dailybell: Last Week of November

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Last Week of November

We have been ringing the big bell on the street at home most nights since November 11th. It is becoming a regular part of the day and sometimes our neighbor come out to join us in the evenings.

11/24 AM Malcolm is getting old
It’s a mixed blessing with him because the older and more frail he becomes, the sweeter and more mellow he gets. Maybe mellow is to optimistic of a word, but he definitely has moments of availability and softness that he never had in his feral and high-strung youth. So this morning when it was time to get up, I just couldn’t move. Sometime in the night, Malcolm had weaseled his way over my arm with his body pressed against mine and his face jammed into my cheek. I wasn’t exactly afraid to move, but I wasn’t in a hurry either. It was such a rare moment. So Norman got his usual bell from his bureau and passed it to me very carefully so we wouldn’t alarm the cat. Then we took turns ringing it as gently as possible.

11/24 PM I was on the phone at sunset this evening and missed it by a few minutes. When I hung up, it was still light outside so I grabbed some cowbells and ran downstairs to get Norman to come outside with me. We ran out of the garage clanging the bells and were surprised to see Henry and his father standing in their driveway across the street. Looking closer, we saw that Henry (who is only 3 years old) was ringing the little free bell I gave him months ago. It turned out that he and his father were out walking Gladys and Gus when they noticed the sunset. It was particularly colorful this evening because of all the dirt in the air. Suddenly Henry said they had to go ring their bells and they hurried home, ran into the house and were standing in their driveway ringing that tiny little bell when we came barreling out of the house with the cowbells. Magic.

11/25 AM I was hoping to capture that early morning hum. (audio)

11/25 PM Oh Henry!
We were racing home this evening so we would be there in case Henry was waiting. I kept flashing to the image of Henry standing at the bottom of his driveway ringing that tiny little bell last evening. Norman and I were late, but Henry was there for us. So it was with some urgency that we zipped home tonight and pulled up in front of the house - just on time. As we hopped out of the car to open up the back, Henry’s dad pulled up across the street in their car. Henry’s dad had barely parked the car when he jumped out to open up the back door, and Henry popped out. We had already started ringing the big bell when Henry came running across the street. We put the adult sized hearing protection over his ears and told him to push on the bell. He had never rung the big bell and was a little shy of it and had to push it over and over again until it finally rang. Once. And that was enough. I love Henry. His dad said that when they pulled up and saw us ringing the bell Henry just started yelling “letmeouletmeoutletmeout!”

11/26 AM Still Pondering the Birds
There are a few really large trees in the nearby back yards and they must house 100’s of birds. I remember wondering in the spring where all the birds had gone. Was their absence some new indicator of either global environmental change or crow dominance in our local area. Perhaps it turns out to be partly seasonal. Wintering in San Francisco?

I realize that even after a year of watching and listening to the bird activity in my own back yard, I know very little about what’s going on. Are the birds in peril? Are their times when there are more birds than others? Do certain birds dominate at different times of year? And where does one go to find out information about one’s local bird activity? So I started searching the web for some answers. I googled “San Francisco seasonal bird population” and went from there. Here’s what I found. The birds are in peril- some times more than others. They are seasonal. When it’s a quiet morning and there aren’t many birds around, can I tell the difference? Do I know if everyone is present and accounted for? How can I know if some birds are dead, never born or are merely elsewhere? I still don’t know. But I do have a small audio record of their songs and presence in my yard over this past year. In the overall scheme of things- eras and eons- I do have a very tiny sampling to use for comparison in the upcoming year.

11/26 PM Sunset on the Escalator
Budd, Norman and I met at the wrong movie theater. The names were sort of similar (Bay Street 16 and Emerybay 10), and they were both in the same confusing wasteland of massive mall, home depot and IKEA. It took us an hour to find the place, park the car in a garage and be in front of the theater at the agreed upon time. Right place. Wrong time. Just before heading back into the parking garage so we could drive around, under and past the on and off ramps to 3 different freeways without getting lost again, we took out some bells and rang them. An escalator ran right in front of the theater where we were standing and we informed the people smoothly ascending past us that the sun was setting as we toasted them with the bells.

11/27 AM Thanksgiving morning
Busy little birds. (audio) Because it’s a holiday, there is no traffic at this time of day. It’s like Sundays when you can hear the local activity so much better.

11/27 PM Turkey Time

Amir came over to join us for dinner just before sundown. I hadn’t realized that Amir had never rung the big bell. Usually he tries to give the impression that he knows how to do everything and projects an assurance and confidence about doing things. It’s hard to know what he’s done before and what he’s trying for the first time. So I was surprised when he said he wasn’t sure he could ring the bell. But he did and one by one kids started coming out of neighboring houses. Each time a new person showed up and rang a bit, I thought that was it. The last one. And then another would come. It turns out they were all cousins. The two girls live next door to one another and they are old hats with the bell ringing. Their other cousin must have been visiting for Thanksgiving, and when they all finished ringing, the girls asked if their cousin could have a bell to keep. I like how normal it’s become around here.

11/28 AM I vaguely remember ringing the bicycle-disguised-as a-hotel-bell this morning while Norman rang Hy’s little bell. It was a sweet performance. Malcolm was about as attentive as he usually is - which is to say he didn’t move. The sun came up as usual and I went back to sleep, also as usual these days.

11/28 PM Evening Bell Ringing Routine
Since my neighbors have been coming out to join me these past few evenings, I thought I’d bring the movie camera out for a change to catch some of the action. Jinxed it. Nobody came. Maybe nobody wanted to come out into the grayness.

11/29 AM There is no other time of day that sounds like the early morning. On Saturday it’s possible to hear the small, busy birds fluttering and chattering everywhere. (audio).

11/29 PM Walking the Grid
Jenny and Isaac came to visit this afternoon, and we all walked down to the beach. We had just started walking away from the house when I thought to go back and bring some bells with us in case we didn’t make it back before sunset. But we had a few hours and figured we would be back in plenty of time. Three hours later we were still zigzagging our way back home through the grid of numbered and alphabetically named avenues when the sun went down. I had a few of the free bells in my bag and we rang those. They are so small and quiet you can hardly hear them. Change in your pocket makes more noise than those bells. In any event we found a spot on a corner up the hill from the ocean where we could actually see the sun dipping below the water. We weren’t alone. The family whose house we were standing in front of was also outside watching the sun go down. We shared our bells with them and watched together.

11/30 AM Norman and I rang our favorite combination of bells again this morning.

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