Iceland concluding.

Almost time to leave this place.  My suitcase is packed (full of books and wool), and our last night promises to be too cloudy for Northern Lights.

I’m still here and I’m already starting to mourn for it and longing to come back.  I love this place so much in ways I can’t even define.  Time to start learning Icelandic.

It’s a good thing photos don’t take up physical space anymore.  We have many, many gigs of pictures that I can’t wait to start sifting and playing with, not to mention posting more about what we actually got up to here.

My newest prize possessions

The Prophet in Icelandic!  In Icelandic!  The Prophet!  I cannot describe my joy at this.

Closely followed by the delight of The Handmaid’s Tale in Icelandic (Saga of the Handmaids).

I can report that used bookstores are the same everywhere; I want to stay in them all day and cart home a box of books.

The logic of the high prices of books in Icelandic revealed itself today: any foreign book translated into Icelandic is being translated, published, and printed for a total audience equaling maybe the population of Victoria, BC.  So that’s a very expensive prospect and it’s only done for a few of the most popular books.  “Eat Pray Love” is prominent in bookstores right now.  Most books don’t get translated into Icelandic- most Icelanders will just read them in English if they want to.

Complete story of my Iceland adventures

Iceland at your own risk

Iceland is a very helmet-free society.  They eschew guardrails, frivolous warning signs, and regulations.

You just will not get hit over the head with explicit, blaring signs warning of things that will kill you (like buckets, or hair dryers).  Not here.

I was sitting at the edge of a 100 ft cliff, that I’d just walked up to after watching an arctic fox sprint across the flat land, getting high on the vertigo of the height and the beauty of the distant waves below me,  and my brother walked up behind me and said “Oh, did you notice this sign?”   It was basically a 4×4 inch pictorial suggestion that it was possible to fall off of the cliffs here.  In case you didn’t figure it out for yourself.  One sign for 100s of meters of cliff.

And that’s what I love.  They expect you to figure out for yourself that if you step or slip off the edge into the waterfall almost the size of Niagara that’s thundering over the edge, right there, that you probably won’t make it. If you lean too far over to see the birds, you could die.  You shouldn’t need a sign to tell you so.

If you’re stupid or careless enough to trip, slip, fall, or drop your camera or your kids over the edge, well, that’s your business.

Icelanders are not in the business of protecting anyone from themselves.

I. Love. This.

Our lives are in our own hands all the time, and you can get numb and forget that if you’re always walking paved paths surrounded by lines that tell you you’re safe within them.  Stay safe, stay between the lines, behind the rail… not here.  Iceland doesn’t play like that.  It’s more “take care of your own damn self, you should be able to figure this out, you decide what’s safe for yourself.”

Complete story of my Iceland adventures

Ísland

There is wild magic here.  The dreamworld is very close.  Everything raw and numinous lives here, and I feel magic in everything.

The wildness in everything is dangerous and thrilling, and this feeling of being completely alive seems somehow close to death.  As I clamber around, I find myself breathing gratitude with every step.  Thanks to the seaweed, to every rock I touch, the grass, the rain, the wind, to the spirit or life in it all for supporting my feet and my life, when everything could turn with one trip or a stumble or a moment’s loss of balance.  Balance, in fact, feels like it’s always hovering on the edge of a blade in Iceland.

I feel this sense of peace and belonging that I’ve rarely felt.  I did in the Yukon as well, but I’m reluctant to say that it’s the almost-Arctic north that does it.  Perhaps it’s the space- there’s so much of it, not enough people to fill it with energy and thought-noise.  Maybe there’s still room here for the spirit world.  Perhaps it’s the youth of the landscape.  The earth is literally still creating itself here.

There is so much elemental power and energy flowing around, it’s no surprise that the locals accept the existence of “hidden people” as obvious.  I regularly get my hair raised and that “walked over my grave” feeling.  Oddly, today I felt as if I’d walked over my own grave.

Complete story of my Iceland adventures

Kevin Kevlar, 1990-2010

Kevin died on August 2.  Literally on the eve of my departure.  She was killed and eaten by something a little ways from our house.  I didn’t know she wandered that far.  All that was left was fur; enough to recognize her.

Certainly my mourning is interrupted;  the only night I’ve spent at home since, I dreamed the whole night she was tucked in by my side as usual, and it will take more time at home, thinking I see her following me, or sitting in the field, to adjust to the idea that she isn’t here anymore.

My friend says that guilt is a common factor in grief- if there was anything I could have done differently, if I had come home ten minutes earlier, what if she was out wandering because she was hungry.  I really wanted her to live out her whole potential life, to go in her sleep curled in a peaceful knot on my bed.  I’m glad two of my friends have lost animals that were the closest of friends; they understand.

I’ve never lost any”one” so close to me.  I’ve had my little cat by my side for nine years, falling to sleep together for 100s of nights, and I’ve never spent so much time with any”one” or anything.  She taught me so much about love.  It took me a long time to get used to her (I’m not a natural cat person, but I became one) and learn to accept her, but I ended up loving her so much.  And of course, she was just such a cool cat, even though she was getting pretty frail.

It’s a giant loss.  I have all the symptoms of grief- can’t believe she’s really gone, guilt and regret, avoiding thinking about it to not let in the loss, crying suddenly at awkward times, like when I see a cat graphic on a T-shirt and remember that I don’t have a cat any more.  I feel like my heart is broken and missing a piece, and that I’ll miss her forever, because there is only one tiny cat with a big personality just like her.

Was.

Land of Ice

Random awesome sunset at home. Lasted about 3 minutes with this colour.

I’m going to Iceland.   With my bro.  Just like the Olympics, our X-Canada trip, Europe – I know it’s going to be spectacular, life changing, totally overwhelming and joyous, and I won’t be able to document it at all.  A: because there will not be enough time to write in proportion to the all the time spent doing fabulous stuff, and B: because … well, I was just going to say A again in a different way.  In fact, I know already what I’ll have to say about Iceland when I get back.  I can write it now.  “Iceland was amazing!  Extraordinary!  The trip of a lifetime and all those cliches- Words cannot describe (they really can’t).  We took thousands of pictures and I made lots of notes to be able to remember it all.  Fantastic adventures and stories and people and hiking, just too much to put into words.  Really, indescribable.  I’m so grateful to have been able to go on such a trip.”  So there you have it.  That’ll be the first post ever that I get up early, before it’s even happened, in fact.

Complete story of my Iceland adventures

Today was a good day.

I got as much of the sub floor down as I could without tackling all the tricky  compound slope sleepers I’m going to have to deal with where there’s a concrete pad, and got the poly all up.  Finally, the space of the barn I’m claiming looks defined, and the envelope is almost complete.  The walls have that stuffed sofa look they have after vapour barrier and before drywall.  Most importantly, there’s enough space closed up to move all my stuff into before I go to Iceland.

Voila, floor!  A marble won’t sit at rest anywhere on it, but it’s smooth, and what a difference.  Yes, I can frame partitions and my windows/doors on real floor!  I also laid the floor in the loft, with the gorgeous blushing cedar I got for $1.30/bd ft, so beautiful it aches.  We’re so lucky to have such lovely local wood.  Too good for the barn.  Turns out the loft floor tapers, losing 3” over 12’, so I couldn’t set up my chop and go, but it didn’t take too long.

What a relief it is to be working in the cool of the insulated barn.  Can actually  get a full day’s work done, without working a split shift.  Even wrestling vapour barrier over my head, the giant uncooperative sheet draping on me like a deranged plastic wedding train, is not so bad when it’s 10 degrees cooler than it is outside.  It’s hard to judge the efficacy of the Roxul yet because there’s so much space shared with the uninsulated part of the barn, but there’s a big climate difference in a few steps.

Today I really noticed the sound muffling quality of the rockwool.  I thought that it was only raining on the other part of the roof for a few moments.  Really.  But obviously, I could only hear it from the other side of the barn.  We’ve been having a blessed series of afternoon thunderstorms that are grand and exciting, and hose down the hot earth after cruelly blistering days of sun.  I don’t like summer.  Too hot.

Now I can’t wait to move in, to sleep in a real bed- my real bed, for the first time in ten months.  It won’t be the first time I’ve moved in and slept under vapour barrier.  Or no vapour barrier.  Or no insulation, even.  In February.

Floor made of pallets

Accidentally green.

I didn’t set out to “build green”, by any means.  I wouldn’t put that label on it, although I do have an overall ethic of building as healthy and low-impact as I can.  I have an ethic of saving money that supersedes even that.  It’s just turning out that I’m doing better than I expected, kinda by accident.  Cheap and green can be congruent.

So far, the off-gassing, plastic, chemical, clearcut-sourced shit I’ve installed: the polyethylene vapour barrier, the plywood sub-floor (which will probably double as the floor-floor), and the fire retardants in the cellulose.

So far, to my eco-credit:

The insulation.  Roxul is billed as an environmental choice, basically because there are just so many rocks out there.  I suspect that the energy it takes to shred rocks into insulation is tremendous, though, and I’m not sure how it stacks up against fiberglass at the end of the day.  I must do more research.

The pallet floor.  Reused, removed from the garbage cycle, and repurposed as an alternative to concrete.  Compared to pouring a slab of the worst kind of emission-heavy building material out there, my pallets earn me a little carbon-offset halo.  Not to mention ‘crete is an oxygen sink, and sucks to walk on.
Continue reading Accidentally green.

This insulation blows

In the trend of using construction materials in unconventional applications, today I filled my pallet floor with blow-in insulation.

When I went with my glorious pallets, I figured all that air space was a pretty good start, but it would be nice to have something I could pour in for some R-value.  Perlite and vermiculite were considered, but vetoed because of their admirable (in other contexts) properties of absorbing moisture and holding it.  That’s all I need, for my floor to suck moisture out of the very air and then hold it there, like a miser.

I called my beloved lumber supply store, where no staff member has mocked or scorned me for anything I’ve ever asked them advice about, in ten whole years.  Not even a smirk.  For all I’ve got up to in a decade, that’s saying something.  And I still get treated with universal respect there; sometimes I’m even greeted with effusions of delight when I show up after a long absence (I have been bear-hugged by yard guys), so they apparently don’t compare notes and mock me when I leave, either.  They should get a medal.
Continue reading This insulation blows

Pallet palace

I was going with a concrete slab in my head, for several days.  I thought that was “doing it right”.  It would last forever, easily translate purpose to a garage or shop, and would be flat, level, and smooth.

That changed.  The tipping point was thinking about doing yoga on a cold concrete floor.

The other option I was considering was throwing a bunch of pallets onto the leveled grade over a sheet of poly, and sheeting it, which had some merit.  Easy.  Cheap- the pallets were all readily available for the taking free from the garden supply.  Recycled and “eco”.  I just like pallets.  The downsides were that it won’t last nearly as long as concrete, as it’s wood, it’s organic and will eventually rot, relying on the poly for a vapour barrier, and like a cluster of lilypads, they will only create as flat and level a floor as the packed dirt beneath is leveled.

An immense amount of shoveling and raking ensued, removing piles of earth from the dirt floor of the barn and scaling it off to reasonably flat and level.  Then I rolled out the poly, and moved in the pallets, tacking them to each other, essentially creating a floating floor frame.

They worked so well!  Thankfully, the first few went in perfectly solid and flat, because not all of them were so easy to settle in place, and that would have been a disillusioning start.  Oh, so cool.  I’m so excited that it’s working so well.  It’s such a thrill and relief when something untried and suspect works out the best way that you hoped.

Happy about living naturally