When I noticed that my post was due on Christmas morning, my first reaction was to cringe and wonder, What on earth could I talk about that wouldn’t seem banal on such a morning? Not sure what to do, I do what I always do. I put the worry aside and took the dog for a walk.
The various churches in our area often play recorded music. There is little live bell ringing in churches today, which is a loss. As a former bell-ringer, I miss the sound of bell music. When I was barely twelve years old, I was part of a group from my school that performed for the mayor of Boston (in a public concert) during the holiday season as well as for my community. When I hear bell ringing now I actually listen as though I understand what I’m hearing—the different bells, the timing, the way a ringer has to pitch and snap the bell forward, etc.
On my walk I heard the recorded music from a small nondenominational church nearby, and let my mind drift. In the distance a dog barked and I knew another dog walker was out and about. Briefly a car with the bass ramped up sped by, crushing the bells and the dog. I registered all this and more as I waited for the world to fall quiet so I could enjoy the bells again.
This was one of those moments when a writer recognizes the obvious. In my recent work I’d forgotten the sensation of sound—the music that alters how I feel, the pain of shouting voices, the laughter that starts me smiling and makes me curious, the chorus of dogs barking in response to each other, and the snatch of conversation from two people walking past. The world is one long musical composition of which we hear only bits and pieces. But what if we listen?
The morning of a holy day is a good time to begin to listen well and carefully, to set aside the urge to add a comment or tell a story. Now is the time to listen to the world around us, the sounds we screen out instead of embracing as part of the fullness of life. There is a rhythm to movement and the noise it creates, and if we listen carefully and long enough we’ll see people walking up the steps in time to the beat of a car coming around the corner, or the landing of birds while a tree branch bends. If we listen we can hear the rhythm that holds us in sync with each other, each sound a grace note of life.
May your holiday be rich in all the best ways.