If I Had a Bell

The rocky trail of the “optional detour” rose steeply up the hillside, and I silently questioned Becky’s choice as I trudged behind her. Under the midday sun, the short climb induced a sweat, and the shaded portico of the church beckoned at the top of the hill in Zabaldika, Spain.

Becky knelt in a pew and bowed her head for a moment. I made my own prayer in the form of a smile of gratitude.

We lingered a bit longer to appreciate the simple, yet beautiful interior and the colorful carved statues of selected saints– the hometown heroes and local favorites of this country church. We browsed the pamphlets telling the history of the church and its bells that, in ages past, served as an audible beacon to pilgrims on the Camino de Santiago. The docent gestured to a narrow doorway next to the exit, pointed upward, and said “tocar”. img_20180909_123208Becky followed me through the opening and an immediate right turn put my foot on the first tread of a narrow spiral staircase. The cramped way up was the only way forward. We were two leaves caught in a swirl of wind, lifted up and up and up, spun in the stonework eddy, until we spilled out into the belfry.

Two bells hung motionless in the spacious aerie. “Tocar.” I had learned that word in my Spanish class. The literal English translation is “to touch”, but in Spanish it means to play an instrument, like touching guitar strings or piano keys or, in this case, ringing a bell.

We could ring the bell? Cool! The closest bell had a sign taped to it, which read in Spanish, English, and French: “Broken Bell. Do not ring.” That made me wonder. How does a bell become broken? And what happens if you ring a broken bell? The second bell had a stout rope hanging from its clapper. A sign posted next to this bell read: “Please, ring the bell once or twice, and LISTEN…”

I hesitated, savoring the moment for my one strike. I grasped the rope firmly and img_20180909_123523gave a hearty heave, and….”dooonnngg”. Actually, it was more like a wimpy “clannggg”. Hmm. That was disappointing. But as I listened to the fading note, I imagined that I could see the soundwave rippling out across the countryside, reaching the townsfolk and pilgrims on the Camino. All over this land.


As we continued our walk on the Camino de Santiago, the song playing in my head turned into humming and ultimately found voice as I sang aloud.

(play music)

If I had a hammer, I’d hammer in the morning.
I’d hammer in the evening, all over this land.
I’d hammer out danger. I’d hammer out warning.
I’d hammer out love between my brothers and my sisters, all over this land.

If I had a bell, I’d ring it in the morning.
I’d ring it in the evening, all over this land.
I’d ring out danger. I’d ring out warning.
I’d ring out love between my brothers and my sisters, all over this land.

If I had a song, I’d sing it in the morning.
I’d sing it in the evening, all over this land.
I’d sing out danger. I’d sing out warning.
I’d sing about love between my brothers and my sisters, all over this land.

Now I’ve got a hammer, and I’ve got a bell.
And I’ve got a song to sing, all over this land.
It’s the hammer of Justice. It’s the bell of Freedom.
It’s the song about Love between my brothers and my sisters, all over this land.


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