Since my childhood, I've always loved the sound of church bells, and in spite of me not being a religious person anymore, I still like it, and maybe writing this down helps me to understand better why that is so.
My home town has somewhere around 89.000 inhabitants, and in the small area that I consider my neighbourhood, there are two churches close enough for me to hear their bells. There are three more in town centre, a bit further away from my house, but still within hearing distance when the wind is right. And while you'll hardly ever see me inside any of those buildings, I like the fact that they are there and add to the orderly structure of my everyday life which is so important to me. I need the tidy, stable outer frame to keep the rather chaotic, whirling and colourful wilderness of my mind within acceptable borders, I guess, and the bells contribute to that.
This has been so particularly since I have started working from home earlier this year, as explained in this post (and mentioned in some others; if you want to know more, simply put "working from home" in the search bar on my blog).
With the exception of the days when I have to get up really early to catch a train or plane, I do not set my alarm clock anymore; instead, I let the church bells wake me.
This is, I think, common in most towns nowadays, at least in Germany: The bells chime only from 6.00 or 7.00 in the morning until 11.00 pm or midnight, but not during the night. In my town, they start at 7.00 - just right for me to get up and begin the working day with enough time to have a mug of coffee, read the blogs I am following, sort through the first batch of emails for the day, have a shower, get dressed and eat my muesli.
The bells announce every quarter of the hour with one, two, three and four chimes. After the fourth chime, the full hour is struck. And after the seven, noon and six p.m. chimes, there is a pause of maybe half a minute or less, and then a long, resounding chime announces that it is now time to begin the working day, or have your lunch break, or end the working day. It is those long chimes I particularly like; I don't know how better to describe them than as a soft, dark red velvety carpet of sound covering, at least for a little while, the neighbourhood, muffling all the noise our busy daily lives create.
Much to my dismay, at the end of summer I suddenly noticed the long morning chime was gone. The noon one is still "on", and I am ashamed to say that I am not sure about the 6.00 pm one, but the morning one is definitely gone. Now I am wondering whether that is a seasonal thing, and hope it will be back in the spring. Maybe the authorities regulating (like ALL things in Germany are regulated, one way or other!) church bells have determined that in this town, people should not be "disturbed" by the long morning chime during the winter, when it is bad enough having to get up while it is still dark outside? I really don't know, and wonder who I could ask to find out.
Anyway, the bells at 7.00 in the morning start me off a lot less apruptly than any alarm clock could do, in a gentle manner as if saying "Look, the day is starting, how about you?". Then, while I am at work, during the afternoon I usually allow myself a little coffee break. When the weather is fine, I will sit on my window sill (there are several pictures of that on my blog) and enjoy a few sunrays. This coffee break is always measured by the quarter hour bells of the church closest to my home, not by some boss telling me to get back to work now.
And in the evening, sometimes at 5.00, more often at 6.00, along with the bell I greet the beginning of leisure time, often leaving the house going to the gym or (only in summer) for a run to the sound of the bell.
When on weekends I occasionally lay down for a little nap, these naps are also measured by the sound of the bell.
I like it that way, and hopefully, will be able to enjoy this peaceful pacemaker of my days and nights for many years to come.