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From brooding skies belch handfuls of snow, etching tree trunks with lacy fingers, rounding shrubs with capes of ermine, and obscuring remnants of brown leaves mashed against fence posts. Winds rollick flakes in a centrifuge with a no turn-off switch.

Hours pass. Darkness encroaches this boisterous play. Within the halogen glow of street lamps, snow-swirls waltz to the strains of an invisible orchestra. Silence hushes this wintry phenomenon with wordlessness. And still it snows—throughout the night. With daylight comes a gradual surcease. Only traces of snow meander upon the white world, until finally exhausted.

Such displays reveal the white fire of an Unseen Presence beautifying the sordid, igniting our senses, and stirring our imaginations.

We are grateful.

 

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Church bells, monastery bells, garden bells, handbells, alarm bells, electric bells, cowbells, jingle bells, ships’ bells, ice cream truck bells, and so many more—seems like bells have always been around. And indeed, they have. In 2000 BCE, with the advancement of metallurgy in ancient China, bells began to appear, slowly infusing themselves into its culture, religion, and way of life. Neighboring countries followed suit.

In addition to various weights of metals, today’s craftsmen produce bells in wood, glass, pottery, and stoneware.

When struck, their sound quickens us, instantly modifies our worlds and rouses feelings: joy, sorrow, fear, dread, order, or inspiration. As the strains fade from awareness, we return to our familiar world, and, if wise, savor the intrusion and learn from it.

Why do bells affect us so? On a deeper level, we consider their symbolic meaning: a universal means of communicating truth—As if the bell’s tongue carries a divine summons to pay attention. And as the poet Mary Oliver reminds us, “Be astonished! Tell about it!”

Time is passing.

 

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