It Tolls for Thee


Della, writing in her journal.

At 5 am, after a very late night, all hell broke loose, A bell started ringing. At first somber and stately, I imagined an ancient bell in a stone cathedral, and then wildly frantic, as if the ringer had lost all patience and thrown dignity out the belfry. And then the chickens. There were some dogs involved. A dang cat even chimed in. Meowing. Seriously. There was a gunshot and then the birds started. Were you aware that car alarms in the US are based on the sounds of Guatemalan birds? I wasn’t either. I don’t favor the term OMG, but O.M.G. I lay in my bed, eyes closed, bathed in sound.

Our neighbor behind paper thin walls had a coughing fit and turned on a lighthouse beacon of some sort that shown through an oddly placed window into our room. He then started packing a bag with a thousand zippers…..indecisively. Zip zip zip zip zip zip. That’s how thin the walls are. Someone scraped a file cabinet down the cobblestone street and then it got really quiet again. 

And because I like to worry, sometimes I worry about going blind and how awful that would be. I’m a visual person. Trapped behind my own black lids would be a dismal fate. But I’m not scared any more, If and when I go blind, I know just where to come and not miss one single sensory beat. Room 6, Hostel Antigueno, Antigua,Guatemala.

My kids slept through it all. I got up, wandered outside to the tables in the courtyard and drank lovely black coffee with a family from Australia and another from Seattle (they are teachers in Costa Rica with 13 year old twins). We ate pancakes and eggs , potatoes, fruit and the best refried black beans I’ve ever had. My kids stumbled out eventually and settled a Harry Potter wager with the twins, played a quick game of table tennis and then we set out. After a day of wandering and awe, we returned to our little hostal and did some drawing and writing. A lovely Dutch lady challenged Lewis to game of table tennis. They were nicely matched and played with zesto. I’m not sure how or why national anthems came up, but we heard a few, sincere if a little out of tune, and to Max’s (our 16 year old) horror, Matt sang the Star Spangled Banner. And because he watches too much hockey, he then burst into ‘Oh Canada’, because it’s a song that begs singing. 

Two German girls cut up a bazillion unidentified vegetables and started a soup that filled the courtyard with the aroma of curry and spice and inside of a day we are changed people. 

I am on point for 5 am, folks. Ready and waiting. 

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