The Olympic Bell (Part One)

This year for our tenth annual outdoor Sculpture Walk, we are excited to welcome the installation of a new sculpture, the Olympic Bell by Paul Matisse. First installed in Athens, Greece, in 2004 at the Summer Olympic Games, the bell then came home to Groton, Massachusetts, and has since been quietly awaiting its next home.

A few pulls on the heavy rope provides the momentum to lift the hammer and strike the bell, producing a deep, harmonious tone that can be heard for several minutes. My beloved partner, Blase, is doing the work of digging and preparing the ground for pouring the concrete foundation. We are all clearing the forested area of branches and fallen trees to let the stalwart white pines come forward with their presence creating, not the Parthenon, but nature’s own temple.


Paul Matisse is my former husband and the father of our three children. When we separated, I moved to the farm and created a new life here. We rarely saw each other, only speaking briefly on the phone when it involved the children. But over the years I think we both felt that our relationship continued, albeit in another form. The arrival of the bell feels like a reunion of the creativity and beauty that we both believe in and shared during our married time together. I look forward to its first rings echoing out over the pond.  

I am reminded of Mary Oliver’s poem, The Journey.

 One day you finally knew

what you had to do, and began,

though the voices around you

kept shouting

their bad advice--

though the whole house

began to tremble

and you felt the old tug

at your ankles.

"Mend my life!"

each voice cried.

But you didn't stop.

You knew what you had to do,

though the wind pried

with its stiff fingers

at the very foundations,

though their melancholy

was terrible.

It was already late

enough, and a wild night,

and the road full of fallen

branches and stones.

But little by little,

as you left their voices behind,

the stars began to burn

through the sheets of clouds,

and there was a new voice

which you slowly

recognized as your own,

that kept you company

as you strode deeper and deeper

into the world,

determined to do

the only thing you could do--

determined to save

the only life you could save. 


This bell for me echoes the powerful directive in this journey. How challenging it can be to make a decision to change one’s life. How painful for those connected to you. But when we feel we need to act and we do, we create karma from this action. But the karma is also influenced by how we do it and what intention we hold afterwards. Equally, I believe, what came before also influences the future.

Paul and I shared an apple when we first met in Japan. We were on a long bus ride through the Wakayama Prefecture south of Kyoto when I brought out an apple to eat. Paul asked for it, took out his pocketknife, and cut it into two sections. But the two pieces were not halves like you would imagine; they formed an interlocking puzzle with the halves fitting mysteriously back together, seeds intact, stem still attached, a mysterious marvel. I took the section with the stem and perhaps emboldened by his creativity, I ate my entire half of the apple, seeds and all, then held up the stem. Paul took it from me. 

Paul still has that stem in a tiny jar. He also has many sculptures in cloth I made for him over the twenty years we were together. And we share the continuing lives of our three children. Now, the Olympic Bell will share its deep sonorous prayers with visitors to the farm and stand as a symbol that love takes many forms.