A Special Book

 

I have just finished The Stones Speak by the prolific, much-loved, 20th Century writer, Thórbergur Thórdarson, born in 1888, who grew up on a remote family farm named Hali in southeastern Iceland, very near to Hvannadalshnúkur, the highest peak in Iceland at 2119 metres.

I bought the book at the Þórbergssetur museum, where our tour group stopped on July 18th, two days into our 10 day bus tour. The centre was built in 2006 in Hali, (near Reynivellir in Southeast Iceland) and is dedicated to this unique man. He was largely self-educated, being too poor to attend high school or university.

The Stones Speak, translated in 2012 by Professor Julian Melton d’Arcy of the U. of Iceland, is Thórdarson’s only complete book that has been translated into English. Written when he was in his 60’s, this is an inspired, witty and sometimes caustic collection of his earliest memories – those of a precocious, hypersensitive visionary who lived very close to nature.

The book is, in my opinion, a must-read for folks who plan to visit Iceland and really want to work at understanding its recent (20th C.) history and its people. The introduction and notes by d’Arcy deserve to be read both before and after reading the book. They even contain the simplest, best guide to Icelandic pronunciation that I have found.

I went to Iceland because it was my wife’s choice and must confess that, uncharacteristically, my only research before the trip was to google the heck out of each place we were visiting on our Ring Road tour and look for things worth escaping from the pre-arranged options to see. And because we were arriving in Reykjavík (KEF) at 6 AM on the red-eye from Toronto on July 16th I was looking keenly for the most interesting places we might explore that day on our own. Our Grand Hotel was only a half-hour walk or a # 15 city bus from the centre of town. These were, for this dyed-in-the-wool self-directed traveler, the vital facts, since we were not due to meet our tour director at the hotel until 5:30 P.M.

Combined with the superb tour itself, reading The Stones Speak has given me wonderful, intensely personal insight/hindsight into the unique Icelandic people. It was, for me, not an easy read. It does not grab you like The DaVinci Code. I put it down and picked it up several times, as I have done with Proust, until realizing that, by making margin notes and studying maps and breaking down words in what is for the superbly gifted Daniel Tammet this oh-so-special language, I fell in love with Iceland and humanity in general, starting with the folks in 1890’s Suðursveit. 

If you have already visited Iceland, take the time to study The Stones Speak. You will, through it, reconnect with human nature and, perhaps, yourself.

P.S. If you have not gone yet, check out Guide To Iceland, a great website community to which my post travel research luckily led me. They justifiably claim to be an “unrivalled source of information.”

 

Advertisements

French, and Global, Fascism

Fascism - Webster's 1960 Unabridged
The word fascism as Webster’s defined it in 1960

***

I love going back to my 1960 giant, two-volume edition of Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary. I picked it up at an auction in 1972. We were mainly there to get inexpensive furnishings for our apartment in Toronto, having just moved here from Cheshire, U.K. Check out the hand-drawn illustration that shows fascism’s Latin root to mean bundle!

***

Then:

Italy seemed to coin the term, fascism; it first appeared with the arrival of Mussolini’s fascisti on the world scene in 1919. A crazy fact: for Mussolini, fascism was a good word. Nazi Germany and Franco’s Falangists were later included in this list of despicable regimes. In 2017 we carelessly throw the word around at anyone we do not like.

Fascism’s Common features in 1960:

  1. One party dictatorship
  2. Forcible suppression of the opposition (unions, other groups)
  3. Private, centralized control of the means of production
  4. Nationalism
  5. Liberal use of wars
  6. Racism

***

France Today:

By presenting the above list of six characteristics, Webster’s definition made “fascism” a very specific term.

I think that France’s Front National (FN), led by Marine Le Pen qualifies for only two of the above six: nationalism and, particularly hateful for someone like me, married to a black woman, racism.

The FN does not propose forcible suppression of, for example, trade unions. In fact, it seems to be in favour of the little citizen with, until recently, a fervent, detestable preference for little white citizens.

Not many governments on this planet today, including France, could claim national control/ownership of their own means of production.

And the FN seems to be inclined not to favour the liberal use of wars. Continue reading “French, and Global, Fascism”

Newfoundland 2005.6 – Vikings and Low Growing Trees

On our way to L’Anse aux Meadows
 Monday, July 25: L’Anse Aux Meadows Viking Settlement and the Burnt Cape Ecological Reserve

The L’Anse Aux Meadows Viking Settlement is more than 1000 years old. The original French name for the place, found on a French nautical chart from 1862, was L’Anse à la Médée (The Médée’s Cove). There may indeed have been a ship called La Médée, since it was not uncommon to use Greek mythology when naming them. See the above link for more about its franglais roots, and for more about the Settlement. It needs no further description. Here are some photos:

Busted!

I am inclined to cram a touring day really full of experiences. An ‘orrible vice, I know. I was attempting to turn a legal 45 minute drive from the Viking Settlement to the Burnt Cape Ecological Reserve into an illegal 33 minute trip (wasn’t sure when the guided tour hours were) and was stopped for speeding on the way.

The officer: “Do you, perchance, know why you were stopped?”

Me: “Yes, Officer.”

Officer: “And are you aware that your speed was more than 20 kph faster than the speed limit?”

Me: “Er… no, Officer, Sir.”

Officer: “Are you from away?”

Me: “Yes.” Big trouble coming, I thought.

Officer: “Don’t let me catch you speeding again.”

He handed me a written warning instead of a ticket and let us go. Again, the delightful mercy and grace of these island people surprised and overwhelmed me.

Burnt Cape:

Burnt Cape is a hugely important botanical reserve. It contains rare plants that are not found anywhere else. Trees over a hundred years old grow out rather than up (less than a foot up!) because of the biting winds. We were taken on a superb interpretive tour. Our guide also told us of a time when she had a group out to see the rock formations near The Oven and a polar bear appeared below them that had swum from Labrador. The visitors had no clue how dangerous it was and were snapping photos.

Sound familiar? Like anyone we know?

She was preparing to abandon them, if necessary, and run for her own life but managed to persuade them to make a hasty, sensible retreat. Some photos:

Newfoundland 2005.4 – À Cap St.-Georges et Gros Morne

Western Brook Pond from the dock
Western Brook Pond, seen from the cruise boat dock.

Friday, July 22: To Cap St.-Georges and Rocky Harbour

Cap St.-Georges

Our first leg was from Twillingate, via the Trans Canada Highway, all the way to Cap St. George on the southwest coast. We wanted to visit a French community in Newfoundland and maybe see some whales. We sort of struck out on both those goals. It was, perhaps, a little late for whale season and decades late for parlez-vous season. We stopped at a Tourist Information office near Port Au Port and learned that the French-speaking information person was from Québec.

After the bilingual TI Centre we visited Our Lady Of Mercy Church in Port au Port and then drove to the Parc Boutte Du Cap  at the very tip of the peninsula. It amazed me to see big RV’s allowed to boondock in the unserviced parking lot. Just another way in which Newfoundland is so welcoming to visitors. Totally laid back and generous.

We drove back north and stayed in Rocky Harbour at the Fisherman’s Landing Inn where Maxxum had us reserved for two nights.

Saturday, July 23: Gros Morne, Two Rather Gigantic “Ponds”

This was a busy day. We drove a short way north and visited Gros Morne walking to the dock at Western Brook Bond and taking the boat tour.

A colleague of Anita’s at home had said we must also visit Trout River Pond, around the bay from Western Brook Pond but still in Gros Morne National Park. Someone we met on the first tour had done it and raved about it. So we carped the diem and drove back south, past Rocky Harbour and took a boat tour of Trout River Pond, which we found terrific.

Western Brook Pond:

A few, fit folk got off the boat at the steep end of the pond, planning to hike up (no doubt) to get that iconic photo with their arms outstretched standing on a scary-looking rock overlooking the whole pond from west to east.

Now the photos of the Pond: Very deep, very steep, and ultra, ultra clean:

Trout River Pond:

This is an exceptional UNESCO World Heritage site. The geology of the exposed features of reddish rock dates back to when two continents – Africa and North America – collided about 300 million years ago… give or take… the same collision that formed the Appalachian and Allegheny Mountains. Our boat tour, appropriately called A Journey Through Time, explained so much to us. The “pond” is full of fishy life and we saw a female moose in a forested area near the shore.

We ate a simple supper in a very nice family restaurant in Trout River.

We did not have time to investigate the science beyond what we learned on the boat. But we returned in 2014 with friends, visited the fantastic information kiosk and toured the tablelands with an experienced naturalist. Add some time to your holiday to see this unique area properly!

A Voyage… Of Sorts

PICT0387 4x6 RS.jpegAbove: a project of mine that is almost finished. It may just come in handy…

Ever want to just get away from it all? Things just south of where I live seem to be getting a little dodgy. I’m not following it closely – bad for my health – but I get the impression that we (the entire Planet) are in for a frightening amusement park ride, kind of like being on a rickety contraption that has needed maintenance – no, out-and-out modification – for waaayyy too long. Circumstances beyond our control, such as locked iron bars across our laps, forbid escape, yet we might have avoided the crisis by Continue reading “A Voyage… Of Sorts”

Our AFN and the Dakota Example

fullsizeoutput_6cf
Love – Zaagidwin: The eagle that represents love because he has the strength to carry all the teachings. The eagle has the ability to fly highest and closest to the creator and also has the sight to see all the ways of being from great distances. The Eagle’s teaching of love can be found in the core of all teachings, therefore an eagle feather is considered the highest honour and a sacred gift.

An Ojibway elder I met during the early Idle no More protests said that Canada’s opposition to the rape of our environment would be enabled through the First Nations and International Law that protects their powerful communal rights. But many laws have been squirrelled into a dozen omnibus bills by our previous Conservative government. They have been left scattered there by Justin Trudeau, who increasingly appears to be an agent of darkness with a phoney aura of light. These laws and amendments have smoothed the path for foreign and domestic developers by removing strong environmental laws that slowed down projects. They also foster the removal of sacred communal rights Continue reading “Our AFN and the Dakota Example”