(from a portfolio by Vilhelm Gunnarsson in the Icelandic press; see all here. )
As longtime readers may remember, during the last five or six years we lived in Vermont, our next-door neighbors were from Iceland. H. and E., and eventually their little daughter h., who came along in the middle of that time, became some of our closest and dearest friends.They've gone back home now, and are living in Reykjavik. We would have followed the news about Iceland's financial meltdown, and the astonishing eruption of Eyjafjallajökull, in any case. But knowing our friends on their small beloved island are trying to live, and bring up their daughter, with a sense of happiness, security, and normalcy in the midst of so much turmoil has given these events a much more personal and immediate dimension. Yesterday I asked H. if he'd write something about how things look in Iceland right now, from his perspective. Here is what he wrote, along with a link that he sent to these ominous and extraordinary photographs.
it's strange, we're in the middle of one disaster and another one strikes
but there is this huge difference
we know this one
we've been through it so many times before
we know all the rules
the mortal dangers
we know it might go really really badly
but that most likely it will be over within weeks
and this we can handle
that other disaster keeps befuddling us
there was nothing natural about that one
how could our banks fail like that, all three?
it must have been that those running them caused it by acting criminally
they must have taken all the money and made away with it, somehow
money doesn't just disappear into thin air
and how did all the rules change so suddenly, literally overnight?
we had a banking system, privately owned, competing cut-throat with foreign banks, also privately owned
then all of a sudden, all these big, foreign banks had been usurped by their governments, their treasuries
and our huge banks turned around too crawl under the skirt of our little state treasury
was this supposed to be a competition on a "free" market?
our politicians should have seen all of this coming, somehow
they should have known the unwritten rules, somehow
so we made them all resign, and now we're going to prosecute them
that will keep at bay the ugly truth in the matter, at least for a while
it's musical chairs, and we're among those caught standing
because we did not know this one
our banks had only recently been privatized
they had never ventured abroad before
we did not know the unspoken rules
the mortal dangers
we knew not that it might go really really badly
and we know not when it will be over
and this keeps us confounded
Note: please read the comments for some questions from readers and responses from H. In an email, E. also adds:
"It is like you said, we have been down-wind from the volcano, so our view has been the same as yours, on TV and in the media - although perhaps with more emotional involvement! it is weird to watch part of your country covered in ash, and see farms and animals under the black clouds, and watch the floods strip away roads like they were toys. The power of nature, of earth, is so breathtaking and makes you feel so small and insignificant. If this island cared, it could shrug us all off in one big blast. Once things calm down, we are hoping to take a trip out there, we will be sure to report back to you!"