Spring Is In The Belly; A Tale Of Phantom Bells.

Phantom bells toll, somewhere in the invisible distance. Their echoes mark the hour — the passing of another in an already fleeting day. On government-approved lockdown walks, I scour the skyline, searching for some sign of a bell tower or church. I find none. The bells ring from a distant world, always set apart from their listener. I’m closest to them when I return home, looking up and welcoming their sound every hour. They snap me back. Free me from the depths of thought or a pulsing laptop screen. Like great beacons, reawakening me to the real world.

It’s something I listen out for now. Taking my own breaks in anticipation of the bells’ ringing. Reconnecting with the world on my own schedule. This kind of connection to the world is something which has dwindled throughout the course of this Winter weighted lockdown. Like most people, I had been asleep — our world so suddenly entombed within four-walled bubbles, pierced only through the medium of Zoom, or to fetch groceries from the local shop. There is far less of a reason to open your eyes to the darkness outside, when home, work, and social life are all contained within the same space. And with the internet wormholes of online streaming or social media, it’s easy to fall into a lockdown hibernation. You’d forget that the world outside exists at all.

So when I listen to the bell-song, I’ll watch for signs of life in the garden. Something to re-unite me with the outside world. Blackbirds are often posturing in my little vegetable patch; daffodils opening their eyes to the ever brightening sky. For the birds, it’s life as normal. When they stop by the garden, they’re so busy stuffing their beaks that they’ve hardly any time to chat. Especially the great globe-shaped Wood Pigeons. Clearly, the lockdown isn’t taking any sort of a toll on them. For them, this Spring is just like any other. For me, I feel its extra weight.

I try to value each season for the unique features it brings, but I have always felt a deep need to escape the Winter darkness. Compounded by a lockdown, when the few hours of the day’s light have to be watched from inside, it’s no wonder that so many people have fallen into a seasonal slumber. A low-power mode. Never have I wanted to awaken from Winter so much as now. To be lifted from this Winter isolation, the same way the bells welcome me back into their world.

Hibernation is a necessary part of surviving the cold, dark part of the year. Sleeping off an entire season to re-emerge alive. I can feel Spring reawakening me to the world. Dusting off the seasonal sickness; a steady drip that gives me life. Today, when the bells tolled two o’clock, their sound arrived at my window on the wings of a queen bumblebee. Having come around groggily from her Winter repose, she burst from the ground, reinvigorated and full of life. It’s a sign of the season. Spring is brewing in the belly. The time of great reawakening.

Until it finally arrives, I’ll continue listening for the phantom bells. Listening to the birds and to the world. Markers of a life which exists outside of mine. Reminders that set me free from this lockdown life. And a promise, on these lengthening days, that Spring is on the way. And that, soon, it will be time for us all to wake.




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Fionn Spelman

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