Saved by the bells

As a writer who spends quite a lot of time in her apartment doing that thing writers do—checking emails, cleaning the fridge, reorganizing the spices and, you know, maybe some writing—I’m very aware of all the sounds around me. Since there isn’t anyone else in my “office” tap-tap-taping on their keyboards or making photocopies or answering phones, I’ve come to appreciate the other sounds of “silence.” Since I’ve now been in my apartment here in Montmartre for a few months, I am well-acquainted with those of the Butte. Not just Paris, in general, where no matter your location you can hear planes overhead or ambulances coming from down the block or dogs barking. I’m talking those unique to my fourth floor apartment whose windows face a courtyard yet still provides an open-air, spectacular view (and therefore acoustic tunnel) to the ciel (sky). I hear the following at any point throughout the day:

  • A toilet flushing
  • A man peeing (no woman’s stream is that loud)
  • Someone practicing the clarinet
  • Someone practicing the piano
  • Water dripping from potted plants on the terrace
  • The flapping of a blackout shade against the building
  • Pigeons cooing
  • A bird that is not a pigeon squawking (‘concrete jungle’—holla!)
  • A vacuum sucking away dustballs from hardwood floors
  • A washing machine sucking away dirtballs from clothes

But my favorite sound has to be that of the church bells ringing from nearby Sacré Coeur. There doesn’t seem to be any set time or length to the chimes, but whenever they start up I smile and take notice. Not only because I find the sound soothing, but because, funnily enough, back at my apartment in NYC, I also hear the regular sound of church bells from the tower above the Jefferson Market Library and Garden.

I love nothing more than waking to them in the morning, reading in bed until they ring again or getting home late afternoon and watching the light change in the apartment as they cling-clang, ding-dong away the day.

I know it’s going to be emotional to pack up that apartment back in NYC after nearly 7 (or is it 8?) years, and as much as I believe I am ready to say au revoir to so many of its quirky traits—from the horribly uncomfortable Jennifer Leather loveseat to the closet that doesn’t shut without you slamming it—I am forever grateful that the sound of church bells will remain with me here in my adopted home. Saved by the bells, indeed.


Sacré Coeur, Paris


Jefferson Market Library, NYC

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