Several years ago, we rented an apartment on Rue du Petit Pont in Paris. And for a lifetime of springtime, we walked, talked, laughed, cried and slept within the sound of the bells of Notre Dame. They woke us up in the morning and put us to bed at night. In the afternoons, we heard them with “une verre de vin rouge, s’il vous plait.” And in the evenings, they rang as the great cathedral itself emerged from the gathering night, heavy with light. And it was always there, from the sidewalks of the Seine, that we saw the people – people drawn to the light – drawn to the cathedral – drawn to the beating heart of Paris. People from around the world and across the street. We saw mimes and jugglers and fire eaters who blew plumes of flame into the sky. Once, we saw a woman cross the bridge on rollerblades, weaving through traffic with one hand on her telephone and the other holding a cigarette – Gauloises, I suspect. Once, we saw a line of pilgrims alive with faith and purpose and each one alone in exaltation. We saw children with balloons and teenage lovers and workers eating their lunch. On one particular afternoon, we saw a troupe of Esmeraldas, dancing through the tourist crowd, their brothers and boyfriends lurking with pickpocket intent. We met a man from Italy who thought we were German. A man from Normandy who liked Kay’s hat. And an elegant woman who became a character in one of my stories. All in the shadow of Notre Dame.
Today, the heart of Paris is burning, and I whisper a prayer because once, in an infinite springtime, I sat in the warm evening and watched the world light up with the sound of the bells of Notre Dame.