Archive for December, 2016

It's Christmas. And I'm on a plane. No Santa out the window, but we are racing the setting sun, and the view is liquid visual goodness.

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I've spent the last 8 days mostly off the grid, trying to relax, enjoying spending time with my daughter Havana showing her a part of the world I love.

This is a family tradition, although H and I have changed the distance parameters some.

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When I was very young Mom and Dad would load us into our old Ford and drive across the barren, wind blown landscape of Nebraska in December headed to family gatherings. It was quality bonding time, we talked and read. They explained the world through the lens of plains people, albeit extremely well educated ones — both formally and informally. That stuck with me and I've always seen travel as an opportunity for learning.

This year, after some negotiations that may or may not have involved a big city place Havana thought she preferred, we settled on Iceland. The land of poets and musicians. Seals, glaciers,  and coffee. The Blue Lagoon, terrific style, and ponies.

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It's an isolated land packed with raw beauty. Gorgeous vistas everywhere. 

The weather is, to be polite, inconsistent. When it's good it's very, very good. When it's bad, it's very, very…. well you know. 

Be out on the longest night of the year, watch the clouds part, and the Northern Lights appear — swirling, dancing and racing across that Nordic sky, and your life will gain a dimension previously unknown. Powerful, beautiful, visceral.

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It's so intriguing to me that these people who love a rugged, turbulent, constantly moving landscape are so bound to books. 

This place is all about literature. They have a long tradition of formal storytelling.  They rely on well stocked bookshelves  to get them elegantly through the heavy dark nights. There are simply books everywhere, it's glorious.

Per capita they may have greatest music scene on the planet. There is an independent music store, 12 Tonar, that is worth the flight across the ocean to visit.

When you visit this country there is a quiet respect. Knowing smiles.

It's not fancy. It's clean, strong, safe. Solid, hardy, filling food. Clothes made for subsistence — constructed to last. In those ways, it's exactly like my native Nebraska.

People bond through common interests, connection with each other.

Havana is a learner. She'll be 16 in February and already many if not most of our conversations are about politics, world religions, writing, and graduate school — far deeper things than I was thinking about at her age.

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I was concerned with the ratio of men to women on campus — she thinks about student to teacher ratios. I was focused on formal education as a means to an end. For her all education is the process, the learning for the sheer joy of learning.

We are heading home now, richer for the experience. I know there aren't so many of these father/daughter trips ahead, and I miss them already. 

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Strange flight tonight.

Leaving Nebraska for likely the last time in 2016 — (yikes, “Leaving Nebraska” sounds rather like a poem about death).

In any case, my work demands that I have always had to spend huge chunks of time away from this good land where I was born. Although I know I'll certainly be back, getting on a plane headed out always makes me melancholy. The wide open spaces and wide open, heartfelt people are a mainstay of so much of my favorite images.

It wasn't a bad night for flying. Good music, great literature, smooth skies. Ready to devote myself to 10 days of writing and editing before the skies beckon again.

I'm listening to Ben Folds, a recommendation from NPR. I've been a fan for years, but watching a Tiny Desk concert — what a treasure those are — caused me to put Folds high on my music rotation. Plus, I really like his initials.

While traveling today, I've been devouring Sherman Alexie's fine book, "The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven.”

I had spent a good chunk of the early part of today in Lincoln, reading about Standing Rock and DAPL. So the conversations in this book are especially moving and not a little surreal.

When I settled into my North Florida bound flight from Atlanta, I was in a fine mood until one of the other passengers studied the Stetson I was wearing and said snidely, "is the Urban Cowboy look still a thing?"

I resisted the temptation to comment on his ridiculous suspenders and presumptuous bow tie. Instead, I simply smiled and adjusted the collar of the shirt that I had bought, along with everything else I'm wearing at Young's in Valentine.

He grimaced and asked plaintively where I was from would require such headwear on any day save Halloween.

My personal heaven actually.

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