þetta reddast

It takes a lot of intestinal fortitude to live in Iceland. Harsh winter weather, earthquakes, volcanoes, severe storms, avalanches, isolation from the rest of the world, and days with only 4 hours of sunlight are just a few of the challenges that Icelanders have faced. According to this article, the country’s founders arrived in open boats in the 9th century, fleeing Norwegian slavery. With no maps or navigational devices, they braved the harsh North Atlantic, and their descendants have thrived.

After enduring so much, it’s really impressive that their unofficial motto is þetta reddast, (pronounced thet-ta red-ust), which means, basically, everything will turn out okay.

Are they foolish, cock-eyed optimists? Not exactly. They just have confidence that they can fix things, combined with a capitulation to the fact that so much is out of their control. It’s a comforting phrase that helps them get through the harshest conditions. Perhaps we all need to adopt this attitude during these trying times.

Once we realized that our trip to Italy had to be cancelled, we considered Iceland. That was in the early days. But at the time of this writing, Iceland had reported 890 cases of COVID-19 and two deaths. I’m sure by the time you read this, those numbers will have increased. May their positive attitude see them through.

thetta-reddast-filosofia-de-vida-dos-islandeses

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Whale Wonders

Whales seem to be in the forefront of my mind today. Dear husband sent me a link to this amazing 7 minute video of orca’s cavorting in Dyes Inlet in my adopted state of Washington just last month. It’s delightful to watch. They slap their tails on the surface, they breach, they pop their heads up to spy on those of us who are unfortunate enough to be land-based mammals. There’s even a baby amongst them. It’s just a joyous group of orcas, doing their orca thing.

And then I read this fascinating article entitled, The ‘narluga’ is a strange hybrid. But it’s far from alone. It’s about a cross between a narwhal and a beluga. Scientists were able to confirm this because the Inuit hunter still had the skull, and they were able to get DNA from its strange teeth. Whereas a narwhal usually has the one tooth that grows out like a unicorn horn and a few teeth-like protrusions growing behind that, and belugas have 40 teeth, this skull had 18 teeth up front, some as twisty as a narwhal tusk. There were a few other strange findings about this skull, but I’ll let you read more about that in the article itself.

The article did go on to say that marine mammals seem to create hybrids a lot more often than we land dwellers do. It seems it’s a very sexually experimental world down there beneath the waves. And the exciting thing is not all of them are rendered sterile like hybrids usually are on land. (When donkeys and horses produce mules, for example, they can’t reproduce.) So it’s a mad, mad watery world.

Speaking of mad, though, I was very angry to hear that the Japanese are back to commercial whaling. But then I read this article, and this one, and was slightly comforted. It seems that they used to hunt whales for “research” and then they’d sell the meat. Now the government doesn’t want to subsidize the practice, so they’re allowing commercial fishermen to take it over on a much smaller scale, and that will get smaller each year, and will have to take into account that the average Japanese person doesn’t really have a taste for whale meat, and with the declining young population, they will be hard pressed to find the 300 fishermen they’ll need to keep it up, especially when other fishing industries pay a lot more.

Let’s hope this obscene industry dies a natural death. It’s only currently active on an industrial scale in Japan, Iceland, and Norway. But there is more money to be made from eco-tourism, there’s a better international reputation, and there are much more delicious things to eat for those who eschew whaling these days.

Also, I once mentioned in a blog post that belugas have been known to mimic the human voice. How can you hunt something that joyfully plays and is smart enough to mimic? How do you eat something that likes to sexually experiment? I ask you.

Non-smoking Narluga

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Jólabókaflóð

Cultural appropriation is a big no-no these days. We are starting to learn to respect each other’s diversity, and try not to turn other people’s sacred things into kitsch as we once were wont to do. But I just came across an Icelandic tradition that involves two of my all-time favorite things: books and chocolate. So appropriate it I will.

It’s called Jólabókaflóð, which means Christmas Book Flood, and it began in Iceland after World War II, when everything was being rationed except paper. So for Christmas, people started giving each other books. Since it’s their tradition to open their gifts on Christmas Eve, it became quite natural for them to spend that evening reading their new books. (I don’t know how the eating chocolate part came into the mix, but I’m sure not complaining.)

What a delightful idea. And the best part is that I’ve gotten Iceland’s seal of approval to steal this tradition. As a matter of fact, they encourage it. They are spreading the word about Jólabókaflóð to people all over the world, to inspire reading. According to NPR, Iceland  publishes more books per capita than any other country, most of which are sold from September to November, hence the literary flood.

I must admit that I am telling you about this for two reasons. First, of course, is that I’d love for you to buy my book. But second, I like the idea that tonight, I won’t be the only person who gets into her jammies, crawls under the covers, and reads to his or her heart’s content, all while eating chocolate, guilt-free, for once.

So spread the cozy word! And happy holidays!

book flood

Where is China, Greenland and the Whole of Africa?

Since I haven’t been able to afford international travel in the past several years, I travel vicariously by checking out the countries of origin of the people who visit my blog. WordPress is even kind enough to provide a nifty little world map, with the countries that have visited colored in for me.

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When I get a new country visitor, I’m always so excited. I imagine someone from Bangladesh, for example, sitting at their computer on the other side of the world, looking at something I’ve written. What is that person like, I wonder. What does the room in which they’re sitting look like? What sounds are they hearing out their window? What drew them to my blog? Did I make them think about something in a different way? If it’s a country that I know very little about, I rush off to Google and learn a thing or two.

It’s a particular thrill when it’s a little tiny country, because I figure the odds are a lot longer that someone there would visit. I’d love to get Andorra or Lichtenstein, for example.

I’ve had visitors from 49 countries so far. In addition to the countries visible on the list from my screengrab picture above are Switzerland, Chile, Singapore, Austria, Greece, Ukraine, Slovenia, Malaysia, Mongolia, Finland, Mauritius, Israel, Guatemala, Iceland, Thailand, Croatia, Turkey, Viet Nam, France, Lithuania, Nepal and Brunei Darussalam.

I was particularly excited when I got my first visitor from the Russian Federation, because that REALLY added color to my map! What I can’t figure out, though, is why I haven’t sparked any interest at all from any nation on the African continent. What does a girl have to do? I’d also love to get Greenland and China. I’ll really know I’ve arrived, though, when I get someone from North Korea. But I won’t hold my breath.

So if you are a new visitor, welcome! I am waving hello to you from another part of the planet, and I’m really glad you’re here! Come back soon and bring your friends!