joy in your heart - every single day.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Thorri - done

Lucky me - I was invited to a thorrablót-evening. :-)
As we were only two útlendingar in the whole building, I did'nt dare to take pictures of the buffet - instead went straight and brave with my dish and filled it with food.
No need to choose testicles and svíd, I tried it once and don't like it because of its strong taste and smell of mysa, the sour debris of milk. If you are not used to it, it will upset your guts.
So this was my first choice: sheephead and the famous hákarl. The sheephead has only very few meat, but delicious fine one, I don't mind the offered form *g*

My table-vis-á-vis though had severe problems and got really shaky ... ;-)


Second choice (I was really hungry) - sur hvalur (sour whale) and ... hákarl. The whale had to be, I never tasted whale (the grill-steak you can buy is too big for one person), so be it sour one ........ this is really disgusting, worse than testicals and as bad as svíd/aspic! I guess you can only eat it while you are drunk.
The hákarl/rotten shark however, is something delicious, as I do like very strong old cheese, and it tastes the same. They cut it into small cubes, so you forget what you are eating.
The orange mousse is rófur, some sweet beet, cooked with sugar ... one of the things you can live without °!° The rest is just potato, cold salads, sweet rugbraud and ... hangikjöt/smoked lamb, the meat I love the most in Iceland :-) Drinking traditional brennivin with the meal does not help, if you can't stand the food. It just helps to get drunk - in a fast way. So take care.


Funniest picture to me: you could not buy any alcohol in the house, so everybody came with a plastic-bag, filled with beer and whatever. After the meal there was some kind of theatre programm with jokes and songs about happy men and women *g* - lots of them were around us and immediatley started to dance and didn't stop - a big difference to Germany, where women like to dance and men never do unless they are forced to. The main problem is the same in both countries: you need someone to be with, otherwise you will sit alone and watch. Singles (in icelandic 'einhlaupari'-the one that runs alone, which was hard in the old times) are dangerous, so hands off. So I was home short after midnight, and dreamt about happy ... heads and ... stuff.


Happy were the men from boat Harald / they went on fishingtour from Akranes / and all of them came back / and no one died. /Happiness made all the women smile.

Life is simple. Just be happy to have your love back home, safe and sound, every single day. :-)

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Gaedingafimi 2012

February - time of Meistaradeild, the icelandic master class of riding. Tonight we watched Gaedingafimi, a part of the championship I am not sure about name and purpose. It is no dressage-keppni as we know it.
Maybe some kind of proof of subtleness? A dance-proof?

Es ist Februar und wieder mal so weit: Meistaradeild, die Meisterklasse in Island, zeigt, was sie drauf hat. Heute abend fand das Gaedingafimi statt - jene Prüfung, wo ich noch um einen Namen mit mir ringe, denn eine Dressurprüfung ist es nicht. Vielleicht eher eine Abfrage der Rittigkeit, eine Art Tanzprüfung? Wie gut tanzen zwei zusammen?

Hammering rockmusic like ACDC for sure is not the right background for horses to work relaxed and dance under the rider. However, they showed 'kind-of'-dressage'-lessons in high speed, most of the horses nodding and kicking with their heads under strong sawing hands. The curb bits in use (most riders chose icelandic bits) revealed that modelling the head into a right form is not the way to subtleness, it would only show that focus lies on forehand action and not on the 'motor' in the back. Horses struggled against the pressure, with open mouths and waving tongues, the phenomenon 'contact on the bit' has no lobby as long as the show was fast and 'wow' enough. The audience is used to the showing-off-factor, and to fierce poney-faces, too. And looseness is definetively not what this keppni is about. Are we way too critical?

No. This year we were surprised how things are changing.
We not only saw a demonstration of exceptional genetic potential, we saw power and beauty - and riders, who stopped chasing their horses and started to ride them. Gudmundur Björgvinsson would never win a price for spectacularity, but his white horse moved content and loose and tried to dance with him. Sylvia Sigurbjörnsdóttir would win a price for her precise show in harmony with her horse, Aevar Örn and his black for showing sober fun together. He choose the right song: "Give me freedom, give me fire" ...
Unfortunately they all disappeared in the preliminarie round, as they were too slow and obviously too boring - on second place we found a mare that could but run with a stiff back and was stressed by her own extreme movements.

This crazy poor mare got most of the audiences' applause - the first price, however, went to Artemisia Bertus on Korgur frá Ingolfshvoli, one of the youngest horses in this championship (5 years).
Artemisia showed a well educated horse, calm but not boring, relaxed but awake, very young but trustfully on the bit, though she used an icelandic bit.
He was with her, he danced with her, happy with her choreography, starting in canter, then going over to trot and ending the performance in tölt without stress and without ever being boring. It was a choreography according to his young age, as the tölt was not perfect, but the rest loose, precise and happy - and maybe Artemisia got her high scores in gangtegund/gaits and flaedi/flow exactly for this.

I think I would have left the hall in protest, if Korgur and Artemisia hadn't won this competition.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Eivör in concert

Watching a falling star (like I did last night) is a matter of chance - listening to its sound is a gift from heaven.
It had been an evening when life simply smiled on us - we went enjoying the rarely announced concert of Eivör Pálsdóttir, the farese singer with the incredible voice, in Langholtchurch in Reykjavík. The church is a beautiful modern building with high ceiling and a massive organ - perfect stage for "just" the voice of a barefoot singer.

Her voice sailed through the air and covered our souls like a tender veil, touching emotions in kind of a blessed and unmentionable way, and her harmonies went directly into the heart.

It has been a long time ago that I felt tears in my eyes while listening to someone singing.

She touched God Himself.

So it was only natural that on my way home heaven opened and gave us a northern light covering the entire firmament ...

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Month of Thorri and ice

From 21st of january on thorrablót is celebrated in Iceland.
Thorrablót-time lasts for about one month. What sounds like a viking-thing, is actually a fairly modern feast, dating back only to the 19th century, when Icelandic students in Copenhagen invented it and a restaurant in Reykjavík started to offer special meals on the occasion.
Though it is of importance in dark wintertimes to gather and share meals, music and dance. Like in German Karneval people review the passed year in small theaterpieces or readings, the stage preparations are extremely top-secret and the evenings are said to be very funny.
The following meal is strange - rotten shark, sheephead and testicles preserved in sour milk are served with potatoes and vegetables, maybe it is some proof of courage, or just a reason to keep on drinking. But I actually know people who are really keen on this food.

It is difficult to join such a thorrablót without being part of a community/an icelandic relationship. It is also difficult to meet people if you don't get opportunities to meet people ;-)
But the icelandic society is a closed one, especially in the countryside, and you have to be very lucky to get an invitation, if you live alone.
The funniest "invitation" I got, had been: "You can buy thorramat (the meal) in the supermarket". Wow, thanks for the hint! So up to now I can unfortunately not present any pictures about the delicious male testical stuff ;-)

But as Thorri had been a king in mythological times, he is of course the right guy for me.
He reigned over several nordic countries and though being a good king, he was sacrificed by the people of Kaenland to guarantee snow and good skiing conditions (nordic people sometimes have strange priorities *gg*)
Thus Thorri being the king of winter and ice, I took pictures in Thorri's honour.

In a short warm period the ice on Thjorsá had melted. The sun, the old gambler, takes any opportunity and sets the ice on fire ...

And last evening on my way back home from work the elves of Thjorsá came dancing in the veils of their evening mist and covered the world with magic ...

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Stormy times

This is how Iceland looks like now for 24 hours.
The snowstorm began last night when I came home from work, happy with my new spikes on the tyres and learning that spikes don't help when the snow reaches your neck ;-)
My brave little car and me crept to the village and got almost buried there - and storm till then.
Classical glugga-vedur - window-weather, only fools go out. I used to be one, but not today. I would have gone for a horse, but there was none to care for.

It's not storm every day, though.
The same Iceland, on a calm, happy day.

As I still don't use a TV (and icelandic TV is really boring) and cannot have a cat or dog due to my housemate's allergy, it was time to think about a non-bothering companion to fill the lonely hours.

Here it is - loved and hated companion of my childhood, and obviously our piano-teacher 30 years ago did a good drilling job, since some pieces just ran from my stiff fingers. Thank you, Gottfried Stein!!

The bench had been waiting for use in my favourite secondhand-shop in Reykjavík - actually an old church-bench, but it fitted in my car like the piano, so it both was meant to be :-)

And the next companion is waiting in Germany - a harp - an old childhood dream now coming true - for the time I use the small harp at my employer's place.

My dad used to say, we cannot have a harp for you because we would have to build a house around it. (he said the same thing about a horse)

He was wrong, as can clearly be seen ;-)

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Year of the mountain

As expected I spent the first day of the new year in solitude and didn't eat, as no one was there to share with. New Years Day (1.1.) is a family day. Singles are invisible.
In Germany we say, all the things you do on 1st of January, you will do the year over.

Ok, Kata is in good training with this. *gg*
By getting physically less, weirdness will but grow, as brain is the essence of body. ^^

On New Year's night I had company in the stable and later outside in the meadow. I sang for the horses of my friend, like I did on last year's New year's night, when I was close to hell.
We enjoyed some hands of good hay and dreamed about sparkling french champaigne (which I used to share with our german horses).
And they liked it all. :-)

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me....
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now, I see.

The Lord has promised good to me...
His word my hope secures.
He will my shield and portion be...
as long as life endures.

It seems that horses have always been my only company on the edges of life - in Germany as in Iceland.
Strange - but whenever I am alone, they are near and help to keep the balance, they caress a foolishly beating heart and make you think foward. They make you breathe and give as much comfort as it takes to grab a plan. Good companions :)

- - - - - -- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

My plan for 2o12: going to the mountain.
Whatever mountain this will be, made of stone or made of hope.
And I don't want to go there alone.

So here are my New Year's wishes for you:

May you always have a reason to smile.
May you always have someone by your side - be it cat, dog or horse. Or man. (or fish)
May you even in dark night find the sunny side of life - or at least have someone near to show you.

May God put an eye on us and lead us safely through rough seas and dead calms.
May He lead us up to the mountain.