Monday, April 2, 2018

Djupivogur & East Fjords: Day 6

Bragdavellir Cottage

After the past several days of taking so much in, we relished the chance to relax in this quiet cottage hidden in the mountains.  It was wonderful to have a real bed for one night, and to be able to cook in a proper kitchen and sit at a table for our meals.

We slept soundly, and woke to a fresh soft blanket of snow covering everything.  We quietly ate our breakfast as we looked at the mountains out the window.  Every so often, the dog that lives on this farm property would run excitedly up to our front door and drop a large stick for us, expectantly.  When breakfast was done, I went out and threw the stick for them a couple of times, laughing as they tumbled around in the snow excitedly and dashed back with the stick for me to throw it again.

Morning breakfast.  Best served with mountain views.
This charming, beautiful little spot was the perfect way to recharge and let some of the past several days' worth of beauty sink in.  After our leisurely breakfast and coffee, we took some time to just simply sit and do nothing for a little while.  I think those moments while traveling are vital.  Sometimes there's just so much to see and do that we forget to give ourselves time to let things sit in our souls a little bit, let them move through and change us.

After saying goodbye to our beautiful little cottage, we headed over to the town of Djúpivogur.  This charming little town is an important birding hotspot, as well as being home to a few different artist shops.  The one we stopped at was JFS - Icelandic Handcrafts. Sometimes you stumble unexpectedly upon a place and person that is really special, and this was one of those times.  Jón, the owner, showed us his incredible outdoor collection of stones, rocks, minerals, and geodes that he collected himself over the years from his hikes in the mountains.  


Every stone has a story, like the one that looks like a crocodile, which he found by chance, in two halves, several metres apart.  Or the large piece of driftwood full of worm-holes, that he saw a face in and crafted to match his vision.  After working as a fisherman for many years but then suffering a fall which left him unable to continue, he turned to crafting things out of stones and reindeer antlers (collected from his hikes, after they have naturally fallen off the reindeer during winter).  His beautiful work is something well worth visiting, and I would highly recommend that if you spend your money on souvenirs anywhere in Iceland, to do it here.  The treasures that we picked out to take home with us are full of far more meaning after having met the man who personally collected the stones and the reindeer antlers used to fashion his creations.


He has many items with ancient Viking runes and symbols on them, and binders full of information about the spiritual/magical meanings of each one of them.  I hadn't necessarily wanted to get anything with a rune on it, but as I flipped through the binder of their meanings, one of them caught my eye.  A rune that holds deep meanings that are at first glance contradictory - confusion, grief, pain, suffering, shadows, the unknown, fire, destruction - but also at the same time, it is translated literally as "The Torch" - light in the darkness, transformation, creation, re-creation of oneself, creativity...

I was drawn to this meaning and the complexities suggested by the meanings that appear at odds with each other but are really two sides of the same thing. 
I searched through all the keychain carvings (on pieces of reindeer antler) and the few necklaces as well, but I couldn't find it.  When I asked him, Jón quickly went to one of his many shelves full of treasures, rummaged around in a box and pulled out the rune I was looking for, carved into the tip of a reindeer antler.  He was able to remove the keychain attachment and put a black cord through it for me instead - I knew it had to come home with me.

Grief and joy are so close to each other; they are not opposites.  I have always felt this, and I am at my most creative when I walk that fine line in between both; when I can harness the power of sadness and grief, confusion and loss, and transform it into art - whether it is through my writing or through my singing, without that channeling of that energy and transforming it (as the rune meaning suggests; a burning torch is simultaneously destruction and illumination) - I would have nothing; be nothing.

I like keeping reminders with me of these deeply meaningful concepts.  Sometimes in the midst of the burning, it can be hard to remember the transformation that can come with it, given the right state of mindfulness.

Jón talked about how he was a hippy, and referred to all the wonderful people from all over the world that visit him in this little far-flung town in the fjords of Iceland.   He quoted Jon Lenon's "Give peace a chance," and wondered why the world can't be that way.  I'm generally too shy when I encounter other kindred spirits like this, so I said little, but I thoroughly felt all he was trying to say.


The rest of the afternoon was just as relaxing - we mostly drove, admiring the stunning beauty of the windy roads through the East Fjords.  This drive is truly picturesque and all you can do is just sit back and admire it.

(I forgot to mention it in yesterday's post, but we saw actual wild reindeer in the fjords as we drove to the cottages yesterday - what an incredible sight!)
Wild reindeer

After a quick stop in Egilsstadir to re-stock our groceries, we headed to Seydisfjordur, a tiny village nestled into the fjords.  The drive here was something else - thick, snow covered fjords and mountains all around us as we drove through newly plowed roads that had snow taller than cars piled at the sides of the road.  We were fascinated by the winter wonderland we had entered. 

Waterfall on the way to Seydisfjordur

View of Egilsstadir and surrounding area from the fjord roads

Seydisfjordur itself was a charming little town full of brightly painted houses.  We drove around, enjoying the beautiful little town and the feeling of being surrounded by fjords.

We had the option of staying in a campground there, but decided to continue onwards and go to a different one just west of Egilsstadir for the night.  On the way there, we passed an impressive glacial valley with a river running through it (Jokuldalur), and of course had to make one more stop to get out and admire the views.  What a different world it is here in the eastern fjords; much different than anything else we've seen so far.  It's getting colder and snowier, which adds to the differentness of the landscape, as well as our experience of it.

The skies cleared up tonight as I was writing, so we took a break and sat in the front seat, campervan facing north, hoping to catch the aurora borealis, but after a few hours of sky-watching, we still didn't have any luck.  The stars were beautiful and plentiful, though, and it made for a peaceful and quiet way to end the evening.  


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