This morning we–my partner and I and our lovely French friend Véronique–are on the train to Chartres. It’s a place I first read about fifty (ahem) something years ago: Life Magazine. Mr. Joyner’s 8th grade home room.
I remember well the photos depicting the magnificent cathedral seemingly afloat on an inland sea of fog and field grass. A magical place, it looked to me. I remember thinking how living close to it must be something akin to inhabiting a fairy tale–a romanticized notion to be sure; and yet, one I’ve never fully dispelled.
Now, in just a little over an hour, I will walk into that space of childhood fantasy fully awake, a seasoned “homme d’un certain âge,” as Véronique might say–a guy who has certainly been ’round the block more than a few times (with the nicks, scrapes, scars to prove it!). Yet here I am, still as easily heartbroken, moved to tears, by the horrors we humans leave in our wake, as well as the wonders we can make–beauty that dazzles across the centuries.
It’s been more than half a century since my first glimpse of a manmade miracle in Life Magazine–an architectural wonder, an arc made of stone and stained glass soaring, levitating, above the fields of France (and a fair amount of bumpy, twisty, sometimes spirit-crushing miles between). And yet I still hope, and, yes, even expect to be dazzled. I expect to encounter magic. Ou au moins un peu, peut-être?