Life in France

The Bells

the-churchSince my last post was a little complainy, I have decided to tell you about something here I LOVE. In our little village, as in most of the small villages I’ve been through in the area, everything is quiet. The breeze may blow in the trees, rustling leaves and scattering the birds, but you won’t hear much more as you walk through the center of town. Little traffic, or none at all, and not a soul in sight makes it seem like the place is deserted. You can almost imagine you’re the only one here, especially when the fog rolls in, obscuring the view.

For a girl coming from the frantic hustle of city life, it’s a welcome change. I stop, breathe deep, and listen. Standing in the middle of the street, I stare up at the old castle walls and feel the tingle of magic that lie in forgotten places. And then…the bell rings.

It’s something you can’t quite imagine unless you’ve experienced it. Here, in this quiet village, the bells ring in the old church every fifteen minutes. At the hour, they chime their full toll of the hour, then once at a quarter after, twice at the half, and three times at a quarter till. Then, it begins again. At seven, noon, and again at seven the bells ring extra long, inviting the devout to kneel and pray. I counted one morning and after the initial seven, it rang one hundred times straight before stopping. If you’d described that to me before I came, I would have assumed it would drive me crazy. But it doesn’t. It may honestly be one of my favorite things about living here.

Maybe it’s the novelty of it. Maybe it’s because it makes me feel like a real member of the community when the bell rings to let me know it’s lunch time just like everyone else who is listening. Maybe it’s the fact that it is a tradition that has carried on for hundreds of years and my mind just loves knowing that I’m now connected to that in some small way. I don’t know, but when I hear the bells, I just can’t help but smile. It makes me want to throw open the windows and lean out to hear them clearer. (But it’s cold, so I will wait until spring.)

Someday I will miss them. I know this already. I will miss the quiet, the soft rhythm of our days and the contemplative strolls through the castle. I will miss the food that annoys me now, the way everything is a challenge with a definitive purpose, and the sound of people speaking French. I will someday miss all the new. It’s inevitable, even if we stay here forever. But these things will be stored up inside of me, treasures that can’t be taken away even if all of France is cut off to me forever. I will always remember the sound of the bells ringing on a foggy night in a quiet little village in France. Always.

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