Welcome to 60 North… Shetland, 100 miles north of mainland Scotland. Where the wind doth blow, the winter days so dark, and the seas be wild yet the beautiful landscape, and overriding pride in place are most prominent. The Shetland Isles are home to approximately 23,000 people and 270,000 sheep.
I recently visited Shetland for the second time… the first to attend a knitting retreat. I fell in love with the place and people and knew I must return. My second trip was a deeper dive into issues related to sustainability and food systems; to develop a study abroad experience for university students studying nutrition. I spent 5 days exploring Shetland, meeting people and identifying examples/activities related to nutrition and health, economic vitality, environmental stewardship, and cultural/social identity, the four pillars of sustainability recognized by my professional society.
And so… over those 5 days with limited daylight, I came away with a different perspective. One I hadn’t expected. One that provided me with insight on what matters in life… and I was surprised by what some of these items were…
The power of peat… who knew how important this substance is for the health of our planet. All I knew about peat was that we used it as an additive for our annual potted plants. Blanket bog made up of peat is a crucial resource to our planet as it sequesters carbon. Peat bogs are disappearing and we must save the peat bogs!
St. Ninian’s Isle. Where the water flows from two different directions, never to meet. The amount of beach that’s present depends on the tide. Persistence…
Knitting in nature… does it get any better? Yes, actually, sitting on a cozy sofa, next to a fireplace with a warm cuppa tea might be more appealing. Yet it’s those moments that I’ve knit in a park, a mountaintop, on a beach, in the cold that provided me with perspective on how lucky I am to be able to return to a warm, cozy place.
The power of loss… a cemetery filled with reminders that at some point life ends, that we remaining ones grieve, and find our way on a new crooked path.
Yet it was here at this spot, overlooking the magnificent, powerful ocean that I wept tears… for our inability to gain perspective on war and peace… when will violence no longer be the perceived solution? What will it take?
And then there’s seaweed… nutrient rich, anti-microbial, nature’s fertilizer and herbicide. New perspective and appreciation gained.
But it was these birds soaring between the rocks, alongside the cliffs, above the tumultuous waters that the perspective I’d been needing was revealed.
I had returned to Shetland with the idea that this would be THE place to live… my family often jokes that if I’ve gone missing you’ll find me in Shetland. The beauty, the calm, the relaxed feeling I have that overcomes my entire being, the walking, the people, the sheep (yarn and knitting) the connected communities… this is PEACE.
As I watched these birds soar with grace catching the winds high and low I began to think about the gulls. Were they out there having the time of their life? Did their experience match my perspective? Or rather were the birds cursing the wind, frustrated by the fact that they couldn’t land on the rocky perch, fearful that with one sudden gust they could easily be tossed against this massive pillar of rock plummeting to the ocean below. Did they sense that with one wrong turn, one little mistake there would be no second chance?
And while, I’m certain the seagulls weren’t contemplating their existence, my perspective shifted… my perspective on where one has the opportunity to find peace. It’s not always in the moments of grace, beauty and effortless flight…
peace is right now,
in the messy moment,
the place that you are.
In the present…
My love for Shetland, this magnificent rock in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean and North Sea, and the people have been imprinted on my being. I will return again and again if only to gain more perspective.
Opportunities to be at peace are everywhere… tucked away in corners and behind apparently close doors…
Peace seed #15.
Perspective… today, grab your knitting and watch a movie. One of my all-time favorites is Maleficent, a story about perspective. There’s two sides to every story and what might appear to be the truth based on what you’ve always been told might just not be the entire story. Perspective…
However, if that movie suggestion isn’t quite your cup of tea, why not dive into watching the BBC mini-series, Shetland. It’s an incredible show based on Ann Cleeve’s books. Not to worry, Shetland is a safe place despite the fact that this show paints a different story. It’s filled with beautiful scenery (rain and wind too) and knitwear. Find this on Netflix.
Finally, a Project Peace participant recently sent me an email with reference to a documentary called Winged Migration. It’s from the bird’s perspective… you can rent/purchase this one from Amazon.
And if you were feeling really adventurous and wanted to plan a pilgrimage to Shetland, check out Promote Shetland or Misa Hay’s website, Shetland Wool Adventures if you want a knitting-focused retreat.
Give-away #2 winner announced tomorrow.
Peace is a journey… one stitch, one step at a time.