This Is Iceland, In The Dark

*I’ll be adding to this post throughout the winter so bookmark this post and check back for updates.

The thoughts I have in the dark and perpetually overcast days of winter.


Not sure what this is but it’s dark.

January 10, 2018

It is January 10th and the last bits of Yuletide cheer are quickly fading into the seemingly never ending darkness. Yes, the solstice has passed but there are still only five hours of daylight and yesterday morning I was awakened well before my alarm went off by howling winds. More darkness than light and howling winds. This is it. This is Fucking January. Back in New York, I muttered Fucking January into my scarf as I trudged through snow and subzero (Fahrenheit) temperatures but here, in Iceland, it’s the darkness I curse.

If I don’t have to go into work, I wait until the sun is up to go outside. On the days I do, it is a bit unsettling. It just feels very…wrong. Once I am inside and under the fluorescent lights, the traditional sunlight of office spaces, I feel right again. It’s as if in that fifteen minute walk across the stretch of space between home and office I was briefly in a Twilight Zone of never-ending night. For native Icelanders and those that have lived here longer, I imagine this isn’t doesn’t feel strange at all but I just can’t shake the feeling that I’m going against nature by being up hours before the sun. “It ain’t natural, I tell ya,” my Texan soul whispers, afraid of being overheard by the darkness.


December 21, 2017

Origami box made with paper from one of the Yule Lads.

Sunrise at 11:22. Sunset at 3:29 or 15:29 for my 24 hr clock peeps. The shortest day of the year. With the help of vitamin D, good family, good friends, origami and many a good cup of tea, the increasingly shorter days of winter have passed without much gloom. As I have mentioned, Icelanders go hard when it comes to Christmas decorations. Not so much in the crazy light displays and lawn decorations sort of way but in the tiny Scandinavian Santas popping up everywhere and half Christmas tress attached to the fronts of buildings sort of way.

This year we’re planning an Icelandic-style Christmas. We’ll have dinner at 6 pm, the traditional Icelandic start of Christmas Day, and open presents afterward. The husband assures me he knows how to make an Icelandic Christmas dinner sans the meat– a nut loaf of some kind, glazed potatoes, pickled red cabbage and apple cake for dessert. We haven’t yet decided if we’re doing the Christmas morning Santa gifts too. We shall see.

Of course, January, or what I like to call F*cking January, is still to come but the promise of longer and longer days ahead will be my light at the end of winter’s tunnel.

Happy Solstice and Gelðileg jól!

First Year’s Snow

November 17, 2017


Here’s something about Reykjavik you may not know: some of the sidewalks are heated. Hot water is piped beneath the slabs of concrete thus preventing snow and ice from accumulating. It’s great! Here’s another fun fact: There appears to be no sidewalk shoveling policy in Reykjavik. If the sidewalks are not heated the snow accumulates, melts a little bit, freezes overnight and then tries its damnedest to trip up this small black woman, walking down the street, muttering to herself about the madness of it all. I have noticed that some people put down sand in front of their houses, which is at least something, but even businesses allow their patch of sidewalk to turn into bumpy sheets of ice. One would think they’d want their patrons not to go careening past their establishments, unable to stop or worse, fall and break something. You would think, but that’s not what’s happening here. Just the other day I saw a tourist slip, fly up into the air and land on his ass—hard. This isn’t to say they don’t shovel at all. If the snow is really deep, say a meter, then they’ll break out the shovels, or so I’ve heard. If you’re pushing a stroller, in a wheelchair, on crutches or unsteady on your feet in any way, well, you’re S-O-L.

I have also yet to see a snow plow on the streets or in any parking lots. Yes, the snowfall hasn’t been all that significant but, again, wouldn’t it behoove the city and business owners to not have cars slippin’ and slidin’ all willy-nilly? And yes, people put snow tires on their cars but they also leave the snow tires on well into spring, because winter and spring are unpredictable, and as a result, the tires grind up the asphalt creating a foul dust that settles on everything including people’s lungs. I’m thinking plowing the roads is a better idea than asphalt dust but that’s just me. Maybe there are some other factors at play to which I, as a non-Icelander, am not privy. Whatever the reason, I’m bitter about it. But you know what? People will probably need snow tires if they’re driving outside of town and so would put on snow tires even if the city streets were plowed….

I’ve mentioned it to a few Icelanders. Some are clearly uncomfortable with me even broaching the subject while others are also miffed about the no shoveling thing. They blame it on the car culture in Iceland—the so called car-coat—no need to shovel a sidewalk if you’re always driving door-to-door. Back in the day, people would regularly die from walking one place to another. Women would take their washing to the hot spring, get caught in bad weather on the way back and freeze to death. There’s a saying in Icelandic,  að verða úti which basically means to die from exposure. It literally means “to become outside,” that is, to go from “being” to “was” outside. With this bit of history in mind, I can understand why Icelanders use their cars so much but in this particular case we’re in a city where it’s easy enough to walk from one place to another without running the risk of freezing to death…at least I think it is….

Reykjavik Weather

November 13, 2017

Last night we went to the pool. To set the scene, here’s last night weather forecast:

Sleet or rain at close to sealevel in the southwest [the southwest includes Reykjavik] but snow in the Westfjords….Temperature 0 to 5 deg. C

So yeah, I’ve become that person that I never thought I would. I am the person who walks barefoot, in a bathing suit, through snow and sleet, to sit in a hot tub. While my body is submerged in the hot water, the howling winds pelt my face with rain, sleet and snow in the gloom of night. I’m pretty sure this makes me fully qualified to work for the United States Postal Service. I also sweat it out in the steam room and then sit outside on benches covered in icy slush and then maybe hit the sauna before cooling off again in the snow and then hitting the hot tub once more. Sounds like madness but it’s really quite refreshing.

If you read my post about my first month here, you know about The Viking but, if not, I’ll recap. The Viking is the name the husband and I gave to a man we often saw at our local pool. He was tall, wiry, had a long beard, wore a man-bun and often sat stoically with his hands on his knees, in the big hot tub. The husband proposed that he was attempting to attract the attention of tourists looking for a real live Viking in Iceland. Well, since darkness has fallen, we’ve seen hide nor man-bunned hair of The Viking. We once heard him speaking Danish to someone so I suspect he goes a viking to Iceland in the summer and returns to Denmark for the winter. Perhaps we’ll see him once again when the darkness lifts.

November 8, 2017

Good morning, Kettle Talkers. It is 9:09 am and the sky is just beginning to lighten a bit. The dawn is less than half an hour away. In these dark mornings, I find myself waking up in stages. I get up to wake the boys and get them moving. I pack the youngest’s lunch, make sure they eat, brush their teeth and get dressed and in between I retreat to the soft, cozy embrace of my bed which has never before felt so fluffy and divine. I feel myself falling into the haze of half sleep but catch myself in time to get up and check on the boys’ progress and keep them on task. Once they’re out the door I retreat to be bed for a few more minutes, closing my eyes and, if I can manage it, roping the husband into a snuggle. He claims he doesn’t need the extra snuggle time but takes it all the same. Surprisingly, my boys aren’t any harder to wake up than usual in the mornings and aren’t any easier to get into bed at night. Eventually I feel the need to eat and get to work by which time the sky is lighter and it feels more like morning. I eat, I Facebook, I drink my tea and prepare for a day of writing, laundry (there is always laundry) errands interspersed with YouTube videos (mostly vlogs and drag queens).

Since Icelanders don’t have a Thanksgiving, November is pretty much the beginning of the Christmas season. Lights are going up in storefronts along with holiday displays and the grocery stores are already rolling out their “Gleðileg jól” (Merry Christmas) shopping bags. Because I am of a certain age, I find Christmas decorations going up before Thanksgiving distasteful. I’m pretty sure the shift to putting up holiday decorations just after Halloween has been a thing in the States at least since the 90s, but it had already become a habit of mine to feel annoyed by it by then. But you know what? I think I’m a changed woman. Here, in the darkness, I’m thankful for the premature fairy lights, giant glittering snowflakes and red yarn stacked up in the shape of Christmas trees. It’s difficult to work oneself into a funk in the face of sparkling things, shiny red and gold tins decorated with Christmas goats, and tiny Yule Lads with long white beards and wearing little pointy red hats. Be grateful for the light, wherever you may find it.

October 18, 2017

Njalsgata at 7:30 am.

Every morning is darker than the last and it is taking longer and longer for the sun to rise. At 7:30 there is barely a lavender haze on the horizon. Game of Thrones has made it impossible to utter the words, winter is coming, without it sounding ominous but it’s true, winter is coming and it will be dark and its winds sharp and unforgiving. With the crap weather settling in, Icelanders point outside and jokingly ask, so how do you like Iceland? I wish they wouldn’t, it makes me ill. Why does anyone live here?

My left eyelid has developed a twitch. It’s very subtle but it’s there, twitching. I am not sure what the twitching means or if it means anything at all. A combination of things, I imagine. I may just need to get out of the house more. I came out to a cafe today and managed to lock myself out so I have to wait here in the cafe for my oldest son to come home and let me in. I was going to say that getting out actually made the twitch go away but it returned just now to put me in my place. “You think you know me? You don’t know me.” My twitch has an attitude problem. I’ll have to make sure and hunker down somewhere else the next time I lock myself out. I just paid 8 bucks for hummus on toast but they do have free wifi….

When I first moved to New York City I lived in uptown Manhattan’s west side, on Riverside Drive, said river being the Hudson. In the winter, the Hudson Hawk is killer. It is a bitterly cold, biting wind and it nearly literally swept me off my feet on more than one occasion. I would come off the 1 or 9 train (this was back when there still was a 9 train) at 137th and Broadway, walk down to 135th street, take a deep breath and brace myself before turning right. At first, I would sigh in relief, thinking there was no wind and then halfway down the block I would be pushed back and forced to walk Michael Jackson in the “Smooth Criminal” music video style down to the corner and then pray to the baby Jesus that I wouldn’t get blown away as I fought my way to the front doors of my building. At this point, my face would be almost completely numb but I could feel hot tears streaming into my hair from the corners of my eyes. Once I got to the front door, I had to gather what little strength I had left to pull open the door and not be slammed into it as I made my way inside. So that’s the Hudson Hawk. Now, imagine the Hudson Hawk is just…everywhere and it’s always raining, not always heavily, but always—that’s Iceland.

Winter Solstice

Origami box made with paper from one of the Yule Lads.

Sunrise at 11:22. Sunset at 3:29 or 15:29 for my 24 hr clock peeps. The shortest day of the year. With the help of vitamin D, good family, good friends, origami and many a good cup of tea, the increasingly shorter days of winter have passed without much gloom. As I have mentioned, Icelanders go hard when it comes to Christmas decorations. Not so much in the crazy light displays and lawn decorations sort of way but in the tiny Scandinavian Santas popping up everywhere and half Christmas tress attached to the fronts of buildings sort of way.

This year we’re planning an Icelandic-style Christmas. We’ll have dinner at 6 pm, the traditional Icelandic start of Christmas Day, and open presents afterward. The husband assures me he knows how to make an Icelandic Christmas dinner sans the meat– a nut loaf of some kind, glazed potatoes, pickled red cabbage and apple cake for dessert. We haven’t yet decided if we’re doing the Christmas morning Santa gifts too. We shall see.

Of course, January, or what I like to call F*cking January, is still to come but the promise of longer and longer days ahead will be my light at the end of winter’s tunnel.

Happy Solstice and Gelðileg jól!

Angelica Schuyler Church Meets The Earl of Westfjords

The Earl of Westfjords. A delicate Earl Grey with Angelica, perfect for a quiet winter’s evening.

An Earl Grey/Hamilton Inspired Micro-story

Weary of her lavish life with her boring English husband, but unwilling to break her sister’s heart by pursuing her brother-in-law Alexander, Angelica Church née Schuyler flees to Iceland. In the darkness of a winter morning, she wanders into a small cafe in Reykjavík. She warms her hands with a cup of Earl Grey and wonders what her dearest sister, Eliza, is doing at the this very moment. The winds howl outside, rattling the windows and nearly gutting the fire in the hearth. It is so loud that when a man introduces himself as, “Björn, from the Westfjords,” Angelica hears, “Earl of the Westfjords,” unaware that Iceland has no titled families. “Ah,” she muses, “An Earl. It wouldn’t be so bad to be married to an Earl in this fanciful place. It would be ever so amusing.”  She marries the “Earl” on a whim and is rather shocked to find herself spending her days wearing itchy wool sweaters, picking her namesake herb and selling it by the quarter pound while Björn is at sea. Dissatisfied (she will never be satisfied), she returns to England and opens a small tea shop—a front for a radical abolitionist/suffragette group and lives happily ever after.


By Lydia Holt

Our living room full of boxes.

As I write this our shipping container, holding all of our worldly possessions, is down at the harbor. Having cleared customs, all that is left to do is have it delivered and begin unpacking. I can’t wait to get my hands on my lip balm—I had only just found a lip balm that comes close to the magic of Aveda Lip Saver but at a fraction of the cost when we decided to make the big move and the one tube I traveled with is almost finished. I may find the same product or something comparable, here in Reykjavík but until then, I’m happy to be getting my lip balm and all my other familiar creature comforts like our sofa, beds, pillows…clothes that aren’t the same ten things I’ve been wearing for more than a month.

I am happy to say that this first month hasn’t been all that dramatic or traumatic. This ain’t my first Icelandic rodeo so I’ve become somewhat used to no one ever saying excuse me and am moderately proud of my status as locker room ambassador to foreigners unfamiliar with the ways of the Icelandic swimming pool. I see them timidly watching me out of the corner of my eye as I approach the locker room without hesitation and they stand looking at the shoe lockers in confusion. “How do we open it? Do we get changed here? Do we really have to shower naked?” they ask with a note of panic in their voices. Poor lambs, follow me. I don’t say that part, it’s patronizing, but if I were an older British lady I totally would. There are, however, three things that have happened in this first month that stand out. One is amusing, another is surprising and the other is woefully familiar.

First up is amusement. There’s a guy that we see regularly at one of the local pools. He has a man-bun and a long beard. The husband calls him The Viking because we’re pretty sure he goes to the pool to sit all stoic and Viking-like, with his beard and man-bun, in an attempt to attract tourists. This is probably not true but it’s one of the the stories we made up while people watching as the we soaked in the hot tub. So the other day as I’m walking to the bakery (Brauð & Co.) I see him coming out of a store. Thankfully he had passed in front of me and was well on his way before I said hello, thinking he must be a friend of my husband’s that I’d met at some point. Oh the horror I would have felt upon cheerfully saying “Hi” and feeling proud of myself for being friendly and social (which is against my very nature) only to realize, as the final sound left my throat, that I didn’t actually know this man. He would, no doubt, be looking at me in confusion or better/worse yet, a smile of glee that his man-bun and beard had finally worked their magic. It took years for this kind of thing to happen to me in Brooklyn and I’m a homebody who rarely left the neighborhood so for it to happen in the first two weeks here was unexpected.

Now the second thing is quite surprising to me and makes me feel like I owe Peggy, who works from her home office in Indiana while the kids are in school and Mandeep, who works at the call center, my sincerest apologies for not appreciating all their hard work. Even if Peggy and Mandeep don’t give a flying rat’s toenail about whether or not my wifi is working, the company they work for does and Peg and Deep know how to follow a carefully crafted script designed to help them help me and handle just about any situation that may arise during the course of our conversation which may be recorded for quality assurance and training purposes. Now, when I called the phone/TV/internet company to make sure I was setting up our router correctly, I pushed 5 for English because there are enough non-Icelandic speaking folk in Iceland these days to warrant having the customer service menu in English. I thought to myself, well that’s thoughtful, and according to the menu voice over guy, the call would be recorded. He did not say why, only that the call would be recorded, that should have been my first clue that I was no longer in the land of exceptional customer service. Another voice came on and told me I was number one in the queue and then California Dreaming started to play. The Mamas & The Papas gently lulled me into a sense of familiarity and comfort. I was thinking, this is just like being on hold with Time Warner, or Spectrum as they call themselves these days. So after I finally get through we go through a bit of back and forth to figure out what needs to be connected where but finally get it sorted out. Once the connection is established and in working order I say thank you, she says okay and then CLICK. That’s it. Click. Okay, see, I was already a little miffed that we didn’t get our service on the day they said we would and that the husband had to go pick up all the equipment and I had to set it up and then old girl couldn’t even pull out some rudimentary customer service and ask “Is there anything else I can help you with this morning?” Say what you will about Time Warner being slow as hell about getting out to your house or Verizon having you on hold for half an hour but Peggy would not have done me like this because Peggy takes customer service seriously. Mandeep would have apologized about the service not being ready when they said it would be and given us a week of HBO for free or something. I have worked in customer service. I KNOW Peggy and Mandeep don’t care but they have been trained and work hard to make it seem like they care about you as a fellow human being and about your satisfaction as a customer. I felt like I was interrupting her day with my questions. Just thinking about it gets my blood pressure up. I don’t know why they record the calls over at the Icelandic Phone Company That Shall Not Be Named but it sure as hell ain’t for quality assurance and training purposes.

This last thing caught me off guard but my 41 years of experience in dealing with low-key and overt racism in the US helped me get through it without being forced to play out the two stereotypes that I try my best not to perpetuate —the entitled, obnoxious American and the angry black woman. Last week, an Icelandic friend who lives in the states but was visiting Iceland suggested I get the boys library cards. She said they have kids’ books in English and a large comic book section and all the boys need is their kennitala (Icelandic ID number). Great! We head on over to the library and approach the small desk to ask if this is where we can get library cards. There’s an older woman behind the desk. I ask about the cards and before she can ask the question I see about to come out of her mouth I tell her they have kennitalas. “Do they have ID?” Now, it might have been my imagination but her tone was dripping with condescension and if ever there was a simpering smile she was wearing it like a badge of honor. I must have looked confused because she went on to say, “It doesn’t matter if it’s in another language we just…” and she made some half-assed gesturing motion toward my children which I took to mean, they could have stolen some “real” Icelandic children’s kennitalas to get their hands on these books. Here is where my experience kicked in. I did not kick her in the shins nor call her a racist, xenophobic cow nor storm out after swearing to never step in that gotdamn library again. Instead, I smiled broadly and said, we’ll be back and calmly walked out. I didn’t go back the same day because I couldn’t guarantee that if the same woman was there I wouldn’t grab her up by the scruff of her wattle and shake mess out of her. “Was that racist?” my oldest asked. “Maybe or somebody peed in her Cheerios this morning…or both,” I answered. The next day there was a young man at the desk and he helped us out without hesitation. The woman from the day before was there too. She had on her coat and looked like she was leaving for her lunch break as we walked up to the desk. I stared straight at her, daring her to pull the same mess in front of another employee but she did all she could to avoid making eye contact with me. When my son was ready to check out, another woman happily showed him how to use the self check out system.

My sanity in a cup.

Since I first began writing this post some tiki-torch carrying white supremacists converged on Charlottesville, Virginia to show their asses. This is nothing new but it does seemed to have spurred more conversation amongst white folks about white supremacy, how saying “not it” isn’t enough and how it’s up to white folk to dismantle white supremacy. Maybe the talk will lead to action but white supremacy is embedded in the foundation of America and rooting it out will not be a simple task. In the meantime, I’ll be over here in Iceland and praying that I won’t have to choose between Texas or New York citizenship if the Union finally falls apart.

It Happened

The teacup before the tea. Photo by Lydia Holt

It happened. It actually happened. A few months ago when the husband broached the idea of moving to Iceland I was shook, as the kids say. I felt (and will probably continue to feel off and on) scared and anxious and my muffin of a husband gave me the space to feel my feelings. I poured myself many cups of tea and called my momma, because that’s what you do when the shit hits the fan both literally and figuratively. She assured me that no matter what we decided to do– regardless of if, when or where we moved– everything would be OK. Perhaps it was her reassurance that helped nudge me in the right direction but soon after that I  felt a weight lifted from my shoulders. When had I decided that I was incapable of changing my life’s course? I had locked myself into the mentality that my life could only be lived in New York and nowhere else and when I asked myself, why? I didn’t have an answer. New York is wonderful in many ways but it was bleeding us dry. Rent, health insurance, RENT and the cost of just about everything else is sky high in New York. The cost of living is also high in Reykjavík but when healthcare is dirt cheap, activities for the kids cost almost nothing and we have family here, our quality of life improves considerably. I may be stubborn as a mule but I ain’t stupid.

With that mental hurdle behind me but still not ecstatic about the move (because I may have acquired some degree of mental flexibility but I am still a New York City girl at heart), we packed and purged and purged and packed and purged. How the hell did we accumulate so much crap in our apartment? And purged some more yet somehow still managed to have enough stuff to load up into a crate and move to Reykjavík (I like to sing that last part to the tune of The Ballad of Jed Clampett a.k.a. The Beverly Hillbillies theme song — So we loaded up the crate and we moved to Reyk-ja-vííííí´k. Iceland that is. Swimming pools, lava flows). After we said our goodbyes to our dear friends and school was out for summer we headed to the Great State of Texas for a week with my family and did absolutely nothing. The boys ran amok in the backyard with their cousins, spraying each other with the water hose, and I hung out with my family, catching up, harassing each other and breathing together. We soaked up all the Texas heat we could before heading to Iceland with a pit stop in NY and after twenty four hours arrived in Iceland. Here I am, blogging in Iceland. No, for real, I really am.

Me, walking these Reykjavík streets.
Photo by Lydia Holt

The day we arrived in Iceland was the day before a friend from college who was visiting Iceland was leaving so we met her that evening for a mini-in-real-life-not-Facebook-catch-up. How lucky is that? But listen to this, we arrived on a Saturday morning and I’m writing this on the following Monday and we’ve already checked off most of our bureaucratic to do boxes. Yup, keep reading, I’ll explain.

If anything is emblematic of how small and efficient Iceland is, it is the ease with which one can get shit done. In less than two hours we had registered the husband and kids at our new address, begun the application process for my residency, got health insurance (I won’t tell you the cost of the private health insurance we got to cover us until we are eligible for coverage by the national healthcare system, it would be too cruel to my fellow Americans) and the husband set up a bank account. Go ahead, slap the table and look all agog. I know. It’s unbelievable. I still can’t shake the feeling that the other shoe is going to drop and we’ll have to go back through the whole process again and then we’ll have to stand in line for hours before sitting in uncomfortable chairs for another couple of hours, during which time our kids, who will have to accompany us because we have to prove they 1) exist 2) haven’t been kidnapped by my husband, will begin shrieking and howling in pain and boredom and when it seems they will pass out in despair, to finally get our turn in line, fill out all the paperwork, wait for our turn again and then be told that I not only checked a wrong box but used a blue ink pen instead of a black one and don’t have the proper 13 points of identification and stool sample so I need to come back after 5 to 10 business days but only if it’s a full moon cause that’s just about what it took, sans howling children, for the husband to get his residency in the states. Knock on wood, friends. Knock on wood.

Me, standing in our empty apartment.
Photo by Lydia Holt

Our stuff won’t be here for a few weeks so we’ll be staying with family for a bit. I don’t completely feel like we’ve moved here, even with the packing, schlepping and 24 hours of travel. I think it’s most likely because we don’t have all of our stuff and aren’t in our own place so it still kind of feels like any other visit to Iceland. In a few weeks, when we’re unpacking and settling in I may have a freak out as it sets in that I really moved across the ocean to a different country and I don’t speak the language. I’m hoping not to freak out but it would probably be more entertaining to you, my Kettle Talkers, if I did. If I don’t freak out, I promise to include a sensational fictionalized account of events for your voyeuristic pleasure. Until then, the kettle is on.


A week or so ago I was pondering this question: Do I get a power adapter for my cute, little, orange tea kettle or do I get a new tea kettle? You see Kettle Talkers, me, the husband and the kids are moving to Iceland this summer and some difficult decisions regarding packing will have to be made. No sooner had I written about my adapter conundrum than the kettle up and died. It began turning on by itself and then wouldn’t turn on at all. Such a good kettle, making things easy for me in this time of transition. I loathe transitions of all sorts. I hate the saying, it’s more about the journey, than the destination. The journey can be fun, yes, but often it is uncomfortable and it takes too damn long. If transporter technology were to become a thing tomorrow I’d be the first in line. Beam me up, Scotty. One for transport, O’Brien. Scratch that. Transporter travel would probably do something weird to my body rhythms and I’d break out in hives and have insomnia for days. It’s much too sudden now that I think about it. These processes are uncomfortable yet necessary, like mosquitos. They’re little biting, disease carrying jerks but if they disappeared from the face of the earth everything would be thrown out of balance.

Me, on ice at Jökulsárlón, Iceland. Summer 2016

My point is that transitions are stressful and we’re undergoing a big one. With the addition of myself and my two kids to Reykjavik we will push the population of black residents well into the teens. I haven’t combed through the city’s vital statistics but I doubt that I am far off in my estimation. I wouldn’t go so far as to call myself a celebrity in Iceland but when I walk the streets people do sometimes stare and I’m pretty sure they’re thinking, “Hey, isn’t that Snorri’s wife?” because everybody knows just about everybody in Iceland, “I heard he married a black woman.” I’m not a seeker of celebrity, but as is said about greatness, some strive for it while others have it thrust upon them. I could parlay that celebrity into something I suppose. The idea of becoming a You Tuber has crossed my mind — check it out, it’s a black woman living in Iceland – but it runs counter to my core way of being. Random people would comment and some would say some pretty horrible things, because that’s what humans do, and then I would feel the need to respond and I’d hear Michelle saying, “When they go low, we go high,” in my head and I’d be like, bump that, Michelle, I need to tell Becker about his dumb-ass self and it just would not be a good look for me…. Or it could be really fun. But the whole walking around with a camera all the time thing…that’s just weird and the whole vibe is a bit narcissistic in a way that doesn’t fit with my natural shy introversion. And yet, I feed the You Tube beast myself. I have fallen down many a You Tube hole and discovered some very interesting people and places. Decisions, decisions.

Downtown Reykjavik is walkable so that’s great but going anywhere outside of that kind of requires car travel which I don’t enjoy but, I grew up in Texas, I’ll get used to it. There is one thing about moving to Iceland that will be a real challenge for me — the climate. The lack of real heat in the summer and soul crushing darkness in the winter is worrying to me, to say the least. I need four seasons to feel at peace but could make it if I had a hot summer in there somewhere. I was born in the summer in Texas so I’m not talking a little warm I am talking H-O-T hot. It is nice to have cold, snowy winters — perfect weather for drinking lots of tea and hot cider — but…. Iceland has plenty of sunlight in the summer but the heat, not so much. This will undoubtedly call for an increase in tea consumption just to stay warm but too much caffeine turns me jittery. I’m going to need a LOT of herbal tea. Let me know what some of your favorites are in the comments below.

Hello, Good Morning!

Campsite at Atlavík, Fljótsdalshérað, Iceland. Photo by Lydia Holt


Today Feels Like

A glade filled with sun
Warming us for a moment
Before the wind comes

Good morning Kettle Talkers! It’s another warm sunny day in Brooklyn. I am reminded of the time we were camping in Iceland and the wind coming off a glacier was so violent that it ripped a whole in the tent. We broke camp and drove to the next campsite where we found an idyllic glade filled with sun and, miraculously, no wind. Thankfully, we had been given a spare tent and were able to find a cozy little spot in the sun. The moral of the story, don’t stay in bad situations—find a way out—and always carry a spare tent. Enjoy the sun, wherever you may find it!

Winter Brings Out The Haikus In Me

Inside a Yellow Tulip Photo by Lydia Holt




Winter is still here

Thank God for yellow tulips

I’m waiting for spring




Greetings Kettle Talkers! It’s been months. I know. If you want to see what I’ve been up to while not updating my blog, check out my Instagram. My default setting is hermit so come winter I want to do nothing more than stay inside, sip tea and wait for spring in peace. Thankfully I have two kids and live in New York City which forces me to get up and out even when I don’t want to. One of the things I’ve been doing is writing a haiku a day since the beginning of February. Why? I don’t know. This winter has just been an especially haiku-ish one, for me at least. I’ve collected some of them here for your enjoyment. You can find my daily haikus on Medium and Twitter.

Tea Photo by Lydia Holt



The perfect meeting

Leaves from the earth in water

Fire it and blow


Snowfall in Prospect Park Photo by Lydia Holt



Silence surrounds us

Even while the air whispers

Quieting our steps




Winter Sky Photo by Lydia Holt

Silence, you are bliss

Tis the company of trees

That I most prefer


To Gales 

Thanks, now my face hurts

My cheeks don’t feel like my own

Throbbing on my face



Snow Photo by Lydia Holt


Winter 2

Bundle up and trudge

Rotate the world, spin, repeat

Look for the sun, up




by Lydia Holt

The blizzard is over

Slush awaits on the corners

Wade or jump, your choice



Burning, fiery bright

Roiling energy spinning

Pulling small things near


Prince Rogers Nelson

Violets in St. Paul's Church Cemetery, Mount Vernon, NY, April 22, 2016. Photo by Lydia Holt.
Violets in St. Paul’s Church Cemetery, Mount Vernon, NY, April 22, 2016. Photo by Lydia Holt.

It has been 11 days since Prince Rogers Nelson (June 7, 1958 – April 21, 2016) left this world for one of never ending happiness where he can always see the sun, day or night. I was shocked by how his leaving put a hole in my chest. It felt so personal as if I had lost my beloved, whacky uncle. The uncle that just the other day had called me while I was in the middle of picking up the kids from school to play me a clip of his latest song then yelled, “Can you make it funkier than this?!” and hung up. Needless to say I have spent these days listening to his music over and over and marveling at his genius.

I follow Jay Smooth on Facebook. He posted a video of Bruce Springsteen opening his concert at the Barclay’s Center by singing “Purple Rain” in honor of Prince. It was poignant and heartfelt but all I could think while watching it was, damn, Prince does it so much better! to which Jay responded in the comments, as if he knew what we were all thinking, “To think that from now on we will only ever see other people perform this…..” He was stating the obvious but it shook me to my core and brought out my inner Florida Evans – DAMN, DAMN, DAMN! I am so thankful and grateful to have seen him perform his music live, to see him dance, strut and spin across the stage while flawlessly playing any instrument he happened to pick up along the way. He was a phenomenal human being.

Prince. Photo from PRINCEINSTAGRAM
Prince. Photo from PRINCEINSTAGRAM

The day after Prince passed, I chaperoned a field trip up to St. Paul’s Church National Historic Site in Mount Vernon with my oldest son’s fourth grade class. It’s quite the schlep from Brooklyn so we took a school bus. On the way back the kids were tired and mostly quiet. I sat next to my ten-year-old boy scrolling through Facebook and Instagram looking at photos, videos, remembrances of the Purple One and sharing them with him. He knows that I love Prince and has heard me play his music but he is also blissfully unaware of anything that is not dinosaur or video game related. Both my husband and I are music lovers. My oldest knows what good music is, likes it well enough and can even play a little “Purple Haze” on the guitar but you won’t catch him listening to it on repeat for hours on end. I hoped that by showing him how people all over the world were paying tribute to Prince that he could get a small glimpse of what he meant to me and what he meant to music. As we sat quietly, bouncing along the BQE, in a way that only the completely innocent can, he asked, “Did Prince play the guitar?” I paused. If anyone else had asked the question I would have thought them an idiot but as I said before, my sweet boy lives in his own world. “Yes. He played the motherfuckin'(said that part in my head) guitar.”

I wrote the following for The Pickaninny Papers five years ago on his birthday and it expresses what I will always love about what Prince brought to the world. Rest in peace my dear Prince.

Prince Rogers Nelson

Very few people have the courage to be who they were meant to be, connecting to the universal being (you may call it God), maxing out their potential and shining a light so bright it can be hard to look at them, although it is equally difficult to look away. These people truly are stars. The word is thrown around so easily these days to describe merely famous people but on June 7, 1958 a true star was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota. His name is Prince Rogers Nelson. I’m not sure how he walks the earth without exploding, his creative genius is so powerful. In truth, I find my grasp of human language inadequate to describe Prince’s impact on the world. He is being who he was born to be and it is a beautiful thing to behold. Happy birthday Prince!

This Is Not A New Year’s Resolution


I have been on the outs with my writing since October. My writing thinks I should be giving it more attention and I think it would be easier to learn Korean through watching dramas on DramaFever than to write anything someone else would find worth reading. I’ve written maybe 1,000 words in the last three months. Those 1,000 words were part of an attempt to jump start my writing via a short short story competition. The deadline was ten days ago. I still haven’t finished the story. The annoying truth is that my writing is right. The only way to get out of a writing slump is to write but lately I have had little to no motivation to overcome my writing inertia. As a means of inspiring me to get back in the writing game, a fellow writer-in-quills gave me a book for Christmas, 100 Years of the Best American Short Stories edited by Lorrie Moore and Heidi Pitlor. It’s a thick, hardcover book packed to the seams with meaty short stories but it isn’t heavy. I still marvel at the weight of thick books these days. They are frighteningly light. What do they do to the paper to make it so light? I want to say they bewitch it so that I can envision Endora from Bewitched, floating above massive reams of paper, with her bright red hair and in a purple and green gown, making the soon-to-be book pages nearly weightless with a snap of her fingers. Darren would be there, of course, to give his classic slack-jawed, bug-eyed reaction to which Endora would respond, “Derwood, make yourself useful and catch a fly while you’re at it.”

But I suspect the folks down at the paper mill may be using more of a bird bone type of technique. If I looked at it under a microscope would the paper not be simply flattened pulp but a fine lattice work of pulp threads? Lace pulp? In any case, my point is that the book is a literary and technological wonder and it’s size is a bit intimidating and not made for bedtime reading. I know I can’t be the only person to have ever dropped a book on my face while reading in bed and no matter how light those pages are it would certainly make my eyes water if it hit the bridge of my nose.

I didn’t begin reading the book right away. It sat on my nightstand for a few days before I moved it to the kitchen table where I do most of my writing. I made a cup of tea and sat down to it using a book weight to hold down the hundreds of pages so that I might sip and read with ease. I often debate whether or not to read the introductions to books. At times it makes sense to read an introduction to put the text within a larger context, especially with non-fiction. With fiction I’m not always convinced that it’s necessary but this introduction was written by Lorrie Moore so I decided it deserved a read. It was reading the first few sentences of this introduction that convinced me that any attempt I make to write is like the Delta Quadrant resisting the Borg–futile. Yes, yes, Lorrie Moore has been honing her craft for decades and I’ve been half-assin’ it for one but still, I’m pretty darn sure my chances of making it into her league are slim to zilch. If we were at a track meet, Lorrie Moore would be on the American or Jamaican team with Toni Morrison and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and I would be the on the Latvian team–as an alternate, if there is such a thing. She crafts sentences while I string some words together and hope they make sense. Her introduction was gorgeous, at least what I read of it. I couldn’t finish reading it. I felt like a phony before her words–dogcatcher Herman Smith from Atlantic City, New Jersey caught out by Dorothy and the gang, pretending to be the great and powerful Oz. Actually, I’m not quite that delusional but I love The Wiz and Richard Pryor as Herman Smith is my go-to apologetic fraud.


Not that it makes much sense within my own logic, but I did go on to begin reading the short stories and didn’t feel at all like Herman Smith behind a silver Oz mask. The stories are in chronological order each with a brief biography of the writer so the authors in first half of the book are mostly on the other side of existence. Lorrie Moore is the successful mentor I want to impress and emulate and the dead writers are like grandparents patting me on the head and smiling at my clumsy efforts. If I were to proudly bring them my latest creation, they would chuckle and say, “Well, would you look at that.” I read their stories free of self-judgment, in awe and admiration. If I ever want to read that introduction without feeling completely embarrassed, I will have to get back into writing training, taking time everyday to sit in front of a blank page, string some words together and rewrite and rewrite and edit and rewrite some more. This is going to take a lot of tea.