I loved the church bells in Italy. They reminded me of the Christian tradition of praying the hours. In a tiny village where we stayed, the bells sounded every hour between 7:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m. I didn’t need to wear a watch — after a short time, I relaxed into the comfortable rhythm of daily village life. As I heard the bells throughout the day they brought me back to the present moment — of waking, eating, resting, praying, praising, reflecting, preparing for sleep.
The 7:00 a.m. Bells
The village followed the rhythm of these hours. Before 7:00 a.m., the only sounds I could hear were the waves and the swallows. After 7:00, the people of the village began to move around — sweeping the sidewalks, opening up the cappuccino shops, the baker loading the station wagon with warm brioche (sweet pastries) to drive to the nearby towns. The children started their hikes up the hill to the school. Listen to the 7:00 a.m. bells:
The 5:00 p.m. bells
The village quieted down for a siesta around 2:00 p.m.. Most all of the restaurants and stores closed for a 3-hour rest. During those hours, the bells continued to ring, but quieter. (I settled down for a nap.) Around 4:00 p.m., the men of the village gathered in the square to play cards.
Then at 5:00 p.m. the siesta time came to an end with rousing peal from the bells. By 7:00 p.m., restaurants opened back up to serve dinner. Here is a recording of the 5:00 p.m. bells:
I miss the bells of Italy and their reminders to stay in the present. What are the reminders that bring you back from the future or the past? What helps you stay in the present moment?
Perhaps it’s because of my dad’s decline into Alzheimer’s, but my return to the family cabin is especially powerful this year. It is like all the memories Dad has forgotten were waiting at the threshold of the cabin for someone to enter.
I’ve been coming here since I was a little girl. Today as I came through the door, I breathed in the familiar smells of this place and felt the presence of loved ones who are no longer here — grandparents, great aunts and uncles, my mom.
A movie played in my head — I heard the sound of Mom’s laughter and saw her smile; I felt the pokes of nails I was sorting to help Grandpa Tom with his construction project; I saw myself, early in the morning, running through the freezing cabin to reach the warmth of the kitchen and Dad’s blueberry pancakes.
I am home.
Not the home where I live all year round …
But a place I feel most grounded,
Most connected, most spiritually myself.
A lifetime of my memories
Sits on these shelves,
Vibrates in this air,
Roams around these rooms.
In this place
I am … truly … home.
I just returned home from two weeks in Italy. I’m grateful for the opportunity and still processing everything I saw. Here’s the Top 10 according to me.
10. Olives — From olive oil to antipasto to the olive groves surrounding the places we stayed, olives were everpresent.
9. Clotheslines — Thank goodness for clotheslines — they add so much charm to the scenery of an Italian town.
8. Sculptors, artists, and artisans — Thank goodness for the sculptures and those who made them.
7. Cappuccino — Even I (not a coffee drinker) fell in love with Italian cappuccino. (My favorite bar in Vernazza put a smiley face on my morning drink.)
6. Siestas — Of all the Italian ways of life, this may be the one I’d most like to bring home.
5. Gelato — Of all the Italian ways of life, this may be the one I’d most like to bring home. 🙂
4. Church bells — from 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. They reflected the rhythm of life — a rousing peal to wake up creation, quieter during siesta time, another rousing peal at 5:00 p.m., silencing after 10:00.
3. Symbols of faith — Icons, statues, reminders of faith were everywhere I turned. I’m always looking for signs of God’s presence. In Italy, the reminders were everywhere.
2. The evening light — the warm light of evening bathed the buildings with such beautiful color. I stopped each evening to watch the slow, beautiful progression of the sun.
1. Churches and candles — Nearly every church I entered had a place where I could light candles and pray for others.