Notre Dame

It is with a heavy heart that I sit here going through photographs, reliving memories, almost hearing the chime on a Sunday morning as I ate a lovely breakfast at a sidewalk cafe directly across the Seine. I videotaped it so I could remember the sound. I’m so glad I did. Notre Dame, as they keep saying on CNN, is much more than a building. More than a church. It is unbelievably stunning in architecture, its spire rising high, its Rose window gleaming, the flying buttresses giving it strength and dimension. I have walked along the banks of the Seine past Notre Dame dozens of times in my three visits to Paris. It’s simply “there” – and we thought – always would be. It was such an iconic place, one began to take it for granted and although I enjoyed the exterior beauty during my last visit, I hate to admit I can’t recall going back inside. Shame on me for taking it for granted that it would simply be there when I returned. Like so many things in life, we simply expect they will be there when we return. And yet, perhaps not …

We await word of the damage in daylight. Once the flames are doused; once they can get into the nave, we will know if it can ever be repaired. It was devastating watching the spire fall; horrible to see the steel scaffolding instead of the beautiful wood facade and roof. It will never be the same. It may be rebuilt and in twenty years if my children return, perhaps they will find a grand structure similar to the one destroyed today. But it will never be the same.

My first visit was with my son, the second with my daughter, and my third alone in an apartment for three wonderful weeks of walking the Seine day and night. I’m going to post a poem I wrote during that first visit and some photos we took while there.


      Notre Dame
I felt God wrap me in layers of peace
His presence clung to my soul.
Tears of what? – joy, sadness, love –
Clung to wet lashes, refusing to fall.
The Gothic arched nave, inches from heaven
Called me to its heights of marble glory.
The stories are told in stained glass windows
Their beauty unmatched on earth.
Rose windows absorb the light
Stone floors worn smooth by thousands.
Wood pews gleam with the oil of centuries
Faint incense fills my senses.
Mary holds Jesus in the pieta.
A marble scene carved over the ages.
A mother’s grief and anguish
A son’s death for each of us.
The immensity of the cathedral
Is far from stark or cold
For God fills the air with warmth.
And the hushed silence of the visitors
Allows me to be alone
In the healing of spirit
In the quiet of music
In the air fraught with substance.
God makes Himself fully known.
The beauty of Notre Dame
Stands starkly against blue skies.
Daring us to disbelieve.
Asking us to simply trust.
I stand in awe and quiet
I feel a presence clearly
I ask for faith and release.
Published in The Gila River Review – 2011

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