April 26, 2007

#5 - 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.


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#.


  1. Leslie7:58 AM

    You look so cute ringing those bells! This sounds like a fun thing to do. Alas, when would I ever find the time? I can't even get to the writer's group these days.

    I wish you the best in your new pursuit.


    A poem for you...

    Ring out, wild bells
    by Tennyson
    from In Memoriam A.H.H.

    Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
    The flying cloud, the frosty light:
    The year is dying in the night;
    Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.

    Ring out the old, ring in the new,
    Ring, happy bells, across the snow;
    The year is going, let him go;
    Ring out the false, ring in the true.

    Ring out the grief that saps the mind
    For those that here we see no more;
    Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
    Ring in redress to all mankind.

    Ring out a slowly dying cause,
    And ancient forms of party strife;
    Ring in the nobler modes of life,
    With sweeter manners, purer laws.

    Ring out the want, the care, the sin,
    The faithless coldness of the times;
    Ring out, ring out my mournful rhymes,
    But ring the fuller minstrel in.

    Ring out false pride in place and blood,
    The civic slander and the spite;
    Ring in the love of truth and right,
    Ring in the common love of good.

    Ring out old shapes of foul disease;
    Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
    Ring out the thousand wars of old,
    Ring in the thousand years of peace.

    Ring in the valiant man and free,
    The larger heart, the kindlier hand;
    Ring out the darkness of the land,
    Ring in the Christ that is to be.

  2. Carol8:00 AM

    I was wondering if this was the church. If you go to "Google" and click "images", the type in Nugents Corner, this church is there. Pretty cool....Pretty cool.

    Love, Carol

  3. Yes, that's the church. And that cherry tree is amazing.


  4. Oops. Accidentally hit send a sec ago. The pink dress is perfect, as is the granddaughter!
    But I wanted to comment on bells. I used to be in a bell choir as a kid. I loved it. Why did I ever quit?

    Now, as a Tibetan-style Buddhist, I have a ghanta (a bell) and a dorje (a small wand-like thing), but I don't get to ring the bell officially yet. Some mysterious something.

    And, here in Whatcom County there is a religion called the Lummi Shakers. Completely different from the other kind of Shakers, it seems to be a blend of Westcoast Native beliefs and Catholocism, but I belive it was started by one of those suddenly-inspired guys. Anyway, bells figure heavily in their ritual; it's quite moving, really.

    Happy ringing, then!--Donna

  5. I want to know more about the Lummi Shakers; have always been fascinated by that combination of white Christianity and native tradition. The result is truly unique--though I didn't know anything about the bells. I will look into it.

  6. Anonymous7:18 AM

    Happy bells! You won't believe it, but I was F, F# and G in junior high bell choir.....! Good memories, and now my little girls (10 and 7) play in our parent partnership bell choir. They love it. Enjoy, it is food for the soul---I especially love the whole working together thing.

  7. Another F, F# and G???? Amazing, and so now there's someone who knows exactly how I feel when I play! And, yes, it's the working together that makes it all so amazing.


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