Some 13 million people visit Notre Dame a year; one of the world's most iconic and beloved Gothic cathedrals. Not only a notable architectural landmark, Notre Dame also lays claim to countless religious artifacts, including the Crown of Thorns, believed to have been worn by Jesus himself. In spite of its elevated status the world over, it's still very much a working parish, hosting a daily mass, baptisms, weddings, and Easter Sunday services for the citizens of Paris and for anyone who is attracted to its collective history from around the globe, regardless of their religious affiliation or subscribed faith (or lack thereof).
Cliff and I visited Notre Dame just a few years ago. We stayed at a quaint hotel on the island just a few blocks away so this stunning church and sacred monument was part of our daily landscape and view. Quite literally, the centerpiece of Paris and surrounded by the River Seine, Notre Dame has stood as witness to the divine for more than 850 years.
So with the unexpected and tragic news that Notre Dame was on fire on Monday (Notre Damn!) the world watched and waited with bated breath while thousands of Parisians gathered behind the police barricades and sang hymns deep into the night in honor of this magnificent structure and architectural treasure.
It's early Wednesday morning and I'm where I often am - in the kitchen, news on the TV, laptop open and engaged on the counter, and cookies baking in the oven. Today, I'm making chocolate-dipped macaroons for my neighbor's Easter Tea on Friday morning. Next week, I'll make them again for Passover. (In my experience, good macaroons are non-denominational.) My dog, Riley, has been fed and he's sitting at my feet waiting for Cliff to take him on their daily morning hike.
On Sunday evening, we hosted dinner for Lior, our Israeli tour guide who's now visiting California for the next few weeks. This potluck gathering included several couples who'd been on the trip and wanted to return his hospitality with dinner and dessert. We sat around our antique Irish farmhouse table and enjoyed one another's company as we reminisced. We didn't sit at the beautiful, highly-polished round table in the formal dining room, or on the comfy sofas in the living room - we gathered in the kitchen. (And to give credit where credit is due, Cliff cooked the chili while I tended to my Open House at 45 Lane Court.)
Last week, I received an unexpected impromptu invitation: "Hey Julie, I'm heading to Tahoe to ski Thursday and Friday, would you like to join me? (Why yes, I would.)
So with Jill manning the ship and Cliff taking care of the house, his mother and Riley, I quickly packed my bag, dug out my old ski paraphernalia, bought some chains for the tires (just in case) and drove up on Wednesday afternoon in the rain and snow. Never mind that the last time I skied was three years ago and I wasn't sure I still knew how; I was banking on muscle memory and taking advantage of the windfall. (Thank you.)
Happily, Thursday gave us clear skies through the first half of the day and Friday provided magical spring skiing with the lake in full glorious view. And while my out-of-shape thighs were certainly taxed on many of the steeper runs, I did manage to get down the mountain fairly unscathed and still breathing normally. (Okay, I had one spectacular yard sale, but the soft snow provided a cushion and there was nary a soul on the hill to witness it.)
Julie Gardner, has been writing The Perspective for 12 years and has published more than 500 essays. She is also a frequent contributor to the Sound Off column in the Real Estate section of The San Francisco Chronicle.