Rock Eel Cafe – Picnic on the Plain Part 2

Rock Eel Cafe – Picnic on the Plain Part 2

Rock Eel Café – Picnic on the Plain Part 2 (Episode 4)


By Matt Weilert


picnic on the plain part 2





Basil and Saffron’s tour of Iceland’s landmarks

crests with a Picnic at Þingvellir.


I: Recognizing y.o.u.r. Landscape as a Map for Living

Saffron greets her breakfast companion with a smile. In-between bites of kleina pastry she exclaims, “Basil, this trip is such a dream, I scarcely have words to thank you. The mountain bikes, the spa, the children’s Mass, I’ve never experienced something so touching before. The dinner—the rooms!

“It’s all so lovely it takes my breath away.”

“Well, how about a good morning hug?” Basil invites.

They embrace.

“Food for thought, pardon the pun.” Basil begins. “Today’s major event is the picnic at Þingvellir so consider making it a light breakfast.” he  advises.

“Brambleberry waffles, here I come!” Saffron exclaims in reply.

After breakfast, safely strapped in the helicopter, our pair experience the Northeast Iceland coastline and fly by the Alcoa Fjarðaál smelter at Reyðarfjörður and its dedicated hyroelectric power station at Kárahnjukar, before turning inland to land at an expansive family compound on the outskirts of Hallormsstaður, the only village in a forest in all of Iceland.

“Why are we landing here?” Saffron asks the pilots.

“Picking up the caterers, Ma’am” comes the reply.

Saffron is overjoyed when she sees Liljurósa carrying trays, Kári and Stefán each wheeling a dolly, with Heiða following up the rear with a classic picnic basket. While smiling, the kids are all business as they expertly load, stack and secure the picnic supplies. It becomes very obvious that they are no strangers to helicopter travel.

“So Liljurósa, will you introduce me to the family?” Saffron exclaims.

“My pleasure. My brothers, Kári and Stefán and our little sister Heiða.”

Each young man steps forward, shakes Saffrons hand with a slight bow and man hugs Basil. Young Heiða hesitates for a moment, then runs forward, jumping into Saffron’s arms with a squeal of delight. Basil quickly moves to steady Saffron as she looks fondly at the child in her arms.

“Liljurósa,” Saffron exclaims, “the love in your family radiates like a beacon. How did your parents instill that virtue in all seven children?”

“Saffron, all nine of us have our moments, yes Mom & Dad included. We most definitely are not the perfect family,” Liljurósa begins. “Yet, one of the most counter-intuitive things I’ve learnt, watching both our family and business grow from strength to strength, is that not only is good its own reward, it is a thousand times better than the evil put forth by the modern media talking heads.”

As Saffron sets Heiða down and all six board the helo, Liljurósa continues as soon as helmets are donned and mics are on.

“The plates spreading at Þingvellir may be a good example.” she begins. “While the earth’s crust is spreading apart at only a few centimeters per year, by scaling up and down the span of time with the wisdom to apply lessons from one domain to another, we can see the results of thousands of years as examples for our own lifetimes, so we need not make the same mistakes as others, who go through life as sheep without a shepherd.”

Basil smiles at his young friend, so pleased to hear and see the wisdom beyond her years reaching the ears and the heart of the woman of whom he has grown so very fond in these weeks of intense development work on the data centre launch.

The flight through the stunning countryside to the Assembly Plain is no less impressive for having seen similar sights for hours on end. Flying through a canyon is certainly not on the route for a commercial airliner!

They land next to the training facility parking lot. While the pilots busy themselves securing the twin engine bird, Heiða unfolds a collapsible dolly, handing it to her brother Stefán, while Kári and Liljurósa stack it. Heiða’s infectious joy is leveraged by the picture-perfect picnic basket with the red & white gingham cloth peeking out the top.

Basil wordlessly takes Saffron’s hand and they walk in silent contemplation of the feast soon to come.

With the pilots’ much smaller lunch set a pondstone skip away, Liljurósa rings a tiny bell.

“Basil and Saffron, lunch is served” she intones.

“I absolutely insist that all four of you join us, because I have so many questions I want you all seated right next to us!” Saffron proclaims.

Eight eyes dart to Basil who winks, smiling. They take their seats on the large picnic cloth.

“So tell me, what are we having?” asks Saffron.

Each of the caterers mentions one item,

  • angelica-seed crackers with various jams & jellies
  • whipped cider-vinegar butter on pumpernickel
  • smoked duck breast
  • salted wild salmon with capelin roe and smoked-rapeseed mayonnaise
  • duck egg and bacon in cream sauce over rice
  • seared puffin with parsley purée
  • potato salad with smoked Arctic char

“And lots of desserts!” giggles Heiða.

“Don’t worry about kilojoules, or what Americans call calories, Saffron.” Stefán offers. “There are no calories more than 100 km outside of Reykjavík!”

Meanwhile, Kári and Liljurósa cannot keep straight faces and soon the whole band is laughing. After finishing a plate of small bites of everything, Basil leans back and closes his eyes. Seeing Saffron lean over him, the kids silently get up and go, to serve refills to the pilots.

Looking fondly, Saffron memorizes every line and feature of his face. He senses the shadow and slowly opens his eyes, smiling to see her.

“Should I repeat what I said on the plane,” Basil begins, “or are you going to accept that you are one of the most beautiful women ever to grace the Þingvellir Plain?”

Saffron blushes and leans in to kiss him. Basil for his part, rolls with her, switching top to bottom and lifts the peplum of her fluted blouse to give her a raspberry on the tummy. She squeals.

“Stop! That tickles!” she screams in mock agony.

Both pilots instantly zero in on the scream, then just smile, shake their heads and go back to eating.

“Ok.” Basil pulls her up and in one fluid motion sets her on his shoulders as smoothly as if she was Heiða.

“Basil, is there no end to the surprises?”


“Unlike almost every woman I know, I do not play the weight game. I do my best to eat right and exercise to stay trim and fit.”

“Good for you. Did you want to see Law Rock?”

“Um, sure, where is it?”

“Just a ways that way, up the path.

“What about dessert?”

“They have abominable snowman coolers, the ice cream will be cold past tomorrow.”

“So, just like the history lesson, you are trying to distract me. Answer my question.”

“You mean the one you haven’t asked yet, about how I was able to pick you up as if you were light as a feather?”

Again, Saffron is bass-mouthed. Basil smirks, firmly grasps both her legs and effortlessly twirls her like a baton to land in his arms. She instinctively puts an arm around his neck for support.

She stares in wide-eyed wonder at this man who can shift between romance and playful innocence in a blink. He darts in like a Barrows Goldeneye to steal a kiss and scans the trail ahead before looking back to judge her reaction.

“Is that all?” she asks quietly.

“Sorry for interrupting you on the cloth. I have an irrepressible streak for tickling, so for your sake, I hope you are ticklish.”

“Fine. We’ll see about that. As I was saying…” Saffron whispers as she leans up and they kiss.

“Much better Basil. Can I get down now?”

“Not just yet.” He says as he leans in to kiss with Ruah, the breath of the Holy Spirit, as he spins her slowly around, defining in a moment, wordless consolations to last a lifetime.

Softly setting Saffron on her feet, she hugs him and will not let go. She begins to cry.

Whispering in his ear, “Promise me this is for real. Promise me this will not all disappear and I’ll wake up to realize I never knew you and this experience of transparently chaste love is just a dream.”

“God willing, we will discuss this moment for the rest of our lives. I’m here. I feel more alive than I have in a bushel of months.”

Saffron pulls away to look Basil in the eye.

“Ok, if this is for real, we have to start on a basis of honesty. While I appreciate the compliments, you do recognize I am not the prettiest woman in Iceland, yes or yes, as you love to ask?” she inquires.

“Oh, young spice of my life,” Basil begins “our world does not run on bits & bytes and bolts of cloth. Our world runs on magic, not money. This magic has three ingredients: love, passion and freedom. In other words, we do not have the right to do wrong, contrary to what many judges and talking heads have mandated for two generations.”

“Ok, I’m game. But first answer my question.” she says smiling, taking his hand; walking to Law Rock.

“You mean about pretty?”

“Yes, Basil. Be honest and admit that I am not the prettiest woman in Iceland.”

“Saffron, this is two-thirds of magic. The love that weaves a bridge between two hearts is cor ad cor loquitur, or heart speaks to heart, with the unspoken 2nd half of the Latin, included in the English:  heart speaks to heart before mind is open to mind.

“Let’s sweep away the fog of confusion on the loveliness that radiates from your soul like a beacon. This gift is a part of your DNA, so you cannot lose it. The backscatter from this beacon surrounds and envelopes you. When you are at peace, your presence blesses those who have hearts uncluttered and open to grace.

“Parents do not have children because they like diapers, or night feedings or having the sounds of a small fire truck punctuate the space around them during the infant and the teen years. It is in the loving , it is in the caring, it is in the self-sacrifice that all healthy parents give that matures them, that bakes them in the oven of achievement, to bring them closer to what God designed us to be.

“Love does indeed make the world go ’round. Properly chaste passion animates that love above animal lusts to the sublime gift of self that advances human society.

“Ask yourself this question, as if you were evaluating the script for a movie: would anyone be inspired over being described as ‘adequately attractive?’”

“When you put it that way,” Saffron replies, “it makes perfect sense to tell me I’m pretty. No one that I respect wants to be described as average.”

“Exactly!” says Basil “Now the third of three: freedom is always and everywhere the opportunity to choose—and to do—good. We are not free to do evil. So many misguided souls today confuse freedom with license. Setting aside the political tyranny of Mao Zedong/Jiang Qing, Stalin, Hitler [See “Currencies are like language” heading], the cultural tyranny of the past few generations comes from the perpetually juvenile class, those who lacked the privilege of temporary poverty, either from large families, from economic disruption, from starting their own businesses from the ground up, or any of a hundred other reasons.

Saffron continues the thought, “I think I get it! You mean like a butterfly whom the misguided helps out of the cocoon, thus depriving it of the struggle to fully condition its wings for a lifetime of flight, those who have never struggled, lack the selflessness that defines maturity? Is that what you are saying?”

“Yes!” Basil agrees, with a hug. “Lack of struggle denies them the discipline to grow out of selfishness. Our first world prosperity has allowed so much surplus wealth that far too many people have far too much time on their hands. Their mythmaking is objectively evil when they claim night is day. Worse yet is when they want to tyrannically impose that failed myth on the people whom they are supposed to protect from the very evil they impose! We can pick from the handful of US Supreme Court decisions that redefined night as day.”

“Basil, I think I’m starting to understand you. I’m not sure if I should be scared, or love you more.” She says beaming. “To push the point to its spiritual conclusion, are you saying they act in the role of Lucifer, who wanted to play God, when as the highest of the angels, he was the most able to recognize the created can never be greater than the Creator? Is this where the phrase Non Serviam comes from, that Lucifer would not serve God?”

“Exactly! You are so right. So let’s acquire aspic for a moment.”


“You know. Take stock.”

“Basil, I’m brave enough to say I really love you, but I’m honest enough to tell you that really is not funny.”

“Honest? What’s good for the goose is not good for the gander?”

“Ok Pun-meister Pete, you are about to get the gong. I never told you this before, but my Aunt ran a small café just like the public-facing part of Kaffihús Skerjasteinbítur. I got real familiar with kitchen operations, because she let me work there every summer. That was my clothes budget every fall.

“I am so busted.” Basil says with a hug. “Seriously—or not, as the case may be—I’ve found that so many people can only handle a tiny bit of serious at one time, so I think it is my duty to tickle you!”

Saffron shrieks as she attempts to evade the tickles, yet warmly embraces the hugs and kisses that follow. After more timeless moments, Saffron looks at Basil who appears transfixed. At a new level of awareness, she recognizes that he is experiencing a vision of the Alþing, the Icelandic General Assembly, painted across eleven centuries.

Once he looks at her, Saffron speaks.

“So if I have understood you rightly and followed your line of reasoning, both night and day are required, but the primary evil of leading the unlearned into the desolation of self-indulgence is greater than the secondary evils committed by the misguided minions?”

“I’m no theologian,” Basil replies, “but yes, I believe that is true in most cases.”

Looking her in the eye, he continues. “Here on this plain, I dedicate my life to helping this wonderful woman who was right before my eyes for years, to build and enrich our friendship as we create and maintain the technology that equips others to deploy their businesses around the world.”

They hug briefly and separate to walk hand-in-hand to Lögberg, the Law Rock.


II: Eleven Centuries of the Law Rock

Basil takes Saffron to the flagpole marking the most likely candidate for the actual spot of the Law Rock. As the couple look out over the valley, standing on the level ledge atop the Hallurinn slope, Saffron begins to understand Liljurósa’s cryptic comment about scaling time.

“So Basil,” she begins “when we come through the Hamraskarð pass, our feet pad across the footprints Icelanders made roughly 1100 years ago?”

“Yes. Like any good journey, a pilgrimage of faith, of learning, of adventure, teaches us more about ourselves than books ever can, because journeys of discovery are immersive, they involve not only the senses, but the relationships formed along the way:

“All these experiences offer so much more to those continually opening themselves to the wider world and accepting that we can serve others best, if we will remain ever inquisitive with childlike innocence.”

“Do you think we should head back?”

“Probably so. Have you gleaned everything you want from the Law Rock?”

“Basil, being around you makes that a loaded question. I’m not sure I’ll ever learn as much as you do from simply absorbing history and transforming it into the story of our lives. But for now, yes, I’ve gleaned everything I can process so I’m ready for some dessert!” she laughs.

Walking hand in hand, the trip back to the picnic spot is much shorter for the couple, than the trip to Law Rock was for two individuals.

Heiða screams when she sees Saffron still a ways off. She runs to greet her and again jumps up into Saffron’s arms.

“I love you Saffron. Can you be my Mommy every other Thursday?”

Saffron looks at Basil and Liljurósa, puzzled.

“I love you too Heiða, but you already have the best Mommy any young girl could pray to have. And why every other Thursday?”

“Because Momma and Papa let me work at the Café alternate Thursdays. When I’m not working, I want to spend all day showing Iceland to you.”

“That is so sweet! God bless you my dear child. So tell me Heiða, why Thursdays?”

“I’m in school the other days. Dad got an exception for me to be home schooled, because Mom took me to a testing place and they say that I read 3000 words a minute. I guess some people don’t read that fast, so my parents designed my own lesson plans because they said I was making the teachers nervous.”

“Really? So how does it feel to be home schooled?”

“It’s great! I get to play all day and Mommy says I’m ahead on all my lessons, so I’m happy that she is proud of me.”

“So school is play?”

“Sure, isn’t play the best way to learn? That’s what Kári and Snæbirna talk about all the time.”

“Well, I’m sure they are right. Do you want to be a model like Snæbirna?”

“I don’t think so. I like clothes, but I’m not shaped like they are, the bigger girls I mean.”

“All in good time, my dear. You may turn out to be the smartest and the prettiest all in one. Now I have a question for you. Are you ready?”

Heiða nods with great enthusiasm.

“Where are the desserts! Did you eat them all up?”

At this, Saffron starts tickling Heiða, who writhes with hilarious delight.

After a short bit, Basil steps in to tickle Saffron, who then lets go of Heiða, who starts tickling Stefán. Kári and Liljurósa head over to the pilot’s picnic to refill drinks and clean up, as both they and the pilots ate light and finished early.

They return to find four exhausted playmates with heads on tummies, arranged in a square: Saffron’s head on Basil’s stomach, Basil’s head on Stefán’s, Stefán’s on Heiða’s and the little love bug’s head on Saffron’s.

Basil is the first to speak.

“Hi Mom. I cleaned my room and did my homework. Can I have seconds on dessert?”

Smiling ear to ear, Liljurósa answers. “Yes, dear. Just be sure you are not taking the last piece of anything. Offer Saffron first choice and don’t tell her your favorite. Let her make the choice independently, yes?”

“Yes, Mom” Basil says with pitch-perfect teen intonation.

Worn out little Heiða is actually sleeping, so Basil gingerly lifts Saffron’s head, rolls out and picks up the youngest Georgsdóttir, carrying her over to a rolled up sleeping pad. Ever alert Kári has it unrolled by the time Basil gets to it. When she is settled, they both kiss her on the forehead and pop up a portable sunshield over her eyes and face.

Speaking softly, Basil asks, “Liljurósa, where is the ice chest with the desserts?”

“Coming right up!” She answers with quiet enthusiasm.

Basil whispers to Kári , “How long does Heiða nap?”

“Half-an-hour, give or take. If she’s not up naturally in 40 min, one of us will wake her, so you can keep on schedule. Or, since you’ve got the car down by the training centre, just get the keys from the pilots and head out. We’ve got your Purchase Order number, so we can settle anything later this week.”

“Great idea on the car, but I know Saffron wants to spend more time with you guys, so we’re not heading out any time soon.”

“Ok, your call. Let one of us know if you need anything.”

Basil makes the thumbs up sign and goes back to where Saffron is still lying on the picnic tablecloth. As he massages her neck, she opens one eye and grins at Basil.

“Hey Handsome.”

“So Saffron, since I’m sure you would not admit to hearing my Mom Jr. telling me what to do, act surprised that I offer you dessert first.”

“Why thank you kind sir! Yes I would love some blueberry ice cream with brambleberry pie!”

While Heiða sleeps, the ‘big people’ enjoy their desserts. As Kári predicted, she rises a half hour later and stretches.

“Má ég eiga rjómaís?” Heiða asks Liljurósa.

“Vanillu eða bláberja?”

“Both!” Heiða says laughing.

Saffron picks up Heiða and gives her a nose-to-nose cuddle.

“As a mother myself, I do not have to speak Icelandic to know when a lítil stúlka is going to have a tummy ache if she eats too much ice cream!”

“Very good Saffron! Is this your first time to learn Icelandic words?” Kári asks.

“Takk fyrir,” she replies, smiling, “no, this is my second time to speak Icelandic.”

“So tell me the stories behind your names. Your twin sisters said some of your names have nautical stories tied to them.”

Kári puts his hands on Heiða’s shoulder’s. “How about we have our family encyclopædia tell you about our names?” he says, looking down into Heiða’s smiling face.

“You bet! Icelandic names are the coolest anywhere.” Heiða exclaims. “I like my name more than chocolate and ice cream put together!”

Saffron gasps with mock amazement. “Wow! That is really saying something. Let’s start with your Dad, ok?”

“Our father is Georg Ríkharðsson, meaning that he is the son of Richard. Georg, or George traces to Greek for earthworker, or farmer. Icelandic names are formed from the father’s name (usually), and then son or daughter.

“Our mother is Signý Kormáksdóttir, meaning she is the daughter of Cormac in Old Irish. Signý can be traced to Old Norse meaning new victory or waxing victory.

“Liljurósa meaning Lily Rose symbolizing the Virgin Mary, has the most years of any of us children.

“All five girls are Georgsdóttirs, which is daughters of Georg.

“Our twin sisters are next after Lily Rose. First out is Snæbirna Jófríður. Snæbirna means snow bearess or she-bear of the snow, while Jófríður comes from beautiful horse. In Iceland, these are both compliments,” she says.

“Six minutes later, Mom gives birth to Marveig Gía. Marveig means sea power and Gía is a diminutive for Georg, our Dad.”

Basil interrupts her. “Heiða, may I ask a question?”

“Of course. What?”

“Why does your language change when you are giving facts and when you are just being you?”

“I will tell you as much as I understand about it. One of my Mom’s best friends is an education testing lady, so she gave me the timed readings that show I read fast. She came to my school many days, to look, listen and make notes.

“She showed me her notes and talked with me. She says that my teachers were nervous because I can scale my learning. I’m just a kid, so I’m not going to pretend I understand everything that I can call to mind.

“I trust my Mom and this lady, so I’ll tell you what they say. I have the capacity to open more channels in my brain and absorb, understand and recall lots more than some of my friends, or even people older than me. This lady tells Mom that everyone has these channels but few people use them.

“Because I can read stuff beyond my grade level, whatever that means, and I can remember the stuff I want, when I want, some people confuse the different kinds of intelligences with the capacity to open more channels represents.

“Does that help?” Heiða asks.

“Yes, but I’m going to take the moving staircase, the escalator, to the next level, ok?” Basil replies.


“How many languages can you read?”

“I’m not sure I understand your question. I can read all of them.” Heiða innocently answers.

“That sounds fun. If I gave you a missal in Malayalam, you could tell me what it says?”

“It’s funny you give that example. The former priest at St. Thorlac’s served with a overseas company that had lots of Indians and he let me read the Rite of St. Thomas missal. After he explained how you skip around, I studied it for a day and asked him a whole bunch of questions. After that he asked to meet my folks and talk with them.

“This priest tells me that God has a special plan for me. ‘I know everyone says that,’ he says, so I know he was not just giving me cookie-cutter praise. I often go the children’s Mass on Fridays and meet such nice Polish children. They told me that they would help me learn Polish. They do not really need any help learning Icelandic, but I still answer questions whenever we get together to see puffins.”

“What language do you like the most and the least?”

“I like Icelandic best, because I’m proud to be one!” she says grinning. “Russian, or any of the tongues that use Cyrillic alphabets, they are kind of like game shows. Their construction, the way they reference time is so different.

Not to be mean, I love Chinese food, but their pictograms and tones in both Mandarin and Cantonese, it is so much more work than using a phonetic alphabet. Plus, they think so different. Their history shows they are inventive, yet until they started mimicking the West, they never put their inventiveness to work, to develop industries out of it.

I like Hebrew, because it is like our Alþthing, it stretches so far back into history. I have less interest in languages that have no writing, because I have no one to talk to and it seems a poor use of time when I could be outside riding my bike.”

“Well, that makes sense. Sometimes I wonder why I work when it is so beautiful outside that I think I should be riding my bike too.” Basil adds.

“That makes me think of Elín. After the twin girls, our folks had Líf Elín. Líf survives Ragnarök, our end-of-the-world story, to become the new Eve in Biblical terms. Elín is our version of Helen of Troy, because my sister is certainly the face that could launch a thousand ships.

Saffron remarks, “Oh how lovely. Heiða, do you ever talk this way to your friends?”

“No, why would I? Only big people are interested in these things. Just because I know them does not equate to being valuable. It’s like most of today’s television and movies. Just because it is there does not mean it is worth our time.

“Anyway, next comes my brothers, both of whom are Georgssons, so this explains why Icelanders go by their first names, yes or yes?” Heiða says, smiling at Saffron.

“Kári Valves in English would be Carl Wallace and Sölmundar Stefán would be Solomon Stephen.

“Lovísa Aðalheiður is my whole name, Heiða is just my nickname. Lovísa is our version of Louise and Aðalheiður comes from Icelandic roots that mean noble, honor and bright.” she concludes with a curtsey.

“Liljurósa, that was a lot of work! That is worth more ice cream, right?” Heiða asks.

Saffron scoots over to where Heiða sat down and says, “She has her priorities right! More ice cream for me too!”

After several spoonfuls, Saffron looks at the boys and asks “Well, wild and wooly, wonderful Wallace, What is it like growing up in a house full of sisters?”

Kári answers, “It is never boring, I’ll grant you that!”

Even though I am named Solomon, my folks and my sisters certainly know more about running a business than I do.” Stefán volunteers.

“We’re both good trackers, we hire out to several lodges during the open season on reindeer. Kári is better than me, but we both have been told that we have football scholarships, what Americans call soccer, waiting for us, when we get ready to go to Uni.”

Kári continues Stefán’s thought, “I’m thinking that I’d like to take biology, or maybe food science, because so much of our business depends on fresh ingredients. It would be great to figure out a way to affordably grow tropical foods here, maybe geothermally heated caves with full spectrum lighting.”

“He says food science,” Stefán grins, giving his brother a nudge, “but he uses the word resilience fifty times a week if he uses it once, so I am thinking logistics is a better choice. For me, I think exercise physiology, or something where I can combine my passion for both athletics and science. Kári is better at the multi-sensory experience, I mean that being one with the land thing that is the essence of a good tracker. My interests lie more in blending artistry with precision, like archery and martial arts.

“Actually, the girl twins are not here, so I can tell on them.” Stefán continues, winking at Liljurósa.

“Snæbirna and I have talked about setting up a women’s clothing design firm, because the margins are better than men’s clothing and we can model the stuff on my sisters. If we were doing ‘no limits’ thinking, I would say, my dream is to have a chain of day-resort type places: food, fun, fitness, fashion and faith.

“If we take a very, very granular approach, I’m talking about weaving a magic carpet that takes people to the land of their dreams, right in their own hometown, but can scale internationally. Take a thread from each of these, so it would be sort of like combining:

  • Staryucks, only with coffee that doesn’t taste like boiled tires
  • the feeling I get from visiting Grandma’s house,
  • Subway’s great subs with baked-on-premise bread, or Panera’s atmosphere without the high prices,
  • Using our Own Unique Resources, develop and deploy u.r. take on Urban Outfitters’ Leifsdottir brand that they sell through Anthropologie, with more athletic focus, without the design or sourcing agent lobotomies that gives them PR nightmares and
  • Hyatt Resorts in miniature without the lodging part.

“Like the girl twins,” Kári seamlessly extends Stefán’s idea, “we talk all the time. The point on which we most strongly agree is that our family leads our extended team in each of those very specific things, fixing the somewhat obvious gaps, no pun intended, woven together with the proven model that we’ve already established with our logistics and catering expertise…

Kári acts as if he does not even notice Stefán finishing his sentence, “to deliver a best of the best integrated experience that does not exist on the day-spa level. My focus is on defining and equipping people for achievement…

Kári concludes “which is, in our view, the opposite of pampering. Analysts say that Las Vegas runs on the nickel slots and the rest is just pure profit. So in a nutshell, that is our long-term vision scoped down into a little bit longer than an elevator pitch.”

Basil stands. “Gentlemen, I salute you. That was both riveting and inspiring. Thank you Liljurósa, thank you Kári, thank you Stefán, and especially thank you dear, sweet Heiða, for sharing a slice of your Saturday with Saffron and me.

“We are thrilled,” he says looking at Saffron for confirmation, who nods, smiling ear to ear, “to share our first formal date with you and hope that God brings us all together frequently in the days and weeks to come. So do you guys need any help cleaning up?

“Basil, what is the point of hiring caterers if you help prepare and clean up?” Liljurósa says, sticking her index finger in Basil’s belly.

He pulls her in for a hug, then hugs each one in turn, as Saffron follows suit. Basil looks down to see everything but the gingham tablecloth in airworthy packed status. The pilots sit on a couple of the cases, ready to go.

“Sólveig, have you the car keys?”

“Right here, Sir. It’s rented in the firm’s name, with you and Saffron billed as additional drivers. We’ll have our account rep fix that first thing next week, once you turn it in and the total is finalized. The brainiac at the rental desk could not wrap her little blonde head, and you’ll note that I say that as a blonde woman pilot, around the idea that having the driver come in to sign for the car, sort of spoils the surprise.”

“Well, thank you as always for going above and beyond, for off-the-wall requests. You six have teamed up to create a lifetime of positive memories and I’m happy to do business with you and proud to refer business to you.”

“We’re always delighted to work with Georg and Signý. Now I can say that we are both delighted and impressed to work with their children. We appreciate your praise and your referrals very much and we’ll pass them on to the husband and wife team that run our firm. They will be delighted.”

Basil and Saffron stand arm in arm, waving at the helo as it takes off to return the caterers and to take the aircraft back to its hangar. Once the turbulence has settled, Saffron turns on Basil and pokes him in the chest.

“Listen Mister, let’s get one thing straight!”

“Whoa, Nellie! Who put ants in your pants?”

She takes his face gingerly in her hands, “I am not as strong as you are. I try to be, but I am not a nice person. How am I supposed to be the woman you believe me to be?”

“Precious spice of my life. Simple does not mean easy. Freedom is the opportunity to choose the good. Believe that Rhubarb deserves the woman you became for the past two days. Make today your new reality.”

Saffron collapses in his arms, sobbing. Basil holds her securely, letting her cry herself out. Breathing deeply, he absorbs the centuries of history, both geographic and cultural, that are literally fixed in stone across the Þingvellir Plain.

Basil patiently waits, standing still, matching his breathing to Saffron’s, for what seemed like eternity.

“Ok, Handsome, let’s figure this out.” Saffron begins, in a remarkably matter-of-fact tone.

“I’m game. What is on your mind.”

“You, silly!” she says with a long kiss.

“Well I like this line of discussion a lot more than four minutes ago.”

“How do you know it’s been four minutes? I know you don’t have a watch on and I would have felt your hands move and your weight shift if you pulled your phone out of your back pocket.”

“Simplicity itself, Watson. The sun’s apparent movement across the sky is 360° in 24 hours, yes?


There are 24 time zones, one for each hour and pretending the earth is spherical, that makes 360/24 super simple. So 360/24 = 15. Right?

“Of course, that is just math.”

“Righto, then.”

Saffron gently puts her index finger over his lips to quell his speech. “Basil, there is no need to be nervous around me, so you can be free of the British actor persona you told me about on the phone. I’m so much less than the woman I am called to be, yet this is a life-changing weekend, in so many ways. Can I ask you to take up an impossible quest?”

“Well, you’ve got my attention.”

“If you will promise to love me in spite of myself, I am convinced that working together, we can become the people God designed us to be. Will you let me apologize a hundred times for the same character flaw and forgive me every time?”

“I can do that,” Basil says smiling. “After all, a mere hundred times is a lot less than seventy times seven times, yes or yes?”

Saffron hugs Basil for all she is worth. “Thank you God,” she says silently, “for giving me more than I could ask or imagine.”


“Yes Saffron?”

“I can hear the gears whirring in your head. Go ahead and tell me how you figured out how many degrees the sun moved in four minutes. I know I will not have a moment’s peace until you do.”


© 2016 Systems Thinking Institute Press, All Rights Reserved. Social Shares welcomed with credit line. Want to reuse stories from STI Press? Reach out to and we’ll talk!




Matthew Weilert is the managing director of the Austin, Texas-area office of The Systems Thinking Institute. Keynote Speaker. Author. Host & Producer. Globe Trotter. Go-Getter. A technology, leadership and strategy trail guide, Weilert helps businesses drive profit through operational, executive and risk coaching, strategic consulting, and interim executive services. As an Eagle Scout and decorated Navy Veteran, he strives to always leave the campsite better than he found it.



For large firms:
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Follow Matt on twitter: @systhink or deep-link on



The Path to Spirituality: Part 4

The Path to Spirituality: Part 4

The Path to Spirituality Pt. 4:

Exploring Ancient Egypt

by Dianna L. Gunn


It might seem strange to jump straight from Wicca to the quite complicated religion(s) of ancient Egypt, but nothing about my spiritual journey has been ordinary. And I didn’t go seeking Egyptian religion—it came to me.

During meditation one day I entered a trance and wrote a single completely unfamiliar word in giant red letters: Akhet. Since I was lucky enough to be exploring spirituality in the internet era, I went to Google to discover the meaning of this strange word.

Akhet is an ancient Egyptian word which symbolizes the horizon. Many people simplify its meaning to “dawn”, but akhet represents both sunrise and sunset. In ancient Egyptian mythology the horizon was guarded by Aker, the double lion, at both dusk and dawn, so the hieroglyph for akhet shows a sun rising between two mountain peaks resting on the backs of this double lion.

I immediately assumed two things: that another horribly traumatic event was about to mar my life, and that the ancient Egyptian gods—for I believe wholeheartedly that there must be gods—might be able to guide me through it.

So I set about trying to learn as much as I could about ancient Egyptian religion. Hunting for anything beyond the most basic information about Egyptian symbols turned out to be a massive challenge. For starters, ancient Egypt was around for a long time—thousands of years, in fact—and in all those years Egyptian religion changed dramatically. Different gods were worshiped in different ways at different times, and during several periods of history ancient Egypt held multiple powerful organized religions.

Of course it’s impossible to actually authentically practice ancient Egyptian religion since we’ve lost a great many of the rituals(and I’m sure many would seem barbaric to most of us anyway), but modern Pagans have created multiple reconstructionist religions, the most popular of which is Kemetic Orthodoxy.

Once again I found myself turned off by the idea of participating in any kind of organized, structured group religion, but I was utterly fascinated by the concepts and the gods of Egyptian religion.

Two Egyptian spiritual concepts resonated deeply with me right away and are still a huge part of my belief system: heka and Netjer.

Heka is the concept of “speaking with intent”. In Egyptian culture words held great spiritual power, and heka was the basis of all prayers and invocations. As a writer I think it’s pretty obvious why the concept of words holding their own spiritual power appealed to me. In my own life I try(and often fail) to only speak with intent, and in my writing I work hard to make sure every single word needs to be there. Heka is also a reminder that our words always have power, even when we aren’t speaking with intent—and it’s when we aren’t speaking with intent that we often do the most damage.

Netjer is the Self-Created One, the source of godhood. Kemetic reconstructionists actually call their gods Names because they are all different aspects of the same divine energy, the Netjer. The different Names are all unique manifestations of the Netjer, so they are called upon for various purposes in different rituals, but they are truly one being.

To me the implications of Netjer are massive. Think about it: what if the Netjer isn’t only the source of the Egyptian gods? What if all of the gods that have ever been worshiped are just different manifestations or interpretations of the same divine energy? What if all of our stories are so different because we as people are so different and therefore must understand the divine in our own unique ways? If we are all partially right and we could acknowledge that each of us must have our own truth, how would the world change?

Over time I’ve come to believe that Netjer is the only real possibility. I don’t think we, as humans, can ever fully comprehend the entirety of the divine. The names we give the gods, the stories we tell about them and the rituals we use to connect with them are all tools that help us connect with the divine and understand parts of it, and that is all we can ever hope to achieve.

This might sound scary to some, but to me it is liberating. It means there’s no reason for me to get angry about other people’s beliefs, because I know they’re just interpreting the divine their own way. It also means I don’t have to spend all my time worrying about whether or not I’m living up to the divine’s ideals, because frankly, I don’t think the divine created us to be perfect. I believe the divine created us to grow and learn, things we couldn’t do if we were perfect. After all, its ability to grow and change is the thing that makes humanity beautiful.

What do you think of the concepts of heka and Netjer? Are you interested in learning more about ancient Egyptian religion? Let me know in the comments section below!

Ask Christa! #2

Ask Christa! #2

Hello all! Welcome back to the next installment of Ask Christa! This will be featured the third Monday of every month. (Delayed this month to due publishing issues with the Oak Wheel. We’ll be back to normal next month!)

Today’s question comes from Minneapolis, MN:

“Dear AskChrista! I sent out my manuscript to an editor and it came back with a TON of suggestions, comments, and corrections. Does this mean I’m a bad writer and a bad storyteller?”

One of my jobs is being an editor. I get paid to find the mistakes in someone else’s story. Do you know what I’m most afraid of? That when the author gets my notes back, it will make him/her want to give up on his/her book.

One of the most important things to realize is a writer WRITES a story and a storyteller CREATES it.

And no, not all authors do both. Some are stronger with writing, some with creating the story.

So when you look through your edits, check to see which area you have more comments about. Is it the grammar, punctuation, word usage, descriptions and scenes (i.e. writing)? Or is it the character creation, the plot, the flow, and the tension (i.e. storytelling)? Once you’ve figured out where your problem areas are, you can focus on each of those. Different classes/courses/workshops target different areas. Some are geared toward writing, like how to structure a novel, others are geared toward storytelling, like how to create realistic characters.

Here’s the tricky part: Be honest with yourself. Really look at the areas that need work and go work on them! Why? Because when you have another story pop into your mind, which most authors tend to do, your next book will flow more smoothly, come more easily, and be written more quickly. You’ll get to enjoy writing and not be so stressed about the edits, which will lessen as you learn.

So please don’t be discouraged by multiple comments/notes from your editor. Learn what you can, be truthful about the areas you need work on, deal with them, and then decide about yourself as an author. Are you a writer, a storyteller, or both?


Have questions about writing, editing, publishing, or marketing?? Just Ask Christa! Message me @cyelkoth (#askchrista) or email me


Christa Yelich-Koth is the co-founder and head of submissions at Buzz & Roar Publishing. She is also the author of science fantasy Eomix Galaxy Books, graphic novel HOLLOW, and the comic book series HOLLOW’S PRISM. She has staffed and led a workshop at the Southern California Writer’s Conference, been a panelist at MiniCon, and was co-founder of Green-Eyed Unicorn Comics. She can be reached at or on twitter @cyelkoth. Her website is

Rock Eel Café – Picnic on the Plain (Episode 3) Part 1

Rock Eel Café – Picnic on the Plain (Episode 3) Part 1

Rock Eel Café – Picnic on the Plain (Episode 3) Part 1


By Matt Weilert



Join us in celebrating 25 years of business fables! 10 July 2016 marks a quarter-century since the first draft of the first business fable sketch, (dated 10 July 1991), that matured into the Blue Two™ saga.

This Season One is such a fun part of the Rock Eel series, I called Jeff to thank him for encouraging my posts. We are storyboarding Season Two now, so if you have ideas you would like to see in “Life, Love and the Lens Room,” send us your word portraits! (Samples of some other B2 series are available at for those interested.)

The most common question we get is “what are business fables” and the second most common is like it: “what are they for?” In some sense, that is almost asking what a child is for or what a sunrise is for. Yes or yes?

However, business fables do have a concrete and bottom-line driven purpose: Over the past 300 months, or 9132 days (to 10 July 2016), the layered story-telling style of risk discovery and resolution has delivered a rolling average of 850x return-on-investment!

When people tell you that is not possible, remember that when our grandparents were born there were no telephones, no automobiles, few cities had electricity, there was no commercial airline service, no automated tellers (ATM), and the list of “impossible things” goes on and on.

So when your friends ask “what are you reading?” and you tell them “business fables” you can answer their next question:

“Business fables are a special class of yarns we spin to mend the rends in our social fabric. These stories reflect back to key players, those myths that keep them (and us!) from achieving optimum results.”

The Blue Two™ series helps us to see over the horizon and see around corners by raising [y]our perspective. By climbing the steps of the lighthouse, [y]our mind & heart climb out of the modern media fog. Investing in yourself with these business fables, you’ll learn:

• how subtle shifts in vantage points can unblock what you’re looking for,
• how understanding the differences between relational speech and transactional speech can accelerate [y]our career(s),
• how to apply the timeless truth that “heart speaks to heart before mind is open to mind.”

So enjoy this 25th anniversary and keep reading!  I’m delighted to present Episode Three: Picnic on the Plain.


Continue reading “Rock Eel Café – Picnic on the Plain (Episode 3) Part 1”

The Path to Spirituality: Part 3 – Wicca

The Path to Spirituality: Part 3 – Wicca

The Path to Spirituality

Pt. 3: Wicca

by Dianna L. Gunn


Like any teenager exploring Paganism pretty much on their own (by twelve I hardly had a relationship with my mother) I explored Wicca first. Right away I knew I didn’t want to become involved with the highly formal, ritualized versions of Wicca. Formal religion and actual churches didn’t appeal to me at all, but many of their beliefs did.

There are actually several denominations of Wicca with varying beliefs and wildly different traditions, but most have a few things in common such as the belief in a god and a goddess who unite to create life. In some traditions this god/goddess has a specific name but others refer to them simply as the god and goddess.

Focusing on both the male and female energy and placing emphasis on their unity mean that Wiccans consider sexuality sacred and the act of sex itself a magical one, which to me always seemed like a much healthier way to approach sex than the approach traditionally taken by Judeo-Christian religions. The earth itself is also considered sacred, and most Wiccans believe in a variety of spirits who inhabit the world.

Wiccans also have a strong belief in the Rule of Three—what you send out into the world will be returned to you threefold—and the Wiccan Rede, which is actually quite a long poem (you can read the whole thing here) but is usually shortened down to the primary rule of “An it harm none, do as thou wilt”. In modern English that’s “as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone, do what you want”.

I’ll be honest and admit that this primary tenet was the first thing that dissuaded me from pursuing Wicca. As someone who had been severely bullied, watched her parents get divorced and then watched her dad die of cancer, I was rather bitter. I believed wholeheartedly in revenge. I also believed some people absolutely deserved to suffer and even die for the terrible things they had done to other people. And as somebody struggling with undiagnosed mental illness this mentality was partially self defence—I had no way of controlling my own violence, so I had to convince myself it was justified.

Still, I did want to give it a chance. I attended a few events and even a couple group rituals put on by the Wiccan Church of Canada, and while I had fun at the events, I didn’t enjoy the feeling of group ritual. It immediately became clear that Wicca still held a number of the things I disliked about organized religion. No matter how different the energies and traditions were, the Wiccan Church of Canada was still a church. I wanted to practice on my own, by my own rules.

To this day I practice my own brand of Paganism entirely alone and although I do enjoy gathering with Pagans at pub moots and similar social events I stay away from anything with a strict structure. My spirituality refuses to be contained by such a structure and I find the whole experience unsettling, though I can see the appeal—you can definitely feel the difference in energy level when you have two, four, ten or even more people participating in a ritual.

Have you ever done any research on Wicca? Is all of this new to you? Please let me know in the comments section below!





Kris Bertin


$14.95 trade paper, to be published July 12, 2016


The Publisher Says: The characters in Bad Things Happen—professors, janitors, webcam models, small-time criminals—are between things. Between jobs and marriages, states of sobriety, joy and anguish; between who they are and who they want to be. Kris Bertin’s unforgettable debut introduces us to people at the tenuous moment before everything in their lives changes, for better or worse.

My Review: This is a first collection for Canadian writer Bertin. It represents the fruits of seven years’ life-effort in ten stories. He was well-published in prestigious venues before this book was collected. Comme d’habitude, we’ll go story-by-story with my pearls of wisdom delivered thereunto:

Bad Things Happen can best be summed up by this quote, spoken by a mid-thirties studmuffin to a sixteen-year-old girl (Dee) with a crush on him:

It’s people. He exhaled. People live everywhere you go, and everywhere you go, people are the same. There’s just more or less of them. … I just prefer less, he said.

Continue reading “BAD THINGS HAPPEN: Stories”

Animal Sex

Animal Sex

Animal Sex

by Wendy Stenzel Oleston


Animal sex. I don’t mean people having sex like animals; I mean actual animals having sex. It has always grossed me out. Why? Well, animal sexuality is all about instinctual nature and has very little to do with loving nurture. As a woman who was raped in my college years, seeing animals going at it has always been a trigger to remember what happened to me back then, since that moment in time was all about instinctual sexual nature and had absolutely nothing to do with loving nurture.

I grew up with a very icky feeling inside my soul concerning sex. Part of that was probably just the way I was made, but another part of it was surely driven by my experiences within the church. I distinctly remember many different instances as a youngster in Sunday school or Confirmation where the leader talked about sexuality and made it sound wrong. In addition, it was normal in my generation to have parents who weren’t overly excited about talking about sex with their kids. I have an older sister and I remember overhearing my father constantly telling her not to have sex. He had a way with words, let me tell you.


“Men are like hot water faucets. Once you turn them on, the handle gets too hot and you can’t turn them off.”


In fourth grade, a fellow male student came up to me at recess and asked me, “Do you want to go f*** behind that tree?” I had no idea what that meant so I went home and asked my mom. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the look on her face. I was eight years old and remember her telling me that it meant sex. My next question was… what is sex? It’s funny how our brains pick and choose what we remember long term. While I’m sure she had good intentions with her answer to my shocking question, for some reason her answer is one I remembered and stored in my brain as truth for years to come.


“Sex is how babies are made. There is only one reason to have sex and that is to make a baby. If you don’t want a baby, you should never have sex.”


Yeah, that didn’t make much sense to me later in life when everyone was going sex crazy. Why were all my teen friends wanting babies? I was a bit naive.

Back to animal sex. My mother’s explanation worked well with regard to animals and I suppose I’ve always seen the human race as somewhat animalistic so, I had a difficult time making sense of sex and its relationship to love for many, many years. I had a belief that men NEEDED sex (just like animals). They REQUIRED sex (just like animals). They do not LOVE their ladies (just like animals). I didn’t believe sex was created for women to enjoy. I saw sex as a job and the lack of enjoyment was part of our punishment for original sin. I believed sex was a completely natural thing that had nothing to do with nurture, even for us humans.

In Christian counseling for sexual issues, my therapist was constantly trying to convince me that God created sex as an act of love; an act of worship between a husband and wife so to speak. And while my ears heard this and believed him, my heart just couldn’t accept it. Maybe it was partially because he was a man. I think I assumed he was just saying that for manipulation. After all, my experience had been that men will say or do anything to convince a woman to have sex with them, very similar to the male animal. But to be clear, that was my issue, not the therapist. He was awesome and helped me so much despite my confusion over his motives.

When I wrote my book, As Is, something happened as I wrote the character of Graydon that finally made the connection between sex and love click in my heart. I can’t explain it, but it was like I woke up to a whole new world; a world where I could see the difference between the lies of the world and the truth of God’s love. Creating Graydon made me finally realize that men don’t NEED sex to survive. Men don’t REQUIRE sex in order to breathe. Sex is meant to be enjoyable to even me, a woman. Sex is meant to be about love and is certainly an act of worship to the God who created it. In addition, humans aren’t savage animals—so with us, sex is meant to be an act of BOTH nature and nurture at the same time. All of that was an amazing realization, one I was truly grateful for.

A few months ago I was sitting outside enjoying the fact that spring was here. The birds were chirping and the grass was green. I had been living in my sexual freedom for several years already but something happened in that moment that freed me even further.

As I said, it was spring and the animals were acting all squirrelly; high on endorphins causing them to want to mate and create new life. Two birds flew down in front of me not realizing I was sitting there. They were midway through their pre-coitus ritual of fighting with each other; the male pecking at her, her flittering away only to be pursued and pecked again immediately. I watched them do their dance feeling a little disgusted by the way this poor female was being picked on and was no doubt going to be forced into something she didn’t want to do. He was just so persistent and dominating. I was momentarily transported back to my own experience with a persistent, dominating male who wouldn’t take no for an answer, and my heart sank even though I knew those birds couldn’t possibly have the same complexities of my human emotions. I shouted loudly to stop the madness, hoping to help her get away from the mean, emotionless, jerk of a male.

He froze in an instant, while she quickly flew off out of fear from my loud interruption. I chuckled to myself while looking at him and said, “Not getting any today, buddy! Not on my watch!” He just looked at me like I was crazy (yeah, he had a point). I was proud of myself in that moment and stuck my tongue out at him as he stood staring at me.

A few moments later, something crazy happened—

She freakin’ came back.

Can you believe that? I saved her from the tortuous advances of a completely non-emotional, non-caring, beak pecking at her body, bird-on-bird rape and that little weirdo… CAME BACK.

She hopped over to him as if to say, ‘Dude, are you already done? You were so not worth my time this morning!’. They stared at each other for a few seconds and then she pecked him in the chest.

His response was to give her what she seemed to be asking for despite my interruption and they went on together doing their thing. I only watched for a few minutes so I didn’t see much, but I assume they got the job done after that.

I sat there stunned by what I had just witnessed and realized something that healed me further. The instinctual nature of sex is to desire it, no matter what you are. And what looks horrible on the outside isn’t necessarily what’s really happening on the inside. I just assumed animal sex was totally unwanted by the female but my little birdy friend showed me otherwise. I guess the nature of sex for animals is to desire it, whether male or female. It goes both ways.

As for humans, the instinctual nature of sex is the same; to desire it, no matter who you are—male or female. But we also have a freedom the animals don’t have; freedom of choice. We have a choice to act on raw instinctual nature alone or to add compassionate nurture to our instinct. I believe God’s hope is that we will choose to partner our nature WITH nurture because we have superior intellect to animals. And without nurture in the bedroom, what looks normal on the outside could very possibly become torture on the inside. If you move along without nurture—meaning continually make the choice to either give sex without caring OR accept sex that is given without caring—the coldness of that choice just may freeze your heart. Perhaps not right away, but someday it could. I’ve been there. I know. Remember what I said about how our brains pick and choose what we remember long term? Allowing the animal in you to reign supreme could leave you with lasting memories of things you wish had never happened.

So, what’s my point? Well for one, I wanted to share that sex has always been a very confusing subject for me for all the reasons I’ve already talked about. I’ve done this for the purpose of giving hope to those who might suffer with that same frustration or misunderstanding. Second, I wanted to point out that the church has done a HORRIBLE job at explaining what healthy sexuality looks like and as a result, society has gone completely haywire with regard to sex. You can’t just tell the masses not to do something and not explain why. I want to help with that problem instead of ignoring it. I think it’s obvious that ignoring it doesn’t make it go away. Lastly, with sex, it’s important to embrace both instinctual nature and loving nurture for it to be emotionally healthy. Embracing only the raw nature of sex while ignoring the nurture of it is what wild animals do. Don’t be a wild animal. Choose to be human in all you do, especially sex.


WARNING: Shameless self-promoting plug to follow: My book, 30 Below, is a fictional story about sex and the way it impacts a relationship. I wrote it as an answer to a question my church never did answer for me and had to figure out for myself the hard way—the why. It’s free on all e-book platforms, so if you’re interested in seeing if you like my work, you have no excuse not to try me out. Thank you for reading me on The Oak Wheel!


Edited by Lisa Miller