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September 2016

Well, that went fast!  It seems like it was just a few weeks ago that I was getting ready for our trip to Iceland, fretting over whether I had the right clothing to pack for a varied and unpredictable climate.  Spoiler alert:  I did.  Layers are key.  Now Labor Day is almost upon us.  As usual, I’ll celebrate by taking part in the .19K Bridge Walk, a very silly tradition which I depicted in Autumn Bones.

I found myself thinking about Autumn Bones this summer as, like many of you, I binge-watched Stranger Things on Netflix.  This glorious paean to 1980s pop culture made me proud to have described a gang of young teenage boys on bikes “pedaling hell-for-leather like kids in a Spielberg movie.”

Of course, the summer hasn’t all been travel and popcorn fare.  I just finished reviewing the proofs for Miranda and Caliban, which comes out on February 14, 2017.  I’ll write more about it as the release date draws nearer, but I’m excited about sharing my take on Shakespeare’s The Tempest with the world.  And I’ve been working hard writing my current project, which once again is something completely new and different.  More on that to come!

I’m still thinking about Iceland, though.  Along with the spectacular glaciers I wrote about last month, one of the most striking features is the prevalence of geothermally-heated pools known as “hot pots.”  Almost every town has at least one, and these communal facilities serve as gathering places every bit as much as a local café.  For the more intrepid bather, there are hot pots to be found in remote areas, largely unmarked, requiring the user to be in the know.

We managed to find a few of them.  The first required a drive into the rural countryside, where a boy looking for all the world like an Icelandic version of Ralphie from A Christmas Story tended to the pools under a glowering sky, while American and German tourists basked in their bathing suits, mountains towering in the background.  It’s a study in contrasts, to say the least!

The second remote hot pot required a considerable hike through a valley strewn with debris from a volcanic explosion.  Once we reached it, the pool proved to be a fairly sophisticated man-made facility, and thanks to a spate of publicity, not a very well-kept secret.  While we soaked in the relatively crowded pool, however, we heard hushed rumors of a hot pot-beyond-the-hot pot.

It was only a short hike beyond the first pool, but it was a steep, slippery and treacherous climb which we undertook in bathing suits and hiking boots in the fifty degree weather, damp towels wrapped around our necks.  Safety precautions in Iceland are often nonexistent, and travelers are expected to rely on common sense based on their own level of fitness and agility.  As we were debating the wisdom of continuing, we passed a returning couple who assured us that it was worth the effort.

And indeed, at the end of the trail we came upon two small pools damming the geothermal springs on the edge of the river, steam hovering above the flowing glacier-melt, green hills rising around us.

Yep, it was worth the effort.  Hope you enjoy the view!

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