dailybell2008: 7/6/08 - 7/13/08

Monday, July 7, 2008

Midway through the Year!

Gravity, Wind and Death ... Reflections At Six Months
July 1st was the 183rd day of the year. Because of the leap day this year, that makes July 1st the midway point of the year and of this project. It seemed like a good point to reflect on what I have observed and learned so far.

I have come to more fully understand the nature of the commitment I made at the beginning of the year. I am at the point where I realize that I could stop now if I wanted to. I am not compelled to continue; however I wish and choose to do so. It is not because I vowed to observe the sun as it crossed the horizon each day and to ring bells at those moments. I have internalized the practice and integrated it into my daily life. By doing this, I have come to understand something about the nature of vows. It’s probably obvious to others, but I’ve always had to “learn the hard way” as my grandmother was so fond of pointing out to me.

Making a commitment to do something regardless of what may happen (like taking a marriage vow, for instance) ensures that one will honor the commitment in the face of the unknown. One will persevere if and when it becomes difficult to do so. It’s the hanging in there that produces a shift. The shift that I experienced was from external practice to the internalization of the “why”. It’s very hard to describe. It’s as if the repetition and commitment were necessary to achieve a certain state of mind and understanding that would not have been possible in any other way.

Again, I am only speaking for myself. I am one of those people who learns by direct experience much more effectively than by abstraction. I feel as if I am on the edge of understanding something about the elemental. It has something to do with the value of regular, conscious and direct experience with those things that don’t change and don’t rely on human intervention- like the movement of the earth. Or things that are inevitable- like death. Our close relationship and awareness of these things present opportunities to be grounded and to recognize the ways in which we are all related to the physical world and to one another.

So I have started to think more about other things that could be considered undeniable, incontrovertible- ultimate truth - type of things like the movement of the earth and death. I am not a scientist, so I am merely musing from the position of an observer and speculator. However, as far as the movement of the earth is concerned, besides the sunrise and sunset, there is gravity. We can start with the evidence and observation of the physical force of gravity in our lives and move out from there. The observation of the effect of gravity in our lives is another place to begin to notice the ways in which we are all connected.

I think that all of this is also a way to prepare us and to help us think about and deal with death and the inevitability of our own mortality. Maybe the overarching conceptual frame has a lot to do with Buddhism and the practice of awareness, but I am also trying to narrow the frame for a moment to something contained and directed. Something that encompasses the personal- like the availability of the breath- yet also something that can be visibly and consciously shared with many other people at the same time. That’s part of it. The sunrise and sunset. Gravity. Wind (the movement of air). And yes, mortality.

I am interested in the ways we experience these things sonically – listening and making sounds as a way to both observe what is happening as well as to mark the moment in order to share the experience with others.

Focusing on and being reminded of how we are all connected to each other and to the world – at least in that moment of awareness- anchors us in reality. Fear of the unknown. Fear of the other. Speculation of all kinds. For a moment it all ceases. Maybe with practice we can become more adept at separating out what is real from what is imagined.

Beginning of July- Up and Down

7/1 AM Day # 183. Half way through the year!
OK. So this is really the middle of the year. Half way through. I had been thinking of ways to get further afield in the mornings and I still intend to try out some of the ideas. I can revisit the Ferry Terminal any day now. However, I am not running out so fast now. Since we got rear-ended last night, I am somewhat incapacitated. Because I can’t turn my head at all, I cannot drive for an indefinite period of time. And even though I was in the emergency room until after midnight last night, when the alarm went off this morning, I was actually grateful and almost happy to get up and look out at that grey foggy morning and ring a bell or two. So I will continue with some variations on the close-to-home observances for a spell.

7/1 PM Up on the Roof
The sky was really beautiful and pink again- I’m afraid it’s due to all of the fires. Norman went up on our roof to capture the last bit of sunlight that was visible beneath the encroaching dark layer of smoke and fog.

7/2 AM Many More Fires The microphone is set up in front of the house, and I have wandered off down the street to the right. The smoke is back. You can smell it. There are now 1460 fires burning. The break in the air quality and the momentary sunshine were the result of shifting weather patterns and not because the fires were being eliminated.

7/2 PM Surprise
It’s already pretty dark because of the fog and smoke even before the sun goes down. I started filming out front looking down the street and went out back to join Norman and ring a few bells. Once in the back, we started ringing our bells and all of a sudden we hear other bells in the air. I thought I was imagining things or else just hearing some random wind chimes. But it was our neighbors from 2 doors down. They were standing out on their porch ringing their bells, too.

7/3 AM Comme ci
Dripping. The trees were dripping fog.

7/3 PM Comme ├ža
It’s still foggy. California’s still burning. It looks about the same now as it did this morning. From fog to fog, it was nice in between in other parts of the city. After setting at 8:36 PM for the past 10 days, the sun has finally begun its retreat this evening.

7/4 AM I Missed It (again)!
I woke up at 6:30 AM- 35 minutes too late. This is the 3rd time I’ve missed the sun observance, and all 3 times have been in the morning. So…in lieu of the documentation for this morning, here is a link about the beneficial effects of fires. This is in a world with no people and what would be best for the trees.
Very briefly, here are 2 ways that trees and other vegetation benefit and actually need fire to propagate and thrive:
“Fire Dependence: This concept applies to species of plants that rely on the effects of fire to make the environment more hospitable for their regeneration and growth. Fire Adaptation: This concept applies to species of plants that have evolved with special traits contributing to successful abilities to survive fires at various stages in their life cycles. For example, serotinous cones, fire resistant bark, fire resistant foliage, or rapid growth and development enable various kinds of plants to survive and thrive in a fire prone environment.”

7/4 PM Fires, not Fireworks

We went to Berkeley to Carl and Sue’s house for a 4th of July BBQ. When we left our house, it was fogged in. But over on the other side of the Bay, it was sunny and pretty warm. Some people were evacuated from Big Sur today. The firefighters say that the fires in that region won’t be contained until September. So far, the effect in the Bay area is the air quality which you can see and smell.

7/5 AM Big Sur Smokes the Sunrise In San Francisco
I walked up to the corner this morning so I could look to the east and west. The air is smoky- most likely from that huge fire in Big Sur. There are still 300 fires burning throughout the state. All of the green areas on the map.

7/5 PM Sunset. Fire or No Fire.
With so many fires burning, it was a rare, clear afternoon out here by the ocean so we took the big bell out for the sunset. It was windy as usual and it didn’t smell like smoke for a change. A woman approached Norman and asked him why he was ringing the bells. He told her it was for the sunset. That wasn’t a good enough reason so she walked away to get into her car. When she was near, I invited her to ring the big bell at the back of the car. She asked if it was for good luck and I thought about it for a moment and then said, “Sure. Why not.” The rest of our conversation is obscured by the wind, but after I pointed to the sun passing below the horizon and said you can’t argue with that, she smiled. She liked the idea of people agreeing on something, too. So then she rang the big bell- several times.

7/6 AM
Heavy fog. Growing up in central New Jersey, I never knew about foghorns. I’d heard of them the same way I’d heard of “peas in a pod”. But I had never actually experienced either foghorns or peas that didn’t come in a can. After having shelled hundreds of pods to get a handful of peas, I now really appreciate peas in a can. Usually the fog burns off enough by 9 o’clock. So before I woke up so early everyday, I had only heard the foghorns late at night or in the evening if it was a particularly early, heavy fog. On of the unexpected delights of going outside at sunrise is the encounter with the morning fog. Heavy, white and wet it envelops the world and everything in it in a small and cozy wrapping. And then the gentle and insistent tones of the foghorns. Low, soft-edged and several different notes form a never repeating, random melody. It’s a wonderful alternative to the sunny experience. Peasoup with music.

7/6 PM
I left some of my bells and the camera in someone’s car this afternoon, so it will be audio only for the next few days. Since I can’t drive because my head is restrained, I will have to rely on the United States Postal service to return my treasures in good time. When I went out to ring this evening, someone else was already making some noise, so I just joined in with my cowbells.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Suggestions for Improvements?

A Little More Blah, Blah...

Until now, each observance of the sun crossing has involved the ringing activity itself and the documentation for each event. The range of detail, planning and elaboration has varied considerably for each of these aspects. Some of the mornings and evenings where I have prearranged events or travel away from home required planning and some effort. Compare these observances to the ones where I either roll out of bed in the morning or just capture the evening wherever I happen to be. I like this range of commitment and variety of experience and plan to continue to expand and experiment with it in this second half.

My first inclination and plans were to expand it on the end of greater effort and complexity and more engagement with others. However, since I am somewhat incapacitated for at least this coming week, I have decided to begin with extending the more minimal approach to continuing to observe and document this twice daily interaction. So, for now I will produce a series of short gestures, primarily audio, around the sunrise and sunset each day. These will take place for the most part around my neighborhood, and we'll see how that goes.

Other improvements I would like to make:

I would like to give bells away to people so that they could keep them and keep on ringing! If anyone has a source of inexpensive little bells, please let me know!

More visibility. I would like to do more official events and performances (like the Chapel of the Chimes). The Autumnal Equinox is coming up in September. Does anyone have any suggestions or contacts with places that might like to do an Equinox event? Or places related to planetary or other scientific content. The Exploratorium?

How about pre-performance sunset observances. In San Francisco, from August 17 – September 6, the sun will set between 7:30 and 8:00. Anyone out there willing to have the audience share in the sunset bell ringing?

How about other meetings? Anyone out there willing to start your evening meetings with a group bell ringing? It’s really fun and a great way for people to come together.

Maybe there are early morning meetings that would be open to bell ringing. Churches?

I have received only one invitation for a “house call” so far. It’s for an early morning bell ringing, and I’m going. Anyone else?

OK for now.