Around 9pm I can sense that all the dogs are focused on me – Evie the little spaniel gets up and circles, just checking, Alfie rolls an eye … they have an excellent internal clock and think that now is a most exciting moment: the final walk of the day.
As I head towards the back door there is an excited rush of furry friends. Before we exit though, Clemmie, one of the spaniels, has to be put on a lead. She otherwise has her own plans and trots happily off for a night out. Stella, meanwhile, usually such a kind elegant Labrador, is busy barking up a storm whilst the puppies are all long bendy tails in their enthusiasm.
We head out across flat ground in the darkling night. My companions begin to split up to explore trees and grass or exciting fence posts. I know the ground is flat and therefore reasonably safe to stride out on and enjoy the sense of the surrounding darkness to which my eyes quickly become accustomed. The dogs really do not have our human concern with missed footing or uneven ground, taking it all in their stride.
The dogs soon quieten down as they inspect the ground, drinking in the night time scents whilst my thoughts and eyes are drawn to the millions of stars above with the somewhat brighter flaring planets offering more light. The moon undoubtedly makes the most difference to my sight.
Every one of us at some point looks up in wonderment at the stars, seemingly tiny celestial beings to whom we give shapes and stories. Over centuries we have cast our own earthly problems, whether emotional or political, into characters and cosmic myths that we attach to these pinpricks of light. Now of course we know that, in reality, they are just collections of gases that shine due to the radiation derived from their internal energy processes whilst their brightness depends on both how much energy they put out – their luminosity and how far away they are from Earth but it still doesn’t dim the romance.
The names of many of these constellations, galaxies and stars reflect the tragedies and happiness of these stories – from Andromeda, Orion, Cassiopeia, Canis major, Pegasus, Hydra, Ursa Major and all the signs of the zodiac into which many stars are clustered. I suspect like many of you I enjoy spotting the stars and following their travels over the seasons.
On summer evenings, Vega passes almost overhead of my evening perambulations, quite solitary to my eye and slightly blue. In fact, it is often mistaken for the northern celestial pole star. The nomenclature is derived from the image of a diving bird of prey and the constellation was represented as a vulture in ancient Egypt. It is associated with birds with the theme of swooping through the sky, of wandering – it is thus called the wandering star.
It does de-stress me to wander out last thing, slowly stroking the dogs as they return, the puppies ever full of bounding energy.
Curiously there is a nerve which runs around our bodies, called the Vagus nerve – or “wandering nerve,” it comes from the same Latin root it is just our spelling which has always varied over time. This nerve plays a vital role in many of the body’s functions from the brainstem through the neck and into the chest and abdomen regulating our breathing, heart rate, digestion, and immune response.
It also plays a role in controlling mood, emotions and social behaviour and is has been nicknamed the “wandering nerve” because of the many different parts of the body it interacts with. Stimulating the Vagus nerve can definitely have a calming effect on the body. One way to do so is to rub your fingers up and down just where your ear meets your jaw bone and cheek: it is a useful way to still your wandering thoughts.