Thing one: I was overjoyed to learn that — if we can look at the glass half-full for a moment — the damage to Notre-Dame was much more limited than it could have been:
- Even though I saw a bunch of disheartening photos of windows missing their glass, CNN reported that all three of the massive rose windows from the 13th century along with many of the other stained glass panels survived the fire. I was sure the glass would all melt away, and I am so happy to know that much of it held out.
- The organ was also spared, as was much of the artwork.
- Many of the statues had been removed just days before, in preparation for the renovation work, so they weren’t caught in the fire.
- A bunch of priceless artifacts were rescued before they were destroyed, including the crown of thorns that means so much to Catholics.
- Had the fire reached the towers, the whole thing would have come down soon after. It didn’t, and that seems miraculous.
- According to the New York Times, almost 850 million Euros has already been raised towards rebuilding, which seems so fitting for Notre-Dame’s 850 years of history. Some have asked why money can be raised so much more easily for a cathedral in need than for people in need, but I choose to focus on the fact that there is a need and it’s being met. I think that is a wonderful thing.
Thing two: I realized that I had inadvertently already donated to the Notre-Dame rebuilding fund by responding to the World Monuments Fund‘s annual membership call the day before the fire. I gave $45 to become an Explorer-level member (usually $50 but there was a deal during the pledge drive). This means that a. I will receive a yearly magazine about the organization’s fascinating and important work to save and restore humanity’s architectural heritage, and that b. I have contributed to that work. You can, too!
Thing three: I just learned that the 2020 Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington, D.C. will “celebrate (and complicate) connections between Benin, Brazil, and the United States” through an exploration of their voodoo-inflected musical and cultural traditions. You know what that means?! If you can’t bring the girl back to the Vodoun Festival, you can bring the Vodoun festival back to the girl. See you in 2020, D.C.!
Thing four: The day before I left Senegal, I had breakfast with a French-Guinean journalist friend, Sarah. We caught each other up on where our respective lives had led us over the two years since we had last seen each other, and we exchanged our conjectures and semi-formed visions about where the future might take us. At some point we realized that we were both in a similar place of finally enjoying the present moment and accepting that life was not going according to our preconceived plans, but that it was working out really well anyway. Then she casually dropped the pearliest pearl of wisdom: “Life has more imagination than we do.”
I found it so profound and thought that only someone speaking a non-native language could express themselves so poetically in casual conversation. She later told me that she had actually heard the words from a friend many years ago, had held on to them, and had passed them on to me in that very apropos moment. Regardless of who said the words first, I now think of her as a poet-journalist.
I meant to post the quote sooner because I love it so much, but I’m glad I didn’t get around to it until now so that I could apply it to the horror-turned-to-wonder of Notre-Dame surviving a blaze that could have burnt it all down.