Holiday Traditions

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.


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.


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.



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.


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.


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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