Travel theme: pathways of light

Pathways is Ailsa’s theme this week at Where’s my Backpack.

Lighting the way; an installation at the New Plymouth Festival of Lights

I’m one of those people who focuses on the destination, not the journey; the goal rather than the process. I understand this about myself and accept it. I know it means I miss stuff but I’m ok with that. I figure I’m happy enough with who I am not to feel the need to change that particular part of my psyche.

So focusing on pathways is an interesting concept for me. Afterall, pathways exist to go somewhere and I have probably always been too busy thinking about that somewhere to capture the road I’m on. Then I found the photo above of an installation at the New Plymouth Festival of Lights. You could say that it’s connection with pathways is a bit tangential, and maybe that’s true, but it got me thinking about how light itself is a kind of pathway.By illuminating some things and leaving others in darkness, light creates a way forward – a direction.

“There are apparently few limitations either of time or space on where the psyche might journey and only the customs inspector employed by our own inhibitions restricts what it might bring back when it reenters the home country of everyday consciousness.” ― Tom Robbins, Jitterbug Perfume

The photo above was taken in Federation Square, Melbourne, in June 2009 during the annual Light in Winter Festival. The sculpture consisted of this series of columns each of which lit up at different times, in different colours. Arranged in a grid, the columns formed multiple, transient pathways, based on the timing or the colour of the lights. In this photo, the pathway could be seen to lead to St Pauls Cathedral opposite Federation Square on Flinders Street.

Churches have traditionally been a source of light – both actual and spiritual. Many different pathways can take one to church. I don’t really believe in God, but within the large, elegant churches of the more established forms of Christianity, I find peace and beauty and joy. I experience these things not because of any belief in a supernatural being, but because they represent some of the highest forms of human creativity; in architecture, design, painting, sculpture and music.

pathways of light church

On a wet and bitingly cold winter’s night, St Patrick’s Cathedral in Auckland is a place of sanctuary. A path of gleaming white leading to the sacred space within which music, ritual, tradition and visual harmony embrace believers and those of us who are content to celebrate the genius of humanity.

The religious music of John Rutter embodies for me much that is truly good in humanity; a pathway to joy.

17 thoughts on “Travel theme: pathways of light

  1. Su, I continue to be amazed by your blog. The image at the top of this post is stunning, and your final sentence, “The religious music of John Rutter embodies for me much that is truly good in humanity; a pathway to joy.” echoes so closely the way I feel about his music. I have been privileged to sing many of his compositions, including, several years ago, his “Gloria” in it’s entirety. It still sends thrills up my spine when I listen to a recording of that piece that he has conducted. Thank you for this excellent recording of his “Requiem Aeternam.”


    • I’m so glad you like it Hannah! My first encounter with Rutter’s music is kind of a John Lennon moment (thankfully without the shooting). I remember it clearly and exactly! I was in a record shop in Birmingham, England on a Friday afternoon in late November 1992; killing time, waiting for a train back to London. Requiem: Pie Jesu was playing on the shop’s sound system and I so totally fell in love with it I asked one of the assistants what was playing and promptly bought two copies of the CD — one for me and one for my mother. I’m not religious, and as a child was taken to Presbyterian churches, so I have no background knowledge of choral music, but I love it. I totally fall apart listening to Tompkins ‘When David Heard’ 9, and wish I could sing so that I could be part of a choral performance of one of these great works.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Singing is one of the things that keeps me going. It brings me joy, at times I find it to be a mystical experience (I don’t talk about that much), and it can both ground me and transport me, sometimes alternately, sometimes simultaneously. And it brings me comfort, even in the darkest times of serious illness. Those intense feelings are not constant, of course. Nothing that intense is. A lot of times practice is just the struggle of learning something incredibly difficult and new. But our Choir Director is brilliant at balancing our rehearsal folders. If we are learning a piece that is really stretching us musically, we will also have pieces in our folders that we have performed before and/or pieces that are easy to learn.

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      • Thank you for this YouTube link!! I have never sung anything by Tompkins, nor was I familiar with this piece. It is haunting. James Barclay’s comment that this music is very difficult to sing is so true. It sounds so easy, but it is incredibly hard. If even one singer is off by as little as an eighth note in timing, it all doesn’t line up, and it doesn’t work. Add to that the fact that dynamics have to be crafted with such nuance, and that no single voice can stick out; your vocal section of 4, or 12 voices have to sound like a single voice. When you open a piece of music from this period, the tendency is to look at the notes and say to yourself, “Oh, this will be easy.” And then, with all of the above, it turns out to be one of the most difficult pieced in your rehearsal folder. It is not uncommon for us to work on a 2.5 minute piece of Renaissance music for 2 months before we perform it.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Reblogged this on Zimmerbitch: age is just a (biggish) number and commented:

    I’d forgotten all about this post, until Hannah at Zebra’s Child ( commented on it. It was written only two years ago, but placed alongside the recent ‘On the way’ post ( says something about how far I’ve come in the last couple of years in terms of learning to live more in the moment.


  3. Pingback: “A Pathway to Joy” | Zebra's Child

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