Thursday, February 07, 2008

Land of snow

Alright. Well, I obviously didn't write again with pictures "in a couple of days", but such is life when life is actually happening. I still don't have pictures ready for upload, but they are coming soon... they are mostly in H's camera and he is back in Berlin now, but has promised me a CD in the mail and then I will share with you.

I am no longer in Iceland, though not in Toronto either, but in a displaced-limbo of cancelled flights in Boston at the closest and cheapest Comfort Inn to the airport, eating my Dunkin Donughts flat-bread and making use of the free internet while I keep checking the status of my continuously delayed flight. As long as it's not cancelled like last night, I'm fine. Really ready to be in my own bed again.

But, looking on the brighter side, it gives me a chance to finish off my missives about this trip before it's fully over. And, as I write, I am able to enjoy some of the Icelandic music I acquired at a fantastic store in Reykjavik (12 Tonar... very friendly/knowledgable guys with cozy sitting/listening area and free espresso) in my last couple of days in Scandanavia. Right now I am listening to Skúli Sverrisson's newest CD and it is a real treat!

So, some snapshots of my last couple of weeks.

Just after my last missive, the group of us went on a 24hr. trip which was supposed to take us first to the natural hot spring in Mivatn, followed by a trip to the Phallic Museum, and ending up in Hóllar (via Sauderkroker) to visit my new American marine biologist friend P. who I met on my initial flight. The road to Mivatn/Phallic Museum was closed on the day, so instead we took a more meandering trip towards Hóllar, stopping in a small town named something like the English version of Warm Mountain to eat bad truck-stop food and buy some very expensive but beautiful knit-wear (which I have worn almost every day since then). H and I also took a walk into the blowing snow while there, out into the vast drifty field and up the road. The trip as a whole was stunning! White on white on white like I've never experienced before, with hairy ponies dotting in black and brown and the shapes of magnificent mountains emerging from the silence of white. I really DO need to include some pictures because I don't think I could ever do it justice in a description here. In Sauderkroker, I walked along the black sand, the sea rushing in and out and red-stained rocks filling my pockets, my hands FREEZING! We were shown the well-worn room where the local community theatre company works and performs, and sat in on a Lutheran church service.... I was happy that though my comprehension of the language is non-existant, my ability to begin to know how to pronounce it phonetically allowed me to sing along in the hymns.

Then Hóllar as the dark began falling.... nearly engulphing our small cars stuck for a moment on the snow-laden road. A walk in the moonlight through the forest, snow up to our knees (and higher when we left the path and stumbled across rolling country, dodging (more or less successfully) the subtle signs of small water-ways. P. fed us a fantastic meal of some or the morning specimens of Arctic Char and we took up our various places on her geothermally heated floor, ready to drive back in the dark of early morning. Again, mountains and sea and the distant lights of a town waking emerging from the hug of midnight blue and the moon illuminating a moment here and there of a cliff face or a wave. There is awe emanating from this land, or at least the space between me and it. And as I listen to the music that I was introduced to, I can hear the dense, magical, expanse of it. A place, a place, a place.... how a place can open your heart in the quietest fanfare of inarticulation.
These moments of eyes peeled to the window have been some of my most memorable.

Back at work, we began finding a way to share the space together and also to choose what we would show on our own. I got a chance to share some ways into moving and improvising together, which was one of the most satisfying parts of the process for me, though it didn't last long. Overall, the work for me posed more questions than it answered my desires, and I think I need to think on this more and articulate it to those involved before I publish any of it for the whole world. But questions are also good. Even dissatisfaction is good if you keep awake to it. As H. quoted to me from michael moorcock, "You learn
to live and invite experience" and then went on to say himself: "such sentences are sort of valuable to me. for... I can embrace the experience as I would a thought." So the short story to all this is that I discovered a fun meeting with H. and video, editing some of my own stuff, and we all showed what we had which was various in tone and theme and form to a house of about 20 people, and there is more to think about and discuss before the project continues.

In our last week, we DID make it to Mivatn with the larger theatre company and an official Þoribild meal of sheep head and rotten shark once again. I wasn't as enthusiastic this time.... partly cause the sheep heads were cold and well, though an interesting adventure in eating, it's not really my thing. Mivatn... sulfer pools with unexpected hot spots of burning water in a dark and stormy wind knifing my forehead, hair sculptures frozen instantly out of the water, bare-skinned snow angels followed by a dive, a blinding mist at eye level and more floating and falling upwards into the clear starry night.
Alright. I have now made it to the airport and it looks like my flight might be the first of the day that makes it to T.O.
And I continue my snapshots:

In our last weekend, I discovered a river behind where we were living.... always so focussed on the icy trip down the hill to work, I had completely missed this! Huge icicles hanging from the rock-faced sides. And a series of pony pathways that curved and stretched out interminably over the countryside towards the mountains, and which I never had a chance to return to as I had planned. But they made a good setting for practicing my blend of blues-singing with a one-person attempt at inuit wailing and throat singing ( I only dane to call it that in order to give you a sense of the vocal landscape, but I would hardly call it more than a culturally-appropriated, surface-level bash at a kind of sound). I ended up using this in my presentation, though it never felt as satisfying as when I was walking in the open air. I remember reading somewhere that walking through the icy landscapes was a favorite practicing/inspiration spot for Björk, and I can see why. And well that's probably my only pseudo Björk moment of Iceland.

H. and I did another in-the-pool-with-clothes-on video shoot to quite an audience this time. Many more shared meals.... it's really amazing what you can concoct with frozen vegetables, soup mixes, fish balls and such. And the snow decided to really hit us in the last week, making the trek down to work of thigh-level snow over sheer ice truly a trek. It got so heavy on the roof of the theatre that an avalanche fell onto A. when she stepped out for a smoke after the show.

P. came to stay with us on the last friday in Akureyri and to see the show, and I finally met the only dancer in town (unfortunately on the last day) besparkled in pink glitter eye-shadow and hot pink flowers on her head. I wish that there had been more of an opportunity to meet people prior to our event... but it seems that that's what brings you in to contact when from away. We finished the evening at one of the local bars listening to two of the actors from the larger company singing show-tunes.... something really lovely about hearing selections from "Jesus Christ Superstar" and "Hair" (not to mention a rendition of "Careless whisper") in Icelandic. And H. and I had another chance to dance till we scared people.

And after all the cleaning and repacking of so many books I never even touched, we flew to Reykjavik. J and Mr. X left that day, but H. and I had a day and a half to explore aimlessly (what a treat after the last month!) before he took off for Berlin. Up the tower of the very dominant church in the centre of the old town (whose organ I am now listening to in the work of Kippi Kaninus as I write) to see the ocean and icy cliffs stretching out at the edge of the old town. Finally! a bar and coffee shop with a lived-in feeling and that ease that makes you want to hang out and write all afternoon or evening. Our first dinner became doritos and wine, sitting at the bar of Þrikid, dissecting the last month, and our conflicting layers of thought around humans, nature, and the possible missed-mark of art-making. I will really miss these conversations as well as the many hours of making up silly songs or rehashing favorites. The gem and saving grace of this time has really been the friendships built with H. and J. especially... although the last couple of days in Reykjavik also gave me a chance to know A. better and meet her family.

My last two days in Iceland were a flurry of running around and meeting people... it's amazing how you can hook into a whole scene pretty quickly (at least on a surface initial contact level) when you put your mind to it. And so maybe I will get a chance to come back on my own steam... we'll see. Certainly one of the great pleasures of this was getting sent in the direction of 12 Tonar. And the thought of making some sort of connection with the music folk here is exciting. Tastes of Skúli Sverrisson, Kippi Kaninus, Hildur Guđnadóttir, Kira Kira, Amina, Mr. Silla and Mongoose, Represensitive Man, etc. I would recommend to anyone. Along with the CD that has been etched into me through H. of Jenny Wilson. It is so good to get back to listening.

A surreal last morning at the Blue Lagoon on my way to the airport. They have this very smart excursion that allows you to soak in the natural hot springs for a couple of hours on the way to catching your flight.... a little more $$, but hell, everything is so $%#^%$^&$&^ expensive, that it's so WHY-NOT worth it! This time in daylight, surrounded by white mountains, steam obscuring even someone a few feet away, and warm milky white-blue water. White mud in small vats along the edge or which, as I discovered, you can scrape off the ground surface in big globs and rub all over your face as a mask. I got enthusiastic and spread it all through my hair as well, slipped out of my bathing suit, shrouded by the white water and floated as if in vacuumed space. The sense of physically-palpable silence is really pervasive.... maybe that's what makes room for all these sounds. A white snow-ice blanket of winter, pierced by brilliant light and bled-into by darkness... ominous silence and the space of potential. This maybe best describes my experience of the land. Though the moments were brief in the bigger picture of most of my preoccupation, they were obviously impactful.

And then, a flight into light for 6 hours, and the subsequent limbo of waiting to get home.... and I've just found out my flight has been delayed further!

It's been a time of groundlessness in a certain way, making me need to resource my own ground in new ways and old ways that I often forget about. Man, I'm waxing philosophic, now... maybe it's the music. I think I need a snack and maybe a crappy magazine.

I will post the pictures as soon as I can.
Thanks for joining me.



Blogger jen gillmor said...

Your writing is beautiful and evocative, Su. I'm so glad you've shared it with us. ... "how a place can open your heart in the quietest fanfare of inarticulation", "a blinding mist at eye level and more floating and falling upwards into the clear starry night" -- delicious words that suck me viscerally right into your experience.

I read the comments from that fascist nutbar back in 06. Sicko with no life of his own.

Welcoming you home with hopes of seeing you soon.
xo j

2:40 PM  
Blogger sandor ajzenstat said...

Hey Susanna,

Lovely to read this post. What a fantastic time. A marathon of intermingled exploration and perception—a perfect antecedent to great artistic creation. As you integrate your experience in the coming weeks I would love chat. I’m particularly curious about “the possible missed mark of art-making.” Could this be true? : )


3:18 PM  

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