Summary: Adam muses about church bells. Or about his family?
Word Count: 700
Church bells. You would think church bells sound the same all over the world, but they don’t.
Westminster Abbey’s bells sound deep. Full and rich, they wake you rather smoothly from your peaceful slumber. You feel rested, not as if you’ve been hauled out of Morpheus’ arms, more as if your body has concluded a contract with the bells so they only wake you when you’re ready. You can get up quickly, make yourself presentable, and go out, to that lovely little restaurant where they serve a full English breakfast by which even Hop Sing would be impressed. I wonder what Hoss would have said about it. Hoss, who’s eating ambrosia now. I bet he’d rather had beans and bacon. But then again, if God Almighty ever made exceptions, He’d make one for Hoss.
Church bells, right, I was talking about the bells.
Milan Cathedral. I’ve never seen a bigger church, but the bells…. They sound clear, like ice or crystal; not high, don’t get me wrong, but like a very well tuned instrument. You can hear them from very far, and somehow they sound as if La Madonnina, the golden statue on the bell tower, were calling up the believers. You can’t help but follow the sound, then watch the congregation flock into the sacred halls. The cathedral’s square remains empty when the bells have chimed out, and you can enjoy the sun and the quiet, and the width. I’m not sure if God is in there or out here, but maybe he’s at either place. I’m sure the Monsignore would tell me He was in the frankincense smothered air in the Duomo, but I know someone I trust more, and he would tell me otherwise. He’d say, “God is in you, Adam. You only have to find him.” Well, I always thought Pa would have made a good priest — better than many others.
The bells of St. Mary’s Church in Lübeck sound like a song. Lightly, melodic, nearly playful. Not what you’d expected from a church built by merchants — the mightiest merchants the middle ages had seen — but pleasant to the ear and to the soul. There’s not much space around that church, the medieval houses stand close, as if the rich Hanse traders had been seeking shelter here from whatever might befall them. And what they had feared, oh, what they had feared so much, you can plainly see inside of St. Mary’s: death. There’s a Danse Macabre hung up on the walls, a canvas showing pictures of people from different classes, all dancing with skeletons impersonating Death Himself. Dated from the fifteenth century, it was installed in the aftermath of yet another onset of the black plague. As if death could be stopped by drawing pictures, by reciting odd verses, by praying. How long, I ask myself, had Joe prayed, when he had seen the smoke from his house? How long had it taken him from first seeing the catastrophe on the horizon to getting there? Had he prayed the whole time? I bet he had. But just like those strange people labelled ‘noblewoman’ or ‘farmwoman’ on the old canvas, Death has taken Joe’s wife and their unborn child with him. Danse Macabre.
Church bells. You would think they sound the same all over the world, but they don’t. Wherever I have gone, I never heard one chiming like that old brass bell here at St. Paul’s in Virginia City. It may not be a wonderfully tuned bell, or one that can be heard far and wide, but it sounds like home. My home, where I belong and to which I always will come back.
Home is the wallpaper above the bed, the family dinner table, the church bells in the morning, the bruised shins of the playground, the small fears that come with dusk, the streets and squares and monuments and shops that constitute one’s first universe. ~ Henry Anatole Grunwald
A/N: With many thanks to Sklamb, for the considerate beta-read.