Glaciers, Part 1

When last I left you, Dustin and I were standing at the top of Seljalandsfoss Waterfall, like so:

Iceland Waterfall Selfie 6

And I was admiring the ice cap glaciers visible in the near distance. They are absolutely remarkable, and until I saw one with my own eyes, I had no idea how deeply impressed I would be by glaciers.

I started to wax poetic about how cool glaciers are, and how incredible it would be to actually visit one.

“What am I supposed to do?” Dustin asked. “If I have something like that planned, I can’t tell you about it now, or it wouldn’t be a surprise. But if I don’t have it planned, and I don’t say something, you’ll be disappointed and not surprised.”

“That’s easy,” I replied. “If we get to the top of this waterfall and I see we can reach a glacier by hiking for an extra hour, I’ll ask you if we can do that, or if I should wait because you have something else planned. But if the opportunity isn’t right at hand, I’m having fun so I won’t ask.”

And y’know what our next stop was?? Here’s a hint:

Iceland Glacier Selfie
ERMAGERD, I’M ON A GLERCIER!

Just around the corner from Seljalandsfoss waterfall lives the Sólheimajökull, an outflow glacier, which means a bit of glacier that is oozing in slow, geological time out from underneath another, bigger glacier, in this case the M<>jokull (I swear I’ll come back and spell this right later) glacier. A short hike led us back to where we could see it, just sitting there, flowing in the minuscule, macro, magical way that only megatons of ice can do. No picture can describe how immense it actually feels to be looking at this thing.

Iceland Glacier 1
This is a really big piece of ice, and I’m walking right toward it. 
Iceland Glacier 2
It’s right behind me now! (And, most likely, also under me. There’s so much debris at the tip of a moving glacier you can’t always see the ice.)
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I touched a glacier!
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I stood on a glacier!
Iceland Glacier Selfie 2
And I liked it. 🙂 

And once again, I have so many more adventures to share, but I’ve run out of hours and pictures. I’ll compose on the plane tomorrow. See you then!

 

Iceland is the Coolest

Figuratively and literally, Iceland is the coolest.

Two days ago, I stood in the security line at the Denver airport, wearing a tank top and toting a parka.

“Whoa,” said the surprisingly friendly TSA agent. “You must be coming from someplace cold.” The temperature in Denver that day had clocked in at nearly 80 degrees, the latest in a string of blissful Spring weather that we’d been enjoying for a couple weeks up in South Dakota.

“Nope,” I said. “We’re going to someplace cold.” Not for the first time that day, I wondered if the parka (not to mention the hat, gloves, and heavy wool socks tucked away in my suitcase) would turn out to be completely unnecessary bulk that I’d have to haul uselessly around Europe for three weeks. The warm days had lasted so long that I’d begun to believe they must be global.

Here are some pictures from our first two days in Iceland:

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These are all from different waterfalls, I swear. 

As you can see, in addition to being cool literally (Day 1 stared in the low 50s, today was in the 40s, tomorrow’s going to be a little colder) Iceland is also amazing. An actively volcanic island sitting on the Mid-Atlantic Continental Rift, replete with hot springs, geysers, waterfalls, black-sand beaches, glaciers… My little geologist heart is a-quiver.

Day 1, which began with our plane landing at 6:30am, continued with the retrieval of our rental car and a SIM card for the phone, then off we went to a hike (death march) to a hot spring fit for bathing. yux8gxd

The hike was a little longer than expected, and the nap obtained on the 7-hour plane ride a little less refreshing, so by the time we got to the spring, the toasty hot soak was more than welcome.

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The first day was the most beautiful weather day. No furry hood required… yet.
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But it wasn’t exactly summer swimming pool weather. 
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Compare the happy, beer-drinking Icelanders in the water to the fully geared tourists on the walkway.

From there we headed south to see the geyser in the town of Geysir, for which all geysers have been named. The geyser named Geysir hasn’t erupted since the 2005, but a new geyser, Strokkur (meaning “churn”) popped up to fill the vacancy. This funny little geyser erupts every 2-7 minutes, in a single tall gasp of water and steam (and tourists) before dying back down to refill its boiler. It was beautiful to watch from the ridiculously close spectating area (so close that signs warn visitors to watch out not to get hit by the hot water falling back down after the eruption…) as the water inside the geyser heaved and retreated before bubbling up.

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Strokkur erupts so briefly we figured we’d watch it rather than try to time a selfie.

This also caused a good deal of introspection on how special it is that Yellowstone protects its features so carefully. In Iceland, there are no restrictions on how close you can get to thermal features, except for an occasional warning about how hot the water is. Perhaps the features aren’t as delicate as they are in Yellowstone? They’re certainly as dangerous. But while being able to step right up to the rim of a boiling mud pot is a thrill (and oh! the view!), I can’t help but worry about the people with no common sense.

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Laura knows a safe distance from an erupting geyser when she sees one. Other visitors clearly (based on footprints) did not.
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Stay out. Y’know. If you want to.
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Boiling mud pot. I might have tripped on it.

Our last stop on Day 1 was at the edge of Gullfoss, the most spectacular waterfall I’ve ever seen. Between the slicing, gale-force winds and the falling-asleep-on-our-feet thing, this was as close as we decided to get, but do you see that blue? Do you see the levels and the awesomeness? It was fantastic.

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Actually, you can’t see the blue in this photo. You’ll have to trust me that it was incredible.

Day 2 started with waterfalls as well, with our first stop at Skogafoss, then a short hike to Gljufrabui, where we took advantage of the Icelandic propensity to encourage rather than discourage foolhardy tourist activities and climbed up a rockface to get a better view of the waterfall.

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See the sheer rock on the right of the picture? That’s what we’re climbing up in the following pictures. 
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Dustin clings to the chain provided for “safety” as he comes around a ledge above a 40-foot drop. The sign at the bottom of this climb simply suggested that it “might not be for everyone.”
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Made it to the top! I dangled over the edge to peer at the waterfall, but Dustin’s feet aren’t as sticky as mine. 
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Taking a Danger Selfie.
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The actual Danger Selfie, with Self and Waterfall.

We followed this up by dodging behind Skogafoss, where my preparedness came in delightfully handy once again.

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I am the most prepared packer in the universe. I had a plastic poncho for Dustin too, but he said it didn’t match his beard. 

Then off we went to Sjelandfoss for a quick hike and mudslide.

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This country is lousy with waterfalls. They practically photobomb you.

That wasn’t the end of Day 2, but it turns out it’s the end of photos I have access to at the moment, so I’ll be back with more a little later. Next up… Glaciers!

 

A wildlife day

We spent the day in the Lamar Valley of Yellowstone, since Dustin had to come out this way for a couple of business meetings.

Let’s play a game. Can you spot the river otter? Hint, he really wishes we’d go away and leave him in peace.

2016 Otter 1

How about here?

2016 Otter 2

Or here? (He’s being sneaky in the other pics. This one is just proof that I’m a terrible photographer.)

2016 Otter 3

New game. Can you see the bears?

2016 Bears

That one wasn’t very hard. We found them right by the Yellowstone River Picnic area, where they were digging for grubs and merrily ignoring the 700 tourists who had stopped to see them.

Now here’s a bonus shot of us hanging out in Boiling River this morning.

2016 Boiling

It was a good day in Yellowstone. 🙂

A Hierarchy of Chores

LaundryWhen I was little, we had a housekeeper. She came in once a week to vacuum the
carpets, scrub the toilets, and try her best to make the house feel like it did not contain three young children and a handful of hairy pets. I remember thinking, as I contemplated whether cleaning my room or loosing my dessert privileges was the greater evil, that she had the absolute worst job in the world. I hated cleaning my room, and it was just one little room! This poor woman had to clean whole HOUSES, and they weren’t even HERS, and she had to do it EVERY SINGLE DAY.

And that, I suppose, is the kind of thinking that karmicly lands you a job cleaning toilets every single day.

I run a bed and breakfast these days. I have four guest bedrooms, and in the 120 days of a Black Hills summer, each of those four rooms gets cleaned (on average) 3.5 times each week, making for a total of 14 toilets scrubbed every week of my summer.

Yes, I did the math. You see, a person starts to be concerned about average toilet-scrubbing rates after one has scrubbed so many toilets that one’s eyes start to go crossed.

The other thing one starts to do, at that eyes-crossed point in the game, is one starts to make ranked lists in one’s head about the relative awefulness of each chore. It turns out scrubbing toilets is in no way my least-favorite chore. So here, for your consideration, is my Ranking of Chores, in order from most to least favorite.

Laundry
Sorting it, putting it in the washer, starting the dryer, and even folding it. Laundry is such a bulky chore that getting through it really makes you feel like you’ve accomplished something. Besides, it’s warm and smells so nice.

Making beds
Crisp, fresh sheets, hospital corners, artfully arranged pillows. Another chore that is large in volume and makes it look like you’ve done a lot of work.

Sweeping the floors
An easy way to really make a place look clean.

Cleaning sinks
They’re not usually as dirty as the other bathroom fixtures, and making the faucet all shiny makes me feel like the guests will really believe the place is clean.

Cleaning toilets
Let’s face it: modern technology makes this really easy. With a disposable sponge on the end of a long wand, you hardly even have to touch the toilet!

Putting laundry away
It’s clean. It’s folded. It’s sitting in a mountain twenty towels high on my dresser. The mystery of why it’s so hard to get it from there to inside of drawers or closets is akin to the mystery of what happens to socks in the dryer.

Mopping floors
Stupid hardwood floors. Stupider laminate floors.

Hand-washing the special dishes
Hmph. Soapy, crumby water. Boo.

Cleaning bathtubs
I can’t explain quite why I loathe this task so much. Bathtubs are big and the things that get left on the bottom are never, ever nice things.

For all that, none of these tasks is so bad. When you clean a toilet nearly every day, it doesn’t have a chance to get aggressively gross. And if you can get some good tunes or a good story to listen to while you work, the repetition doesn’t become so mind-numbing.

And when strangers pay you for the privilege of judging your housekeeping, there is serious satisfaction in having a sparkling toilet to offer up for their consideration.

Antisss—

ipation. 🙂

That moment when you are poised on the brink of something wonderful, waiting for it to begin, anxious to experience every glorious second that is to come, and savoring the knowledge that every little morsel of it still lies ahead. That frisson of excitement, of wonder, of expectation. Waiting for Santa. Staring at the outside of that college admissions letter. Lowering the Sorting Hat onto your head.

Don’t get me wrong. When the moment comes, the experience itself will also be wonderful, but the anticipation is special. For those moments before the leap, every possibility exists. You already know it’s going to be good, but it might actually turn out to be amazing. The reality has the potential to be extraordinary, or life-changing, or magical.

And that’s where I am, poised on the brink of something wonderful, made even more entrancing by its mysterious nature. For our 10th wedding anniversary, Dustin and I are going on a Grand European Excursion, and Dustin’s gift to me is that he is doing ALL of the planning, and the details of the voyage will be revealed to me only as they are happening. I am about to be surprised by three weeks of new places, delicious food, and incredible experiences. That is the sum total of what I know about the trip so far.

“Oh, how can you let him do all that without even consulting? I could never give up that much control!” you say? (I know you say that, because everyone we’ve told about this trip has said it.)

Here’s the thing: my husband is amazing, he’s really good at this stuff, and I love surprises.

(Also, I’m really bad at planning trips. So seriously. This is a gift.)

I haven’t written many blog posts in the last couple years. Life has been preoccupying for many reasons – some of them good, some of them difficult, many of them just Life. Writing is one of my passions, though, and it needs to reclaim a place in my life. One of my goals over the next month will be to write on a regular basis, and this upcoming adventure provides both an excellent excuse and brilliant subject matter. Dustin will be guest-blogging, as well, so you’re double lucky if you follow along.

Lest my poetic waxings about incredible adventures make you feel jealous or make it appear as if my life is only excitement and fun, I plan to take a couple opportunities during this Week of Anticipation to get back into the writing groove by posting a few slice’o’life stories about some of the less glamorous things we’ve been up to recently. Tune in next time for musings about such titillating topics as cleaning bathrooms, searching for the perfect audiobook, constructing a dream bathroom for someone else to use, or musings about why the show Naked & Afraid is so great.

I know you’re dying to find out.

About: 2008-style

(This is an archived About page, written sometime in 2008, and discovered to be heinously out of date when I reorganized the blog in 2016. The new About Page can be found by clicking on the Menu in the top right corner of the header. But if you continue reading here, enjoy out-of-date me!)

Hanging out in Santorini

Hello, my name is Laura.

Some days I think my life is one long, inner monologue. I’ve stuffed my head full of so much fiction and let so much more out through my fingertips, I have started thinking in narrative. If you want to listen in, here is your chance.

I live in South Dakota with my wonderful husband, naughty cat, and dead garden. I’ve been fortunate to travel through the United States and Europe. I’ve studied in Iowa, France, and Belgium. I have degrees in Anthropology and Archaeology, which I stopped putting to use when I discovered that doing archaeology in the United States means traveling to remote areas of nowhere, digging for endless hours, and finding nothing. Some day I’ll go back to Europe and dig stuff up there. Much more rewarding.

Until then, I’m working for the family business, planning to be more successful with next summer’s garden, and learning sign language.

This blog will be devoted to whatever tickles my fancy at a given moment. Consider it a grab bag. You’ll likely hear about my adventures in homemaking (thus far, I haven’t proven to be especially talented in that regard), working with family (but only so far as I won’t offend anyone), and getting along with other people (I do the best I can). You’re also bound to hear about my opinions on language, writing, and reading, three of my favorite things.

Enjoy.

To see my musings about life and travel in the Black Hills of South Dakota, check out the Black Hills Travel Blog, where I am a contributor.

Overheard at the Museum of Natural History Geology Exhibit

My wonderful husband humored me by allowing me to spend our last day in DC at the Geology, Minerals & Gems exhibit of the Natural History Museum. (He came too, to be clear.) I enjoyed the heck out of it. I love all the bits about planets and extraterrestrial geology. I love the minerals. The gems are okay, but overrated and less interesting than the other stuff. This is one of the busiest times of year in DC, and one of the most popular exhibits in the Smithsonian. It was swarming with people, a lot of whom I caught saying really interesting things.  A young boy, maybe 8 years old, as he stomped through the planetary geology exhibits:

I wanted to see the gemstones, and there’s nothing in here but meteorites. METEORITES!! I want to see the gemstones. Ooh, look at this… (as his attention was caught by a volcano display)

meteorite

An even smaller girl, holding her mom by the hand and peering into one of the large mineral displays with eyes as wide as saucers, pointing at one mineral and then the next and then the next, etc:

Ooh, mama, look at this! And this! Mama, look at that one! And that! Ooh, look mama, look! And that one!” ( (I stuck around long enough to watch her point out individually at least thirty of the items in the display, each more wonderful to her than the one before.)

minerals2

A twelve-ish-year-old-girl to her mother, coming away from a display of enormous topazes:

Well, now you know what to get me for my birthday.

topaz

A man coming out of the Hope Diamond display:

I thought it would be bigger. I mean, I guess it’s pretty big, for a diamond. (He’d probably also just come from the giant topaz display.

hopediamond

And my favorite, courtesy of a high school age girl:

They said this was a geology exhibit, not geometry. There’s way too much geometry in this geology.

pyrite cubes