dailybell: 1/6/08 - 1/13/08

Saturday, January 12, 2008

SUNSET 1/12/08

Welcome back, Liz!!! You can't see her, but Liz is ringing the bell in the back of the car. Liz helped drive the really big bell through the devastated Gulf region and eastern Texas in the fall of 2006.

Caution Bell Onboard...

It’s very convenient having the bell in the back of the car. The bell itself is prevented from swinging by being wedged in the back and tied with bungee cords. However, it’s too hard to remove and replace the clapper each time I want to ring the bell, so it just dangles and moves freely. As a result, the bell is the ultimate backseat driver. If I move too suddenly or break too hard, the bell RINGS really f---ing LOUD and scares the hell out of me. So I am being a much more careful driver.

The other advantage of having the bell in the back of the car is that no matter where I am at sundown, I just pull over, stop the car and get out. If there are people around, I quickly approach them to see if they want to ring a bell. Because there is usually not much time before the sun is due to set, there is not a lot of time for questions. I say “The sun is setting in 3 minutes and I am ringing bells everyday when the sun rises and sets. I have some bells with me. Would you like to join me?” Most people will postpone asking questions until we are already ringing. So knowing why is no longer a prerequisite to participating. It’s great!

SUNRISE 1/12/08

Friday, January 11, 2008

SUNSET 1/11/08

Among the tie-dyed shirts neatly hanging in rows all over the surface of the bus was a sign that read:
leave it broke.com

Gophers never sleep

With all this rain we have been having, the weeds in the yard are very tall. It looks lush, but it’s very wet and uncomfortable to walk in first thing in the morning. We also have gophers in the backyard and while it looks very pretty and green, the ground is full of potholes- just the right size to grab a foot and hold onto it until you fall over. This morning I was lucky.

SUNRISE 1/11/08

Thursday, January 10, 2008

SUNSET 1/10/08

Today when sundown approached and I was nowhere near either my car or my bells, I invited my friends to ring down the sun from their home. We looked around the house and found several bells that we gathered together and rang for several minutes. Very quietly, looking out onto the garden.

Dear Anne and Claire,

This is in response to your comment on 1/8/08 when you ask me about "life with a bell". It's surprises me that I even have a "life with the bell" since I have never been especially attracted to bells. I've always had a few little bells around that I liked- delicate sounds and nice objects. However, it wasn't until that last trip with a very large bell that I became attached to such a large inanimate object. It was very comforting somehow to look into the rearview mirror and always know that the bell would be right there behind the car.

The bell I am driving around at the moment is a different bell than the one I traveled with during the Bell Project. I was really sad to give that one away at the end of 5 weeks, but it was promised to The Exploratorium and destined for a particular job in the museum. This bell I am using now belongs to my husband and I, and it’s nice to finally put it to work after letting it sit in the yard for almost a decade. As a cast iron school bell manufactured during a time when these types bells were so mass produced as to even be sloppily made, it was made to simply do a job.

So my “life with bells” is really something I am discovering as it goes along. On the one hand, I am realizing that each bell is special and has a unique presence (I don’t want to say personality) and of course, it’s own sound. These cast iron bells don’t have a pretty sound- especially up close. They are LOUD and harsh. But they were engineered to transmit the distinctive sound as far as possible so that people could communicate at great distances. The message had to be very simple, but it was effective. I am just beginning to discover the potential of this kind of non-specific, effective alerting and delivery system.

I am attracted to the big bell because it is so loud and can get the attention of people who are not immediately nearby. Because the sound of the large bell carries so well, it can function as an attractor and gather people together. This gathering together can either be in real physical proximity or in terms of communal awareness of a single moment in time. I am very attracted to idea of a community of people united in awareness, even if it’s momentarily. Don’t you think that’s potentially very powerful? And empowering?

This kind of ritualized observation and celebration of nature and of a very basic cycle that is common to all of humanity has been practiced by many cultures and religions since the dawn of time. We here in the United States, don’t have much general awareness of this kind of practice these days. When I drove that other bell around, most people saw it as a symbol of something long before they ever really thought of it as a large sound-making object. They wanted to know why I was driving it around and what it meant. Was this a protest? Something to do with “freedom”? I stood between people and the bell and people wanted me to supply a satisfactory answer or reason in order for them to participate. Often my answer was a prerequisite for their willingness to ring the bell.

The exceptions to this reaction were in the Gulf region and in the border towns in Mexico. Many of the people we encountered in Mississippi and New Orleans didn’t need to ask for a reason to ring the bell. Whether it was symbolic or not, the bell fulfilled some very basic function that people intuitively understood. People grabbed hold of the bell when we were stopped in traffic and rang it.

The same thing happened when we were in Mexico. There were many churches in the towns we drove through. These little towns had Churches with real bells that were rung regularly. And it was very noisy on the streets. Yelling, singing, a loud radio, sparks from welding, car horns - such a cacophony of noises from daily living. You need the sound of big bells to cut through the basic ambience on the street. People needed no invitation to ring the bell there either. We’d be stopped in congested traffic and suddenly feel a powerful tug at the back of the car as someone grabbed the wheel and swung it. Then- the really loud bong that followed. It was such a different and much more joyful experience than what we had experienced all along the East Coast where it was like pulling teeth to get people to even stop long enough to talk about the bell.

Anyway, for this project, I am not wedded to any particular bell. In fact, I usually ring little tiny bells in the mornings because I don’t want to wake up my neighbors. At least not everyday. Now and then, I ring the large bell a few times (very few) because it really does have a more ceremonial quality to it that I also like.

So, that’s my first attempt to describe what “life with a bell” is like so far.

How about you?

SUNRISE 1/10/08

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

SUNSET 1/9/08

Racing the train

Today when I went out to the corner at sundown, I looked up the street and saw someone waiting for the streetcar. Looking down the street I wasn’t sure if I could see a train coming or not.

So, I approached the man who was waiting and asked him if that was a train in the distance and he said, “Yes. Three minutes”. Well, that would be a few minutes before the sunset, but I thought I’d ask him anyway. He didn’t want to do ring any bells, but he was curious about why I was doing it. I told him what I’ve been telling other people- that I had been to India and that whole towns of people greeted the sun everyday with bells and music. I loved that and wanted to do it here. He laughed but still didn’t want to ring the bell. Neither did the woman who had just come to wait.

The train came at exactly 5:05 just as it had the other day. So I rang the bell by myself.

SUNRISE 1/9/08

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

SUNSET 1/8/08

Hear Ye! Hear Ye!

My pledge to ring a bell twice daily for a year is a very small nod to long and well-established traditions so many people already observe and practice. I have chosen to tie my activity to the rising and setting sun.

Who else ringing bells out there? And why?

SUNRISE 1/8/08

Monday, January 7, 2008

SUNSET 1/7/08


The bell is not important OR You can't argue with the sun

After so much buildup about the bell and ringing it everyday, it seems a little odd to say that the bell is not important. But it’s true in the sense that the bell is a convenient and effective way to experience something else. I think that “something else” has to do with shared experience of some universal truth.

First of all, you can’t argue with the movement of the earth.
Secondly, the sunrise and sunset may be a matter of perspective but not a matter of opinion.
Finally, in the same way that we can rely on our breathing, we can rely on the rising and setting of the sun.

Like our breathing, the rotation of the earth is ongoing. Obviously both happen without our will or intervention. Yet unlike our breathing, the rising and setting sun are large, observable spectacles that can be experienced by so many people at the same instant in time. Each day, these moments have the potential to unite human awareness if we focus on them.

The bell is a good sound-maker for this application because it’s easy to do, and it’s potentially loud enough to attract attention. A deliberate sound like a ringing bell or a wailing siren helps to focus and draw attention to the moment we hear the sound. Whether we are making sound or listening, everyone who hears the sound is united in the moment of hearing. The thought of and reality of so many ears vibrating together is very exciting.

SUNRISE 1/7/08


Sunday, January 6, 2008

SUNSET 1/6/08


SUNRISE 1/6/08