One of the pleasant side effects of travel is a continued interest in the places you’ve visited. I’m not going ape over French politics, but I started following an English-language website called the Reykjavik Grapevine after our trip there and will check in from time to time. This week’s top story: Tragedy at Reynisfjara.

No, I don’t know how to pronounce it. But we went there. It’s a magnificent place. Here’s 19-year-old Kate, looking like just another crag among many:

The crags are part of the attraction there, and the caves, but mostly it’s the beach, which is comprised of millions of the smoothest black pebbles you ever saw:

This is the southern tip of Iceland, and the sea is ferocious and unpredictable there. There are signs — so many signs — in multiple languages — so many languages — warning of “sneaker” waves, which live up to their name, and can sweep those who come too close off their feet and, quickly, out to sea.

And yet, YouTube is full of videos of tourists walking right up to the edge of the foam, ha ha, then getting hit by a sneaker wave and, within seconds, in dire peril. Someone usually is able to get them out. This week, it didn’t work. Someone died.

The Reykjavik Grapevine interviewed a tourist guide who often takes groups there:

“Once people are off the bus, as a guide, I always go down there,” David told the Grapevine. “I’m there the whole time. I go down ahead. My standard thing is I tell them how dangerous it is, and I tell people that where the waves are finishing on the beach, you give it at least 10 metres. You don’t go any closer and you always, always keep an eye on the ocean. I tell them that I will be there, and I don’t expect them to go any further than I say. I’ll tell them that they will see people doing really crazy stuff; playing chicken with the ocean, thinking it’s fun. You are not sheep. Use your brain, use your instinct, and listen to my words. To this day, I’ve had a few people get wet feet and that’s it, and I’ve been taking people there for over 15 years.”

While he says that this is common practice for experienced guides, there are limitations to just how much power they have over their groups.

“The problem with being a guide is, I have no authority,” he said. “After the last big incident, we’d be down there, screaming at people to get away from the ocean. Some people listen to us, but then there’s some people who will confront us and say ‘What are you, police?’ They’ll be swearing at us, telling us to f*ck off and all this.”

Who among us hasn’t done something stupid? But I look at this and think: Man, swept out to sea in the far north Atlantic while on vacation is a pretty stupid — but undeniably dramatic! — way to go.

Speaking of decidedly less dramatic passings, I’m remiss in not mentioning the loss of Ann Hilton Fisher’s mother, Miriam. Ann comments here, but not often, and is far more active on social media, particularly Facebook. Over the years, I’ve been charmed by her stories about Miriam, who is — was — something of a love dervish, serving her community (Marquette, Mich.), her church (First Presbyterian) and her friends and family. She was a firecracker to the end of her life; one of my favorite pictures is of her and Ann swimming in Lake Superior not many years ago, as the last of the winter’s ice bobs around them. She was one of those women who took in boarders at her house, students at Northern Michigan University, and some of their stories about her abundant kindness will move you to tears. Anyway, Miriam finally went to her (surely abundant) reward at 96 while we were in France, and her memorial was this week. There’s a site called Padlet that compiles all the ephemera of these events, and Miriam’s is worth poking around in. I wish it allowed hyperlinking to individual bits of it, but you can’t have everything. If you control-F to “Carrier,” you’ll find one of her boarder’s testimonies, which I think gives you a sense of what Miriam was all about. I also loved her story called “The Gift of Water,” about her life as the child of a missionary working in Iran.

OK, then. We’re enjoying a warm day that will end in rain, and then Indian summer will be over for good, they promise us. Had to happen eventually. Good weekend, all.

Posted at 4:25 pm in Current events |

33 responses to “Sneakers.”

  1. brian stouder said on November 11, 2021 at 5:01 pm

    Is this the thing also called a ‘rip-tide’, or am I muddying the water? I recall getting pulled pretty forcefully by the returning/rebounding surf years ago in San Diego…and indeed, that may still be a “None of the above” alternative…!

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  2. Sherri said on November 11, 2021 at 5:45 pm

    In Northern California, I learned “never turn your back on the ocean.” Ocean Beach, in San Francisco, is notorious for sneaker waves and drownings.

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  3. Alan Stamm said on November 11, 2021 at 6:08 pm

    Thanks for steering me to read a bit about “the angel of Marquette.” Jeff Carrier’s tribute is delightful, yes, as are photos nearby of Ann’s high-impact mom.

    An abundant life indeed.

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  4. Joe Kobiela said on November 11, 2021 at 8:31 pm

    If we all could aspire to like Miriam, the world would be a much better place.
    Pilot Joe

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  5. Jeff Gill said on November 11, 2021 at 9:09 pm

    More Miriams, please.

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  6. Deborah said on November 11, 2021 at 9:44 pm

    Wow, Miriam was amazing. Ann, how did you find nn.c?

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  7. Ann said on November 11, 2021 at 9:49 pm

    Oh Nancy, how very kind of you. She was an amazing woman. I often said to her “we’ve been so lucky,” and she would always correct me to “we’ve been so blessed.” I’ve been around long enough to know that not everyone gets parents whose last years are cogent and cheerful and siblings who are uniformly supportive and loving. She was always delighted to hear the comments people made on the posts about her, though none more than the 95th birthday challenge when I encouraged people to do a good deed in her name. 120 people responded, saying they’d delivered bread to their neighbors, raised money for new tires for a stranger, donated to women’s shelters and food pantries, staffed suicide prevention lines, held the hand of a stranger who was terrified about her mammogram, monitored showers at a homeless shelter, and much much more. What cracked her up the most, though, was the friend who donated toward prosthetic legs for a rescue goat named Bear. She didn’t know which was funnier–the idea of goat prosthetics or that a goat would be named Bear. I should repeat the idea for her 97th next month. It would do us all good.

    You can hyperlink to specific posts on padlet. Here’s the direct link to Jeff Carrier’s post.

    Since you mentioned Jeff, let me also put in a plug for his new blog, . Not easy growing up gay when your father is a Baptist preacher in rural Tennessee.

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  8. Ann said on November 11, 2021 at 10:08 pm

    Deborah, I’m one of the many who found our gracious hostess in the Bob Greene era.

    Here’s the direct link to her “Gift of Water” story, complete with photo of the swimming pool in Hamadan, c.1934. The arthritis in her hands was so bad that she could no longer use a pen or a computer, but she dictated the story pretty much as you see it here, in February 2020, just before the shutdown. Her last piece of substantial writing, though she still dicated some perfect condolence notes even after that.

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  9. MarkH said on November 11, 2021 at 10:54 pm

    Wow. Just Wow. Finding out about Miriam today is just what I needed. More Miriams is what the world needs, as Jeff said. It’s about the giving. ‘Blessed’ indeed. Peace and Grace to you and your family, Ann.

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  10. Dexter Friend said on November 12, 2021 at 1:44 am

    Those black stones are all over the beach at Carlsbad, CA, too. One restaurant at Old San Diego had the entrance walk paved with anchoring concrete and a million black stones.
    I don’t know if they were up the road a few miles where nance learned to surf 5 years ago.

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  11. John H. McDonald said on November 12, 2021 at 10:21 am

    Brian, a “rip tide” (or, more accurately, a “rip current”) is when all the water pushed up onto a beach by the waves flows back out to sea at one place. Someone who can swim, and recognizes the situation, can just swim parallel to the beach and will get out of the rip current fairly quickly, then they can swim back to shore. A “sneaker wave” is an unusually large wave in a series of waves; it can happen when two waves combine into one, or just be the result of a really big storm that’s really far away (some of the waves you saw in San Diego came from storms near Australia).

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  12. kayak woman said on November 12, 2021 at 10:58 am

    I was sorry to hear of Miriam’s death. Reading about it here is making my head spin thinking what a small world it is.

    I’m a longtime follower (mainly lurker) of Nancy’s blog, introduced to it by her buddy jcb, who is married to my best friend.

    Ann’s brother lives here in Ann Arbor and our daughters went to public school together, so I know him and spent a lot of time hanging out with his first wife (who died way too young) volunteering for our kids’ youth theatre guild.

    I have met Ann but don’t know her very well in person but a couple years ago “yooperann” interacted with my friend (jcb’s wife) on instagram. I quickly figured out yooperann was my Ann Arbor friend’s sister Ann. We all have yooperland roots but I couldn’t think how Ann and my best friend would know each other. Probably somehow from here though!

    Finally, a childhood friend of mine went to NMU and was one of Miriam’s boarders if I have it right. I didn’t know the family then at all as they are Marquette based and I’m from Sault Ste. Siberia.

    I am also amazed at Miriam’s life and accomplishments. She will surely be missed.

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  13. Dorothy said on November 12, 2021 at 11:27 am

    Gosh those were lovely stories! Thanks to all of you who shared the links. Miriam sounds like someone I’d have loved to have known.

    I know a very sad story about a family that was on vacation, visiting relatives at Thanksgiving, and one of their daughters got very sick and passed away while they were visiting. Their pediatrician gave the okay for them to travel, but her bad cold/fever got worse on arrival. I think she was 4 or 5 years old, and she was a cousin to one of my daughter’s middle school friends. It’s the only time I’ve gone to a funeral home on the occasion of a child’s death. I still think about how awful that must have been for them – and I am still haunted by the idea that they left their home in Georgia with 2 children and went home with only 1.

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  14. Joe Kobiela said on November 12, 2021 at 11:41 am

    Having to put your dog down really sucks.
    Toby was golden retriever #6 he was a rescue we got 7 yrs ago we think he was between 12-14yrs old which is old for that breed.
    He was a good boy.
    Pilot Joe

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  15. basset said on November 12, 2021 at 12:16 pm

    It is hard, we’ve had to put down two goldens here. Sympathy and support to you, Joe.

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  16. Jeff Borden said on November 12, 2021 at 12:21 pm

    Until we got a dog weeks after I received a cancer diagnosis, we’d never enjoyed the company of a canine. Now, I can certainly understand the sadness of those who must part with their company. I believe it was Lewis C.K. who noted that getting a pet was “a countdown to heartbreak,” because we usually outlive them. My folks had one dog and after she died declared they would never go through that kind of grief again.

    Our Cosmo is 11.5 years old and his health has been iffy since May. Our original vet, who runs a one-man operation, was convinced he was feeling pain and prescribed Tramadol, but still his malaise continued. Finally, we reached a breaking point and changed vets. Just this week, we learned our buddy has a huge growth in his stomach, which is why he has lost almost 20 pounds. The poor guy can barely eat. He is scheduled for surgery next Friday. We’re now hoping the growth is benign and he’ll recover. But we are braced for bad news.

    I wish we had more Miriams in the world. People like that balance our world against all the ugliness that sometimes seems to block out the sun.

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  17. Marge Taylor said on November 12, 2021 at 1:35 pm

    Joe, been there twice. Old age with both gold goldens. Sweetest breed.

    The best!

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  18. LAMary said on November 12, 2021 at 3:38 pm

    Joe, I had to make the tough decision with my 17 year old Lab in July. He was a great dog and companion and I miss him so much.

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  19. JodiP said on November 12, 2021 at 5:08 pm

    Oh, Miriam sounds so lovely! How wonderful to be such an anchor and inspiration for people.

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  20. David C said on November 12, 2021 at 5:13 pm

    I’m so sorry, Joe. We’ve had to make that decision for four kitties. Two when they were in their late teens and two in what should have been the primes of their lives. Even though you know it’s time and it’s the last loving decision you make for them, it hurts so much.

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  21. diane said on November 13, 2021 at 7:29 am

    So very sorry Joe. That is indeed very hard.

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  22. ROGirl said on November 13, 2021 at 8:06 am

    Pet losses aren’t easy.

    I’m kind of surprised that animals are being prescribed Tramadol. When it was prescribed for me after minor surgery it didn’t do much besides make me tired and lightheaded.

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  23. Deborah said on November 13, 2021 at 9:08 am

    It snowed for about 15 minutes in Chicago yesterday afternoon. It was very intense snow while it was happening and then it was over. My sister said it snowed in Minnesota yesterday too. This has been such a warm fall, it’s scary.

    I’ll say once again how wonderful it is to read about someone as kind and helpful as Miriam after reading about so many mean and spiteful people over the last 5 years. It is balm for the soul.

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  24. alex said on November 13, 2021 at 10:40 am

    Finally got to spend some time with Miriam and it was well worth it.

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  25. Heather said on November 13, 2021 at 11:53 am

    Miriam sounds amazing. The people that knew her were very lucky. In this narcissistic age, she is a good reminder that one doesn’t have to be famous or “successful” to make a big difference.

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  26. Deborah said on November 13, 2021 at 6:56 pm

    Today was one of those days that I needed to be distracted because the A-hole owner of one of the Santa Fe condos is raging again and she sent us all a long email in almost all caps that accused us of discriminating against her and harassing her because we expect her to follow the rules. But clearly she is the one discriminating and harassing. It’s hard for me to shake that kind of stuff off and forget about it even though I know she’s completely wrong. So I was looking for something to do in Chicago that could make me not let her take up space in my head. Because it was a cold gray day in Chicago we decided to walk down to the Art Institute and tour the 2nd and 3rd floors of the Modern Wing and that was just the ticket. The one thing that I found both sad and joyful was a mother and her son with downs syndrome and probably his grandmother touring sort of near us. They were engaged and interested including the kid. Then we were in one of the galleries and this guard was screaming across the whole room to someone not to touch a sculpture. Of course it was the downs syndrome kid who couldn’t help himself from touching one of the oh so touchable Rodin sculptures. The poor kid looked so ashamed when his mom pulled his hand away. I actually cried because I felt so bad for the kid, he did what was so compelling to do. It was sweet and sad at the same time but it did keep from feeling sorry for myself for a while.

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  27. Deborah said on November 13, 2021 at 7:53 pm

    OK, I stand corrected it wasn’t a Rodin sculpture, it was this Matisse sculpture But isn’t it just so touchable?

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  28. LAMary said on November 14, 2021 at 11:40 am

    Since roadie son is off on another long schlep that will have him away for Thanksgiving and Christmas we did Thanksgiving yesterday. It was tricky finding a turkey. I advise anyone planning on serving the bird to pre-order. I also discovered that using heavy cream instead of evaporated milk in pumpkin pie filling produces an excellent pie. I followed the old Betty Crocker recipe but had no evaporated milk. Had a pint of heavy cream I planned to whip for pie topping and the result was a mousse like texture.

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  29. David C said on November 14, 2021 at 12:00 pm

    Our grocery store has scads of turkeys. They have an open freezer case that’s probably thirty feet long and three feet across with turkey’s stacked three high the full length. Since it’s just the two of us and turkey is really boring we usually have a chicken for Thanksgiving so it doesn’t matter anyway.

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  30. LAMary said on November 14, 2021 at 1:18 pm

    Not like that here for turkey. I ordered from four places. Three out of four sent me ” no longer available ” emails by Wednesday.

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  31. Suzanne said on November 14, 2021 at 1:45 pm

    We are having a small family gathering so I bought turkey breasts rather than a whole turkey, which my husband will smoke on the grill. The grocery stores in NE Indiana seem to have plenty of turkeys.

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  32. Deborah said on November 14, 2021 at 2:27 pm

    No turkey for us for thanksgiving anymore. We started a tradition of my husband making risotto with scallops but we’ve had risotto a lot lately so I’ve kinda ODed on it. We haven’t yet decided what we’ll have, LB and I have been thinking about it for weeks. I do like turkey dressing and miss that. Who knows maybe we’ll get a breast and make stuffing and mashed potatoes with gravy, with some green vegetable. What’s a good way to make the breast?

    Speaking of food, yesterday I roasted chicken breasts wrapped in bacon, and Lordy was that good. We still had some smoked steak cut bacon left over from when my husband made cassoulet, I had some chicken breasts that I needed to use so I asked LB if she knew of a way to use those together. She found a recipe which she texted me and I altered it a bit and it turned out fantastic and very easy. We had extra thick, steak cut bacon because we couldn’t find salt pork which the cassoulet called for, the manager of the meat department at Whole Foods told us that would be a good substitute. The cassoulet turned out meh by the way. It was good but for all the trouble it took to make it should have been amazing. He had made a simpler, faster version of cassoulet a while ago and I liked that much better.

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  33. Julie Robinson said on November 14, 2021 at 3:23 pm

    We’re doing the traditional meal for 10, and it feels like a big deal because we’re so rusty. But we had a strategy session and figured out when each dish would need the oven, crockpot, stove top, etc. Our son’s gf helped us with all her project management skills. It’s still going to be tricky since both our kitchen and oven are tiny.

    We had to buy an all natural turkey without sodium and you would not believe how much it cost. Damn it better be good.

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