BELLS

Knowing that today’s afternoon temperature would reach well over 100, I went outside and sat on the patio early this morning. In the distance I could hear the hum from freeway traffic and nearer to hand the cock-a-doodle-doo of some neighbor’s secret boarder. Then, after a few minutes, came the delicate chime of church bells. It was Sunday, I recollected, and the bell, in a sweet voice, was summoning parishioners to an early service.

The sound immediately brought to mind a painting I had seen many years ago, “Angelus,” by Jean-François Millet. In this deeply meditative picture a man and woman are standing, heads bowed and hands folded, while on the ground about them lay the tools they have been using to dig potatoes. Millet said of the picture, “The idea for Angelus came to me because I remembered that my grandmother, hearing the church bell ringing while we were working in the fields, always made us to stop work to say the Angelus prayer for the poor departed.”

Traditionally, the church bell would be rung at 6 a.m., noon, and 6 p.m., not only acting as a marker for the beginning, middle and end of the work day, but also to remind people of the day’s spiritual dimensions. The bell’s duty was to say, “Wake up! Be present.”

The demands of the world are constantly vying for our attention – money, jobs, relationships, politics, the future ….. Even as we lay in bed at night, thoughts struggle for dominance in our consciousness. Like a sword, the clear, sharp sound of a bell cuts through that incessant mental chatter to remind us that Life is not the situations we find ourselves in, not the past we might regret or the future we may fear, but Life is this very present moment in which the bell is ringing.

It is no coincidence that bells and chimes are used throughout the world, in many cultures, for this same purpose – from the giant gongs of Far Eastern temples to the bells of Christian monasteries and the delicate cymbals of meditation halls.

The ringing of the bell gives a voice to the inhabitants of mineral world, that silent kingdom which appeared at earth’s birth and will be there at the last. Impenetrable, immovable, mute, the minerals are the silent witnesses of history – and perhaps their steadfast nature is the most appropriate agent to act as a reminder of this transitory life.

In calling us to attention, the bells reminds us to be grateful, to be aware, to be present, to willingly participate in Life, as did Mary in the drama of  the Annunciation

V. The Angel of the Lord declared unto Mary.
R. And she conceived of the Holy Spirit.
Hail Mary, full of grace,
The Lord is with Thee;
Blessed art thou among women,
And blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God,
Pray for us sinners,
Now and at the hour of our death. Amen
V. Behold the handmaid of the Lord.
R. Be it done unto me according to thy word….

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TIMING

Cosmos III
9 x 13
Ink on Rice Paper

Every year, as we near mid-August, I wait for the sound of their passing; this morning, while the sky was still drowsy and damp with dew, I heard the long familiar call and response of Canadian geese flying overhead, leaving their summer homes and beginning the long southward journey. Their distinctive honk signifies the close of summer and the approach of autumn.

In just a few short weeks we will be mid-way through the solar year and nearly three-quarters through the calendar. I noticed Halloween decorations set out at the local dollar store yesterday. The craft store are already displaying Christmas merchandise. In their haste to capture our purchasing dollars, retailers are speeding up holiday celebrations faster than ever. Christmas in July may soon be a reality.

I have hardly become accustomed to acknowledging this is 2017, and, seemingly, in a few days I will be struggling to write 2018 on the rent check – in fact, the only actual check I now write as all other bills paid through online banking. Paying the monthly bills by check was a built-in time-keeper for me; I would notice months passage as the balance in my check book rose and fell like a tide.

Now it is rarely necessary to date anything.  When I start to type the date on a document, the computer completes it for me. When I need a calendar, Google supplies it. The ubiquitous At-A-Glance datebook  and organizers of the 90’s can now only be found on the dusty shelves of thrift stores, right beside pocket calculators, Walk Man’s and display cases of tarnished watches.

I myself no longer wear a watch to mark the passage of the hours. It is only when I have an appointment that time watching is necessary, in which case I refer to the cell phone I now use as a watch. Its call functions are required only for emergencies for there is no one I wish to talk to. I have no person to ask if I should stop for bread or milk, no one’s opinion I defer to, no one to alert if I am running late. Molly the Cat, waiting at the door and already aware of my arrival time due to her finely honed psychic abilities, will never complain that I didn’t call.

In this age of instant communication our ability to pause, to consider, to wait is becoming obsolete as is the virtue of patience. Instant gratification is no longer a serendipitous boon but an expected entitlement. It seems we are exchanging and sharing information in nanoseconds; we reach conclusions while barely formulating our questions. It feels as if the whole world has become electrified, as if the human race has been plugged into a cosmic current that just gets faster and faster. Time as we have known it is disappearing.

Have we lost the need to track time? Are we approaching that state of nirvana in which all time is the Present? In our headlong rush into tomorrow, does yesterday no longer exist? Are we in such a rush to get from point B to point C to point M, that all stops in between are merging into a time warping blur. Will we soon be feeling the wind of the cosmic train even before we embark?

Whereas I once noticed how quickly the months were passing, I now wonder where whole years have gone. Wasn’t it spring just a few weeks ago? Wasn’t it a few years past that I was a girl? And so I wonder – does time really pass, does time fly, does it heal? Do we really make time, take time, save time, spend time, keep time, waste time, kill time or lose time? Is time really a triumvirate comprised of past, present and future? Or has the flight of geese overhead finally shattered time’s illusions?