Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Visibility

Back in the 15th century, when Victor Hugo's personages Esmeralda the Bohemian and the hunchback Quasimodo lived on the Ile de la Cité in an atmosphere of constant misery and petty criminality, the façade of the great cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris was hidden behind a mass of humble houses and shops, in a maze of tiny lanes.

It wasn't until the 18th century that the so-called parvis was cleared and extended, enabling Parisians to discover the façade of the cathedral in much the same way that we see it today.

When I was a more-or-less devout Christian child [what a funny idea!], I once asked my father naively why he never attended Sunday mass, like me, at our Anglican cathedral in Grafton. He informed me curtly, as if he didn't really expect me to appreciate his subtle argument, that his Nymboida bush land was his personal cathedral.

Likewise, for me today, Gamone is my sanctuary. And yesterday, following my demolition of the woodshed and my removal of the tip of the embankment, the northern façade of my humble cathedral became totally visible [in a photographic sense] for the first time since it was erected, two centuries ago.

It's a funny feeling, getting a bird's-eye view of a particular façade of your house for the first time. Neither those who built the house, nor those like Hippolyte Gerin for whom it was their home during their entire existence on Earth, ever had this privilege. Sure, they obviously had a pretty good idea of what their house looked like from the north, just as Esmeralda and Quasimodo might have imagined what the western façade of Notre-Dame would look like when viewed from a distance. But the former occupants of Gamone never had a true global vision of this wintry façade, which never sees the Sun.

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