It was unusual to pull into an empty parking lot. On summer days it was impossible to find a spot as people flocked to the park and the river bank with their chairs and picnic hampers. But on this wintery Sunday morning I had it all to myself. I pulled on my toque and headed out into the brittle air.
I was barely getting into a decent stride when I heard them: bells pealing in the distance. “Really,” I thought, “in this city?“ I had become fascinated with bells at twenty-something backpacking in Europe. I loved the beauty of the bells being rhythmically pulled and simultaneously pulling us all toward the presence of God. I thought it to be a brilliant tradition.
And here they were on this morning, once again calling me with their sound. I was as much drawn to that ringing as the children were who followed the Pied Piper. I headed toward their clang and a Northern Flicker crossed my path, his body bursting with colour. I dodged a branch and a chickadee landed directly in front of me and bobbed its black head curiously. I searched for a place to cross the river and saw the water burbling through the ice trying as a force of nature to make its way through. Nature exploded around me. The bells rang insistently. I could ignore neither.
Still searching I left the park and crossed an empty street. I meandered past a game of outdoor shinny, sticks slapping the ice, blades crossing crisply, the occasional happy hoot as a goal was scored. I climbed up a hill and there – at last – were the bells in their steeple. Still ringing. Still calling. The church was closed – no doubt pandemic protocol – but the call to God’s people to search for him rang strong. I stood for what could have been a minute or an eternity, a congregation of one, and let this beautiful mystery envelop me and stir my soul.
Slowly now, I headed back to the river absorbing the delight of the morning. The sun was warmer and since I still had the park to myself I stopped at a bench leaning my body into it and lifting my face to the sun. Since I was a child I have always tilted my head to feel that strength. I closed my eyes and focused on the twitter of birds, the kiss of the breeze, the kindness of the sun’s rays.
The sun has always found me. The Son has always found me; persistent as a bell, resplendent in beauty as the created world around us.