Field Notes: Part 3


IMG_3952Smoked arctic char (trout) served with geysir bread, which is a graham rye that is buried under the ground as dough and comes out 24 hours later cooked by geothermal magic.


Myvatn thermal baths + snow. Take off your clothes and hop in!


Isn’t it strange how time passes?

It’s been four months since I came home. I have so much to tell you, but let me start where I left off: Northern Iceland, September. Snow was falling heavily in a premature winter storm, and the sky was low and grey as I pulled up to a farmhouse, hoping for a place to stay.

A room of one’s own.

The house matron Ásta showed me to a single room with a gable window flanked by warm birchwood walls, lace curtains, no art, a small bed with white sheets, and a writing desk; unexpectedly perfect. I sat and wrote for two days as the storm groaned outside the window, breaking my scattered focus with great, loud gusts. Snowflakes stuck to the glass, drawn to the heat, melting on the way down. The roads were icy in one direction and closed in another, and the news was reporting people stuck in the mountains, farmers losing entire herds to the freeze.

After three days, the road reports weren’t getting any better, and the few other travelers staying with me checked conditions at breakfast, talking about the weather in the way that you do when you don’t have any control over it (which is always, but you feel a lot more powerless when you’re trapped).

We lost electricity and running water, and a man who spoke quiet French offered me a ride to the grocery store. I accepted, and from inside his car we watched the snow melting on the windshield. I bought a loaf of bread, a cucumber, a lump of cheese and some wool mittens. With two sets of lungs and very little common language between us we drove in silence, the heartbeat of the wipers thumping, left, right, left, right. 


That evening, emboldened by the grocery store outing, I cleaned the snow off my car with mittened fingers, determined to go on an adventure. Nearby were the Dimmuborgir lava fields, and dusk was creeping in as I parked in the vacant, snowy lot, a kilometer down a dead-end road, stubbornly convinced I might get a decent photo despite the weather and the waning light. I climbed down slush-ridden paths with black lava formations rising around me like galactic clouds, crows flying backward on the wind draped in gnat-like clouds of clotting snowflakes.


Feet getting wetter with every step in the sloppy ice, I imagined slipping and falling and busting up a knee and not being able to walk (and no one finding me until at least the next day, dead and frozen, because no one knew I wasn’t in my room). I berated my imaginary broken-knee self. “Who do you think you are, National Fucking Geographic? What are you doing out here?”

I kept with it for a while, and drove home in the dark, slip-sliding along as the road zipped itself up against the wind.


Hallelujah, the great storm is over.

On the first day of calm skies, it was time to leave. I caravanned through flat open fields and mountain passes with a sweet Canadian couple. The roads were still quite icy, and the drive was beautiful but frightening. Lava formations encrusted in ice watched us drive like frosty prairie dogs waiting for the danger to pass.


And then, like it had never happened, I was through the mountain passes, walking on a beach with kelp & bird bones & matted feathers & split mussel shells straddling the wet sand. Waves crashed up behind the break wall, and I was on my way.



Don’t worry, I’m not about to get all food-bloggy on you here (I’ll leave that to the pros) but I want to share what I had for brunch this weekend. My lovely roommate and I hosted for a party of eight, and the main dish was aebeskiver (Danish spherical pancakes: aebleskiver is Danish for “super delicious decadent amazing fluffy snack breakfast” or something like that).

You make them in a special cast iron pan that has seven hemispherical dents in it. The way they’re formed is by putting the batter in one of the dents, letting it fry up, and turning it before it cooks all the way through.  The older and more seasoned your pan is, the better they turn–I’ve had my pan for 5+ years and it is just starting to get fully seasoned. You can put things inside of them when you turn them, like apples or chocolate chips, but I normally don’t. I think they’re delicious plain. We topped them with brown sugar and butter, Nutella, homemade jam, and powdered sugar.

(really old action shot–the pan is black now)

We also made a winter pear salad (, speaking of the pros) with figs, turkish apricots, bosc pears, apples and an anise vanilla bean sauce, and had organic coop breakfast sausages, mimosas, lots of coffee, and board games. We didn’t eat the board games though, we just played them.

pear salad

One thing I’m really grateful for right now is this opportunity to develop the relationships I have here in the Twin Cities–I get to spend a lot more time with people who I was only previously seeing between deployments…just getting the time to devote to regular dinners, brunches, fancy birthday cocktails at restaurants I’ve never been to,  and walks around the lakes in November. Life isn’t so bad, hey?