Þetta Reddast. It will all be okay.
Like Timon and Pumbaa told many of us at a young age—Hakuna Matata! Afterall, it means no worries for the rest of your days. In Iceland, Þetta Reddast. Similar, but less animated, and with a slightly different meaning. “No worries” can seem a bit ambiguous. Not to worry can mean not to care, though I don’t believe carelessness is at the root of either phrase.
Þetta Reddast seems to be about survival while maintaining a sense of joy. It’s about determination but also trust. A belief that no matter the situation, things will have a way of working themselves out, and that you will be okay.
Does this mean that Icelanders come with an overarching “meh” attitude? No, I don't think so. It just means that “okay” is really quite subjective. If you are worried about holding onto a certain outcome, you are likely to end up disappointed and distraught. But if you adopt Þetta Reddast, surrender, and adapt to the situation, a sense of embrace to what really matters is formed. It’s about working with circumstance rather than against it. By doing so you may end up appreciating a sliver of something you were completely blind to before. And of course a streak of humour is attached to this philosophy—similar to what Canadians might feel as they say “Shit happens”.
This type of flexibility seems to be important, if not a pure necessity in a country of such volatility. Being here for even a short time, I have already sampled the significance of this particular attitude.
Barren. Beautiful. Vast. Magical. Cold. Charming. Moon-like. Breathtaking. Dramatic. Harsh. All on a list of adjectives somewhere, to describe Iceland. This week I will add the word Relentless. In most places I’ve been it seems as though there is typically one natural element or characteristic that is dominant. In Ucluelet, it’s the ocean. In Calgary, it’s the sun. In Iceland, it’s wind. Wind so strong you feel like you can see it.
The past few nights have been spent sleeping in a vacuum. (No not this kind). But the kind where you adapt to the whistling, the whooooooosh-ing and the constant vibration as your lullaby, wondering whether or not the entire building will just get tired of being pressurized beyond its limits and implode into an unknown universe somewhere far far away. Tiptoeing to the bathroom in the middle of the night I’ve replayed the beginning scene from the Wizard Of Oz in my head many times over. “Auntie Em, Auntie Em!”.
From inside I’ve witnessed the ocean’s waves traveling backward. Pushed back into the ocean before they’ve hardly had a chance to tag the shoreline. There is a small body of water directly outside my window—an estuary. To the left is the river Blanda, and to the right the Greenland Sea. The wind so powerful that the wake in the estuary commensurates with the tide.
I’ve seen miniature icebergs slam against the banks as if in fast forward, and have watched the ravens struggle in the wind for countless minutes. Even the seabirds aren’t exempt. The lack of control is almost comical as you can nearly pinpoint the moment in which their wings get caught up in the current, sending them well past their starting point in a parallel fashion. Sometimes you see groups of them, along for moral support, and one by one they lose their composure and have to start over again and again. You’d think they’d just take the hint already. I watched one struggle in mid-air for around half a minute and my abdomen started to ache. Not from guilt, but from imagining the stress and fatigue that must’ve been on its body as it hovered vertically and contorted, trying to break through what was like an invisible forcefield.
I thought it was only fair to see what all the kerfuffle was about. Yesterday I walked to the post office (*walking is an exaggeration—skating without blades is more accurate). After coming to the conclusion the post office was “closed” as the door just wouldn’t open, I “skated” further to explore the area until my fingers could no longer be warmed up by placing them under my clothes—anywhere that was still warm. I took photos, and cried and blew my nose involuntarily. Likely nothing would be in focus as there was just so much liquid being drawn out from...well, everywhere. The world was blurry and loud.
After being blown about for quite some time I needed shelter in the worst way. Eeking over to a little yellow house (a café), I preordered in my head, anything that would be warm. I settled for a cinnamon bun and in that moment in time it was the best thing I’d ever ingested! Warm. Gooey. Cinnamony. Warm. Later I found out that the post office had not actually been closed. The door just needed to be pushed instead of pulled. Þetta Reddast!