Monday, August 15, 2005

A bit of terror, a bit of joy

My former roommate, Erkan, was wandering around the University of Chicago about a month ago when he heard the most amazing sounds - bells, ringing in what sounded like music. He came back and, in his halting English, attempted to describe what he heard. After a while, I figured out he was hearing the Laura Spelman Rockefeller Memorial Carillon, installed at the University of Chicago's Rockefeller Chapel.

Then, about a week ago, I read on the UC website about the Carillonathon - a series of free recitals featuring various arillonneurs from around the world. And before each recital at 5:30 PM, there would be a tour of the chapel tower and the "guts" of the carillon itself. So I made sure I'd be back from my gig down south, and I met up with Erkan this evening and went to to check it all out.

Well, I really hadn't considered that to see the carillon, we'd have to climb almost all the way up the bell tower - up a narrow stone spiral stairway, across a wooden walkway suspended over the nave of the chapel and just under the roof, and then up another spiral staircase. Two hundred and twenty-six steps - I was literally gasping for air as I made it into the carillon "playing room."

It was not the sort of thing I would have chosen to do - I hate heights, closed spaces, and climbing stairs - especially spiral staircases. You see, with size 12-EEEEEE feet, about the only place I can get any real traction on these spiral staircases in on the very outside of the steps - so every other step feels like I'm going to fall all the way down to the bottom.

And for a person who's not particularly excited about heights, falling down 226 steps - or imagining dropping through the creaking, squeaky wooden walkway over the ceiling of the nave and falling to my death - were about the worst panic-inducing events in which I could have participated.

But between my late mother's voice saying, "When are you ever gonna get the chance to do something like this again?" and the voices of a whole bunch of AA folks talkin' in my head, saying, "What part of one step at a time don't you understand?", I made it - both up and down. Seeing the thing in operation was an amazing process - since actually playing the carillon is all-mechanical, with no technology boost for its operation. (There is an automatic-ringer for the chimes on the quarter-hours, but it gets turned off for recitals).

Now, don't get any fancy ideas - I didn't go up the last three flights of stairs, and go out onto the Chapel roof or anything. But I made it, saw the second largest carillon installation in the nation, and lived to tell the tale.

That's pretty cool, I'd say.

But by the time I had dinner and got home, I was done. I mean, done like dinner. I had no energy left for any of the stuff I was supposed to do this evening. But I have an indelible memory of this adventure, which is probably the best way to be connected to my immediate past...

So tonight I give thanks - for the gift of a good friend, and the combination of courage and endurance enough to experience what had been so freely given to me. Those are two great gifts, God - along with "Advil for serious pain" in my legs and knees...


Michael said...

Sounds like a full and intriguing day. Just imagine, you have lived only a few blocks from the carillon for a couple of years, and it took someone from Turkey to motivate you to climb up there. At the risk of a pious thought: we need outsiders to help us see what is already in our world.

Steve F. said...

Nope, no way - none of those pious thoughts in THIS blog. Outta the pool, there, bubba...