Patron Spotlight : Ultima Thule – Beyond The Borders Of The Known World

4 October 2022

The following post is a blog by one of our Music Patrons, Richard. I wanted to share this with everyone as it really encapsulates exactly what Music Patron is about: Connection.


Earlier this week, I had a truly meaningful experience that came from a totally unexpected place.

I was listening to a piece of music called Thule by Stuart Macrae, a composer I’m proud to support on Music Patron.  Stuart had included some beautiful audio commentary that described the origins of the composition, giving a flavour of his creative process.  

Well, this commentary started to talk about the name of the composition, “Thule”, which is the northernmost place mentioned in Greek and Roman literature and maps.  And a step further, “Ultima Thule” refers to a distant place located beyond the borders of the known world (as well as sounding pretty awesome, at least to my ears!)

As it happens, I was already familiar with the words “Ultima Thule”.  Hearing them spoken by Stuart over his atmospheric music took me on a journey to a remote part of Ontario, Canada.  To a place where my Canadian grandfather built a cottage and where my mother spent her childhood holidays with her siblings in the ‘50s and ‘60s.  This cottage was christened Ultima Thule – and it must have felt a very remote place indeed without electricity or water – so cold in winter that car batteries would freeze overnight!  My extended family continues to gravitate to this magical place, which now boasts conveniences like electricity, mosquito nets and even a shower!

When my grandfather passed away a few years ago, approaching his 99th birthday, my parents and aunts and uncles and cousins and brothers gathered at Ultima Thule – all 20 of us – and took it in turn to scatter his ashes in special places around the property and on the lake in front.  He is now forever a part of that rugged landscape that so captivated his soul, and we can visit with him each time we go.

As I listened to Stuart’s voice narrating these four minutes of flute music, more memories came flashing back, of my grandfather’s stories – of travelling with the freight brigades of the First Nations to and from the wild north while prospecting for minerals in order to pay his way through medical school during the Great Depression; of being a ship’s doctor on a naval destroyer that was protecting Britain’s food supplies during the Second World War; of earning a degree in philosophy aged 75 and working on his own quantum theory of the mind well into his nineties.  He led a BIG life.  And it fits that he now rests at Ultima Thule – truly beyond the borders of the known world.

I could feel tears of connection and sadness and joy and love gathering in the corner of my eyes – I let this wave of emotion wash over me, transported in time and place, with my grandfather and my family on the shore of the lake. I was struck that so much of our experience is in our memories that come to mind in any given moment, rather than whatever it may be that is tickling our senses.  Perhaps much of the power of art is its ability to connect us in this way to our deeper selves, and bring to the surface that which is normally hidden out of sight and mind?

This was a great illustration of something I had heard just a couple of days previously in a seminar run by the “Red de Máster Coaches de Latinoamérica y España”.  There was an excellent session on deep listening – the point that stood out for me was that, when we are listening, what we pick up and understand is greatly affected by our inner state in that moment.  Are we in our head, or our heart or our gut? Are we open or closed? Are we grounded or untethered?

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