Peeling Out (a reflection)
August 26, 2018
What a trip.
To future bell ringers, and to anyone who might not understand the a-peal of bells:
The vast majority of this trip can only be experienced directly. Words can’t quite describe the strange and surreal experience of being led around Moscow by an energetic six-foot-three Russian Orthodox Hierodeacon with an inexhaustible passion for bell ringing and seemingly limitless access to every bell tower—no matter how tall or remote—in Russia. Further, seeing Father Roman play is incredible. The way his hands move—it’s like he is a sorcerer conjuring potions out of a cauldron, except the cauldrons are bells and the potions are peals.
At least once—once—every bell ringer should risk temporary deafness and listen to the Danilov bells without ear protection.
Hearing Mother Earth directly is something akin to hearing the voice of god. It’s sublime: beautiful, terrifying, and possibly obliterating all at once. You’re twenty years old, your ear drums will likely recover. Probably.
Jessica tells me that one of the thing she notices that distinguishes the original Danilov bells from the new ones at Lowell is the old ones sustain their sound for a lot longer. Once the last peal has been struck, they just keep ringing, and ringing, and ringing for minutes upon minutes. The new bells, they give up the ghost more quickly. But I like to think these bells are always ringing just a little. Even when you can’t hear it.
All and all, I have to give this experience a ringing endorsement.
**No one in Russia calls Mother Earth “Mother Earth.” They just call it “Bolshoy,” which means “Big.” Apparently we Harvard kids made up the whole Mother Earth thing sometime later.