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October 06, 2015


All of sudden I've cracked it. You went to Iceland to practice for the US National Spelling Bee.

Robbie's comment made me smile, as I just copied and pasted 'Eyjafjallajökul' rather than try to transcribe it myself!

I'll always remember that eruption, as it occurred at about the same moment my sister died, coincidentally while hiking on the slopes of an extinct volcano in New Zealand, and no one from this side of the world was able to fly to her funeral. There was an odd kind of silence and clarity about the time, with no con trails in a cloudless sky and no plane noise. I found this piece by Alain de Botton, which I used with my English class at the time -


Enjoying your travelogue very much; we're taking a few days in Reykjavik in December, and looking forward to it.

Haha, Robbie, you figured it out!

Lucy, thanks for this note, and for the essay, which was poignant and also included that apt Arab proverb I'd probably heard but had forgotten. I'm sorry to hear that the volcano's eruption (I can't spell its name either, though I did sort of learn how to say it, after about fifty attempts!) coincided with your sister's death and made it impossible for you to go to New Zealand - that's the personal side of such events that we rarely hear about. And of course something could happen at any minute. Later on in the narrative, we go to Heimay, in the Westmann Islands, where a town was pretty much buried beneath ash in the late 1970s. It was sobering, to say the least, but the people are cheery and optimistic, and love their beautiful home island, with the best harbor in all of Iceland. It does make you think.

And I'm delighted to hear that you and Tom will be going to Reykjavik! I want to go in the winter sometime; our friends describe it as dark but quite wonderful, and the New Year's celebrations are pretty spectacular. Any country that sells wool and fleece in its grocery stores is special, in my book!

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Who was Cassandra?

  • In the Iliad, she is described as the loveliest of the daughters of Priam (King of Troy), and gifted with prophecy. The god Apollo loved her, but she spurned him. As a punishment, he decreed that no one would ever believe her. So when she told her fellow Trojans that the Greeks were hiding inside the wooden horse...well, you know what happened.