He’s a genius. We’ve seen his pictures in Iceland Review. We’ve seen his pictures in L-H.
They’re amazing, astounding, sometimes unbelievable and he held a capacity audience spellbound as he told us how he took those pictures.
Del was taking him to a cottage in the Rockies when they saw a mother bear with two cubs at the side of the road. There was a crowd. They stopped. Páll got out with his camera and moved closer and closer so he could get a good shot. A warden turned up and ordered everyone away.
They all left except Páll. He was so focused on getting his picture that he never paid any attention. The warden took out a gun that fires a noisy explosive. He fired, the bears fled. The warden dragged Páll off to his truck. When Páll got out, he told Del that he’d told the warden he was from Iceland and in Iceland they don’t have bears so he thought it was a big dog. You should have known better, the warden said to Del. ‘What was I to do’, Del said, throwing up his hands. This is a guy who stands outside on a helicopter runner and is so focused on the perfect picture that he forgets to hook up his safety belt.
The tour guide
When those Edmonton Icelanders offer to pick you up at the airport and buy you lunch, keep your wits about you. Because when you’ve got your mouth full of free food, they say something like “We need a tour guide for the trip to Markerville, we thought you could take care of it.” What can you do when your mouth is crammed full of meat and potatoes? We met at 7:45 a.m. the next morning, Del appeared with boxes of freshly brewed Tim Horton’s coffee, bottles of water, a tray of potato chip packages, cookies, even delicious, scrumptious gluten free chocolate chip cookies for the tour guide and a bag of gifts to hand out enroute.
We rolled through an Alberta countryside where fields were flooded and the sky threatened rain but nothing dampened our Viking spirits. We reached hallowed ground. Stephan G. Stephanson’s restored home, the place where he farmed and wrote his poetry. From there to Markerville. And back. And the tour guide with the help of Gail Einarson-McCleery, managed to leave no one behind. You should have been there,it was a good time
There he was, the inveterate salesman, selling goods, selling the convention, selling L-H, selling being Icelandic, selling Edmonton. The paper’s best friend, he worked the crowd finding supporters for his passionate belief in his heritage. Introducing people, cajoling, seducing, hustling, always busy, always looking for the possible, finding dollars here, dollars there, convincing people to reach into their pockets for a good cause. Harley may not know it but he’s going to buy whatever Walter is selling, Icelandic goods, Icelandic beliefs, Icelandic history, Icelandic culture, Icelandic heritage.
An Endangered species
There is no program that catches the imagination as much as the Snorri Program. Its goal is to take young people from North America to Iceland to spend time learning about the country, the culture and the language. Young people travel, get work experience, make friends, come back to participate in the Icelandic clubs in their communities. Everyone who has had the Snorri experience praises it. To work properly, it needs a minimum of fourteen participants. So far this year, there have only been ten applicants. It is hard to believe that it is because of a lack of interest in Iceland. It may be the cost. The participants have to raise $4,500. The total cost is subsidized by the program. It comes to about $10,000. Take a look at these Snorri graduates. They’re a happy looking lot. If you have to, sell the family dog, give up Starbucks for a year, cash in all those returnables. Do whatever is
necessary. This is an experience not to be missed. And, if when you’ve got the loot, you decide you’d like the experience yourself instead of your kids, sign up for Snorri Plus.
And what would a convention be without a procession? The fjallkona and Gordon Reykdal led by a Mountie in a scarlet coat. How romantic is that? Behind them dignitaries representing our values, history and accomplishments.
Rosie’s presentation was the last of the conference but it was the warmest, most touching, a presentation that made me glad I’d stayed to the end. When she talked about Fannie Pannigabluk, her grandmother, and Vilhjalmur Stefansson, her grandfather, it was full of kindness and understanding of a time past when acknowledging a son, Alex, born in the North, could have destroyed her grandfather’s career. She talked about the times and the attitudes and, although, there must be pain in some of the memories, the remembrances were full of laughter. She told of how her father stressed that learning to read was important and how she learned to read from food cartons. She told of how her grandmother was building her own house from driftwood and Stefansson was sitting on the beach writing. A member of their village asked, why are you building the house and he is writing? She replied, “That is what he likes to do. Besides, this is my house and if I get fed up with him, I can kick him out.” Rosie’s children and grandchildren were with her. As Gísli Pálsson said in his talk just before Rosie’s, we are creating ourselves, we are creating what it means to be Icelandic and Icelandic North American and the story of Rosie and her family, the intertwining of Fannie Pannigabluk and Vilhjalmur Stefansson, have added to the richness that is us.