There is now a facility via Google to find ALL the sheep captured by Google.
There is now a facility via Google to find ALL the sheep captured by Google.
They clearly have inventive minds in Wales, the Land of my Fathers. This is awesome:
This time I just mean literally, a sheep. No metaphors.
and appreciate the true cuteness of a sheep.
I spotted this link today.
Be heartened, all you sheep who fear we are without power. If you turn and face them, they will run.
Poor doggie, though. He didn’t even get a proper name; Ci is simply Welsh for dog.
For the full story visit here:
I posted this first over at http://zenandtheartoftightropewalking.wordpress.com but figured it fitted here too with a slight addition of an extra title
On Why Resistance is Not Futile but is actually Essential
Those of you familiar with Douglas Adam’s The Hitch-hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy will recognise the cry of “Resistance is futile!” from the Vogon guard. I read these books at a very impressionable age so forgive the reference to books that are fast becoming classics of the late twentieth century.
I learned a couple of very interesting things this week while cycling to work but I’m only going to focus on one today and save the other for another post. My place of work has changed location meaning instead of a 20 minute stroll to work, I now have to cycle 25 minutes to get there. I haven’t cycled in years, having come off and left the surface of my knees and hands somewhere in Leicestershire about five years ago, so I came to it with reluctance again. It’s not the cycling that is my problem (well, OK, my undercarriage gets sore but that’s all) but the traffic. About half of my route to work is on much safer cycle paths and first thing in the morning, it’s bright and fresh and pleasant to ride. But there’s a significant slope(can’t call it a hill; it’s fairly flat here) all the way, so going to work, I end up free-wheeling a lot.
I hate it. I hate free-wheeling. At first I thought it was the speed and then I checked my cycle computer and realised that on the flat, pedalling hard, I was going at about the same speed as I was when free-wheeling down hill. Think again, Viv. Is it being out of control? No, because even though I am going quite fast, I have good brakes and can handle the bike well enough.
It was something far more subtle than either of these things that makes me hate free-wheeling.
It’s the lack of resistance.
Now going home in the evening I have to battle bad-tempered drivers, tired legs and a hill(sort of) much of the way. When I hit the cycle path for the last mile and a bit, I am glad to get onto the flat again where I can pedal normally, but I feel quite different to how I do when I reach the end of a hill without pedalling. I feel I have achieved something under my own steam, by my own efforts alone. It’s how I feel about having written X number of posts and not how I feel about X number of hits on the blog: it’s something I have achieved.
Now, taking this thought a little further, I began to think about how uneasy not making an effort on my own behalf makes me and how I dislike inertia of any form and it took me back just over a year to an experience I shared with some of my students at the local maritime college. Now what we did was a watered down(sorry, no pun intended) version of the training done by rig workers, rescue workers, lifeboat crew and others. Until this time I never quite understood why people wearing life jackets and in calm waters, drown. Die of exposure or injuries maybe, not drown. I soon discovered why. Two of the exercises involved having to climb out of the water onto a floating something(a life raft or a rope ladder) and the upper body strength needed to heave oneself, wet clothes and all, from zero to several feet above the waterline is phenomenal. In a real incident I’d have died. I simply could not do it. I was aided in getting into the life raft but without that help…..a watery grave awaited. You see, I was floating in 4 metres of water, as was the raft. There was nothing to push against. Same for the rope ladder; nothing to steady yourself against and use for pushing off from.
It was, simply put, a mind blowing experience for me and has haunted me ever since.
All these things together have made me question quite why I have such a hard time just going with the flow and why I always take the hard way in anything. At first I was fearful that this was a grave character flaw and that I was doomed to constant effort and no rewards. I’ve thought about it deeply and wonder if in fact it is a gift instead.
Few human achievements have been easy ones. Those that look easy are almost always backed by years of unseen effort (Bill Bailey: “It only took me twenty years to become an overnight success.”)Going back to pre-history, some have reasoned that one of the reasons they Neanderthals vanished was they had stagnated. Their tools never changed in thousands of years; they stayed exactly the same. If it worked OK, they saw no need to find another way. This mindset may have meant that their capacity to adapt to change was lessened. Throughout history, most worthwhile achievements have been against the tide, against the flow, fought for inch by inch by pioneers who often died to make those small steps.
More than thirty years ago I had a dream where I was walking with a much taller person whose face I could not see, and I held their hand as I walked. When I let go of that hand, the pavement I was walking on became impossible to walk on; it seemed to move backwards or my feet could not grip and I fell. Friction is what gives traction. Too smooth a path is impossible to walk on; try walking on ice some time.
I’ve also been haunted by Kate Bush’s song Rubber Band Girl. The lyrics I think of are: See those trees, bend in the wind? I think they’ve got a lot more sense than me. See, I try to resist. I thought and thought about this, endlessly lately, whether I agreed with it. But later lyrics change this: If I could learn to give(twang) like a rubber-band I’d be back on my feet! Elastic holds kinetic energy that can be used to propel you; the song even mentions a catapult. Trees that bend do not break, but they bend back to their place and are not swept away. It’s another form of resistance, a harnessing of power from the opposing forces.
This is what hardship and difficulty can do for some: it can be a source of power. Much of the martial arts teach about using the energy of your enemy, and not your own, to defeat them. For me, I need to fight, to use that energy and momentum to achieve things. That’s why for me, the path of least resistance is not my path at all. I need the grit in the machine to power me, the hill to climb under my own steam. And it’s why inertia is death.
Some years ago, I was sent a design for a perpetual motion machine. I am to this day baffled about why and who sent it (the name on the design was Oliver Plunkett and I have no clue how he got my postal address or even who he was) Even to me, the non-physicist, the machine was moonshine. It’s an impossible dream, the concept essentially of something for nothing. Everything that is worth something costs in terms of effort somewhere along the line; there really is no such thing as a free lunch.
That’s why I don’t look for the easy way. I don’t want an easy life. I want a meaningful one.
When a poem is written,
Released to be read,
It ceases to be mine alone.
Like a wayward child,
It speaks its mind
To all it encounters
And is changed forever:
I never meant that!
That’s not what I said.
I gave it life,
Gave it wings,
And now must say goodbye.
It has its own life:
A purpose, a mission maybe.
And I, like every mother,
Wish it well, wave it off,
Shed a tear and hope at least
For a Christmas card
And flowers for Mother’s Day.
I’m a face in the crowd
The one you’d like to kiss
I’m a voice in the wilderness
The one you’re gonna miss
I’m a fragrance on the air
The one you think you know
I’m a touch on your sleeve
But before you look, I go
I’m the one you’ve met before
But you can’t recall my name
Like the heart in your body
I’m the one they’ll never tame.
A spinning wheel in motion was the most incongruous thing you might find in a hospital lobby and it made her look twice. In the foyer of the maternity unit there was a row of small stalls next to the WRVS shop. She dimly recalled noticing adverts for the forthcoming charity craft fair raising money for the pre-term baby unit but it hadn’t really sunk in properly. Given recent events, a few old ladies selling tea cosies and home made jam didn’t seem important and if it hadn’t been for the elegance and compelling motion of the wheel in action she might well have passed on by without a second glance. But she was early and it would be better than sitting yet again in the hospital canteen drinking endless cups of unwanted tea to pass the time.
She turned back. Most of the stalls were much as she’d expected; collections of handcrafted greetings cards, tissue box covers sewn from scraps of damask and velvet to turn a bedroom to a boudoir, and the ubiquitous knitted teddy bears and matinee jackets. Thankfully there wasn’t a jam jar in sight; the nearest equivalent was some rather nicely packaged jars of skin crème and bath salts. She’d delayed approaching the stall with the spinning wheel for reasons she couldn’t quite place; the girl working it seemed as unlikely as the wheel itself. While all the other ladies running the other stalls were the expected granite-haired grannies, this girl looked too young to be out of school. Yet she wielded the wheel with the skill and assurance of a professional. A wicker basket sat on the floor next to the wheel, spilling over with wool ready cared for spinning; she thought at first the wool was yellow but as she looked again she saw it had an odd tinge of old gold to it. It made her think obscurely of high hills and the smell of thyme with the sunshine upon it, and long ago holidays. Where had those holidays been now? All she could remember suddenly was the glory of blue skies and intensely blue seas.
The girl glanced up at her, and let the wheel slow.
“Can I help you?” she asked.
Her voice was deeper than you’d expect from a girl that young; well modulated and ever so slightly unfamiliar, as if she had the trace of an accent that hinted at distant shores left long ago in early childhood. Yet the girl was fair, startlingly so, and with grey eyes.
“Shouldn’t you be in school?” the woman asked.
The girl smiled as though she were asked this all the time.
“I’m older than I look,” she said. “Much older. See anything you like?”
She gestured to her stall, which the woman now saw was arranged with the tiniest baby clothes imaginable. They almost looked like doll clothes. As she browsed through them, in wonder, she saw that they were knitted from the same wool the girl was spinning. Spun and knitted, it glowed.
“Is there metal wire in this stuff?” she asked, rather sourly. “Like some of those Indian skirts that are shot through with threads of metal?”
“No,” the girl replied. “That’s the just the way the wool is. No threads of gold, no. That would be scratchy and unpleasant. And these are only for newborns.”
The woman picked up one of the tiny garments, and almost dropped it in surprise.
“It’s so soft,” she said, astonished. “It’s so soft I can scarcely feel it and yet its like velvet. Not like wool at all.”
She held the little jacket in her fingers, stroking the surface.
“It’s the sheep,” said the girl. “The wool comes from a very rare breed. My family brought them over from Greece a long time ago. It’s the softest wool in the world.”
“I’d love a jumper or a cardigan in it,” the woman said, longingly. “Do you do commissions?”
“Sorry,” said the girl. “The wool is very precious and rare and I only make these baby clothes. It’s the best wool in the world for baby clothes.”
The woman still held the jacket and she glanced now at the price tag.
“But this is so cheap!” she exclaimed, in surprise.
The girl shrugged and smiled.
“It is for charity,” she said. “And babies thrive when they wear this wool.”
She turned her attention back to her wheel and the motion made the woman feel softly dizzy, in a nice way, as she watched it. On the main body of the contraption there was a name carved into the shining wood.
“Is that your name?” she asked the girl, pointing to the carving.
“It’s an old Greek name,” the girl replied. “A family name.”
“Clotho doesn’t sound very Greek to me. Are you Greek then? You really don’t look it.”
“We’re an old Greek family, yes. You might even say ancient. But it’s a myth that Greeks must be dark. The original Hellenes were blonde. Both my sisters are fair too.”
The wheel hummed as it turned and the girl’s hands seemed to be turning the fluffy cream clouds of unspun wool into pure gold. The thread spun on the spindle shone in the dull light of the foyer. Balls of it lay ready-wound in another basket at the girl’s feet.
“So what do your sisters do?” the woman asked, as the spinning lulled and calmed her nerves.
“My closest sister, well, you might say she works as a life coach. She helps people sort out their lives. So does my oldest sister. She’s a doctor. A consultant.”
“Do you want to be a doctor when you’ve finished your studies?”
A small, amused smile turned the corners of the girl’s mouth upwards.
“I’m happy with what I do,” she said. “I like working with my hands and what I make helps people.”
The woman turned with jacket indecisively over. Her hands were not work roughened and yet she could scarcely feel the wool at all, and she could feel her hands becoming warmer and softer and almost cocooned. It was a strange feeling. Her mind was still full of the image of the body in an incubator upstairs, more like a shaved starved monkey than a human baby. Today, she knew she would be saying goodbye and yet, in all the rush and terror of the last days, she’d not been able to give this brief, unexpected grandchild a single gift.
“Can I have some bootees as well?” she said, and the girl nodded.
“They’re at the end,” she said. “Put the money in the box. I can’t stop the wheel now or I’ll break the thread. And that’s a thing I try to avoid.”
Taking the bootees and the little jacket, she put money in the box, far more than the prices asked and walked on, tears beginning to prickle at the corners of her eyes.
Upstairs, she saw her daughter first, still terribly ill but starting to recover from the physical distress of the last few days and then went into the room where the incubators stood. The tiny naked body inside was so still she wondered if the baby was already dead. The tubes emerging from the minute body seemed wider than the thread-thin limbs.
“He’s not going to last long,” the nurse said, bluntly. “It’s a matter of time now, I’m afraid. We’ve done all we can. I am so sorry.”
Biting her lip, the woman nodded.
“Then you won’t mind if I dress him,” she said. “I’d like to do that for him at least.”
With the expert assistance of the nurse, the bootees and jacket were put on the baby, who moved softly under their hands. He felt more like a mouse than a baby, she thought.
“Now we wait,” said the nurse. “Your daughter…?”
“Bit better. Conscious but pretty ill.”
They watched in silence. A hand no bigger than a spider twitched out and caught a hold of the jacket. It had seemed ludicrously tiny on the stall but even this dwarfed the baby. The bootees looked like they were meant for a giant, coming up to the knees. The hand began kneading the wool, playing through the soft plush of the surface.
The woman sighed.
“Well, he seems to like it anyway,” she said and the nurse passed her a box of tissues and took a handful herself.
The day passed. And night. And another day. The woman slept at the side of her grandchild’s plastic crib, refusing to go home. She kept vigil, assisting the procession of nurses who turned the baby and cared for his needs, and spent few minutes away keeping her daughter up to date.
“It’s amazing,” she said, as evening fell for a second time. “You won’t believe the difference. He even opened his eyes earlier. His colour’s better. The nurses won’t say it when the doctor is there but it’s a miracle.”
When it was clear the tide had firmly turned, she allowed herself to be persuaded to go home and as she went through the foyer, she noticed the stalls were still there. But the one at the end was gone. The trestle table remained but was bare. The old lady running the stall next to it looked up.
“Where did the girl with the spinning wheel go?” the woman asked.
“Well, she sold everything and has gone,” the old lady replied. “ Raised a whole load of money; more than any of us I think. Funny child she was too. Talented. I don’t know anyone of that generation who can knit at all, let alone as well as that lassie did. Though she spun the whole day she was with us. Never saw her knit. She was spinning even when we all packed up and left for the night too. Oh, she said to say to you, if you came back, that she didn’t let the thread break. Like I said, funny child.”
“Thank you,” said the woman. The empty table looked strange. Bare and blank like a fresh piece of paper. Or a new life. A faint gleam caught her eye; on the floor next to the table was a single snippet of the wool the girl had been spinning. She picked it up and held it. The wool felt as warm as if it had been spun seconds ago, and as soft as thistledown. The hint of gold needed the sun now to make it shine, and going out into the gloomy November day, she felt the sun was shining inside her heart and the thread too would always shine when she remembered. Tucking the relic in her purse, she went to the car and drove home, exhausted but ecstatically thankful.
Sheep and Wolves
“Those of you who would happy be,
Come along and follow me.
If you want your highest bliss
Do as I do, dress like this.
Check your brain in at the door,
You won’t need that any more.
Hand your worldly goods to us;
We know best, so why the fuss?
Peace of mind it don’t come cheap,
Now get in line with all the sheep!”
Shepherd’s pie I hear them say;
Tell those sheep to run away!
Beware the wolves who dress like me,
So alike it’s hard to see
Who’d be your guardian and your God,
Rule with kindness, not the rod.
Think of this when wolves are here:
The good shepherd inspires no fear.