Nature Travel

Iceland Up and Down – Second in a Series

A second group of videos from Iceland, made from flights with my camera drone. This was done in September 2019, my third visit to the country. However, this trip lasted over two weeks and included driving the “Ring Road” all the way around the island, plus many side trips as well.

Nature Travel

Iceland Up and Down – First In a Series

We made our third trip to Iceland the first two weeks of September, 2019. This time we drove all the way around the island and more. This time I took my new camera drone and flew many times each day. I learned a lot on these flights, and even more in editing the video footage after returning. I will be posting portions of this video as I have them ready, about 8-10 minutes worth at a time. These represent selected highlights from literally hours and hours of source footage. I still get absorbed in the wonder of this strange land. A land where every turn of the road presents something new and different.

Nature Travel

An Icelandic Sheep Roundup

I live in Montgomery County, Maryland. Over a million people live in our county, distributed around in just over 500 square miles. By contrast, the island nation of Iceland covers some 40,000 square miles but has a population one third the size of Montgomery County – some 360,000. Our county averages about 2,000 people per square mile, but Iceland averages one person for every 10 square miles.

Then there’s the matter of sheep. There are 2,280 sheep farms in Iceland. That means there is a sheep farm for every 150 people in the country. There are more sheep than people in Iceland by a long shot. 

The sheep population jumps up every year in May when the new lambs are born. Soon afterward, most sheep are released to roam the wild hills and valleys and high mountains. All summer they feed and fatten and grow their wool. The lands they roam are public, so the grazing is free food for all.

In the summertime, the farmers work their fields gathering up hay for the coming winter. Then in September, all the farmers in various communities work to gather the sheep into one place where they have a sorting facility built. This process is called Réttir (corral) and can take up to a week, since the sheep are scattered all over. The sheep are fast on their feet and widely disbursed. They are rounded up by people riding horses and assisted by sheepdogs, with others on foot where the terrain doesn’t allow riding. …

Nature Swimming

Five Minutes at a Red Sea Reef

In May of 2019 I met with eleven other swimmers in Hurghada, Egypt. We boarded a yacht which would be our home for the next seven days. I have done such swims in Italy, Turkey, Croatia, Slovenia, Lithuania, Spain, and other places. But the Red Sea was different. The waves and currents and challenges of swimming were the same, but the sea life was beyond my experience. The five minute video which follows provides an in-water look.

Commentary War

Talk of War

Now again in early January 2080 we hear the talk of war: threats, grievances, incidents, mobilizings, bombings, murders, and always the justifications.

With all this from today’s news in mind, I was listening to “The Green Fields of France” by the Celtic Thunder. I decided to share. I suggest you listen to the music first, then review the words below.

 

Oh how do you do, young Willy McBride,
Do you mind if I sit here down by your graveside,
And rest for a while in the warm summer sun,
I’ve been walking all day, and I’m nearly done.
And I see by your gravestone you were only nineteen,
When you joined the great fallen in 1916,
Well I hope you died quick,
And I hope you died clean,
Oh Willy McBride, was is it slow and obscene.
Did they beat the drums slowly,
Did the play the fife lowly,
Did they sound the death march as they lowered you down,
Did the band play the last post and chorus,
Did the pipes play the flowers of the forest.
And did you leave a wife or a sweetheart behind,
In some loyal heart is your memory enshrined,
And though you died back in 1916,
To that loyal heart you’re forever nineteen.
Or are you a stranger without even a name,
Forever enshrined behind some old glass pane,
In an old photograph torn, tattered, and stained,
And faded to yellow in a brown leather frame.
Did they beat the drums slowly,
Did the play the fife lowly,
Did they sound the death march as they lowered you down,
Did the band play the last post and chorus,
Did the pipes play the flowers of the forest.
The sun shining down on these green fields of France,
The warm wind blows gently and the red poppies dance,
The trenches have vanished long under the plow,
No gas, no barbed wire, no guns firing down.
But here in this graveyard that’s still no mans land,
The countless white crosses in mute witness stand,
Till’ man’s blind indifference to his fellow man,
And a whole generation were butchered and damned.
Did they beat the drums slowly,
Did the play the fife lowly,
Did they sound the death march as they lowered you down,
Did the band play the last post and chorus,
Did the pipes play the flowers of the forest.
And I can’t help but wonder oh Willy McBride,
Do all those who lie here know why they died,
Did you really believe them when they told you the cause,
Did you really believe that this war would end wars.
Well the suffering, the sorrow, the glory, the shame,
The killing and dying it was all done in vain,
Oh Willy McBride it all happened again,
and again, and again, and again, and again.
Did they beat the drums slowly,
Did the play the fife lowly,
Did they sound the death march as they lowered you down,
Did the band play the last post and chorus,
Did the pipes play the flowers of the forest.

Travel

Wife Carrying Contest

There are many Scandinavian festivals that include wife carrying contests. The one I have attended is the New Jersey festival, held annually in Budd Lake on Labor Day weekend. The video shown here is mostly from the recent 2018 festival, with a few clips included from 2015. Wife carrying is said to date to the days of the Vikings and to their practice of selecting a wife and then carrying her off. Several types of carrying are practiced, which you will see. The principal ones include 1) piggyback, 2) fireman’s over-the-shoulder, and 3) Estonian style – where the wife hangs upside down with her legs around the husband’s shoulders, holding onto his waist. You will also see variations. 

The wife carrying course is rectangular and about 250 meters in length. It has 4 obstacles, consisting of car tires, hay bales, a wooden staircase, and pools of water. The winning man receives the woman’s weight in beer. The couple does not have to be married, thus any willing woman will do for the carry.

The Wife Carrying World Championships have been held annually in Sonkajarvi, Finland, since 1992.

Please enjoy! (You may wish to view full screen. Make sure your sound is turned on.)


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Commentary Humanity Religion

Do Short Shorts Matter?

There are those who live their lives with no moral struggles. To them, nothing is right or wrong. Things are simply desirable, or they aren’t. Self interest makes the choices. The laws of man or God may get in the way, but only as barriers to get around. 

Most of us aren’t able to live that way. Most of us have a nagging conscience raising questions of right and wrong. This can be a burden or a blessing . . .  depending. Most of us struggle to develop our standards of right and wrong, and struggle even more to follow them.

I was reminded of this at a dairy farm in Pennsylvania. A wonderfully clean and healthy place. A great place to live if you’re a cow or calf or human child. A place where Amish buggies come driving in to buy milk and eggs, delivering children to enjoy ice cream and animals.

The folks who run this farm work hard, love one another, live modestly, help their neighbors, study their Bibles, and go to church on Sundays. And like most of us, they consider the rightness or wrongness of their words and deeds. So as I read the polite request bullet-pointed in a list on the wall, I smiled but did not scorn it. It said:

To many, such a sign will seem quaint and belonging to an earlier time. When I first read it, I had that reaction. But then, the very next day, I read about the funeral of Aretha Franklin in Detroit. There was much discussion of the mini-skirt worn by one of the singers, and whether it was appropriate for a funeral or not. Many considered it “immodest attire.” And former president Bill Clinton was accused of gazing at the singer in an inappropriate manner by a Fox News panel. They called it “leering.” So the sign I read in rural Pennsylvania is more current than it appeared. …

Commentary Environment Guns Religion

Not Me? Reflections On the Day of Donald Trump’s Ban on Muslims

WASHINGTON, DC – JANUARY 29: Demonstrators march down Pennsylvania Avenue during a protest on January 29, 2017 in Washington, DC. Protestors in Washington and around the country gathered to protest President Donald Trump’s executive order barring the citizens of Muslim-majority countries Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen from traveling to the United States.

He is banning members of the Muslim religion from our country, but I am not of that religion.

He is building a wall to keep out Mexicans, but I am not a Mexican.

He will not allow us to shelter the suffering, homeless, and dying refugees of war, but I am not a refugee.

He intends to torture prisoners, but I will not be one of those tortured.

He may cancel the health insurance of 20 million people, but I have other health insurance.

He will do away with protections for the environment, but I do not have so many years left to live, and future generations will pay for this, not me.

He is moving to further restrict the voting rights of minorities and others who oppose him, but I am a white man from Tennessee and I will still be able to vote.

He will degrade public education, on which most families depend, while funding private education for the well-off. But I already have my education.

He intends to deport some 12 million immigrants, including many who were born and grew up here. But I am not one of those to be deported.

He will reverse the civil rights gains made by lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, and transgendered persons, but I am not one of these persons.

He wants to make abortions illegal and even criminal, but I will not be needing an abortion. …

Alcohol Places Stories

Breakfast in Payson

I’m a big fan of Garrison Keillor. He once said that if you drive around the country, stop in small towns, and sit down with the locals in their breakfast cafe, you never know when you may hear something interesting, surprising, or even profound. John Steinbeck also believed that. He took his dog and drove across America, talking with ordinary people and collecting stories. They went into a thoughtful and entertaining book titled “Travels With Charley.”

payson azWell . . . I came to the desert town of Payson, Arizona. I ordered breakfast in a small diner there beside the road. The adjoining booth was occupied by a local man, sitting by himself, talking on his cellphone, his voice lowered. He had long, unkept hair and a long, unkept beard. His clothes looked as worn and tired as he did, and his speech had the lingering of alcohol about it. I heard him use the word “innebriated,” a term less confessional and more respectable than the word “drunk.” But meaning the same, of course.

The man was talking with a woman. You could tell she was someone he missed, someone he owed something to, someone he needed to have around and planned to see again.

The man was doing most of the talking, mostly about nothing, until the end of the conversation. The woman on the line had apparently said, “I love you.”

Now, a man in those circumstances must say something. As a man myself, I know about this moment, that pause that needs a response, as the woman awaits one. I didn’t expect a memorable response from this man, but I heard one.

There was a moment of hesitation, and then: “I love you . . . no matter what I say or do.” …

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