rethere is one from lockdown 2, and I’m listening to a playlist called Sunny Days. Bob Marley’s Three Little Birds comes on and I’m suddenly no longer in my cramped room, office, yoga studio, and gym, but on a beach in the Philippines, where I lived above a reggae bar after graduation. In the month it took me to complete my Divemaster title there, my love for the ocean and its creatures deepened so much that I dedicated my life to protecting them. I can see the tiny green islands dotted along the horizon in front of me, and the diving sky below them; I imagine the multicolored stingrays, sharks, and tropical fish that we pass by every day, and I repeat the conversations I had with my good friend there about how we would care for these phenomenal creatures.
Six years later I was already on my paddle board, propelling myself through Scottish waters. He had been rowing almost every day for almost two months. my journey from Land’s End to John O’groats. It was 11 in the morning and he had been in the water since 4 in the morning. The fog was so thick that he couldn’t navigate with the naked eye. I couldn’t see any land and relied on my GPS unit to steer me to shore. Instead of the crystal-clear, flat waters of the Philippines, I was riding through gray, choppy waves, and the occasional seagull was my only company. I was exhausted, fed up and a little scared. But I put my headphones on, hit play on my motivational playlist and Bob Marley came up, telling me that Every little thing will be alright.
Some days on my paddleboard I don’t want the distraction of music. The ocean creates its own music: the high-pitched call of the oystercatcher, the sound of the waves breaking on the nose of my board, the wind howling in my ears, the silence on a perfectly calm day, the surface punctuated by a dolphin fin . Experiencing the sea with attention is one of my greatest pleasures. But on days that are lonely and seemingly endless, music is my companion and my motivator.
During those 59 days I spent rowing across the UK in 2018, I used the motivational power of music to lift my spirits when the going got tough. My favorite for this is a song from the Disney movie Moana, How far will i go; I love the whole album and it would instantly remind me of my purpose. Other songs I repeated were David Bowie’s Rebel Rebel, Kings of Leon’s Bucket, Queen’s I Want to Break Free, Alanis Morrisette’s Ironic and Muse Madness. These would get me out of my head, helping me replace my bad mood with smiles.
Music also has the ability to break the tedium of confinement and transport me to a place I would rather be, often back from my voyage on the open sea. Much music is inspired by nature, evoking images of the natural world and allowing us to immerse ourselves in it from our armchair. In winter I like to go somewhere warm by the sea, but this winter I know that songs like Xavier Rudd’s Follow the sunBy Noah Kahan Young blood, Otis Redding’s Sittin ‘on the Dock of the Bay, The Beatles’ Here Comes the Sun and The Beach Boys’ Good Vibrations will temporarily take me there.
Was Recently discovered that the music played on the bassoon has a timbre very similar to the song of the whales, and that the whales will respond to the instrument. It’s amazing to think that the music we create not only reflects nature, but can be part of it. Classical music offers a wonderful escape into nature. I like to imagine my favorite places while listening to orchestral music and imagine what each part played in the scene I am imagining is related to.
Perhaps during this second confinement we can rely in part on music to help us stay connected to nature and keep our fire burning to protect it. Dolly Parton’s version of After the gold rushBy Joni Mitchell Big yellow cabBy Michael Jackson Earth song and Jack Johnson’s Fragments, which deals with marine plastic pollution, they all have this effect for me.
Like time at the ocean, music can also calm tense nerves. Buffalo springfield For what it’s worth, The acoustic version of Foo Fighters Moments like theseBy Jack Johnson Banana Pancakes and Beyonce’s Listens help me feel calm and composed, and bring me back to what really matters. Like sitting by the water’s edge listening to the waves, dipping my paddle into the water or pushing off a beach at sunrise might be enough.
• Read more about Cal Major; she will be performing at the Kendal Mountain festival November 28
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