dailybell: 9/28/08 - 10/5/08

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Imperfect Sunrises and Cable TV

The appearance of the sun breaking over the horizon yesterday was like something you’d see on one of those late night channel sign offs that television used to have in the days when stations didn’t have enough programming to broadcast for 24 hours a day. In these days of hundreds of channels and constant bombardment of every possible image and activity, it may be hard to imagine a time when there was such a limited range and amount of material that there would be down time. Maybe that downtime reflected a lack of imagination or a dearth of broadcastable materials for this relatively new medium. Perhaps there was a shortage of advertisers willing to pay for airspace to entice people with their products when those viewers were either half or completely asleep. Or maybe people were more discerning about what they were willing to broadcast to the public. Maybe “the public” was less a faceless entity of potential consumers and more a group of familiar people you might recognize when you were outside and not watching television. Neighbors, people in the grocery stores, coworkers, people on the bus- not people you knew but not exactly strangers, either. That is not to say that the content in those days of limited choice was more thoughtful or thought provoking than it is now. Game shows, sit-coms, quiz shows and soap operas abounded alongside the cowboy serials, doctor shows and police dramas. Before cable and HBO and before Ted Turner acquired all those movies from the 30's - 50's, the movies on TV were free. Before late night television was dominated by talk shows, those same movies played all night. For free. However limited the range and availability of programs- junk and gems- it was egalitarian. Now you pay. The more you pay, the more entertaining, the more variety and better quality of programming you expect. And one of those programs that used to be a throw away item at the end of a day that you can now pay for is the sunrise and sunset channel. The perfect sunrises and sunsets of your imagination. Over and over again. From one beautiful or exotic location to the next. Without the long wait, at an hour of your convenience and with music. So here is my second offering in a row of the sunrise over the Atlantic Ocean. However, because of all the clouds, the sun doesn’t make an appearance near the horizon. So I left that part out and just concentrated on the waves and the ground and left the sky to the imagination.

End of September

9/21 AM
Taking it easy this Sunday morning. Just a few birds and me (audio).

9/21 PM
This is the end of the second marathon cabinet making day. Norman, Krys and I momentarily plopped on the floor in front of our handiwork. The sunset was a good excuse to stop. We were so tired; we just kept on ringing the bells so we wouldn’t have to stand up again so soon. To see "before" kitchen, click here and scroll down to yesterday's entry on 9/20 PM.

9/22 AM
No special celebration for the equinox. I woke up and listened for a while to a new bird sound before getting out of bed. The bird was right outside the door, and I knew as soon as I went out, it would fly away. So I stayed put for a while just so I could listen to it. Once the bird had flown away and I heard it in the distance, I recognized its voice. Today was the first time it had been so close and it sounded so different, I hadn't realized it was the same song.

9/22 PM
Norman wanted to see the sun go down by the ocean this evening. However, we left too late and the sun set as we were driving to the beach. I rang the bells out of the side window as we drove down the street.

9/23 PM
Tonight was the last night that our Tuesday meditation group will be together for the sunset this year. Too soon. It’s barely autumn, and we’ve already reached the end of a possibility. A last time. We won’t be meeting again in the daylight until next year. Like the birds flying south, this encroaching darkness on our daily routines is a familiar warning of how quickly we slide from here into winter.

9/24 AM Sunrise at San Francisco Airport
Riding on a plane at sunrise or sunset is one of the more difficult situations to determine the time, place and sometimes, the actual moment that the sun crosses the horizon. Sometimes when the sun is visible in front of the plane or across the aisle I need to find other indications of how close the sun is to the horizon: a shrinking patch of sunlight on the wing of the plane or a growing number of colored bands on the horizon. This morning we were still on the ground, taxiing on the runway when the sun rose. The passenger at the window was in charge of the documentation as the three of us in our row rang in the morning.

9/24 PM Sunset at the International Plaza
It’s my niece’s birthday tomorrow, and we needed to do some last minute shopping this evening on the way home from the airport. My brother and I were just leaving the International Plaza in Tampa on the way to the parking lot at sunset. This mall is like a small town and looks like a combination casino and hospital. It turns out the hospital is actually a big hotel attached to the mall and they have valet parking. Since there was no activity at the valet parking area, we walked over to the attendant and told him about the sunset and asked him if he would take our picture in front of the mall while we rang the bells. Then we took turns.

9/25 AM Bells and the Trampoline
Since we are hovering around the equinox, the sun rises and sets at about the same time here in Florida as it does in San Francisco. Hooray for small blessings. My nieces are up already by then because of school. In fact, by the time the sun comes up only one of them is still at home. So she and I went out into the backyard to ring the bells. She thought the trampoline would be a good place to greet the day. When we dropped the bells she said it made a sound like a thousand little church bells.

9/25 PM Hannah's Birthday Wish
We were eating and opening birthday presents when the sun set this evening and didn’t notice until it was getting dark. Too late. There is no cell phone reception here - hence any reminders from the phone alarm are not possible. So it’s more of a challenge to pay attention, and we’ll see how it goes for the next few days. In the meantime-
Happy Birthday, Hannah!!!

9/26 AM
In all the birthday excitement last night, the sunset wasn’t the only thing to slip our minds. This morning Ginger was doing the homework she “forgot” to do. It was a good thing, too, because she was the only person awake at that hour. She came upstairs and got me to watch the sunset with her again. Thanks. Ginger.

9/26 PM Pit stop at sunset - Florida

9/27 AM Sunrise on the Atlantic Ocean.
This is the first sunrise I witnessed over the ocean this year and only the second one breaking close to the horizon at all. I love the Atlantic Ocean. It’s the ocean I grew up with. It’s warm. It’s where I learned to swim. It even smells warm. The waves are big but not killers or sneaky like the Pacific. Speaking of killers- there are no great white sharks here, either. It’s true that “Jaws” took place in the Atlantic Ocean, but there are more Great Whites off the coast of San Francisco than here in Florida. There is also a certain hissing sound that accompanies the waves breaking and receding on the shore that’s unlike the cold crashing and sweeping on and off the shore of the Pacific Ocean. The Atlantic feels more friendly. Less majestic, but much more inviting. And if you watch the birds along the shore here, they seem more relaxed than the little birds that skitter along the edge of the waves of the Pacific at Ocean Beach. Perhaps it’s because the water is so cold there, it hurts their little feet.

9/27 PM
My brother didn’t want to ring the bells at the dinner table in the restaurant this evening. It was one of those places where the center of the table is a huge grill and everyone sits along the perimeter as the cook prepares your meal on the grill. Since each table seats about 9 people, a party of three would never be allowed to occupy one table all on its own. So two couples joined my brother, niece and me and we ate together. As the sunset approached and I asked my brother if he wanted to ring bells outside or at the table, he didn’t seem all that enthusiastic about either option. However, he accepted the job of cameraman and the other people at the table seemed pleased to ring down the sun from our table.

9/28 PM
Saying goodbye with my brother’s family at sunset, we all took a break from watching television for a moment to ring bells one last time.

9/29 AM
A bleak and noisy morning at the Howard Johnson’s hotel near the Tampa airport came too early because I stayed up too late watching an old movie on the hotel’s cable TV.

9/29 PM
I had redeemed the vouchers I received as a result of that 30 hour flight from San Francisco to NY several weeks ago and was waiting for the plane to take off for the last leg of this trip. Northwest Airlines took over Delta and it’s been great. Things may not move quickly, but they are on time, and I am grateful. We were the 16th plane sitting on the tarmac waiting for takeoff in Atlanta when the sun set. Since we’d been waiting for quite some time by then, most people were already settled in and engrossed in whatever they planned to do for the next 4 1/2 hours. This was a large plane with 2 aisles and I was seated in the middle section of seats- nowhere near any windows. At the last minute, I disturbed the man across the aisle who was seated with his girlfriend next to the window. I asked him if he would mind trying to find the sun or simply shoot whatever he could see out there. He obliged and took the camera. However, when I offered him a bell to ring, he declined. The man sitting next to me took one and we jingled for a moment as we slowly inched our way forward in line.

9/30 AM
It’s good to be home (audio)

9/30 PM
This evening when I looked out the front window at sunset, I saw the children playing across the street and our friends Bill and Mary pulling into the driveway. Bill and Mary had just arrived after installing work at Seal Point Park in San Mateo all day. They were tired but willing to ring a few bells before dinner. While Norman walked around the corner to get the car (and the big bell), we went outside and told the kids we were going to ring some bells. They like to do it and came right over. After we finished I asked them if they still had their bells from the last time, and they said yes. One of the girls had even made hers into a necklace.

Bridge of Miracles

9/23 AM Garbage Day
This morning I chose a bell that I haven’t rung in a while. It’s one of my favorite bells and I had removed it from my daily collection because I like it so much. I love the way it sounds- so high and quiet and clear. I had removed it from the ones I travel with because I didn’t want to lose it. I was afraid that I would either leave it somewhere or that someone would take it and not give it back. This is what I learned about objects: the more desirable, the more valuable and the more likely they are to be stolen.

I didn’t understand this or expect it to happen when I first began this project. However, there were several occasions where I had passed out my bells and never saw some of them again. The ones that never returned were the most beautiful sounding or ones that were given to be and were my sentimental favorites. They were irreplaceable. I told myself that was the price of doing business but I still think of those bells, not with regret that I shared them, but with longing. I don’t imagine them with a new life. I miss them. Once I was down to having only a few remaining favorite bells, I decided to remove them from the pack and keep them safely at home.

So of course, I rarely use them and just look at them occasionally. Now they sit on the shelf—constant reminders of the betrayal of others. This morning, for whatever reason, I took this one little bell from the shelf and brought it outside to greet the day. There’s something about the sound of that particular bell which draws attention to other sounds in the environment. Especially to one bird in particular. (audio) This bell and that bird connected this morning through the air, and the honest clarity of that connection was a revelation. For a brief moment, there was no me. No bird. No bell. There was only a quiet, simple awareness of the fabric of this world. It was an amazing experience and in that moment there was no risk. No loss.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Crazy Obsessive

My stated goal at the beginning of this project was to observe the sun every time it crossed the horizon and to share the awareness of that moment with others. I am continuing to fail everyday, twice a day. Maybe that is the nature of the project. So far, I have rarely been able to both focus my attention on the moment when the sun crosses the horizon and to alert others to that moment in any meaningful way. However,I haven't given up. For the month of October, I will forgo the daily documentation. Just to see what it feels like. It would be nice to have some time for reflection and planning for the final part of the year. The Equinox is coming up as is the Winter Solstice.I plan to use the extra time that I am not documenting and editing the daily event to come up with other ideas and strategies. In the meantime, I plan to enjoy the sunrises and sunsets without the additional obligation of sharing those moments with anyone who is not there.