Sunday, August 14, 2011

Wind Bells and Swings

The rain started splashing down just a couple hours into our new window replacement project.  My husband climbed down the scaffolding, I resigned the painting of trim, and we took cover on the steps under the deck, waiting and watching. The wind kicked up, blowing gently down the valley and we sat there listening to the clanging of various wind bells chiming around the yard. Low repetitive tones, tinkling Bali bells, a deep gong chime. All beautiful and uplifting in unison.

Well, you know how one thing leads to another.

We started scouting around the shop and garage for odds and ends and came up with a solid aluminum rod, about 1.5 inches in diameter, a couple hollow aluminum rods and a piece of steel. Without getting too elaborate, we strung a couple up under the deck and started playing around. Just as the rain started to die down, our neighbor and her kids stopped over, and voila...a little lesson in sound vibration. The solid aluminum sounded best, and we were amazed at how long the sound persisted, like an oversized tuning fork.  Check out Bair giving it a whirl, with his brother Rox looking on.

In the town of Round Pond, Maine, Jim and May Davidson create wind bells that echo the familiar and distinctive tones of coastal and harbor bells. Jim used to work as a lobsterman and spent many hours on the water with the sound of surf and bell buoys in the background. He sought out re-creating these sounds for others to enjoy by recording the sounds of bell and gong buoys, and then working with steel to actually match those tones. See North Country Wind Bells for their beautiful pieces of art and ear candy. I often keep their site open on my computer to serve as background while I'm working on art projects...the sounds of pounding surf and bell buoys is heavenly.

The most common and classic-style windchime is tuned to a medieval scale commonly used in Gregorian chant; many people have these in their yards; they too sound uplifting, exceptionally rich and melodious when played by the wind.  Listen to another gorgeous and powerful sounding chime, the Woodstock Chimes of King David.

Another bit of happiness: I want to build a couple adult swings in the backyard. (No, not that kind you dirty mind). I mean swinging like kids do. The difference between child and adult swings is simply size. When I looked on-line for a blueprint to build a swing for adults, I got this response: "the swings for adults look more "serious" in that they are stylish, not that colorful and often have more comfortable and bigger seats. Swinging is not the most important function...the main purpose is to offer comfort."

WRONG. The main function IS swinging, high...very high, and it is exhilarating! Many years ago I attended The Option Institute in Massachusetts (they offer workshops on autism, among other things) and that's where I encountered a swing for adults. The end poles were twice as tall as a child's swing set; yes, the seat was bigger and more comfortable, but the point was you could gain altitude with just a few pumps and shoot off into the heavens with a few more pumps and even kick your shoes off if you wanted to! It was very, very fun...and I want one in my backyard.

When this rain stops. And after the windows are installed. Probably next summer.


  1. Oh what beautiful sounds! I love the sound of foghorns on a misty day by the sea, too.

    I miss swinging... When I was a kid my father made me a swing out of rope and a wood plank for a seat, and hung it from my favorite hemlock tree. If only I had room here for an adult swing... it would be as fun as a walk in the woods.