The momentary solace of sheep

Seeking beauty, seeking peace

I don’t know if you’re as stressed-out and alarmed at the state of the world today as I am, but I think it’s a pretty safe bet. Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “It isn’t enough to talk about peace. One must believe in it. And it isn’t enough to believe in it. One must work at it.” I believe in peace and believe the only path to peace is acceptance. I believe that all of the shootings and terrorist attacks and discriminatory legislation and divisive rhetoric and condemnations and name-calling all have the same root: fear of otherness. I believe if we can’t learn to love (or at least live with) each other in all our brilliant variety, we’re doomed. And I have no idea how to work at that, as Mrs. Roosevelt said, other than to try to live it every day and hope it rubs off on someone a tiny bit. But most days lately, I find myself doing the opposite — pointing my finger and cussing about whose fault it is, who is inciting or acting out the hate today — and in those moments I’m part of the problem.

And then there are moments where I feel like the top of my head might actually pop off from the anxiety of it all.

What do you do at a moment like that? When you can’t change the world in a heartbeat and need to get your blood pressure down, I find sheep help. Trivial, I know, but also true. My friend Jen sent me a link recently to a site called Google Sheep View (get it?) and then on Mason-Dixon I read about the Instagram account called @sheepwithaview, which is a balm for the soul. It works a little like valium, but it’s free and there are no side effects.

In 100% seriousness, days like these I’m just that much more grateful for this community I find myself part of, and the fact that I get to spend so much of my time concentrating on seeking out and sharing little bits of beauty in the world. You people mean a lot to me.

These photos belong to @visitnorway and their @sheepwithaview account, and hopefully they won’t mind my sharing how beautiful their country is! Looks like a very peaceful place.

50 thoughts on “The momentary solace of sheep

  1. Your post brought me to tears. I, too, am fearful for the world and all of the terrible things that are happening, and find such solace in the joy that knitting brings me. I tell people that it’s my yoga, and I am dead serious about it. Thank you for your wonderful words and inspiration, and I’m going to try your sheep therapy, too. I still have hope, though, that the good will overcome the bad, and that one day our world will be a better place for it. Fingers crossed…

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    • Love the thought that went into this writing. Knitting is my salve and also my kindness to the world. I enjoy so much knitting and giving away to those who least expect it. When the world is making me crazy I head to the knitting sites and block the madness out. My other salve is the soup kitchen where I volunteer on Thursdays. It makes me feel pro-active in spreading kindness and love. Thank you for all that you do in sharing your talents with others.

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  2. You couldn’t have captured my own feelings any more succinctly! Sheep are, indeed, soothing. One of my faves is @wingandaprayerfarm . Tam posts some of the sweetest shots and videos daily. They are a balm for troubled times.

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  3. Yes, sheep. Yes, dogs. I too am troubled and find these help. I also say to myself each morning: be the change that you wish to see in the world (Gandhi).

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  4. Thank you for your viewpoint. I feel much the same as you do, and it is very comforting to know that others feel like I do. It is hard to know what to do to change the ugly name-calling (and worse) that seems to dominate this country this summer.

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  5. thanks a lot for this wonderful post – I love sheep view and sheepwithaview, too, and pondered about why it is that they came into existence right now… well, it´s absolutely time for it – and cheers to their inventors – those pictures lighten my days, too. – only problem left to solve: how do I get my own sheep? ;–)

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  6. You are so on target for the solution to the world’s expression of hate. We sometimes hate what we don’t understand or know. Please know that you mean a lot to your readers, too.

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  7. Beautifully said. Especially the head exploding part … just how I feel .
    I love that top photo, especially. It is like Mr. Sheep said ” Right here, honey … I like this background…how do I look…take the photo.”

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  8. The other week I blogged about how trivial I felt talking about knitting when I felt like the walls of the world were slowing caving in on me. And then I got a lot of love back from this great community of knitters and realized that part of what brings me calm and joy is knitting and that I can still find some good in the world when I share what brings me joy. I don’t want to think about the crazy taking over the world, so hopefully if all of us are just a little bit kinder and loving to one another it will start to rub off one at a time :)

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      • And I think a lot of people are afraid of saying or doing the wrong thing. I’ve had a lot of people ask me questions or ask me to help them understand from my perspective and it has opened up a dialogue but everyone is effected in such a different way so every response is different. Hopefully we can all heal.

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  9. Your expression of sadness on the state of the world was right on. One more thought – People really should treat others the way they expect to be treated themselves. If you expect kindness, treat others with kindness. Your sheep gazing seems to show that life can be quite simple and uncomplicated. Thank you.

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  10. Sheep do have a calming effect. My favorite: https://twitter.com/herdyshepherd1 James Rebanks lives on the northern side of the Lake District in England. A shepherd by family tradition but also Oxford educated, he was written two books with great photos about his life as a shepherd and his part of the world that he loves dearly. He tweets year round, throughout the day, even during lambing season, and posts stunning photos of his sheep, dogs, family, and farm.

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  11. Thanks for putting it into words, Karen. Your post brought me to tears, too, because I’m trying hard to hold it all in, keep my days going in a loving, joyful way, all the while keeping a sense of helplessness and horror at bay. Trying to stay present and really see the people around me and send out my own love and light instead of being in my head. Knitting, spinning and gardening – or walking in nature – are my grounding. Now I’m going to go look at sheep pics!

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  12. I just want to add, that I do worry about people not speaking up. Staying calm and promoting peace and love are vital, but it is also important to stay engaged, to speak up, to let people know you don’t agree with what is going on all around us. It’s hard, because everyone is on edge and discussions can very quickly escalate into uncomfortable situations. But to avoid it comes across as apathy, and apathy just makes space for the ugly stuff.

    I am so glad that you, Karen, and other online community leaders like Mason Dixon and others, are making space on your pages to acknowledge the fear and hurt and worry. I know there can be backlash from readers, I have seen it at MD, and on Instagram, but still, to say nothing, just seems surreal. It doesn’t have to be much or often, but there is power in it. You reach a lot of people. Thanks for doing it.

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  13. And this is why I tune in everyday to your blog, Karen …. thank you for this pause. I’m involved with a group who are settling a family arriving today from Syria, trusting that this will become one more step towards and through facing my own fear of “otherness”. And yes, the solace of sheep and knitting is real!

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  14. THANK YOU! So poignantly stated and at the very heart of why I started “google sheep view.” I am trying to find ways to make the fiber/knitting community more aware of the project, so thanks for the mention :) Sheep are indeed therapy animals and believe it or not “google sheep view” came first, BEFORE the knitting obsession. Although knitting was clearly an inevitable and unavoidable side-effect right?

    Most recently there is also “sheep view 360” where Faroe Island sheep are given cameras to map out the terrain: https://www.theguardian.com/travel/2016/jul/12/sheep-view-360-faroe-islands-google-mapping-project

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  15. In case you don’t know it or hear it enough, you and your blog mean a lot to the people who read you also! Thank you for being here to help the world and to bring us together.

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  16. Yes. This is something of an elaborate academic joke, in case you’re interested in postmodernism, but I think the underlying concept is very similar to your awareness of the value of sheep: http://discourseontheotter.tumblr.com/. Sometimes we need to see ourselves displaced or replaced by others … or otters … in order to understand our own limitations and possibilities.

    I’m sorry that it’s hard to reconcile with the world right now. It has never been easy, but it seems that we’re increasingly aware of what is at stake and all of those previous — missed — opportunities. Knitting helps me to remember the value in making, and repairing, and the passion and patience required. It’s a challenge, to balance the two. Worthy and frustrating.

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  17. I look at photos of my new baby niece, who is sweet and perfect. I think about her and my own children (ages 8 and 10) and how I am helping prepare them for this world. It’s hard, but I have to remember I grew up at the end of the cold war when all the grownups around me were gripped with fear then, too. The world will always suck, I think (I’m a cynic), but it’s my job as an adult and a parent to do what I can to make it better and teach young people about JUSTICE as well as love and acceptance. That’s what I’m doing to try and make things better.

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  18. Wise words, Karen, and I agree with you. And a little cynical part of me wonders, who wins by keeping us divided and worried about “others”? Is it all a big diversion to keep us from seeing a bigger picture? (sorry if that’s awfully dark)

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  19. It’s a very scary world we live in. The only way I can think of to try to change it is to smile and be polite to everyone. I know it sounds trite but letting a driver turn across a lane in front of me or saying “hi” or “excuse me” to someone in the grocery or complimenting someone on their smile or hair or cute kid (especially if said kid is making Mama or Daddy frustrated at the moment) lowers my fear of the times. People smile back, I see their shoulders relax just a bit and, even if they don’t speak English, luckily I can smile in every language and for just a minute we’re together in the world. I’m a middle-aged, middle-class white woman but I make it a point to show respect for every person I see no matter their ethnic background or their status. I might be fooling myself, but I think I’m making a difference in my little corner of the world.

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  20. I’m a practicing massage therapist, wife, pet owner. Aunt, Daughter, Sister, wife. I’m on sensory overload and I’m overwhelmed with grief. I bury myself in my knitting. Consider how to expand my offerings to provide comfort to my clients. I don’t watch the news, I limit my exposure to political news as much as possible so I don’t poison my head.

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  21. I never miss reading you and MD…such comforts in such God-awful times. I’ve been knitting miles and miles of garter stitch for a huge shawl (86″ x 36″)…it’s mindless and soothing. A smile and random acts of kindness cost us nothing, and is my small anti-dote to the hatred and evil that seem to be in so many parts of the world today. I agree that hatred comes from fear, and that hatred/fear/racism is tragically learned by very young children in their homes. I’m having a difficult time with both presidential candidates this year, and shut off the convention last night when Christie had the delegates whipped up in such a hateful frenzy. Please let’s agree to disagree in a respectful manner and not turn our citizens into a lynch mob. We need to voice our opinions – loudly when necessary -otherwise silence can be construed as acceptance for the status quo. Thanks for this post, Karen, and for having the courage to publicize it. We need others like you and MD!!!

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  22. There is love and abundance in this community. I find the positivity, approachability, and support of the knitting world both comforting and hopeful. Thank you, knitters of the world.

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  23. It is so very heartening to read everyone’s comments on how to live with integrity and empathy in the face of such pervasive violence, divisiveness and dread. Karen, I believe you are right that it all comes from fear of the scary, threatening Other. Fighting that fear day by day, moment by moment, with small acts of love, kindness, generosity, thoughtfulness – – those things DO matter. They add up. They counterbalance, somehow, the fear and other forces trying to keep us from truly being what we are – one people. It’s hard sometimes, when you’re tired or hungry or traffic is bad or daily-life things seem to conspire against us. But daily I do my best to live in love and, of course, knit knit knit, and that keep me going. As does the worldwide knitting community of amazing kindred spirits.

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  24. As I commented last week, I turn to this world of creativity and makers, who show the world how to connect to the earth and to each other. You are at the top of that list. Thank you.

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  26. Just a few nights ago, feeling as though I couldn’t process any more anger or sadness, I turned off the news and went out to watch the moon come up over the sheep pastures. I’m so grateful for my sheep. More than ever they slow me down, allow me the tune out the noise of the world and take deep breaths. I posted a video of the scene on Instagram and was comforted by the response from so many kindred souls.

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