Sticks and Stones May Break My Bones

July 23, 2006

I’m so pleased with myself for that subject line because it addresses both things I’d meant to mention today. (First off, no, Mom, nothing is broken, so don’t worry.) I’m finding some parts of my leadership role here harder than expected. Mostly, the people! I think I had an overly rosy expectation of who would be here, partly due to the fantastic groups of people I met last year. I suppose it’s like teachers- when someone is considering a job as a teacher, they think about the star students, the fun, rewarding kids, or even the ones that struggle but work hard and succeed with extra guidance. I would guess most people don’t go into teaching thinking about the rotten kid who puts tacks on your chair and eats paste and tries to suck up the classroom hamster with the vacuum. Yet those are the students that demand the most time and energy from teachers.

And so it is with volunteers. Some are just downright venomous, including one last night who verbally attacked me about a snippet of overheard conversation that she assumed was about her. I’ve never worked with this person, she was not on my team, I didn’t even know her name (but knew her reputation). I was so stunned to have her attack my character that I could hardly manage to defend myself, and of course I couldn’t counterattack because I represent the Environment Agency of Iceland and can’t be calling her mean names, no matter what she deserves. But anyway… these things have taken me by surprise, and I find it quite exhausting. But! They are not all paste-eaters, and in fact most of them are quite lovely. On to the fun stuff…

Here’s a tip about stick-marking a trail: bring sticks! We didn’t have any, due to Icelandic Chaos, which is the undercurrent of our work here. At any time in Iceland, things may go wrong, people may not show up, materials may disappear, the bus may not be on time, the road might be closed, the hut might be full, etc. It’s just how it is. At any moment, the basic things that you took for granted could go wrong. In addition to lack of sticks, we also had a lack of map. Sort of. I took a digital photo of a map from 1966 that was hanging on the wall of the first hut we stayed in, so when we needed to consult that, we’d put a fleece over our heads to block out the sun and then zoom in and pan back and forth on the camera file until we could hazard a guess at where we were and where we should be. But really, it was quite valuable to walk the trail and evaluate it before showing up with sticks and a sledgehammer, and the walk was wonderful- just gorgeous. We had one bad day with the midges, where you end up squinting all day to try to keep them out of your eyes (they like to dive into the inner corner and die, so you’re constantly swiping bug guts off your face.) But honestly, it was great!!! The huts were tiny, isolated and quiet. Beautiful spots in the world, and I feel so lucky to have found myself in each one.

Also due to Icelandic Chaos, I don’t know where I’m going tomorrow or who I will be leading. That’s just how things go. So I’m not sure when I’ll have access again, but I keep hearing about how hot it is over there! Enjoy it a bit for me. Haven’t been to the beach much, but I sort of have a little bit of tan on my hands… or it might just be dirt.

Take care, be kind,
shannön

Here's our map! Our hike starts at the bottom and goes all the way to the top.

Here’s our map! Our hike starts at the bottom and goes all the way to the top.

We begin at the Haunted Hut of Hvítárnes, and by we I mean myself, Roger (UK) and Steph (AUS).

We begin at the Haunted Hut of Hvítárnes, and by we I mean myself, Roger (UK) and Steph (AUS).

It doesn't take long before we must consult our "map".

It doesn’t take long before we must consult our “map”.

But later on, the trail becomes quite obvious. If this is indeed the trail we're supposed to be following, which we're not sure. The deep parallel scars in the turf look to me like the work of some type of farming machine, but it turns out to be horses- the lines have been pounded into the ground over the years while the horses walk shoulder-to-shoulder.

But later on, the trail becomes quite obvious. If this is indeed the trail we’re supposed to be following, which we’re not sure. The deep parallel scars in the turf look to me like the work of some type of farming machine, but it turns out to be horses- the lines have been pounded into the ground over the years while the horses walk shoulder-to-shoulder.

This is ropey lava outside our first hut. When you see rock this way, it becomes easier to believe that it was at one time magma oozing and rolling over the land and slowly cooling.

This is ropey lava outside our first hut. When you see rock this way, it becomes easier to believe that it was at one time magma oozing and rolling over the land and slowly cooling.

Our first destination: Þverbrekknamúli, which we called "Breakfast Muesli" for easier pronunciation. The weather-beaten stick to the right of the frame is what happens when you leave painted lumber out in the elements of Iceland: rain, wind, ice, sandstorms, 24-hour sunlight... it takes its toll. It used to be red and yellow.

Our first destination: Þverbrekknamúli, which we called “Breakfast Muesli” for easier pronunciation. The weather-beaten stick to the right of the frame is what happens when you leave painted lumber out in the elements of Iceland: rain, wind, ice, sandstorms, 24-hour sunlight… it takes its toll. It used to be red and yellow.

Steph, Roger and I took a nice little lunch break next to this river on the second day.

Steph, Roger and I took a nice little lunch break next to this river on the second day.

These horses were being herded through the Old Kjölur pass.

These horses were being herded through the Old Kjölur pass.

Roger stands in the entrance of our second hut, Þjófadalir, nestled into a little valley.

Roger stands in the entrance of our second hut, Þjófadalir, nestled into a little valley.

This is the interior of the hut, or at least as much as I could fit into a camera frame with my back against the opposite wall. The guest book on the table had an entry from a Canadian hiker who wrote, "Time spent in the mountains is never deducted from the rest of your life."

This is the interior of the hut, or at least as much as I could fit into a camera frame with my back against the opposite wall. The guest book on the table had an entry from a Canadian hiker who wrote, “Time spent in the mountains is never deducted from the rest of your life.”

Roger and I climbed up one of the hills the next morning to take photos of the valley...

Roger and I climbed up one of the hills the next morning to take photos of the valley…

... and to see our teeny hut engulfed by the land. (The little triangle just across the river is the outhouse.) Another 15 km would lead us to Hveravellir, where we would eventually catch a bus back to Reykjavík.

… and to see our teeny hut engulfed by the land. (The little triangle just across the river is the outhouse.) Another 15 km would lead us to Hveravellir, where we would eventually catch a bus back to Reykjavík.


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