Tuesday 23 August 2022

Summer at Little Lava

Finished August 10
Summer at Little Lava: A Season at the Edge of the World by Charles Fergus

This memoir is of a summer spent in a remote, off-the-grid house on a farm on the west coast of Iceland. The author is still reeling from the sudden and violent death of his mother and hopes that this time will help the healing. No roads lead to the house, and to get to it you must cross a wetland that is flooded twice a day by the tide. It is surrounded by lava fields and has views of mountains, volcanoes, and the rugged coastline. 
Fergus goes in late May and, working with an Icelandic friend does repairs to the abandoned house, making it weatherproof and fitting it with the basics. He and the friend had gone in December to do a reconnaissance and see what would be needed. There is no heat other than the fires that they make, no electricity, and no running water. They use one of the cold pools in a cleft in the lava field as a fridge, and get some supplies locally from neighbours. 
Once his wife and son join him and they buy a used car, they spend the summer exploring the country nearby, including on a collapsible kayak that he brings to have time in the nearby ocean, are visited by relatives undergoing their own healing journey, and enjoy watching the animals and birds and noting the local plants and geology. 
The author's wife Nancy had done graduate work on the Icelandic sagas, they had visited the country a few times together and Nancy had gone again to study the language. It was she who had discovered this farm and they had already planned the visit before the loss of the author's mother. Nancy has also found references to the farm dating back to 1354 and there are the remains of other structures on the property. 
This is a personal memoir of his own emotional journey, but also beautiful descriptions of the land and its occupants. This is a book to savour. 

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