A few weeks ago, I set out for my daily walk, my destination the local library. My husband and I were both suffering from colds, so we’d slept in, and it was 11:30 by the time I left the house, carrying a backpack of soon-to-be-overdue books.
It was an unseasonally warm Sunday, just above 60 degrees Fahrenheit, a beautiful late-autumn day with the sun shining brightly through the trees, transforming the remaining leaves into stained-glass windows colored in flame. Rounding a corner, I faced into the sun, and as it shone out, the bells from a nearby church began to peal.
I’d heard the bells before. I tend to take my walks around midday, and had often heard the church carillon ring out familiar hymns. It was always a pleasant accompaniment. But this was quite different, no tunes, just a wild, joyous cry, bells from high to low, deep-voiced through treble, pouring out in a jubilee that reminded me of my recording of the Coronation Scene in Boris Godunov. The bells and the sun created a moment of pure wonder and beauty.
On my way home from the library, on the very same block, I heard the bells again. But this time it was the familiar Big Ben chime, followed by a singularly appropriate hymn, “For the Beauty of the Earth” (one of my favorites). From the sublime moment earlier in the walk to the comforting and familiar as I wended my way home, I felt grateful, blessed by the bells.
Here’s the coronation scene from Boris, the version with the best bells of those I could find on youtube (couldn’t find the scene from the recording I own, which features Boris Christoff in the title role, but the bells on the recording below are also quite spectacular):