Land of Fire and Ice, Rock and Waters…Writing and Authors

Þingvellir National Park Rift

It is Friday, July 30. The month has been a blur. Tedium has not been an issue.

We are driving along the south coast heading toward Reykjavik and the end of the trip in a couple days.

Wifi in the bus is spotty. The few stops we make are either remote geologic locations or country stores…I will be unable to finish or revise this blog.

Typing is difficult, as the bus frequently bounces or swerves.

My editor may not even get it today!

If she gets this first half, please understand I haven’t had a chance to review it.

I am writing on the fly. Literally.

I did send off a chapter yesterday of the Tree Song cycle begun here 4 years ago. There’s been a gap in additions to it for a couple years. That post should publish next Wednesday.

I hope my editor can get a rough version of that out so the streak isn’t broken.

Friday morning

I am in the Foss Hotel, the hotel is near Vatnajökull—Europe’s second largest glacier. (After one in European Russia.) It is 3100 square miles—about 8% of Iceland. In some places, it is 3000 feet deep. It has been receding since the late 19th century.

Foss means waterfall. There is indeed a large gushing waterfall behind the hotel. Iceland has several “countless” things. Waterfalls are one of them. They are everywhere in most areas.

Today we will sail on the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon, which others water and ice from the glacier’s runoff. Then we will go to the Diamond Beach where the black sand is covered in diamonds. (The diamonds are made of ice.)

Since we started driving early Monday morning, we have covered a lot of territory. Iceland is the size of Kentucky. This tour will take us around the entire perimeter of the country—with many jaunts and side trips. Winding roads were often necessary due to geography as well. Mountains and coastlines often dictated the paths.

It has been an amazing trip. History, writing, geography, geology, weather, flora and fauna, folklore, food and culture of the small but fiercely independent and proud Icelandic civilization.

I have seen far too much to record in one of these stories.

Plus, the trip isn’t over. There is all of Friday ahead, and I don’t fly out til late Sunday afternoon.

IF I fly out. I need to have a negative COVID test Saturday to get home.

So there will be more Iceland in next week’s story, which I hope will be written in Maryland.

But this story begins near the middle of LAST week.

Oh, NO!

Things will fall to pieces!

I often panic before trips. But deep down I know I have great staff—many here for decades—who can cover for me and solve almost any unforeseen problems. But I’m not the only one away. Several of the top people will be off in the coming weeks.


I guess I live on panic and stress and worst-case scenarios.

I got the book story done Wednesday (last week) so I don’t have that to panic about that.

Strange to have a Friday with nothing looming over my existence—but book work.

I do need to prepare for Iceland. Reading up on the north and east coasts, I may need winter clothes. I don’t have waterproof pants. I need to buy those. Where? Maybe a sporting goods store’s golf section. Where is there a sporting goods store? The retail landscape has changed in recent years. So many people are buying online. Venerable companies like Sports Authority went out of business a couple years ago. Internet buying has closed so many brick and mortar stores. I don’t like shopping for something I can’t see and touch. Certainly not clothing.

COVID has changed things as well. I haven’t ventured too far into the shopping areas to see what’s gone or what’s new and what’s still temporarily shut.

But then, I don’t buy much stuff—except books!

Getting away…

I’ll try to get ahead of the carts laden with old or unusual books with my name on them.

I know I’ll enjoy the trip. I probably need it.

I know I’m sort of addicted to my work.

I know it will all be here when I get back.

I am torn…

But the die is cast. I must go.

Thursday, July 22

Ernest and I are driving west on Interstate 70 to the Hagerstown store. We just passed under the orange footbridge for the Appalachian Trail.

Books by the Foot has some huge orders. And the Hagerstown store needs many categories culled of overstock.

I issued an edict when we were closed during COVID: NO BOOKS ON THE FLOOR!

I haven’t visited for an inspection and a meet and greet for too many weeks.

So filling a custom subject from a store whose bookshelves are overfilled is a good match.

I got a cull list from the Hagerstown store manager—my son. (He also manages the Frederick store and has many others duties. I’m proud of him. I’m glad he has grown to enjoy this work.)

He wrote:

Art, Architecture, DIY, Movies/Theater/Music, Lit Crit, Self Help, Family, Fitness, World History, Japan, China, India, US States, Europe, Africa, Military, Anthropology, Science, Gardening.

Books by the Foot needs:

2 feet of sports
7 feet of kids hardcovers
4 big boxes of foreign books
200 feet of common coffee table and standard hardcovers (nothing politically incorrect)

That will put a dent in the cull list.

It will be a win-win.

I’m on my knees at the store pulling books from the store and…

“Uh oh…”

I just got a text. That TV show is asking for another urgent—”Needs to Ship Tomorrow”—super-specific order for a new character’s home—another set.

Hello again,

We’d like to order some more books from you for another character in our show.
The set is for [xxx]’s apartment.

We’re looking for 6 feet of books in total (soft and hard cover) all copywritten before 1992.

4 feet of books regarding astronomy, the history of astronomy, astrophysics, physics, solar systems, telescopes.

2 feet of fiction & nonfiction:
new age books—highlighting astrology
books written by or about famous astronomers: Nicolaus Copernicus, Galileo Galilei, Johannes Kepler, Ptolemy, Edwin Hubble, Isaac Newton, Carl Sagan, etc.
Philosophy & Philosophers
Evolution of mankind
Women in business
romance, sci-fi, mystery, etc.

We’d like these books in our hands by Monday, July 26th. Our shipping & billing address is:
Chicago, [xxx]

Do you think you could help us out with this order? I look forward to your response and thank you in advance…

No problem. I put labels on the tubs I’d already filled and shift my pulling to the areas listed above.

It is kind of fun. Sharpshooting titles for a tv set. I use these criteria:

  1. Pre 1992 publishing date (but nothing too old and crumbly or eyesore-ish)
  2. The right subject or author—ideally duplicates. Nothing real expensive.
  3. Pull from the top and bottom shelves. Why? People rarely buy low or high. In a perfect world, all bookshelves would be eye level.
  4. Be sure nothing in the title could be misconstrued as politically incorrect. (One client was very upset we included The Baking Bible in a selection of modern cookbooks a while back. The book was not religious at all.)
  5. Things I’d be proud of should the actors have a headshot with the shelves in the near background and viewers could actually see our work.

The first part of the order—4 feet of astronomy etc—is surprisingly easy.

The 2nd part—2 feet at least 10 different genres—is much more difficult. You only average about 10 books per foot. Would it look weird to pick just 2 books of each genre? I do the best I can and include a lot of extras so the prop master could make decisions with plenty of titles to choose from.

This order is not nearly as demanding as the last from these folks a week or so ago:

… no books made after 1992…

Specifically, we’re looking for 15 feet (a mix of hard & soft cover books, some non-fiction and fiction…a healthy amount of true crime books—these can take place before 92.) Our show runner specifically mentioned less known titles from the following artists:

Walter Benjamin
Marshall McLuhan
Hannah Arendt
Herbert Marcuse
Theodor Adorno
Jorge Amado
Garcia Marquez
Cabrera Infante
Julio Cortazar
Vargas llosa
Machado de Assis
Guimarães Rosa
Rubem Fonseca
João Ubaldo Ribeiro
Gay Talese
Truman Capote
Janet Malcolm
Norman Mailer
Henry Miller
John Fante
Jack Kerouac
Allen Ginsberg
Philip Roth
John Updike
Don DeLillo
Paul Auster
Mikhail Bulgakov

That was fun too. Some authors were easy. Others impossible to find in open stock. We just ignored those.

Then—in the middle of the current project—remember I am on ladder pulling books from the top shelf in astronomy—my phone vibrates again.

Another text:

We need 50 feet of Italy. No rush. Books on ancient Rome and the Mediterranean are ok.

Well, since I am here…

That is fun too. I let Ernest hit ancient history. I soon thin the Italian section as much as I can. I recall culling the cookbooks earlier. We have a large section there on Italian cooking and entertaining. I hit that section—a win-win. Cooking is always overcrowded.

The powers that be must know it is “getaway” time for me.

The gods are teasing me.

Or maybe I was just embracing the work in the spirit of avoidance.

Certain tedious duties that I was planning to do will have to be put off.

Too bad…LOL.

After work, I go to DICK’S Sporting Goods and get wet weather gear and a proper—and high tech—knapsack. I don’t want my laptop getting soaked. My usual carry along—a leather shoulder bag certainly won’t do. They cost a small fortune.

It seems like as COVID is ending the prices on so many things are rising significantly.

Are we in a period of inflation? Will my retirement accounts be shrinking?

I’m revising first section this on Wednesday, July 28—on the fly. This is the third day of the bus bounding across the north of Iceland. We got about halfway across the top of the island Tuesday. Today we are continuing eastward. Miles of beauty and remoteness, water and rock, grass and moss, waterfall and fields of lava, and…more rain…and cold. July is ending…I’m wearing a hand-knit cap, gloves, sweater, hiking boots… But after a beautiful dreary driving morning, things began to look up—several life-changing stops are up ahead—though the rain and fog and cold never let up. You’ll read about it further down.

Friday, July 23

Get away day.

My last chance to take care of business matters. I don’t fly until Saturday night, but I know I’ll be doing my warehouse work all day then.

My son texted:

The contractor is coming this morning.


I had texted the contractor several times this week asking what the next renovation phase would be.

And when.

He hadn’t replied.


He is bringing about 20 custom-built 8-foot wooden bookcases and another large custom-made wooden record flip bin.

The LP section there has always been huge. Now it will be…even bigger…we are, among other things, a large record store.

I hustle to the Frederick store. Ernest follows in a van to cull more hardcovers for Books by the Foot.

Yep. Must be a getaway day.

I do what I need to. I offer some advice, encouragement and cautions and then leave the rest to Clark, my son and the contractor. They’ve done plenty of this before.

“Be sure to put ‘something’ on every empty bookcase—face out if necessary!” I caution.

(I hate empty shelves. They remind me of a big smile with some teeth missing.)

To add to the whirlwind, all the Friday swaps need to take place at all 3 stores. Both vans at the Frederick store are filled. I take one and go back to the warehouse. I bring the 24-foot box truck back and park it at the curb and leave it to be unloaded. One more quick check on the construction. Then I call Clif to bring another empty when he can.

I had driven my Dodge Ram over. I climb in and head back to the warehouse.

Now I need to prioritize my getaway plans.

Two top managers are out today. One for two weeks. I’ll be assuming the reins of Books by the Foot. Unfortunately, I’m away the next week too. A lot of new faces in that department. But they’ll do well.

I hope.

At any rate, the venerable Frederick store will be transformed. When I return a landscape 30 years old will be much changed for the better.

New Frederick Aisle

More books.

More LPs.

More CDs and DVDs.

More bric-a-brac and neat stuff.


Saturday was truly Getaway Day.

All three dogs—Merry Pippin and Giles—were soon romping in the fenced dockyard at the warehouse.

I’d packed everything. Double-checked. Essentials first.


Vaccination card.

Wallets. Credit cards.

Travel documents.

Guidebook for Iceland. Map.

Laptop. iPhone.

Various chargers for the laptop and the iPhone and the batteries that supplement the iPhone should it get low at inopportune times.

Meds and toiletries.

Clothes, boots.

Journal to write in. Book to read. (Icelandic Sagas—makes sense.)

At work, I make a few copies of the vaccination card. It is now a precious document. I think again about the experimental drug coursing through my body. Not much choice for me—at my age and with a desire to travel as much and as soon as possible.

I haven’t begun to develop a third eye yet. Although the bump in the center of my forehead is concerning.

I look at the numbers from the CDC, Maryland and other health agencies. They don’t jive with the panic headlines.

But then, they haven’t since the beginning of this. I still don’t know anyone who has died of it. (Except some people who knew someone who knew someone who…or a couple people with elderly in-laws somewhere far away.)

But I am no COVID denier. I certainly don’t want to catch it.

They are starting to make noises about masks again.

“Masks don’t work. They are a kabuki show.”

“Masks will save millions of lives. Young children need to be forced to wear masks at school.”

I recall the “science” that had us slathers ourselves and equipment and wall and doors with strong chemical disinfectants.

“Don’t touch anything that hasn’t been slathered in disinfecting chemicals.”

“You can’t catch it by contact…”

All the hundreds of gallons of stuff we sprayed and wiped and washed our hands with.

A feeling of fatigue flows over me.

I thought we were done.

Herd immunity, antibodies in the millions who have already “had it”—symptoms or no. The millions of vaccinations of those actually at risk…

What’s going on?

What will the airports be like? The hotels. Iceland?

Saturday’s work.

There were several dozen carts with my name on them.

I have 8 hours until I need to leave for Dulles.


I scan through cart after cart after cart.

I’m not going to get to them all. They’d built extras this week for me. Why?

Late in the day, I punt some to Ernest with sheets of paper hanging from them: “Treat As Raw. Send Collectibles to Madeline or Annika.” (I’m asking him to NOT create many “Chuck” carts in my absence.)

At 4:30, I begin labeling all the tubs and boxes I’ve created. I push some newly labeled carts there and here.

I panic check for my passport and vaccination card.

Then I head for Dulles Airport.

I walk and walk and walk. I stand in line after line.

But everything goes smoothly.

The plane takes off at 8:30 p.m. It lands at Keflavik at 6:30 a.m. With the time change, it has been about a 6-hour flight. Hardly time to get more than a few hours of broken sleep.

Long lines at the Icelandic airport and long walks through the airport upon arriving. My head is in that defensive dream state when the body and mind have been stressed for days and you top it off by denying it sleep and adding more stress to it.

I’ve had my vaccine certificate checked 4 times—so far.

After a long, long line for passport check, I trudge with the herd to baggage claim. It has all taken so long my bag is on the carousel, right where I walk up.

Another line to have the barcode checked on my phone proving I had filled out some form a couple days ago. They wanted to know I was coming.

Then I’m out in the crowded lobby. People holding signs and phones with names on them. There’s my tour company. Globus.

I have never taken a tour before. I’ve always done it on my own.

The man directs me to other groupies standing dazedly with their bags off by the front door.

He’s a nice guy and chats with the dozen or so of us during the barren drive along the coast north to Reykjavik.

The road is lined with tens of thousands of lupines. They are notoriously hard to grow in North American gardens. He says seeds were imported in 1961 from Alaska. They flourish here, and he complains they are a plague. You can’t do anything with them, he says. But some people sprinkle the seeds on their cereal.

There’s a volcano on the horizon. Fagradalsfjall volcano.

“900 foot gushers of lava not long ago,” he says. “There are some worries. It is filling a valley. When the valley fills, it will spill over toward the city.”

“Property values will fall…”

“It could stop tomorrow or go on for 400 years.”

We arrive at the Hilton at about 8:30 a.m. Check-in isn’t til 3 p.m.? Why not just pay for an extra day if we can’t check in early?

Some people start dozing on sofas and chairs in the lobby.

Big mistake.

If you sleep now, you won’t adjust to local time.

It is raining and cold. The driver offers to give us a little tour.

He takes a handful of us around the area in the little bus and then through Reykjavik. He points out a flea market he is fond of. And a pretty big-looking used bookshop. He offers to drop any of us off.

The Hilton is a few miles out of center city. I’m usually up for a long walk. But it is cold and rainy, and I’m a bit dazed. I decide to ride back to the Hilton, as do all the others.


We get back to the hotel at noon. 3 more hours to kill in the lobby.

More people start dozing in the lobby.

I see a taxi outside.

“Can you take me downtown?”


(In Iceland, I have found everyone speaks English—at least the places I visited.)

So, I wander around the city for a couple hours. In the rain. On a Sunday when a lot of places are closed.

I find the flea market. It is big. Some of the foods look interesting. The bookstalls have almost all their stock in Icelandic. Sweaters look amazing. Hand-knit by older folk who are passing on, apparently.

But anything I would buy I’d have to carry. For a week.

I wander and wander and wander. Wind and rain are blowing. All the time keeping an eye out for a taxi. My escape route. Iceland doesn’t have Uber. I see only a couple of taxis in the city here and there parked in what appear to be taxi stands. I make a mental note of where to find them.

The highlight of my wandering is stumbling into the Icelandic History Museum. There I find many wondrous and ancient bookish and writing things. You can explore it online here. I post some photos on Instagram (@merryandpippinlotr and @wonderbookand video.)

Their human history goes back to the 800s with some Irish monks. Then the Vikings discovered it in the late 800s. The migration began. The current Norwegian king was a despot and pressed onerous taxes and confiscations.

The bookstore downtown is closed on Sunday. Wonder Book has been open every day for decades. (Except Christmas and Thanksgiving, occasional snow days and COVID related government edicts.)

Eventually at the cathedral, I wave at a dozing cabbie and ask if he can take me to the Hilton.


I get back. I am given a little room. My bag had been placed inside. The room is tiny and reminds me more of a jail cell than anything else. Still, it has a bed and a shower.

First Hotel Room

We’d been told dinner was at 7.

The rest of the tour group has arrived. There are about 30 of us. Many old. Many from diverse backgrounds. But there are 4 children (10-17.) And a couple young couples. Apparently all American. Dinner is excellent. Cod. (Cod is to become a theme.)

Before dessert we are told, “Put your bag outside your door before 7 a.m. Breakfast is opened at 7. The bus leaves at 8.”


We take the Golden Circle. I’d done this route years before when the family stayed in Keflavik a few days.

That was about the same time of year. I recall the sun never setting. Toward midnight, the sky dims for a couple hours. The hotel rooms all have blackout curtains.

The three primary stops on the route are the Þingvellir National Park, the Gullfoss waterfall, and the geothermal area in Haukadalur, which contains the geysers Geysir and Strokkur. Though Geysir has been mostly dormant for many years, Strokkur continues to erupt every 5—10 minutes. Other stops include the Kerið volcanic crater, the town of Hveragerði, Skálholt cathedral, and the Nesjavellir and Hellisheiðarvirkjun geothermal power plants.

The name Golden Circle is a marketing term for the route, derived from the name of Gullfoss, which means “golden waterfall” in Icelandic.

I think again how cool it is to figuratively straddle Europe and North America in the Rift Valley in the National Park. The landscape is stunning where the continents are pulling apart at the rate of about 2 centimeters each year.

Þingvellir National Park Rift

This is also the site of the first parliament and codification of laws. This was also a punishment area.

There is a Drowning Pool for witches.

Þingvellir National Park Drowning Pool Sign

They were sewn in sacks and tossed in.

Men who were convicted of grievous crimes (often incest) had the quicker cure of beheading.

Then there were the vast Geysir fields. The big one—Strokkur—erupts every 10 minutes or so. I stand before it with my phone’s video at the ready. And stand and stand and…I will shoot 30 seconds, then stop, then shoot 30 seconds… I finally take a hike up a cliff, which has vast panoramic views over the geyser field and landscapes far beyond. I pass bubbling and steaming and hissing holes in the earth. On my way back, I stop at Strokkur again. I’ve just turned my phone video on when:

A massive waterfall is next. Gulfoss.

The tour has add-ons which enhance and enliven the trip—cool grace notes—surprises.

At the Geysir, a chef in uniform rolls carts out to meet us. He displays Geysir bread he’d baked overnight. It is a kind of sweet rye bread baked underground by thermal heat. He cooks the loaves packed in milk cartons. It is served with pickled herring, butter and sliced hardboiled eggs. It is delicious and evocative of the creativity of these people.

Another stop is at Iceland’s largest tomato farm. They supply 40% of the country’s tomatoes. It is all indoors. So high tech but natural and sustainable as well. They import bees for pollination in boxes (a queen and staff inside each) from the Netherlands. They also import parasitic wasps to keep down any undesirable insects. Each plant is strung up about ten high. As the top blooms and begins to fruit, they lower the top of the plant down. Its base is now a bare green stalk looped round and round. I wonder if these plants grow infinitely?

Tomato Farm

These grow out of small bag of soil which must have some other nutrients as well.

Plus, they make a bloody mary The Guardian claimed was probably the best in the world. So I have to try one.

That evening after the Golden Circle, we head to the northwest. We end up at a golf course hotel a couple peninsulas north of Reykjavik.

There is a very nice old school single-level—small—golf resort. I order a martini as soon as I check in. I am “ready.”

The recipe takes some explaining.

“Just gin. Shake it. Pour it in a stem glass.”

The young man does fine. There is a handful of ice in the brass-stem glass. I thought it is to chill the glass. He pours the gin over the rocks before I can ask him to remove the ice. I don’t explain or complain. I take my drink out to the course beginning just outside the back of the bar.

Golf Martini

It is fine. Memorable for its time and place and quirky mixture.

After dinner, we have a powerpoint COVID lecture. At this point, I would think we all know what’s what. But like airplane safety instructions, we have to sit through it. It is just too long, and I hope I’m not impolite diverting to my phone and half-listening to “Wear your mask…wash your hands…” Before dessert, we are given a powerpoint on how to sign up for our COVID testing in Reykjavik on Saturday. I try and try on my phone, but it won’t go through. “Try Again Later.”

Dessert comes, and I head to my room. I see a couple from the tour climbing into a golf cart. I wish I’d thought of that! They can play til midnight! Instead, I walk out on the brilliant green course and wander toward the fjord it borders. I see a dozen or so species of birds—none of which I recognize.

I wandered back to my room and lie down.

The dire warning comes back to me:

Register tonight for your COVID test. Take a screenshot of your barcode…

I get in bed and go to on my phone. I follow the instructions. Over and over and over again. It just will not send a code to my phone. I HAVE to get this test.

Anecdotes at the dinner meeting went that the testing line was 3 hours long. Our last day will be a rush to get back to Reykjavik earlier than planned to be sure to get the probe. Some plans will need to be dropped. A big part of the group has signed up for the Blue Lagoon. They may not get done with their testing in time for that. I did that experience years ago. It was ok. Once. So I didn’t sign up this trip.

I go on my laptop, and the site works immediately. I quickly get approval—a barcode! After paying 30 Euros. I take a picture of the barcode I received. I will need to show that to get my test Saturday.

So tedious. It took so long, and I am tired and want to put my feet up.

At breakfast, I ask about the golf round. The man is effervescent. The woman complains vociferously. He was pleased with his score. 44 out. 41 in. I’m not sure I believe him—what with the dark and rain and fog and a novel very wet course. Golfers are not known for their honesty.

I go to room and put the key in the door. Yes, a real metal key on an Iceland keychain. I check and double-check the room.

Turns out I left my razor in Reykjavik on Monday morning. I was sure I had double-checked everywhere in the tiny cell-like Hilton room. I must have left it on the soap shelf in the shower. I buy a pack of 5 disposable Gillettes at a rest stop. I do a dry shave in a stall in the restroom. Of course, I cut myself. I dab the tiny spot of blood. I’m glad my mask is black. It will hide my “accident.”

Tuesday in the Northwest

We are on the north coast of Iceland. We have driven for about 3 1/2 hours. It is barren and remote. We are stopped for lunch at the equivalent of a highway rest stop/gas station/restaurant. I don’t eat lunch, so I have an hour to kill. It is cold rainy and foggy outside. There’s nowhere to go, anyway. I’m lucky I have this to write.

My tour mates are gathered around with their various foods and drinks.

I’m glad I didn’t try to drive this alone. It would have been so tedious.

The tour guide is perky. Constantly upbeat. She turns on her microphone every ten minutes or so and gives a bit of history or anecdote or science or “look at that…”

It is really interesting and helpful.

Driving alone I’d be…listening to Icelandic radio?

I have an hour and 15 minutes to kill. Then we drive another barren hour to get to the fjord where we will board a whale watching boat. It is a long way to come for just that. But I hope it will be worthwhile.

I say “barren and remote”—it is strikingly beautiful.

I remember my first trips to the west of Ireland and driving and driving in their remote areas. I would stop and get out of the rental car every 15 minutes or so to take pictures.

“This is the most beautiful thing I have even seen.”

Over and over and over again.

This is much the same. So much beauty. Miles and miles and miles of it.

I’m not tired of the mountains and valleys waters…

They say if you work in a candy shop they often let you eat as much as you want. One soon tires of it.

(Funny, I have never tired of the books. The millions I have had pass through my hands—and there is always something different. I’m very lucky I have never tired of that infinite “beauty.”)

There’s just so much of it—beauty.

The tour guide told an anecdote about Iceland’s guardian spirits.

“Check your coins. [I’d heard earlier that no one in Iceland spends cash anymore.] On each, you’ll see a Dragon, Eagle, Bull and Giant. The tale goes that the King of Norway sent a spy to see if taxes were being properly paid. The spy took the form of a whale and swam to the island. When the whale got to the east coast and tried to land, a dragon chased him back to the sea. The whale went to the north and started down a fjord. The eagle spread its wings which spanned the width of the fjord. The whale was blocked and turned back. On the west coast, the bull. In the south, the giant. The whale gave up and returned to Norway.”

(Where it was likely beheaded…LOL.)

More miles of mountains and basalt cliff. Long narrow valleys with glacial rivers rushing through. Miles and miles.

She speaks proudly of the Icelandic peoples. All 370,000 of them.

She shows us a website:

The Book of Icelanders.

It is a genealogy.

It is a guide to the 30 generations or so from first settlers.

Everyone here is related at some point—usually 7-10 generations back.

There is even a dating app to tell you how close you are related. You wouldn’t want to fall in love with a first cousin by accident.

She speaks of their language. Because of its isolation, Icelandic is virtually unchanged. The old Sagas can still be read as originally spoken by schoolchildren today.

She says genetic testing showed that Icelanders are half Scandinavian / half British Isles and Ireland—so they are not as Scandinavian as used to be thought.

She quips, “Vikings stole the prettiest women from Ireland and England on their way to Iceland.”

We miss going to the northwestern Snaefellsnes peninsula. I would have liked to have seen the subglacial stratovolcano in the Snaefellsjokull glacier near the far western tip. In it is the entrance to a passage leading to the center of the earth according to Jules Verne.

Jules Verne, Journey to the Center of the Earth.

I remember seeing the old movie starring Doug McClure. I thought it was so cool as a kid. When I tried to watch it again some years ago, I found it to be incredibly hokey. When the survivors were spat out in the Stromboli volcano in Italy. Well…

But Verne’s Journey inspired many later authors, including Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in his novel The Lost World and Edgar Rice Burroughs in his Pellucidar series.

His early editions are stunning, however. Just think of the future as envisioned by this mid-18th century genius.

Verne Books

The northwest of Iceland is rich in its homegrown authors.

Gwynn Jones wrote in the introduction to some Sagas:

The visual arts flourished in Scandinavia and Ireland, but in Iceland there was no stone to hew, no wood to carve, no metal to mould; architecture and illumination were in the nature of things beyond their reach; and there is little evidence that they were a musical people. Their artistic expression must be in words, and by a singular stroke of fortune many of these words could be preserved. The long dark winters provided all the time in the world, the need to kill off most of their cattle ensured a large supply of week-old calves’ skins for vellum…The general impression is one of intense and unending activity, a broad, strong river of words—creative, informative, derivative—flowing from eager and acquisitive minds to the haven of the vellums.

Well, we will stop the Iceland stuff here.

To be continued…

2 Comments on Article

  1. Stephanie L commented on

    Mr. Roberts,

    I really enjoyed your writings while on your Iceland trip.

    I was searching your site to see how my sisters and I could ‘donate/sell’ the many boxes of books my 96 year old father has in storage. We are trying to empty this storage unit in Silver Spring, but are overwhelmed by his years of book collecting. We believe there are easily over 1250 books. His profession was genetics and biology, but he too was a world traveler and lover of all the arts. There’s quite a varied collection, but they are not organized by topics. These were packed quickly over 21 years ago in their move here from Long Island.

    I had read that your store might pick up books that exceed 1000. This would be wonderful, since our backs are breaking!

    Regarding Iceland, I was looking for a place to meet up with a dear friend coming from Britain. This might just be the spot! It sounds wonderful!

    Thank you for the story,
    Stephanie L

    1. Charles Roberts replied on

      Thanks Stephanie! I really appreciate your reading and commenting!
      I’ll email you directly concerning pickup.

      Iceland would be a perfect meeting place. Often flights are very inexpensive. May be tight right now as there is a lot of demand because most of Europe is not as open due to Covid restrictions.

      The Golden Circle – Geyser fields, Gulfoss waterfall and National Park (where there’s a lot of Viking history and where the split between Europe and North America tectonic is) are all close to Reykjavick. As is the Blue Lagoon.
      Reykjavick is a beautiful small European city- Ideal for walking and exploring!

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