When one lives in a city one hears noise. Traffic, televisions blaring through open windows, the revving of motorcycles ridden by men who you sometimes feel are covering up "inadequacies" with the sound of their engines. There are the voices of people, arguing, debating, laughing, sharing their day with one another. Occasionally there are gunshots, occasionally there are sirens, occasionally there are the musical tones of songbirds. Along shorelines there is the sound of water as it meets the land and the squawk of seagulls. And there are churchbells.
I once lived in a neighborhood of Chicago where the bells of the numerous churches in the area rang on Sunday mornings. Although, at the time, I, and many of my friends, were out till the wee hours of Saturday night, we all agreed that we enjoyed the peal of the bells as we lay in bed.
Staying in an apartment in Dayton one weekend, the bells from the church across the street, as I awoke, announced the start of Sunday services. I've heard them ring out over the streets of St. Louis as I waited for a bus one rainy Sunday morning. There is something about the sound of church bells that is soul filling. A sound full, comforting and soothing.
As children, pulling the rope to ring the church bell was a special treat. Sometimes it would take the efforts of more that one of us. At the base of the Tetons my partner rang the outdoor bell of a tiny historic church on a quiet weekday afternoon.. The sound and moment was special and private, shared only by us and the grand, snowcapped mountains in the distance.
Sometimes church bells allow me to ascertain the time without looking at my watch, or my phone. Every 15 minutes an increasingly longer series of chimes until the bells peal out their full chorus followed by rings counting out the hour as it turns. They sound out from the gothic belfry of
the St. Ida's as I walk down Broadway in Chicago. Venerable bells tolled the early afternoon hour as I walked across the grounds of an 18th century mission outside of San Antonio. I hear them in the distance as I lay on the beach where they mingle with the gentle sound of small lake waves breaking on the shore.
In Florence the bells of the Doumo sounded at intermittent, seemingly random intervals. They rang at dusk as we sat on the roof deck of our hotel on my partner's 50th birthday sending a swarm of bats out from the belfry into the early evening sky, repeating an ancient ritual performed countless times in countless places over the centuries.