April 26, 2007

Currier & Ives

"I'm so excited!" I e-mailed old friends in Arizona. "Tonight I'm joining Rachel's handbell choir!"

Wayne, Carol, and Rachel are high school friends; friends I've recently reconnected with. Rachel, it turns out, has been living right under my nose in Whatcom County for years. Not only that, she belongs to a handbell choir. Better yet, she invited me to join and, to make it all the more perfect, she goes to an antique church, built in the old days, complete with steeple, belfry and
hopefully bats.

"There's something about bells--Christmas carols come to mind, antiquated churches, and rolling countryside that appeals to me," I told them.

"How very Currier and Ives of you," said Wayne.

Huh?

I had to look it up, google style. Ah, those guys--the guys who perfected the lithograph process. I didn't need to feel quite so stupid. I did recognize much of their work. Yes, how very Currier and Ives of me. Wayne is right. But--google, google--there's more.

Turns out hand bells are an evolution that date back to ancient mythologies. The ringing of bells kept back the demonic forces at death, preventing them from swooping in to claim our souls. They chased back the evil spirits, too, lurking about our thresholds whenever company comes calling. At sea, the chiming of bells hold back the storm.

Very quickly one begins to understand why we have bells in our steeples, at our front doors, and why--in the echo of ancient mariners calling out at the end of night watch, "Eight bells and all is well!"--we use bells to sound our hours, announce our guests, and call us to church. Bong, bong, bong. And I thought I just liked the sound of them. But it's their protection, the sense of peace, tranquility, of, yes, the divine, that has called to me as well.

countryside near Rachel's little church

Indeed, how very Currier and Ives of me.

Ringing off, I'm F, F#, and G.

And sometimes, if Rachel can't pick up fast enough, G#.