My Love for the Midday Bell

OVERHANGING verdant palms sway in the wind above me. I’m sitting solo in the colorful central terrace of Lisbon’s artistic space and restaurant, Maus HábitosI hear the chime of the midday bell.

The sky above is a pale blue. Opaque white clouds drift by the opening in the roof; the sound of something hollow and tin rattles in the wind.

Rain is on the way.

Inside the restaurant’s bustling; they’re setting up for a DJ set, or something I can’t quite figure out, but everybody is speaking very fast in typical Portuguese fashion.

Here I am, looking around, sitting full of joy and still amongst the chaos. When I step inside, I smell the lovely scent of sweet dough baking.

Nobody sits outside but me, and I admit, my hands are cold and stiff. But I love to write outside, listening to the sounds of life, the signs of movement breathing.

In any ancient city, you’ll hear the midday bell. To once drive away the spirits, remind us of mortality, the passing time, the need to get back to work.

But what’s the point of the bell in the age of modernity?

The terrace at Maus Hábitos
The terrace at Maus Hábitos

Our phones are strapped around our wrists; we look at screens without intent. We’re constantly reminded that we’re getting older, another day has come and gone.

Much of the time, we’re just trying to get through.

I don’t think the bell serves a logical need, but as a reminder of how beautiful this world can be. A contribution to the energy drifting throughout history.

Life is radiant, emitted from the falling leaves, the drops of rain, the earth beneath our feet.

Yet we often move through this world, not touching the walls like a child might, not taking in the taste of the salt in the breeze.

I, as much as anyone, don’t stop to watch a flower die; don’t have the time to perceive color, fading from the petals.

But magic, it has always been; if we’re lucky we’ll catch glimpses of the life words can’t explain — the passion of the setting sun which fades behind the mountains, across the sea, beyond through the trees — squeezing the hand of someone you love.

Holding a friend under your arm.

Finding space within yourself to feel the love words can’t express.

Look around at what we have; we’re here, and that’s a miracle. Perhaps the bell may remind us of that, not that we will someday die, but that today, we get the chance to live.

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