“What is your favorite way to recharge when you feel drained of energy?”
There’s a reason this blog is called “Muttonings,” and there’s a reason I post as “Mrs. Mutton.” It has everything to do with sheep, to wit: Somewhere around 1977, I suddenly got into knitting in a big way. Up to then, I had divided my time fairly evenly between knitting and cross stitch, but in 1977, my daughter was two, and the thought of those little fingers and eyes around sharp, pointy objects was too horrific to entertain; so I turned to the less-sharp pointy objects known as knitting needles, and for many years afterwards, knitting was my sole handwork. In fact, my son, born in 1979, has never known me to do anything else.
In 1982, I became acquainted with the knitting philosophy of Elizabeth Zimmermann. The woman was an utter genius at combining art, math, and practicality, and her chosen medium was wool. Not just generic yarn – wool, “from the simple, silly sheep,” as she put it in one of her books. It was largely due to her influence that I gradually became a Wool Snob, and began accumulating wool yarn to such an extent that my family teased that I was becoming a sheep. These days I have stuffed sheep, pictures of sheep, sheep calendars, books about sheep…well, as you can see, the thing has taken on a life of its own.
So I am “Mrs. Mutton” (actually, that is the name of one of my stuffed sheep, who began life as “Ms. Mutton” of the famous brokerage firm, E.F. Mutton, until my husband rescued her from a life of Ms.-ery), and the odd pronouncements I mutter to myself have become known, locally, as “muttonings.” All of which I offer as background to my favorite way of recharging when I am drained of energy. Which is only partially with knitting.
There actually is something very, very soothing and mindless about repetitive hand motion. Mind you, there is nothing relaxing about learning to knit; like any other unknown activity, it’s very stressful to learn. But the rewards of sticking with the effort are completely disproportionate to the effort involved in learning the craft; you can actually knit your way to lower blood pressure. And while your hands are occupied, and your brain either goes blank or focuses on the intricacies of, say, Aran knitting, other, more convoluted knots are unraveled. I daresay that many a mental-health issue could be successfully treated by teaching patients to knit.
But as I say, recharging my personal batteries is a two-pronged process. Knitting – or counted cross-stitch – is one prong, having something to occupy my mind that is completely unrelated to whatever it is that’s sapping my energy. The other prong is classical music.
I’m not talking about the Bombast, or the Searching-for-the-Lost-Chord kind of cacophony that has become associated with classical music. That stuff has its place (I guess), once you’ve become accustomed to the very different tempo of classical music, so much slower and more thought-infused than what currently occupies most space on the airwaves. But if you want to relax, or if you’re really new to classical music, you want Baroque – Vivaldi, say, or Handel. Or Bach, who wrote the music that is the title of this post, Sheep May Safely Graze. Bach’s music covers every range of emotions, from utterly sublime to rollicking fun to just plain funny (his Coffee Cantata begins with a father grumping, “Ain’t it a fact that our kids give us a hundred thousand different kinds of heartburn,” or the eighteenth-century Germanic equivalent thereof). And Vivaldi is such easy listening that a friend of ours once joked that “Vivaldi wrote the same concerto 425 times,” there being 425 works listed in the “Ryom Listing,” the most commonly used catalogue of Vivaldi’s compositions.
Knitting to the Oldies. Works every time.