My Imaginary Friends: #13 Cowbells in the Fog

Objects appear in my books. This is never random. Items can have numens, just like places do.

Take, for example, the cowbell.

When my mother died, Barb and Dad and Pam and I spent some sad days together in Asturias where Pam was teaching. It was a miserable time. All four of us were in deep shock. But there were moments of intense magic amidst all that grief. One of them came on a late spring afternoon, punctuated by the continuous music of unseen cowbells just over the foggy hills. We were alone, just my family minus Mom, and the air reverberated with grazing cows we couldn’t see, wearing metal necklaces that called to us.

My father surprised me with an old and well-used cowbell for Christmas the following year. When I rang it, the sound of that bell transported us right back to a remote Spanish hillside.  He told me he got it in memory of that day.

It is one of the few gifts for me he ever picked out himself.

Later – many year later, when I wrote my first book, that afternoon of sound made a special guest appearance. When I began to write the scene I rediscovered all the details, with perfect clarity.

“When he first met Naomi, they hiked to a pilgrimage point in northwestern Spain up in the startlingly verdant Asturian hills. They ate a picnic lunch in a field filled with small wild irises and tea roses. At the end of the day it grew colder and fogs blew in. They gathered up their blankets and basket to the clanging of cowbells someplace off in a valley in the mists, heard but not seen.

The next day they returned to visit the shrine. The altar overlooking the valleys was busy with worshippers and a statue of Our Lady of Covadonga. But the narrow neck to the cave at the back of the sanctuary literally glowed with thousands of votive candles. They crouched in the cave in wonder. Whatever incarnation of the mother of God they honored up in front, her older chthonic image ruled undisputed within the earth.” – from the chapter Waiting in Broken In: A Novel in Stories.

A few years ago my friend Nancy gifted me with a Tibetan singing bowl. It keeps company with the distinctive clank of a cowbell from northwestern Spain. I’m not sure which item possesses the more powerful numen.

NOTES: Text and photos © Jadi Campbell 2023.

My books are Broken In: A Novel in Stories, Tsunami Cowboys,  Grounded and The Trail Back Out.

Broken In: A Novel in Stories was  semifinalist for the international 2020 Hawk Mountain Short Story Collection Award and Finalist for Greece’s 2021 Eyelands Book of the Year Award (Short Stories). Tsunami Cowboys was longlisted for the 2019 ScreenCraft Cinematic Book Award. The Trail Back Out was American Book Fest 2020 Best Book Award Finalist: Fiction Anthologies, Runner-Up for the 2021 Top Shelf Award, 2021 IAN Book of the Year Award Short Story Collection Finalist, and awarded a 2021 Wishing Shelf Red Ribbon. The title story The Trail Back Out was longlisted for the 2021 ScreenCraft Cinematic Short Story Award.

Click here for my author page to learn more about me and purchase my books.

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