Day 32 — Reykjavik to Keflavik to Los Angeles

The absurdly long travel day.

22 hours in total.

That much travel with so little sleep is a young person’s game. Oh well, it can’t really be avoided when you’re traveling from Iceland to the West Coast.

Started in Reykjavik and had a nice breakfast at the Guesthouse Aurora. Passed on the flea market and National Gallery because of time, but briefly met up with Martina and Joke at the Church (where they were going to an organ concert at noon).

Dragged our stuff downhill (which is much, much easier than going uphill) to the bus station to go back to Keflavik (where the international airport is), past Grindavik (where all the earthquakes and potential volcanic eruption are). Bought more lakrits and chocolate at the airport and did a little work before the flight. Yes, I wrote the first draft of another story while I was waiting. It occurred to me that a project called “Echoes of Iceland” needed a piece called Echoes, so I wrote it. It’s probably going to be the last piece in the book that should appear next year.

Amy and I were flying out on two separate flights. She was changing through Newark on Alaska Airlines and I was changing through JFK on JetBlue (and hoping they’d be better than they were on the trip over). My flight from Iceland left at about the same time, but they bussed us to a far-off gate than had us wait in a boiling holding area for about 20 minutes before we could board and I thought at one point I’d pass out.

Got into JFK and had to go through customs, recheck the bag, change terminals, and go back through Security (thankfully, I have TSA pre-check, which easily saved me 20 minutes on all that). My JetBlue flight was 45 minutes late taking off because they had to refuel so they could reroute us north to avoid turbulence. Spoiler alert: We didn’t avoid turbulence and were an hour late coming in. Also, even though the flight was only a third full, they wouldn’t let people move into open rows because they claimed the luggage underneath was being positioned to counterbalance the weight from our original assigned seats. This seems like complete B.S. to me, but my experiences with JetBlue have been awful on this trip.

Finally got to LAX a good hour late. Four bags came out at baggage claim, then nothing for 15 minutes. Finally, they announced that there was a jam and we’d have to go to another carousel. Okay, JetBlue, I get it. I have many other options when I fly and should have taken the Alaska option.

Originally, I was supposed to come in 15 minutes after Amy and we were going to wait and go back together, but when she saw how late we were, she went home, took a shower, then drove back to the airport and still had to wait around for 20 minutes while JetBlue attempted to deliver bags to their passengers.

Finally got home around 2:00 a.m. The cats were very happy to see both of us.

More later.

Day 31 — Stöðvarfjörður to Egilsstaðir to Reykjavik

Up at 6:30, long before first light to drive to Egilsstaðir for the morning flight to Reykjavik.

Roads were clear for the first two-thirds, then snowier as we got closer to the airport. We couldn’t figure out how to fill the car at the first station, so we had to go to the next one (where the self-service directions were a lot clearer). It was snowing a lot and I wanted to make sure we got there in time.

When we arrived, people were just lining up to check bags. We had enough time to go upstairs to the upper lounge, where I spent a few hours talking to Martina and Clio a month earlier when we were waiting for the van to pick us up and take as to Stöðvarfjörður. Seems so, so long ago.

Gorgeous, but uneventful flight. It was a lot colder in Reykjavik (maybe 20 degrees F compared to 35 in Stöðvarfjörður) and they’re expecting snow and cold from Greenland for the next few days. We walked to the guest house we’re staying in overnight (which is right near the church) before we head back to the airport in the morning. Since I stayed at a different guest house the last two times in Reykjavik, we decided to stay at the place Amy was in before coming out to the Eastfjords. Plus, it’s called the Guesthouse Aurora… and what’s not to like about that?

We’d hoped to go to the flea market, which is only open on weekends these days. It’s been relocated, but was a highlight of our first trip — back when half the stuff being sold seemed to have come in from Russia or other Eastern Bloc countries.

The entire harbor has been built up since then and Reykjavik has really become quite the tourist destination. I have mixed feelings about this, to be honest. Reykjavik is a lot of fun and there are some cool and interesting things to do there (and excursions from there), but I feel like you need to leave the city to experience “the real Iceland.”

We looked for a post office, but wound up buying post card stamps from a souvenir shop so I could post some postcards to send back to the states.

We wandered around forever looking for some food and stopped at the Bonus store to get some chocolate to take home with us. We finally wound up at a great (and relatively inexpensive) place called Just Wingin’ It that specializes in chicken wings, chicken tenders, and chicken sandwiches. Most of the customers who had wings wore plastic gloves so their hands wouldn’t get too greasy, which honestly seems like a genius idea.

We tried to get together with one of the Icelandic musicians who played on Amy’s new EP that she mixed and recorded vocals for in Stöðvarfjörður, but it didn’t work out.

Still, a good day. It was great to be in a city and in temperatures that were slightly colder (and to be able to walk in streets and go into shops). I tried not to be too judgmental about the loud foreign tourists and sometimes succeeded.

More later.

Day 30 — Stöðvarfjörður

Today is my last full day here.

The other two remaining people in our house got up early to catch a 6:45 a.m. bus to the airport in Egilstaddir. We’re flying out on the morning flight tomorrow, driving back there around the same time.

It snowed overnight here, which gave everything a wonderful feel.

Martina and Steph left this morning around 6:30 to go to Egilstaddir, where Amy and I will head tomorrow ourselves.

Amy was working all day in the recording studio, so I was in the downstairs studio working on a few things myself. I finished my 28th story in 30 days, which is fantastic. I’d hoped when I came here to write first drafts of 20-30 stories, so this is great (and on the high end of what I’d hoped for). In addition, I have the start of three additional stories (and notes on another 5 or 6 I’ll write in the next few weeks).

Any way you slice it, that’s pretty great.

I left around noon to go back to the house and do some cleaning and packing so I’m not stuck doing all that late tonight, then headed back down and did a bit more work.

Here are a few photos from today. (I also sent a few goofy videos to some of the artists who already left, showing them the empty studio.)

I’m having trouble adding video again this evening (so try clicking on the links). Such is the internet in the Eastfjords. I’ll try again when I’m in Egilstaddir or Reykjavik tomorrow and update this page then.

I started getting a bit sad this afternoon, realizing that this wonderful experience is coming to an end.

But I guess these things never really end if we can take them with us. And I definitely will with this.

Thanks, Vinny and Vid from the Fish Factory (as well as Clio, Joke, Martina, Mazz, Steph, and Uva).

Tomorrow it’s Egilstaddir and Reykjavik, which will feel positively crowded compared to Stöðvarfjörður.

More later.

Day 29 — Stöðvarfjörður (Plus Eskifjörður)

Four of the seven of us are gone.

Two artists from the other house and two from our house got up early, trudged downhill in the dark, and caught the bus to take the morning plane back to Reykjavik. I believe three of them are flying back in the afternoon or evening (and one will stay in Reykjavik for a few days).

The house feels empty-ish. Amy was working in the studio all day and I was writing another story that I think is likely to be the last piece in the book when it appears.

I also revised a couple of other pieces and recorded two to put up on Patreon.

Martina and Steph both cleared out their workspaces here in the downstairs studio (where I’m writing this in the morning).

Amy and I had talked about going to Eskifjörður to go to a lovely outdoor local pool with three hot tubs. We went there with a few people last year and it was a really fun outing.

This year, a couple people were interested, but the timing didn’t work out.

In the afternoon, Amy told me that she wanted me to shout out a punk-rock countdown for one of her songs, which I was happy to do since that’s basically one of my fantasies to do that. We taped it twice, once in English and once (as a tribute to Neil Innes and the Rutles) in German (Eins, svei, drei, vier!).

I nailed them in one take each. (Plus, look at the view out the studio window!)

It’s looking a bit empty around the studio, to be honest.

Around 4:30, Amy and I headed a few fjords down to Eskifjörður to the pool, which was lovely and relaxing. We had an Icelandic ice cream bar after and drove back through pitch black and light snow.

Back at the house, Steph and Martina made dumplings, we made a salad, and we had some yummy bread dipped in olive oil and balsamic.

Steph and Martina take off tomorrow early. Amy has one more day in the studio, I’ll do some cleaning and packing, and we’ll leave very early Friday.

It’s hard not to feel sad about leaving, but I’m also trying to soak up every last bit I can get of this place.

More later.

Day 28 — Stöðvarfjörður

The first group of people are leaving tomorrow morning.

It was appropriately cloudy and rainy this morning, but still unspeakably beautiful:

The sun is coming up around 10:00 these days, which is eerie and beautiful as well. By the time the sun came up, there was a bit of a rainbow as well.

We had a review meeting/debriefing with Vid and Vinny and all the artists for about an hour at noon and talked about what the experience was like for us.

I would totally come back here again given the time.

A lot of the others are packing up the studio and packing up their stuff to leave. I’m still plugging away (26 stories in 28 days).

Here’s a photo of the window of the room where I worked most days and where we held our exhibition last night. (Drone art by Martina and Sketches by Step are in the windows.)

I’m going to miss being here, even if one of my cat friends snubbed me when I tried to film him. (Don’t worry, he nuzzled up to me when the cameras weren’t around.)

In the evening, we all got together and had a meal together, which was really fun.

Safe travels to Clio, Mazz, Uva, and Joke in the morning!

More later.

Day 27 — Stöðvarfjörður

Today was a wonderful day.

I woke up after not getting enough sleep (it was too hot and then too cold and I was checking a couple times for the Northern Lights (which weren’t out where we are).

In the morning, Amy and I went down to the Fish Factory, where she’s working in the recording studio. When Amy was working, I went for a quick walk, then wrote story number 25 (which explains the fight among the gods that resulted in gaining and losing sunlight as the seasons change).

Tonight was our Exhibition for the artists here in November. People set up visual examples of their work, Mazz showed a bit of the video she was working on, Clio showed video and invited people to paint on the white paper where some of her video showed (and also had a couple songs for people to listen to and a few paintings to display), Steph displayed her various paintings, sketches, and print books, Joke presented some of her sculptures, and Martina displayed several of her cool miniatures as well as a book of sketches she did.

And then there was me. I’d agreed to read two stories and had three that I was going to choose between. I knew I wanted to read the story “Aurora” and couldn’t decide what the second would be. In the end, I went with “Bird” over “Moon” because there were a couple similarities between “Moon” and “Aurora” and I didn’t want people to get the feeling that all the pieces shared those similarities.

There was a Facebook event for the Exhibition, but there was some confusion about the time, so people from the community came after we had pretty much wrapped things up. People really dug the two stories (and were amazed that I’d written 25 of them so far). After, we went around and the other artists explained some of the thoughts that went into their work this past month.

Here are a few photos from the day and the Exhibition:

Four people are leaving on Wednesday, two more on Thursday, and Amy and I are heading out on Friday morning.

It’s been an amazing month and there’s still a few days left to get things done.

Here’s a photo of my pal Tumi (to whom I threw this and many other sticks), whom I will miss when I leave this place.

More later.

Day 26 – Stöðvarfjörður

Pretty socked in this morning. Watched the fog drift in over the fjord and went for a quick-ish walk in the morning.

I was down at the Fish Factory, revising a few old stories and working on one about what the fog actually means.

We’re having a public exhibition tomorrow where I’m going to read two of my stories (out of the 24 I’ve completed drafts of so far) and the other artists are going to present some of the work they’ve been doing here in the past month. It’s open to the public, but I’m guessing it’s a bit out of range for most of you.

Here are some photos of the fog today and one from the town’s Christmas market, held inside the school building. There were lots of crafts and foods made in the village and it all looked great. I had to take care of a few things (like mopping the house I’m staying in) and was waiting for Amy to arrive, but intended to go back before they closed and maybe buy a few things. The timing was a bit off and by the time I got back there, they were all packing up. (I did get a nice photo of a cat and a tree, though.)

Also, Amy is here! She did this residency back in February and I came to visit her here and now she’s back visiting me and doing a little recording for her new EP.

Too cloudy and fogged in for any Northern Lights tonight. But we did briefly head over to Saxa, where they are showing non-Christmas movies on Wednesdays and Christmas movies on Sundays. We and three other locals watched Gremlins, which apparently is now an official Christmas movie. (Who knew?) We didn’t stay for the whole movie, but it was a lot of fun to be there.

More later.

Day 25 — Stöðvarfjörður

If you told me that I’d go on hikes that were more than seven miles long two days in a row, I’d have laughed. That’s not the type of thing I generally do. Or ever do.

But here we are.

This morning, I got up early and decided to try to get some dawn footage from the Sitka P. Coldfoot Memorial Drone to make up for the footage not coming out yesterday. Even though it was cloudier, it looked kind of gorgeous. I posted this as a Reel on Instagram (with some music from Amy Engelhardt). Check it out here.

Energized, I came back and wrote a new story before 10:00. Then I decided I’d take a hike. But this time at my own pace and on the road, so I could stop whenever I needed to.

I knew I wanted to go to the end of the fjord, where there’s a nice beach and something called the Bird-Watching House. As I was walking, I decided to keep going to one of the waterfalls on the other side of the fjord. I’m glad I did. It was breathtaking.

Here’s a few photos from that hike:

This culminated with the photo of the waterfall, which is my favorite picture I’ve taken so far in Iceland. It looks like a painting, but I’ve done zero editing and there are no filters. It’s just this beautiful:

On the way back, after I’d gone more than seven miles, I started wishing someone would stop and give me a lift. Soon after I thought that (when I was at the cemetery at the edge of town), a van with two of the artists (and faithful Fish Factory pooch Tumi) pulled up to me and asked if I wanted a life. I gladly took that life. And later I thought “wait… did I just manifest this van to appear?”

Maybe. Maybe so.

After taking a nice long shower and having some food, I went down to the Fish Factory and revised the story I’d written that morning. (Number 23 in 25 days if you’re keeping score).

All of that would have made a pretty amazing day.

But there was more.

A brief, but colorful show of the Northern Lights followed in the early evening.

Life is good, friends. Life is good.

More later.

Day 24 –Stöðvarfjörður

I thought the other hike was long.

But this one was much longer. I was happy to go with my fellow artists (5 of us together), but realized too late that three of the four are a lot younger than me and none of the four was interested in stopping and listening and just being up on the mountain. Instead, they were always pressing ahead. Which was fine, although I was seriously lagging behind for most of the hike and didn’t feel like I could just stop and listen and be, which is my favorite thing to do when I hike on my own here.

I enjoyed the company, but am more sore than I’ve been in a long time. And I felt guilty about stopping to take photos because I was already behind and didn’t want to keep them waiting even longer.

Also, I took the Sitka P. Coldfoot Memorial Drone up this morning just after first light when there was a break in the wind, but for some reason the footage didn’t record. If we get a non-windy day tomorrow morning, I’ll give it another shot.

After the hike Uva (one of the other artists who was not on the hike) presented a show of the shadow puppetry he’d been working on, which was delightful (and relied heavily on imagery from his culture in Mexico). The rest of us will be presenting our work on Monday night and I’ll be reading two of the stories I’ve written (22 so far).

Life is excellent. Here’s some photos from today:

And a couple videos:

More later.

Day 23 — Stöðvarfjörður to Egilsstaðir and Back

I woke up at around 5 in the morning and looked out my window. I could see heavy snow in one of the streetlights. It stuck, but not a huge accumulation. Still, since I expected the streets would be all snowy a couple weeks ago, I was happy to see this.

Today was shopping day (as well as Thanksgiving), so we were off (relatively early) to Egilsstaðir. We went there instead of the closer store because one of the artists was dropping off a piece at a gallery there. But the store in Egilsstaðir is cheaper, so I guess I can’t complain.

And we stopped on the way back to take a group photo on a scenic turnout. It was extremely cold. Not sure how it came out. I’ll try to track down the photo.

Afterwards, some of the other artists decided to cook a pseudo-Thanksgiving meal (with a roasted chicken, stuffing, gravy, baked potatoes, and a pumpkin (actually squash) pie. It was delicious and so much fun to spend time together.

On the walk up, I thought I’d be blown over (winds had to have been gusting over 50 mph). Tomorrow is scheduled to be sunny, so I’m thinking it will be the ideal time for a nice hike.

The moon on my walk up from the Fish Factory looked like a fish, which seems kind of appropriate!

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

More later.