Iceland

Legend (probably a false legend) has it Iceland was named by some sneaky Vikings who, in a quest to keep it all to themselves, tried to hide the fact that their new settlement was actually a lush, green wonderland worthy of envy from the entire Nordic world.

Indeed, Iceland is so striking beautiful — and quirky, and romantic, and adventurous — that we can’t say we blame them.

Here’s why you should go there, too.

1. The Blue Lagoon will heal your soul.
This steamy outdoor spa (where the water is 98 to 102 degrees Fahrenheit, naturally!) also offers in-water massages and a swim-up bar.
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2. You can stand inside a waterfall.
Seljalandsfoss is also a great place to view the northern lights through a curtain of glittering mist.
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3. In fact, waterfalls are everywhere.
Take Hraunfossar for example– it’s a series of streams that gurgle out from cracks in a craggy lava field, leftover from when a volcano erupted under a glacier.
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4. There are probably elves in Iceland.
But really: just last year, highway construction screeched to a halt after elf activists protested in an effort to protect the elves’ forest homeland. In a survey, 62 percent of Icelandic respondents said they think it’s possible elves actually exist.
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5. There are probably also aliens.
What is that firey orb descending upon the Icelandic town of Akureyri, you ask? Aliens. It’s probably aliens.

6. You can scuba or snorkel between continents.
The North American and Eurasian tectonic plates and the South American and African continental plates converge in an epic underwater meet-up at the Silfra ridge. Whether you’re floating above or diving to the floor of this underwater canyon, it’s a wild feeling to be in two places at once… just ask Alex Mustard.
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8. Nobody leaves voicemails in Iceland.
The option to leave a long, boring message still exists, but many locals saythey’ve never received or left a voicemail in their lives. Pretty much all Icelanders are related, so they probably figure they’ll just see each other at dinnertime anyway.
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10. They’ve taken hot dogs to a whole new level.
Icelanders typically toss lamb in the mix, thus deepening the link’s flavor. They call these creations pylsur and top them with sweet mustard, ketchup, raw onions, deep-fried onions and remoulade. Or you can ditch almost all the condiments and order your pylsurClinton style,” the way our former president did when he visited in 2005.
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11. You can go INSIDE a VOLCANO.
At Thrihnukagigur, you’ll plunge almost 400 feet into the multicolored magma chamber of a volcano that erupted 4,000 years ago. Sound too scary? You can see it via helicopter, too.
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12. There’s no need to fear incest.
Ever worried your lover might turn out to be your fourth cousin twice removed? Don’t fret; there’s an app for that.
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13. Strokkur geyser explodes like clockwork.
The Churn” erupts every five to 10 minutes, shooting water up to about 100 feetin the air.
geyser iceland

14. Iceland gets credited as having “the largest banana plantation in Europe.”
It’s not the case, but the rumor probably started when those crafty Icelanders tried sticking a bunch of banana plants in greenhouses. And because bananas don’t grow in much of Europe (the Canary Islands are a major exception, so they’re probably the true winners of the banana crown of Europe) — voilà! Quirky modern myth is born! The remains of that failed experiment are now part of a small indoor banana farm at the agricultural university.
iceland banana

15. You can whale watch, humanely.
There are 23 types of whales in the waters around Iceland, meaning you’re more than likely to spot some of those fantastic fins. Pick a boating company that’s committed to letting whales have their space.
whale watching iceland

16. Iceland has already mapped your dream road trip for you.
While driving the Golden Circle, you’ll pass a couple of geysers, a national park with the largest natural lake in Iceland, and Gullfoss, the country’s most famous waterfall. Try completing the Golden Circle in a super jeep or snowmobile.
gullfoss

17. Watching veggies grow is a “thing.”
Iceland is dark and cold for much of the year, but tomatoes grow merrily under artificial light at Friðheimar. The environmentally-friendly greenhouses yield about one ton of produce per day, and you can tour them to watch the magic in action. If that’s not impressive enough, see Friðheimar’s horse show in 14 different languages.
friðheimar

18. The Faroe Islands are right at your fingertips.
This little fairytale archipelago lies halfway between Iceland and Norway. This means it’s just a hop, a skip, and a quick flight to islands full of fishing, bird watching, lighthouses, and the most precious medieval churches you ever did see.
faroe islands

19. Sometimes, Iceland looks like another planet.
But guess what? Mount Kirkjufell is actually on the planet of Earth!
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20. The sun also shines at night.
For about three months each year, the sun sets for only a niblet of time each day, and the sky is bright for a full 24 hours. This means you can play golf, hit a concert, or run a marathon in the middle of the “night.”
midnight sun iceland

21. It’s one of the best countries to catch the Northern Lights.
Thingvellir National Park — the picturesque field where leaders of yore decided laws in an open-air forum — is today recognized as both a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the best places to see aurora borealis.
northern lights thingvellir

22. In Iceland, your view from the window seat could turn out as art.
…that’s if your seat mate happens to be a photographer as skilled as Andre Ermolaev.
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23. Hallgrímskirkja is not your typical church.
It’s ornate out front yet simplistic inside. There’s beautiful live music and an organ with over 5,000 pipes. Your ticket will support local charities (if you visit at a certain time), and — wait for it — an elevator rockets you about 250 feet up the church’s tower for an astounding view of Iceland’s capital city.
hallgrímskirkja

24. Icelanders make fish soup stellar.
Maybe it’s the fresh Nordic seafood, or maybe it’s the splash of sherry. Either way, who knew fish soup could be delicious? Order a warm bowl on a cliff overlooking the ocean.
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25. Breiðafjörður.
We can’t pronounce it either, but it’s beautiful.
breidafjordur

26. James Bond has graced the glaciers.
Iceland’s glaciers and glacial lagoons have set the scene for “Batman” and multiple 007 movies.
iceland glacier

27. Puffins!
puffins iceland

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The Art of Doing Nothing

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The Italians have a concept for piddling around known as “La Dolce Far Niente,” which means- the sweetness of doing nothing. As a frequent traveler to Italy I learned about this the hard way.  I was in Italy  for work and visiting family and I just felt that every minute of every day needed to be filled with something. Whether I was in the gym coaching, outside of the gym planning, visiting cousins or site seeing, I made sure my day was full.

img_4326My Zio (uncle) pulled me aside and said, “Tony- you Americans seem to LIVE to WORK. You work yourself to the bone during the week so that you can work harder around your house on the weekend. Here in Alatri, the town in Italy where my family lives, we Work to Live. We do enough work to provide for our families but we make sure we have time to do nothing.” La Dolce Far Niente. 

Zio went on to explain that Italians may wonder home after a few hours of working to take a little nap, they may be inspired by a nearby cafe and sit down to have a glass of wine, or they may just go home and make love to their wife. Although it may be a bit unrealistic for some of us to just cut out of our jobs in the middle of the day to go take a nap, the scene was still compelling.

The mobile age has made us connected and available 100% of the time. How many times have I answered a work e-mail while waiting in line at the grocery store? How many times have I worked through lunch or started my work day with my first cup of coffee? Is it really necessary? What is the cost? The idea of no longer running on a treadmill of activity from morning workout to work, running home to make dinner, continuing to do paper work and reports while watching something on TV with my wife sitting a few feet away also engrossed with work. We have to make a PLAN and schedule a walk together.

Thoreau spoke of this in Walden when he said, “When I go out of the house for a walk, uncertain as yet whither I will bend my steps, and submit myself to my instinct to decide for me, I find, strange and whimsical as it may seem, that I finally and inevitably settle south-west, toward some particular wood or meadow or deserted pasture or hill in that direction.”

How different would our quality of life be if we made time throughout the day to experience la dolce far niente? Instead of using our free moments to catch up on some stupid reality tv, instead of checking our email one last time to see if anyone else is needing us to do something, instead of using our free time to check our bank accounts or pay that cell phone bill- What if we just did nothing?

All the noise-  facebook,  twitter, reality TV, the latest and greatest no-one-can-get-in-there-without-calling-a-month-ahead restaurant…it all fades away when we can just do nothing. What surfaces is life- our feelings at the moment (whether it be grace or despair), our ego vanishes and our true self emerges.

What if instead of facebook, emailing, DVR catching up, video gaming tonight- you just did nothing? What if instead of saving up 7 vacation days out of 365 to finally enjoy life, you spread those out in hours among each day? What if you didn’t look at Saturday/Sunday as your only day to cut loose and chill out?

Maybe you sit and read a book. Maybe you stare out the window or balcony and listen to your favorite musician. Maybe you learn how to whistle…meditate…stretch…lounge…or (gasp!) nap. What can you do today to begin doing nothing? By giving the brain ‘downtime’ we can improve mental health and allow ideas to incubate.

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A Tribute to Notre Dame

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In the late 90’s and early 2000’s I was spending a great deal of time coaching at international competitions.  I was lucky enough to have been able to travel to Paris in 3 or 4 back to back to back years for competitions and was EXTRA lucky that my daughter was able to travel with me.

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Following the competition we stayed at a hotel very near Notre Dame. We would walk by it 3 or 4 times a day.

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On one occasion as we walked by Maddie noticed a man feeding birds. He would hold out his hand and little birds would land on his hand as he fed them. For Maddie, this was magic. She held out her hands but no birds came near her. The gentleman that was feeding the birds gave her a small piece of bread and showed her how.

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The look of delight on both their faces when she fed the birds from her hand was amazing.

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I wouldn’t say this man was homeless but he certainly was underprivileged.  I think he was happy to just NOT BE INVISIBLE. That someone took the time to interact with him.

A day or so later Maddie and I were having breakfast and I noticed that she had taken a croissant and put it in her pocket. I knew she was going to be feeding the birds that day. That afternoon as we approached Notre Dame she asked if she could buy a Crepe. She ordered a ham and cheese crepe but didn’t even take a bite.

As we walked in front she went up and handed her crepe to the “bird man”. His smile lit up the day. Then Maddie proceeded to feed the birds.

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I was so proud of her. Thinking beyond just her needs and desires.

A year later we were back in Paris.

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As we walked by Notre Dame, Maddie reached into her pocket, pulled out a croissant for the birds and an apple for the “bird man”.

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Churches like Notre Dame are not just a building to worship in. They are the center of the city. A place that brings people together. The acts of kindness do not only happen inside the walls. It doesn’t need to be a church. It can be your town square. The Lincoln Memorial, The Western Wall. It is your heart that makes it special.

Take a moment today and do something nice for somebody. Just because it is the right thing to do.

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Beyond The Summer Of Love, ‘Get Together’ Is An Anthem For Every Season

My morning ritual involves coffee and listening to NPR. Specifically NHPR. I catch up on the news and listen to specific reoccurring pieces like STORY CORP. Recently they have been featuring songs that have become AMERICAN ANTHEMS. (Not to be confused by the 1986 gymnastics movie).

This morning they were playing the 1967 song “Get Together” by the Youngbloods. Although I am FAR too young to remember the song on the radio, I know the song from its appearance in many movies and even in commercials. I have heard the song thousands of times. But today, I really listened to the lyrics.

Love is but a song to sing
Fear’s the way we die
You can make the mountains ring
Or make the angels cry
Though the bird is on the wing
And you may not know why
Come on people now
Smile on your brother
Everybody get together
Try to love one another
Right now
Some may come and some may go
We shall surely pass
When the one that left us here
Returns for us at last
We are but a moment’s sunlight
Fading in the grass
Come on people now
Smile on your brother
Everybody get together
Try to love one another
Right now
If you hear the song I sing
You will understand (listen!)
You hold the key to love and fear
All in your trembling hand
Just one key unlocks them both
It’s there at your command
Come on people now
Smile on your brother
Everybody get together
Try to love one another
Right now

We live in a very divided time. The talking heads on TV will tell you it is the most divided time in America. That we live in the most violent time. The politicians just want to frighten you. The TV producers need you be afraid NOT to watch their news programs. Programs that tell you how to feel and instead or giving you the news they tell you their version of the news.

The facts are- We are NOT living in the most divided time. We have more in common with each other than we have differences. We all want a better life for our children. We all want clean air to breath and clean water to drink. We all have a quest for knowledge to fill whether it is under the sea or in outer space. These needs do not care about your language, your race, your religion, your sexual preference or how much money you have.

 

FROM THE NPR PIECE

In 1967, the Vietnam War was raging. The Youngbloods’ lead singer, Jesse Colin Young, remembers, “Back then we were all subject to the draft. That made everything more life and death. And hope is what comes out of that song.”

Young was a folk singer and guitarist with two albums under his belt when he met guitarist Jerry Corbitt on the folk scene in Cambridge, Mass. They put The Youngbloods together in New York City with drummer Joe Bauer and multi-instrumentalist Lowell Levinger, known as Banana. The band rehearsed in Greenwich Village’s Café au Go Go when there wasn’t a show happening, and that’s where Young first heard “Get Together.”

“It was a Sunday afternoon and I was walking through the Village and thought, ‘Oh, the Go Go’s gonna be dark. I’ll call the band; we can rehearse,’ ” Young recalls. “I walked down the stairs and it turned out to be an open mic. I thought I would turn around and go home. But Buzzy Linhart was onstage singing ‘Get Together.’ That song just stopped me in my tracks.”

Young says it was the lyrics that really grabbed him. ” ‘Love is but a song we sing / Fear’s the way we die.’ Wow — the human condition in two lines.”

The lyrics grabbed Lizz Wright, too: The jazz and gospel singer recorded “Get Together” in 2004 for her album Dreaming Wide Awake. She’s a fan of one verse in particular:

If you hear the song I sing
You will understand (listen!)
You hold the key to love and fear
All in your trembling hand
Just one key unlocks them both
It’s there at your command


“It’s so clear, and the imagery is fantastic,” Wright says. “In our uncertainty, in our not fully knowing, we are still holding so much power and choosing to learn by love or to learn by fear as we go. And I just love how this verse puts it back in our in our court as individuals.”

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Greta Thunberg nominated for Nobel Peace Prize and other TED news — TED Blog

The TED community is brimming with new projects and ideas. Below, a few highlights. Youth climate change protests kick off across the world. Students from 112 countries skipped school in mid-March to join climate activist Greta Thunberg’s School Strike for Climate demanding government action on climate change. The global event was part of the Fridays…

via Greta Thunberg nominated for Nobel Peace Prize and other TED news — TED Blog

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A Good Day For a Skate

There is something magical about skating across a frozen lake or pond. At this writing it is early December and the weather here in New Hampshire has been clear and cold and really no precipitation to speak of. 

Yesterday I went out and tested the ice thickness. Although the lake is fairly shallow- I am not interested in getting wet and having to skate home. The ice was between 4 and 6 inches. According to the ice thickness chart in the OLD FARMERS ALMANAC. Safe enough to skate. 

At night and early morning I have been listening to the ice. The POPS, the BUBBLING, the GROANING and the occasional CRACKING as the water freezes and expands. I got up in the morning, grabbed my skates, a hockey stick and a puck. Walked down and sat on the dock and laced up. 

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I pushed off tentatively. Testing the edges and the strength of my legs. Every year, those first few strides seem to be a little more cautious and a little more painful. As my legs adjusted I pushed and started my skate around the lake. As I increased speed the chill in the air bit at my nose and cheeks, my eyes watered a little but I kept pushing enjoying the exercise. The only sound was each blade as they cut the ice. The summer houses now all vacant and boarded up for the winter. Too early for many to be outside a few of the year round residents waved at me from the warmth of their homes as I skated by. 

The first skate of the year is always the best. The ice untouched and as smooth as Boston Garden after the zamboni.  There are places where you can still see through the ice and other than the occasional buoy frozen into the ice there is nothing in the way. 

Winter may be just starting but there’s just something so fabulously primitive, so instinctive and so historic about the simple act of skating outside that lingers in our memories. People started skating on frozen rivers and lakes as a form on transportation. Now it allows me to transport back in time. 

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As winter progresses and the snow begins to pile up I make a small ice rink out in front of my house. It is good for a quick skate or a game of hockey- but nothing beats a skate around the lake. 

Where winter may keep people inside their homes where they can be warm- the ice brings us out. As I finished my skate, our new neighbors were out on the ice. We made plans for a pick up hockey game in the coming weeks.  When the snow piles up- we turn it into furniture and have another reason to get together with the neighbors!

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Steph and Jerry

 

“THE SKATERS” BY JOHN GOULD FLETCHER

“BLACK swallows swooping or gliding 

In a flurry of entangled loops and curves; 

The skaters skim over the frozen river. 

And the grinding click of their skates as they impinge upon the surface, 

Is like the brushing together of thin wing-tips of silver.”

EXCERPT FROM “HAWKSHEAD” FROM “THE PRELUDE” BY WILLIAM WADSWORTH LONGFELLOW

“AND in the frosty season, when the sun 

Was set, and visible for many a mile 

The cottage windows blazed through twilight gloom, 

I heeded not their summons: happy time 

It was indeed for all of us,—for me       

It was a time of rapture! Clear and loud 

The village clock tolled six,—I wheeled about, 

Proud and exulting like an untired horse 

That cares not for his home. All shod with steel, 

We hissed along the polished ice in games       

Confederate, imitative of the chase 

And woodland pleasures,—the resounding horn, 

The pack loud chiming, and the hunted hare. 

So through the darkness and the cold we flew, 

And not a voice was idle; with the din       

Smitten, the precipices rang aloud; 

The leafless trees and every icy crag 

Tinkled like iron; while far distant hills 

Into the tumult sent an alien sound 

Of melancholy not unnoticed, while the stars       

Eastward were sparkling clear, and in the west 

The orange sky of evening died away. 

Not seldom from the uproar I retired 

Into a silent bay, or sportively 

Glanced sideway, leaving the tumultuous throng,       

To cut across the reflex of a star 

That fled, and, flying still before me, gleamed 

Upon the glassy plain; and oftentimes, 

When we had given our bodies to the wind, 

And all the shadowy banks on either side       

Came sweeping through the darkness, spinning still 

The rapid line of motion, then at once 

Have I, reclining back upon my heels, 

Stopped short; yet still the solitary cliffs 

Wheeled by me,—even as if the earth had rolled       

With visible motion her diurnal round! 

Behind me did they stretch in solemn train, 

Feebler and feebler, and I stood and watched 

Till all was tranquil as a dreamless sleep.” 

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Today Would Have Been My Brother’s Birthday

 

Today would have been my brother’s birthday. I am actually afraid of not feeling pain and heartbreak when I think of him. His widow is amazing and doing a great job with their 2 kids. I love them all.

It also happens to be one of my other nephews birthdays.  Michael lives life with the passion we all should!

“Even the strong show signs of fatigue.” Friedrich Nietzsche

My brother said this to me once. At the moment, I have a deep and un-abiding understanding of it.

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I actually started this blog because my brother Jeff was a Writer, a journaler and in general, an amazing person.

10/13/2013     Today at 12:30 PM my youngest brother JEFFERY EDMONDS lost his battle with cancer.

“Even the strong show signs of fatigue. Friedrich Nietzsche

My brother said this to me once. At the moment, I have a deep and un-abiding understanding of it.

Things I’ve learned from my brother Jeffery Lee Edmonds

People don’t actually change that much. Since Jeff was younger than me, I got to see him grow up a little. Obviously he’s changed a lot. But in many ways, he’s also very much the same. The sensitive, gentle demeanor he’s had since he was younger never left him. He’s always had a dry sense of humor, a deep love of food, especially sugary breakfast cereal,  an infectious laugh, and a tendency to get lost in his own world.

I think this a good reminder for everyone, especially when we get stuck in the toxic pattern of wishing we were different or more like so-and-so, that many of our personality traits and preferences seem to be hardwired from a very young age, and that’s pretty cool. You can be smart, cultured, and mature, and still think nothing in the world is funnier than a poop joke.If there’s anything I’ve learned from my three smart, funny, well-informed, sensitive, thoughtful brothers, it’s that there is no shame in scatological humor. Jeff, specifically, is capable of discussing the nuances of philosophical belief systems, building a super computer, and writing a dystopian novel, and he still cracks up at the mere mention of the words “poop” or “butt.” The lesson here? Let your poop joke flag fly! Appreciate Nature. No one I know had a bigger and better appreciation of the world around him. Spot the natural beauty of the mountains, the trees, the ocean, everything. Beauty surrounds you. Slow down and appreciate it. LAUGH at yourself.

At Thanksgiving one year in front of the entire family and his girlfriend (soon to be fiancee) I managed to spill my entire plate of food onto my lap. I was horrified. Our eyes made contact and we both just started laughing. Sometimes in life things are going to be messy and not go the way you want. Laugh at it and move on. Today- just about the time of Jeff’s last breath, I dropped a potato on the floor in a restaurant. I said, “that one’s for Jeff.”

Stop procrastinating. When Jeff first moved with his family to Maine from St. Louis my wife went up to help paint some rooms in his house. They were up nearly all night painting and Jeff spoke of his goal of writing a novel. His time on this planet expired before he was able to finish. Get off your ass and finish your goals. Jeff was a writer. He always wanted to write a novel. He just ran out of time. We have have things we wanted to do but come up with excuses on why we can’t do it.

No excuses, promise me you will follow through with your goals.  –

This moment is your life.– Your life is not between the moments of your birth and death.  Your life is between now and your next breath.  The present – the here and now – is all the life you ever get.  So live each moment in full, in kindness and peace, without fear and regret.  And do the best you can with what you have in this moment; because that is all you can ever expect of anyone, including yourself. I have just learned that A lifetime isn’t very long.– This is your life, and you’ve got to fight for it.  Fight for what’s right.  Fight for what you believe in.  Fight for what’s important to you.  Fight for the people you love, and never forget to tell them how much they mean to you.  Realize that right now you’re lucky because you still have a chance.  So stop for a moment and think.  Whatever you still need to do, start doing it today.

There are only so many tomorrows –

Let me here your thoughts!

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