Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Call to Beauty

 bells and beauty1
Cathédrale Saint Bénigne in Dijon, France

As I got out of the car this afternoon my mind was focused on the never-ending to-do list.  The heavy canvas bags full of groceries reminded me of the dinner I would have to start soon.  Dog poops needed to be picked up.  Front and back lawns, growing at warp speed because of the weekend rain, required mowing before the day’s gray sky sent rain again.  A post-it note stuck on a kitchen cabinet door had a list of phone calls I had to make before another hour passed.

But as I began to trudge up the front walk, the bells began to sing.  It was three o’clock on an ordinary April afternoon when the air filled with the soft melody of the carillon bells in the tower at the Concordia Lutheran seminary in the neighborhood that backs up to mine.  During the summer we’re blessed to hear a full bell concert one evening each week as we go about our business of grilling out dinner, weeding the garden, emptying the trash.  This afternoon serenade, though, was an unexpected respite at the lowest point of the day – when there was so much to do and little energy left with which to do it.

I paused to listen until the music faded.  Brief (certainly not a concert), the notes had probably marked a call to the seminarians for a special service in their chapel.  As the chimes floated over me, however, they also carried me back to France almost a year ago.  The weekend that Brad and I had arrived in Dijon I saw a flyer posted about a carillon concert at the historic Cathédrale Saint Bénigne on Sunday evening.  In fact, it was in front of the cathedral on the street, the 53 church bells mounted on a mobile cart and transported from city to city to maintain the musical tradition.  People sat in the street, children danced to the accompanying jazz band, and during the hour-long concert it seemed the entire Dijon citizenry strolled through the square to listen for a few moments before moving on with a smile.  This was so . . . well . . . normal for these people to encounter beauty so casually.

bells and beauty2
The Dijionaisse enjoying their street concert

In France, beauty appears in a flower pot full of sunflowers or red geraniums sitting on an a windowsill, in a cellist busking on a sidewalk in the middle of the street market, in the design of shop window display of chocolate treats, in the presentation of food on a plate, and in the ancient architecture that defines a city.  In America, however, one of the best violinists in the world can play in a public place on an instrument that cost $3.5 million and no one stops to listen (see the story and video of the Joshua Bell experiment here).

I know that as I grow older I’m more and more inclined to stop and listen.  I try to be more deliberate in my focus.  I try to keep my eyes open for unexpected beauty in my day.  I know when the peonies bloom.  I see the cardinal flash red as it takes off from its branch.  I look a particularly efficient supermarket checker in the eye and say, “Have a good day” and mean it.  I leave my ears unplugged from electronics to hear the rhythms of the world around me.  When I connect, momentarily, with a divine object I find myself more eager to offer something just as worthy to the universe.  The inspiration may last for only ten minutes or it may last all day.  But for that space I’m trying to ring my bells for glory.

So today I just want to remind you to do one small thing to create some beauty in the world or take a moment to notice the art in unexpected places.  You can start by listening to a bit of the bells from Dijon:

video

If you enjoy what you read here, join the conversation by telling your own story of beauty in the comments box below.  Share this link with your friends.  Thanks for reading.

2 comments:

Scrollwork said...

Hi, Julie. I hear ya. For me, it's the contrast that startles my senses awake. In my rural area of California, there are many ramshackle structures. While noble in their decay, they are often adorned with climbing roses or embraced by blooming branches. I've also learned to look up when I find myself under a tree and when the moon is full or a street lamp is lit. I look for the light that silvers the leaves. It feels like I've momentarily left the mundane and have gained passage into the mysterious.

Julie Farrar said...

I like recognizing those contrasts, too. It focuses me on the world so much more intently. Thanks for reading.

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