I love anything which helps me keep a grounded sense of who and where I am in life.
Sometimes this can be something which reminds me to have a sense of humour and not to take myself too seriously – this is mostly the job of my sister (hey sis, two mentions in two days – way to go!).
Other times, it can be the perspective of time. I did not expect to be so moved by Skara Brae, the Neolithic settlement on the mainland island of Orkney when Mr Tracks and I visited a couple of years ago. You can still see the substantial remains of ten houses occupied around 3180BC-2500BC and built on the most stunning beautiful bay of white sand and clear blue-green sea. There is evidence of home furnishings, heating systems, cooking arrangements and tools. Stunning.
And then of course, in true Star Trek style, we have the 'final frontier'. Space is endlessly fascinating, isn't it. And what's more, the things which scientists seem to know about space are fascinating too. Like the width of the universe (156 billion light years). And the age of the universe (13.75 billion years). Apparently.
These things are hard to get one's head around. Which is why it helps to have creative media, such as Gustav Holst's The Planets suite while we try. The seven movements are Holst's interpretation of each planet from an astrological rather than an astronomical perspective, which is why there is no movement representing Earth. And incredibly evocative they are. We are plunged straight into the movement about Mars 'The Bringer of War'. The relentless driving rhythms and repetitive phrasing leave one in no doubt about the message here. Venus and Mercury are much quieter works; beautiful and delicate. Jupiter is called 'Bringer of Jollity' and it is a most powerful piece. Saturn is the 'Bringer of Old Age' – a sense of burden balanced with wisdom. Uranus is the feisty 'Magician'. And finally we have Neptune 'The Mystic'.
I once had the privilege of performing this latter movement with the BBC Symphony Chorus at the Royal Albert Hall. Holst's stage instructions are “that the women's choruses are “to be placed in an adjoining room, the door of which is to be left open until the last bar of the piece, when it is to be slowly and silently closed”, and that the final bar (scored for choruses alone) is “to be repeated until the sound is lost in the distance”.” (The Planets” (full orchestral score): Goodwin & Tabb, Ltd., London, 1921). A group of about 20 of us had great fun being holed up in an attic room high up somewhere in the RAH, with only a small television screen by which to see the conductor on stage in the main hall, also being conducted by our own chorus master and with a member of the RAH team on hand to close the attic door slowly!! My mother and Mr Tracks were in the audience and they said it was amazing to hear our voices wafting through the air, coming from who knew where…..!
It's so important not to get too caught up in the minutiae of day to day trials and tribulations. It doesn't matter that I did not get a single thing on my to do list done today. It doesn't matter that I left my iPhone in the taxi bringing me from my office to my hotel and it was touch and go whether I would get it back (although I did eventually, thanks Taxi man). We are all part of a much bigger picture so let's chill out and give thanks. Here's an evening shot of my current bigger picture – when it gets properly dark, I'll see whether any planets are waving at me tonight and give them a wink back 😉