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Showing posts from 2014

World's end

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"Anything I've ever done that was ultimately worthwhile, initially scared me to death." -- Betty Bender

“We shouldn’t be here,” I thought on the walk back to our guesthouse. Technically, we were still within the city limits of Longyearbyen, Svalbard, so carrying a firearm for protection from polar bears was not mandatory.  In truth, we were living, moving targets.

It was a 3 kilometer uphill hike from the town center to Spitsbergen Guesthouse, but there were no buildings along this stretch save an elementary school.  Where would we run if a wild polar bear smelled us?  And did you know they can smell seals 1 meter below solid ice? Not to mention, the odds of us outrunning hungry mega-fauna were slim to none.
It was 01:00 but who could tell the difference between night & day, given that we were in the realm of the midnight sun?  Though it was not sunny, the sky was bright enough to see the single paved road ahead (and behind) my mother & me.  The ravine’s dark wall…

Three sides to every story

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"The earth never tires.
The earth is rude, silent, incomprehensible, at first:
Nature is rude and incomprehensible at first.
Be not discouraged, keep on,
there are divine things well envelop'd
I swear to you there are divine things more beautiful than words can tell."

-- Walt Whitman


HOW DID YOU SLEEP THE NIGHT BEFORE IN THE PARKING LOT?
Michelle (me):  I slept restlessly in the rental car in the parking lot of Preikestolen Vandrerhjem a.k.a. Preikestolen Hostel.  My mind was too preoccupied by the fact that our Honda was the only vehicle that remained there past 22:00, making it an easy target to rob or investigate for trespassing.  At 06:30 my alarm clock woke me up.  Mom & I initially planned on setting off pre-dawn to watch the sunrise at Preikestolen but the receptionist at the guesthouse dissuaded us, claiming the view would be anti-climactic.  The sun had been on the rise since 04:30, but who could tell given the permeating sidewalk gray haze?  We debated postp…

Swimming

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"Be not the slave of your own past -- plunge into the sublime seas, dive deep, & swim far so you shall come back with self-respect, with a new power, with an advanced experience that shall explain and overlook the old."
-- Ralph Waldo Emerson


When most people think of swimming, there is certain imagery: a fat sun in the sky; clear waves lapping; malleable sand; chilly water enveloping hot skin as you enter/jump in; floating on your back; swimsuits; searing cement next to a turquoise pool. 

I lived the antithesis of all that:  a milky, sunless sky; opaque, oddly-colored water; volcanic ash replaced tan sand; floating face-down like a dead body; an area smaller than a dinner plate was the only exposed skin; water so cold it would be frozen without the ocean's constant movement. Just one sentence in Lonely Planet mentioned SCUBA diving in Iceland but I riffled through the text since I was not certified.  I discovered Silfra (pronounced "Self-ruh") from trollin…