dailybell: 2007

Monday, December 31, 2007

Just in time


The plan was to get the bell into the back of the car by sundown and ring it from there. Well, that hasn't happened yet. However, we got the bell out from the back of the house where it was covered in lint from the dryer. It weighs nearly 100 lbs. so I couldn't lift it. Norman lugged it around all day and said it got heavier as the day wore on.

We needed to remove the part of the bell that was used to swing it because it was too big for my car. There's not room in the back of the car to swing the bell anyway. The problem with removing anything from the bell was that everything was rusted together for the last 100 years. Nothing was coming apart so fast.

Once the bell was cleaned and ready to put into the car, we needed to make some kind of stand in order to support the bell so that it can vibrate freely. There is room in the back of my car, but it's a hatchback and the window slants down. The height of the bell stand is limited by the glass. So it turns out that there will be 8 inches of clearance between the bottom of the bell and the floor of the car. Enough to get my hand in there and swing that clanger.

Norman thought it would be nice to make the stand out of wood. So that's where it stands. On the drawing table. We managed to get the bell up onto cinder blocks in order to ring it at 4:59PM. It's pretty loud and not such a pleasant sound. But it carries. Right now it's kind of clunky to ring because the yoke is loose and the bell is all wobbly. We'll see what happens tomorrow.

Photo of Ben Tuck's Farm bell

the beginning

Sunday, December 30, 2007


My bell is sitting in the backyard at the moment. It's all rusty. Tomorrow my husband, Norman Tuck and I will clean it up and figure out how to mount it in the back of my little Honda. I figure if it's in my car, I can ring it no matter where I am at sundown each day. Sad, but true.

The bell comes from my father-in-law's farm in Lebanon, Pennsylvania. His name was Ben Tuck and he had collected cast iron bells. Lots of them. His goal was to collect 48 bells- one for each state at the time. After he died, the bells sat on the farm for many years until most of the collection was sold at auction in the 1990's. We saved one of the bells, and it has sat around for almost a decade. Unrung.

For 5 weeks last year, I attached another bell to a small trailer on the back of my Honda and towed it 8100 miles around the country. I rang it and invited everyone I met to ring it. I learned how to ring the bell while driving by pressing and releasing the accelerator in time with the natural resonance of the swinging bell. At the end of the journey, I gave the bell to the Exploratorium in San Francisco where the Explainers ring it everyday to announce closing time.

During the Bell Project, I became very attached to the company of the 250 lb bell I was hauling around. I looked forward to ringing it each day and was comforted by the sight of the bell in my rear view mirror. When I delivered the bell to the Exploratorium, I felt untethered. Since that time, I have been searching for a way to incorporate the bell into my daily life. I have wanted to find a way to spark a connection that a tolling bell can awaken among the people who hear it.


In February of 2007, Norman and I went to India to hear the winter teachings of the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala. At the end of the teachings, it was early March and we descended from the mountains and went to the Ganges River in Varanasi. Every morning at dawn and every evening at sunset thousands of people gathered on the bank of the river. In the predawn darkness, slowly and very quietly, monks began to chant and softly ring small bells. Gradually the chanting got louder and more people joined in to chant or listen. Chanting voices and ringing bells greeted the sunrise every morning. Every morning.

In the evening, the farewell to the sun was much more elaborate. Again thousands of people lined the banks of the Ganges River: monks, pilgrims, tourists, and residents of Varanasi. This time the chanting was much louder and there were many, many bells. And fire. In some places the chanting was electronically amplified. Further along, there were no chanting voices, but small orchestras accompanied other choruses. People were talking and laughing and singing. And ringing hundreds of bells. The bells were mounted atop very tall poles with their ropes dangling to the ground. Anyone in the proximity of a bell pulled the string and rang the bell for as long as they could. This singing and ringing went on for at least an hour. And it happened every single night. And it had been going on for a very, very long time.

It was an amazing experience and I wondered what it would be like to greet the sun and bid it farewell everyday once we returned home. As a culture, it seems we reserve our bell ringing for special occasions like weddings, funerals, sacred ceremonies and commemorations. People are not used to ringing or hearing bells in their daily lives. Furthermore, our bell ringing is not often associated with the time of day as it once was.

I have a large clock in my house that chimes every 15 minutes. The chiming pattern for each quarter hour is distinctive so that I can tell what time it is by listening. Listening to time pass is a very different experience than looking at a clock. Punctuating intervals of time with sound accentuates the passing of time and the accumulation of memory and experience. When listening to the chiming of a clock in order to know the time, one must stop and wait and think. For a brief moment, one suspends what one is doing to become aware of something else. That something else is constant and ongoing. And timeless. Through that moment of awareness perhaps we can connect with the rest of the world. Or at least our immediate worlds.

Japanese New Year's Bell Ringing Ceremony.
I attended The Asian Art Museum of San Francisco's version of this bell ringing ceremony today. The museum has a large Japanese Temple Bell in their collection that they bring out each year for this occasion. The public is invited to participate in a version of the Joya No Kane ceremony that traditionally takes place in a temple on the first day of the year beginning at midnight. The bell is rung 108 times.

The Joya No Kane ceremony provided the final piece of inspiration and clarity. There were 1000 people present in the room. When the chairs were full, people sat on the floor. The bell was at one end of the room and it was framed by a large, open window. After the initial blessing, people were invited in groups of 6 to approach the bell, stand on either side of a long wooden pole and gently swing the pole into the bell. Watching and waiting and listening with so many people wove a delicate connection among those present. I would like to inspire and participate in an activity that extends that connection day by day.


Ringing a bell everyday at a particular time is a commitment. I don’t know if I am capable of it, but I would like to try. Please help. Find a bell that you like. Look up the time of the sunrise and sunset in your area. One of the things I am looking forward to is being directly in touch with the cycle of sunrise and sunset as it changes throughout the year. Please join me.


Beginning on Monday evening December 31, 2007, at 4:59 PST, I will attempt to ring a bell everyday at sunrise and sunset for the entire year of 2008. I invite others to join me wherever you are and post to the blog if you wish. On some occasions, I will announce ahead of time where I will be and people can join me at a particular location.

There is a link at the top of the page that connects to a calendar listing the daily times for the rising and setting times of the sun and the moon.