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Dr. Birna Bjarnadóttir launches new book at WSO event
 
The Icelanders are coming to the WSO. On Friday, February 3, at the Grand Finale of the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra’s New Music Festival, the work of two of Iceland’s leading composers, Jóhann Jóhannsson and Atli Heimir Sveinsson will be presented. Featured will be the North American premiere of Jóhannsson’s Second Symphony.

Lögberg-Heimskringla will be hosting all of the events surrounding the Icelandic components of the Festival. Prior to the concert, at 6:40 p.m., Dr. Birna Bjarnadóttir’s newest book, Recesses of the Mind: Aesthetics in the Work of Guðbergur Bergsson will be launched and Guðbergur will also be in attendance at the event.

Bergsson is not widely known outside of Iceland. Born in Grindavík, he studied at the University of Iceland and the University of Barcelona. Dr. Birna’s book is a literary study of the aesthetics of life and literature in Bergsson’s novels, poetry and children’s literature. It is an investigation of Bergsson’s ideas of beauty, love, and belief as shown through the minds of the characters in his books.

Dr. Birna Bjarnadóttir is the chair and acting head of the Department of Icelandic Language and Literature at the University of Manitoba.
To have both author and subject of the book in attendance will make the event a very exciting experience. Birna will read from her book, and Guðbergur will read from his book of poetry, Flatey-Freyr, appearing in English translation for the first time.

Lögberg-Heimskringla is proudly sponsoring the reception for this gala, as well. It will feature vínarterta, rúllupylsa and brown bread, hangikjöt, kleinur, pönnukökur and other Icelandic food. We expect a large response from our subscribers and people of Icelandic heritage. We will be handing out specially prepared promotional material including copies of the January 15 edition of L-H to those attending the gala.
For tickets or more information, please call Audrey Kwasnica at
(204) 927-5645 or look for Lögberg-Heimskringla on Facebook or on the web at http://www.lh-inc.ca/

Keep your eyes open for an event with the musicians in Gimli as well, date to be announced.


Photo: Hrafnhildur Sigmarsdóttir
 
We Icelanders are a weird little nation. Not weird as in unapproachable or arrogant. No, not in the negative meaning of the word at all. More weird as in eccentric.
                                                          
Like my old uncle who used to swear only on Sundays, because he said he got a kick out of messing with God on his busiest day. Or my old auntie who always used to bark at cows, yet she maintained an approprate manner and very ladylike demeanour on every other occasion. In fact, she was so graceful except when confronted by cows that no one ever mentioned the barking.

I didn’t even notice that we Icelanders seem to be utterly unable to stand in a well-formed line in public places until a foreign friend pointed it out to me. We tend to scatter all sideways. But I think we’re ok with all this. I think we actually like that. I do. It sets us apart. It’s a part of our culture, and when you belong to a country of only about 320,000 people like us here in Iceland, I think we get a little kick out of being somewhat eccentric. We have these cultural customs and specific days where we celibrate the oddest things.

We have our Sprengidagur, where we overdose on a specific type of boiled and severely salted meat and bean soup that makes our fingers quadruple and leaves us farting for a week. We actually celebrate this day quite proudly. Another day is Bolludagur, were we eat huge pasty buns filled with cream and jam. As children, we were supposed to sneak up on our moms and hit them in the bum with a specific wand and demand a Bolla.

Those who don’t know Icelanders and have not seen this custom in action will probably easily think that as children we are encouraged to scare the living daylights out of our moms, slam a wand on their rear and scream for sweets. Then we are rewarded with huge obesity-sized pastry buns ... Actually when I think about it, that is exactly what it is. Weird eh? And then we have our Þorri food. I once invited a Canadian friend over for a traditional Icelandic dinner.

I think she still hasn’t fully recovered. We laid on the table the traditional boiled sheep’s head and while my dad started to pick out its eyes, I very proudly offered her a ram’s testicle. The poor thing looked at me with a certain unease and severe fear in her eyes. She whispered to me very seriously, yet very ashamed, that she didn’t believe she could suffer this ordeal I had laid on the table in front of her. In other words, she respectfully declined the testicles I put on her plate. On my travels in Canada,

I have noticed a pickle is a common garnish with food at restuarants. I even bought a pickle to serve with the testicles but that unfortunately didn’t work either. My old uncle was there and laughed and laughed and slammed his hand on the table and said, “Dear, this is not for everyone.“ I could hear a certain sense of pride in his voice.                    At the same time that my friend felt safe from what I gather could have been the most horrific experience in her life, the Icelanders at the table felt pride at being able to eat this food without blinking an eye.

I guess from one point of view, it must be weird for a person to see a person sitting down with another person and sharing a pair of balls with pride and joy. Weird eh?Another thing is our Christmas customs. We have 13 Santa Clauses, more accurately named Jule lads.

They have nothing in common with the traditonal version of the jolly old Santa who climbs down the chimney and brings presents and joy to children. No, our yule lads live in the mountains with their horrible mother, distant father and judging from pictures, what seems to be a severely emotionally disturbed cat.

They start coming to town 13 days before Christmas, one by one, and usually tend to bother us by slamming doors and stealing our meat, candles and sausages. I fear they might be affected by their upbringing. Despite all this, they’re not all bad.

During those 13 days, children put their shoe in the window and the yule lads leave a treat in the shoe. However if a child has behaved badly they get a potato. I heard once as a kid that if you behave very badly you could put yourself in the position of possibly receiving a rotten potato. My friend once got mashed potatoes in his mom’s fancy bowl.

To this day we still ponder the meaning of the mashing. I have to admit it’s only been a few years ago that I stopped putting my shoe in the window. One day, I forgot to empty the dishwasher, something my mom had asked me to do probably 10 times during the day. The next morning there was a potato in my shoe with a note saying “You shouldn’t have forgotten about the dishwasher.” I felt uneasy, seeing Santa had made things this personal with an alarming note. That was the   last time I put my shoe in the window. Weird eh?

I’ve been going to Manitoba every year for about five years now and consider it as my second home. I have close friends and family there and always look forward to returning to my peaceful prairie. I noticed early on that everyone who defines themselves by their Icelandic heritage do so by upholding many Icelandic customs – travelling there frequently, speaking the language or being involved in the Icelandic-Canadian community.

What I find most defining and gives me the most sense of Canadian-Icelandic culture is the existence of the Pönnukaka pan in that community. You see, when I was young and my amma was alive, she used to come visit us from up north and stay for a long time. She made the best pönnukökur you could ever try.

I used to come home from school with a flock of friends because everyone knew as soon as my amma was in town there would be a stack of pönnukökur on the table waiting for us when we came home from school. As mentioned before, we could not for the life of us stand in line and wait like civilized and well-mannered humans to recieve our pönnukökur.

We all stormed in the house, throwing the schoolbags and parkas into the air to fall where they pleased and attacked the stack of pönnukökur amma had laid on the table. Instead of telling us off and giving us heck for acting like unfed wild animals, she just started flipping the pankakes on douple speed, stacking them up on triple speed. I                    remember being full of awe and admiration, but yet being a little scared because she had this mad look in her eye. We dared not utter a word to her while flipping the pancakes – her concentration was at stake, a steady stare into the pan.

The second time I was staying with my family in Manitoba I woke up to serious noise coming from the kitchen. I hesitantly walked towards the kitchen and opened the door. There they were, a flock of them. The neighbourhood ladies over at my relatives’ house, flipping the pancakes on double speed. No one talked; their focus and concentration was evident and serious.

They came there to achieve and produce. The seriousness of the matter filled the air and I was just about to walk away and leave them in their zone when I caught a glimpse at the look in their eyes. It was amma’s mad eye, filled with focus and concentration. I did what I had always done while confronted with this situation before. I dared not utter a word; those women’s concentration was not to be challenged. I walked away slowly, a little scared but with joy in my heart. I was home.
                                                             

 

Photo: Harold Jonasson Brandon MB skyline, 2008
The date of the 93rd annual convention is getting closer. The program offers sufficient diversity and information to promote the theme, Embracing our Icelandic Culture.

Currently we have the following topics and presenters as part of the overall program:
Alanna Odegard – Perspectives of a Canadian living in Iceland
Ásta Sól Kristjansdóttir/Halldór Árnason – The Snorri Program
Brad Hirst – Icelandic Camp
Donald K. Johnson – Current Financial Situation in Iceland
George Freeman –Genealogy
Harley Jonasson – Icelandic River Heritage Sites Project
Nelson Gerrard – Silent Flashes
Peter Bjornson / Tammy Axelsson – Rock Cairns-connecting North America and Iceland
Ryan Eyford – It seems so far to Iceland: The Correspondence of the Taylor sisters, 1880-1930
W.D.Valgardson – What the Bear Said

To launch the convention there will be a Meet and Greet on Thursday evening. As you enjoy the snacks, including local Icelandic food, you will be surrounded by friends, old and new. Unless, of course, you are captured by the Vikings.

So, what is different this year? Well things have changed. The Huldufólk in Brandon have been asked to keep the expenses down and to be sensitive to the “affordability” issue.

So the registration costs are down but the facilities should be ideal. And the program looks exciting.The cost of accommodation is down but the rooms are great. A full breakfast from the menu is included in the price of the room.

Of course, the food is still expensive but we have the privilege of serving local Icelandic foods for several events.The vendors and displayers should receive lots of traffic during the convention because they will be in the same room as the health breaks, adjacent to the main conference room.

Although we have trimmed some of the expenses, we hope, with your help, to continue the good fellowship, the collaboration, the laughter and the sense of community that previous conventions have offered. Hopefully, we will do all this while embracing our Icelandic culture.You, no doubt, will be pleased and impressed with the local Icelandic talent that we have arranged for your enjoyment.

Following the Friday, May 4, opening ceremonies we will have the privilege of being entertained by Deb Patterson from Núna presenting the play, Sargent and Victor.

The entertainment following the Saturday, May 5 banquet includes more Manitoba talent, Heather Jonasson, flutist and Ari Jacobson, crooner.

We invite you to join us on this exciting journey. Let this convention act as a catalyst to awaken your memories and to stir your emotions.

For four days in May, 2012 we will visit the past and contemplate the future. We will embrace our friends and develop new relationships. We will remember our ancestors and we will set a good example for our descendents. Indeed, we will embrace our Icelandic culture.

Are you ready to register? Information about registration and accommodation is available from your local INL of NA Chapter, the INL of NA website and Facebook page.Please watch for more information and updates in future issues of this paper and the INL of NA website and Facebook page.

Harold and Norma Jonasson, co-chairs: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

I dredged them out of the crawl space. Plastic yellow and red boxes filled with 35mm colour slides, strips of black and white film in brittle paper sheaths.

They’d made many moves, Photo courtesy of W.D. Valgardson Winnipeg to Riverton, to Snow Lake, to Pinawa, Manitoba, then off to Iowa and Missouri and, finally, to BC. Here, they’d moved to four different houses. The evidence of those towns and cities is all there, although some places spark no memories. Perhaps they were taken during a move but why did I take them? It’s a mystery.

I’ve had to relearn how to use a scanner, to master some new programs, although master is probably the wrong word since I’m struggling to understand some of the functions. I’ve managed to copy the slides and film onto the computer.

The first thing I’ve discovered is that even in their plastic boxes, the pictures are covered in dust. I’ve had to go to London Drugs to buy a lens brush. I’ll have to start all over again, cleaning slides and film strips before I make a final copy.

Dust or not, I’m reliving my life. Once again, my daughter is all dressed up in a pink dress, sitting in her high chair, reaching for the birthday cake her mother has made for her. In another picture she is sitting astride a kiddy car (at least that’s what I think we called it). It’s got bright red metal pedals, a wooden seat. She’s got on white shoes and white socks with her pink dress. I’m not sure she’ll be able to reach the pedals. She’ll grow into her gift.

But who gave her this locomotion, this childhood treasure? Did we buy it? Is it from her grandparents? I’ll have to call my ex. She remembers everything. Like most men, I’m not good at details. She was at home, spending each day with our daughter, taking care of her, helping her, teaching her, making the world a good place for her. I was off every day teaching school.

That’s the problem with being young and having children. Young is a very busy time of life. Going to school, getting a job, working for advancement, buying a house, a car, furniture. We were fortunate because my wife was able to stay home. But I was learning to be a high school teacher and tutoring on the side.

There’s another picture, earlier, taken from the back as our daughter is teaching herself to walk. She’s using the edge of the couch to help her pudgy little legs hold her up.

I remember that couch. All we had was a hundred and fifty dollars. Even in those days a hundred and fifty dollars wouldn’t buy much. A friend of a friend sent us to a factory that made furniture. That’s what I loved about Winnipeg. There was lots of manufacturing and if you couldn’t afford Eaton’s or The Bay, there was usually a connection that would get you through the door of a wholesale.

Even the wholesale didn’t have anything for a hundred and fifty dollars. But, the owner, seeing two broke kids in desperate need said, “You know what? Someone ordered a couch. They put on a down payment then didn’t want it. Custom made. One fifty and it’s yours.”

Green fake leather. Built for giants. It was the biggest couch I’d ever seen. We took it. We could seat the whole family on it. It was not built for moving but we moved frequently and we took it with us. What else can you do when you get a great Winnipeg bargain? Years later when we left for Iowa so I could go to graduate school, we didn’t haul it with us. I wonder what happened to it? I’ll have to ask my ex.

Each day, I send my son and daughter a picture from their past. My son wrote back and said he remembered the sandals he’s wearing at the cottage in Gimli. They were a bit too long and he kept stubbing his toes. He admires a flowered shirt that I’m wearing at the beach and says that he’d wear a shirt like that. In those days I wore nothing but flowered shirts. I’d forgotten. When we moved to BC, I adopted the local camouflage, plain shirt, tie, tweed jackets, wool slacks in winter, cotton in summer. I gave up my cavalry boots for shoes.

I go back time and again to the picture of my one year old daughter on her kiddie car. My heart aches as I look at her for with the picture comes the memory of picking her up, holding her, helping her learn to walk.

I would that I’d taken a thousand thousand pictures of her and her brother but I came from a family that hardly ever took pictures. We have to make do with these few small treasures.

When my daughter saw the picture of her one year old self in the high chair reaching for the birthday cake, she wrote back and asked, “Is that me?” Yes, yes, that was you. It all seems quite magical, birth and growth and aging. All the people we have been. Yes, let me remind you of your younger self.

A busy time. Lesson plans. Grading papers. Tutoring to make extra money. Taking classes for a BEd. Writing. Writing. Trying to get published.

But there was time for a cake, for a birthday party, for presents, for a pretty dress, for a photograph.
Thank God for that photograph.
 
Photo and story from wdvalgardsonkaffihus, a collection of daily essays, Bill Valgardson’s online blog, used with permission from the author


Editor’s note:  When Catherine McConnell agreed to move to the position of Production Manager and Layout and Design Editor,  joined the staff of L-H as the Advertising Representative/Production Assistant. L-H has asked Jodi to introduce herself, which she agreed to do.

I was fortunate enough to grow up in Gimli, a town that flourishes in Icelandic culture and creativity. My afi Albert has always been a tremendous inspiration to me. He’s got the strongest work ethic and the biggest heart. He is also an amazing violin player which is why I’m not surprised that my love for the arts came first with music.  I have this strange obsession with the drums. In high school I was involved in anything and everything music related. Percussion ensemble, jazz & concert band and also had my own personal band called The Paps. We played at the núna (now) festival, had the opportunity to open for Guy Maddin’s My Winnipeg, and even made an appearance in
Lögberg-Heimskringla with an interview/album review by
Mykael Sopher. That being the first introduction to the L-H, I was immediately hooked.

 Starting at the age of 16 my summer job had been working at The New Iceland Heritage Museum in Gimli, where I discovered my love for graphic design. Tammy was an amazing lady to work for and gave me full creative control designing ads and media tools for the NIHM. When it was time for me to leave and go to university, the choice was easy. I knew that I had to pursue design!

After I had gained enough experience at the University of Manitoba majoring in graphic design and photography, it was time to get out into the real world. I’ve always loved the mountains and needed to get away from the city, so I applied for a residency placement at the Banff Centre for the Arts. Stefanie Blondal Johnson and I spent three weeks out there making music on full scholarship with our band Mise en Scene. When I came back Tammy had recommended that I apply at Lögberg-Heimskringla, which was an obvious fit for me. It has been such a wonderful experience working here so far. I get to leave work every day with a sense of accomplishment. I’m looking forward to the future and very much excited to be on board with
Lögberg-Heimskringla.

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