It had been a difficult day. Suffice to say I had burst into tears twice amongst many other goings on, and I had been left with a feeling of hopelessness and exhaustion. Not a good mix. As I packed the picnic for our trip to Hampton Court Palace, I consciously made a decision that I was going to enjoy this event. It had all the ingredients of a lovely time – I was with my good friend Karen and the two of us were due a quality catch up, the picnic was looking scrummy, the sun was shining, I love Hampton Court Palace and I love, love, LOVE Alfie Boe (don’t judge me now Hubbers, yes we were the youngest people there!) who would be singing with Michael Ball on the last night of the Festival.
The afternoon started well. The grounds were stunning, the weather held out, Karen and I laughed in the sunshine and before we knew it three hours had passed and it was time for the concert. Now for those of you who haven’t visited Hampton Court Palace it is a beautiful location steeped in history (apparently Henry VIII had over 60 homes, but Hampton Court Palace was his favourite!). It’s not just the grounds and gardens that are special, but the great beauty of the architecture. And as Karen and I dropped off our picnic gear and joined our fellow fans to make our way into one of the ornate and intimate beautiful old courts outside where the concert was to be held, I felt a tingle shiver down my spine.
Last week I talked about taking an awe walk and how this can be a useful tool to support our mental wellbeing journey. But it’s not just walks. Awe, I think, is an emotion that has an ability to put our thoughts and feelings back into balance – it can empower us to gain perspective, to make us feel alive again. It’s an emotion that I have tended to feel when in the presence of something vast in nature: the Grand Canyon; a sunset view; the stars in the sky. The dictionary defines awe as:
‘a feeling of reverential respect mixed with fear or wonder.’
Back to Alfie. As the audience gathered in the old court in anticipation of the impending arrival of Boe and Ball, I glanced up at my beautiful surroundings. The walls that held so much history and had so many stories to tell, the sun that was slowly setting behind the stage, delivering the evening light that fell perfectly throughout the crowd. Alfie and Michael entered (bare with me, run with the story – and if you feel the need, please replace the pair with preferred performers!). And as if by cue, a flock of birds flew in front of the stage as the orchestra sounds boomed and Ball and Boe began. It was a moment of synchronicity caught in time, as if the world had stopped for a beat. And I looked up at the vast, open sky with the oranges and yellows and blue, the orchestra playing, Alfie singing one of my favourite songs, my close friend beside me in this beautiful space, and I knew everything would be OK. The past weeks of pain, the doubt, the uncertainty, the fear all at once dissipated and in that moment this wonderful, large universe, so much bigger than me, kicked me back into play. It was a moment of awe. And I knew things had shifted.
Now, by no means am I suggesting that Alfie and Michael, sunset and birds would necessarily be the perfect mix for you, but what I do think is that at times very small moments of awe can shift our perspective. As the evening continued and my singing got louder, dancing more vigorous, and gratitude greater, I felt a lucky soul.
I guess you could also say that you can’t go wrong with a trusted friend, a beautiful place and in my case a bit of Awe-some Alfie. Bring Him Home.