I don’t know why, but I got it in my head one day to hang bells from the trees in my parent’s backyard. The yard had a Japanese feel to it too, with most of the trees growing out of rocks, and the azaleas and rhododendrons rooted in craggy slopes. It even had a red maple. So I picked up some bells from Canal street in lower Manhattan for cheap and tied them to the two cherry trees and the oak tree in the back. That was almost ten years ago. The last time I was at the house I saw that just one strand of three rusted bells had survived, hanging on by a thread and not really in ringing shape anymore. They were nice to hear when I was recovering from a bout of bad health and working a few hours each day in the garden. I was issuing forth my own mini renovation for the space - making garden benches from bluestone, creating little brick sculptures, moving ferns to shadier spots, finding the best location for a struggling hellebore, hatcheting down a thick root of ivy nestled into the twin honey locusts and trying to get a runner of blue phlox going between plantings. Along with the singing birds, the bells were good company. I haven’t had a tree with low enough branches in my vicinity to do that in awhile. It’s been apartment living for a few years now. But when I saw these bells hanging over our autumn table downstairs it all came back to me...
Ah yes, the hanging bells!
There’s the dinner bell telling you to come eat, the church bell telling you to come pray, and the door bell asking you to answer it; but I have a special affinity for the garden bell, the one that rings whenever the wind moves it to do so. It reminds me that even with schedules and structures and conventions, there is an insistent sacred existing outside of time and place that comes and goes of its own pleasing. There is something dangerous, mysterious and graceful that doesn’t care what our input is or how we feel about it. It simply is. Wind chimes are nice to hear, and they're what I’ll take for now; but there's nothing like the faint sound of the far off bell, hanging from a tree in the garden.
photo credit: kateonthebike