Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Nurse the Hate: The Fire at Notre-Dame de Paris

The Lord never gives you more than you can handle.  This is, of course, blatantly untrue.  It is just a catchphrase like “it was God’s plan” to suggest that when the dust clears, and people inevitably move ahead left with no other choice, that it was “God’s plan” all along.  It is the Samuel Becket quote.  “You must go on.  I can’t go on.  I’ll go on.”  This floated in my head while watching Notre Dame burn this week.  Something beautiful which has endured through the ages gone in moments.  Everything is temporary.  Nothing is certain.

Paris has had a rough go of things lately.  Violent protests from the yellow vests.  Terrorist massacres in concert halls.  Full on flooding from the River Seine.  Now one of their iconic symbols burns.  It’s enough to make even the normally jaded Parisians take pause.  I have been fortunate enough to have been to Paris a few times.  I love the sound and rhythm of the city.  It is a city of nooks and crannies nestled between grand monuments of artistic vision.  Little cafes on side streets where people take forever to sip a drink while watching the endless parade of pedestrians.  It’s where I really saw Van Gogh’s work for the first time and my brain flashed “Oh, that’s why he’s great…”.  To see it right in front of you, to take in the colors, and the brush strokes…  I try to go to the Musee d’Orsay when I go to the city.  There is a room with Toulouse-Lautrec, Monet, and Cezanne that is my favorite.  It’s arguably the finest art museum in the world.

Every visit to the city I would trudge to Notre Dame, usually crossing the Le Pont des Arts with all the locks attached by lovers making a romantic gesture and then doubling back on Pont Neuf to gain access to the small island where the Cathedral sits.  I understand that in 2015 the locks began to be cut down by the city as the weight of all the locks had made the bridge unstable.  For estranged lovers looking for the sources of their problems, look to this local government action as cause.

The Cathedral is massive.  If it had been built a few years ago, it would be impressive.  The fact that it was started in 1163 makes our American heads explode.  I have been inside the oldest house in Massachusetts.  It was built 550+ years later and is essentially a shack.  Notre Dame is a symbol of power and awe festooned with artistic treasures and works that span the ages.  I liked to spend time looking at the tucked away sculptures of gargoyles and demons on the side of the building away from the zoned-out group tours.  The back end of the cathedral has a relatively quiet park, a good place to sit and watch boats purposefully work up and down the Seine.  Many of the video angles of the fire had that area as the foreground.

A few blocks away I remember finding a small café in a little neighborhood.  I was hungry and it was off hours, early afternoon.  A small boy played in the empty café with his mother keeping a sideways eye on him.  I took a tiny table that was perched in rickety fashion on the cobblestone street in front of the doorway.  The bartender spoke no English.  I speak no French.  There was a daily menu of plats on a chalkboard.  I ordered a quiche and a glass of what turned out to be tough and tannic Cote de Rhone red.  The quiche was surprisingly good.  The sun struggled in the Spring sky to warm my face.  The little boy had returned to playing, singing a little song I didn’t recognize.  The bartender went back to prepping, cutting lemons.  I sat on the quiet street and watched the residents in their daily activities sipping my wine.  This tranquil vision is the one that pops in my head when I think of Notre Dame.

History is filled with massive fires wiping out cathedrals.  It’s the price of a 900 year old timber roof.  They usually rise again.  I think that we need their stability, to know that there is a brick and mortar line that passes through history to connect us all.  Regardless of our differences, people will come together to rebuild, to make sure that Paris remains Paris.  Although the city is a different Paris to all that live and visit there, Notre Dame has been a constant.  You must go on.  I can’t go on.  I’ll go on.    


At May 1, 2019 at 7:50:00 PM EDT , Blogger AZ said...



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