Monday, December 6, 2021

Bound for Glory - Notre Dame de Paris

A big truck rumbled by as I stepped out of a neighbor’s gate , As usual I shook my fist at the hulking lumbering giant.  Eighteen wheelers regularly terrorize our small village as they thread the narrows of our main street. If we are foolish enough to be walking on the street we feel the wind brush our cheeks as they swoosh by. We all wish those monsters would find another way to get where they are going. This truck was loaded with logs, heading to the local sawmill. 

I glanced up and saw that this load of lumber was different. Two enormous trunks were sticking out way longer than usual and there was only room for a few trunks tucked around them. I noticed that the butt ends of the overhanging trunks were splashed with red spray paint. Perhaps this was a warning not to tailgate. Watching the big rig navigate the left turn out of the village I realized that the red paint spelled out something. It said, “Notre Dame de Paris.”  These were no ordinary great trunks. These ancient behemoths were bound for glory. Alone on our poorly paved road, I was witness to part of the spectacular effort to restore Notre Dame Cathedral!  In this backwater region Paris always seems so far way. That day day it was here. My angry fist shaking turned into my waving and blowing kisses in hopes that the driver might notice me. Instead he shifted up a gear and headed on down the road to the Delord sawmill, the largest sawmill in the region. I ran home to grab Tom and to follow that truck!

Tom wasn’t home. 

I realized he was back when I heard a curious whooshing sound coming from the driveway. It was the sound of gravel being dumped out of a truck. There between the car and the street was a hill of gravel. Frustrated I almost didn’t tell Tom my story, but I did. As excited as I was to see those big babies he flew into action. Before I could believe it Tom had cleared the gravel and said “Let’s go”.

My insides were all a twitter as we drove a couple of villages over to the sawmill. We’d been here before and knew it is a huge operation, that they are safety conscience and that we couldn’t just wander around. I hopped out of the car and was scanning the lumber yard when a young truck driver asked what I was up to. I explained that we were chasing a truck carrying Notre Dame de Paris tree trunks. He said yep that was his load. But where was it? He said go check in at the office.

The office was warm and beautifully decorated. Not at all what I expected of a lumber operation. An elegant woman appeared and asked how she could help me. In french garbled by adrenaline, I stammered out that I had just seen a truck load of tree trunks and that two of them had said Notre Dame de Paris and that I had to see them. She patiently listened, thought for a moment and said no. The owner was out and no one had the time for this sort of interruption. Tongue tied, I tried my best disappointed pout, but even this didn't get me anywhere.

I thanked the elegant woman for at least hearing me out and sadly headed back up the football field sized parking lot. It’s a working lumber yard, there are a lot of machines running, whining, screeching and yet above all of that I was stopped in my tracks as I heard a wolf call. A piercing two fingers in the mouth whistle. Out of a tiny back office window was the elegant woman waving me back. Let me just tell you the entire adventure was worth it just to know that a tiny, beautiful french woman knew how to wolf whistle. Turns out she is the owner's daughter and has found this whistle a useful skill in a world of men and noise. Honestly it’s about as un-French as, as, well as I don’t know what.

She had taken pity on me and recruited a manager to come out and escort us around the yard. We stood outside the office and he explained some background to the lumber. Where the trunks were coming from, where they would be used, why Delord had them. Finally we headed off across the parking lot to look at some trunks. We walked out to two freshly cut timbers. Their long straight length was like nothing you have ever seen or could imagine without standing right there next to them. Smooth as silk and emanating that wonderful smell of fresh cut wood. Oak wood. Here were two Goliath's destined to restore the greatest cathedral in France. We talked about the heritage of the lumber and what more had to be done. We kept walking and talking the entire length of those timbers. Finally we came to their far end. I turned to look back down the length of them and there on the butt end were those splashes of red. Notre Dame de Paris. The top of the N had been squared off and the bottom of the S had been milled away. Here were my two trees bound for glory.

I can’t imagine that they had unloaded, positioned the logs on the mill and milled the logs that I had only a bit ago seen winding through Bourdeilles. Even with the lost time lost for gravel removal. That no longer mattered. I was caressing, breathing in, sitting on Monsters. These once tiny seedlings are now destined to support the roof of one of the wonders of the world. Notre Dame de Paris.

A note on how these logs will be used in the reconstruction.

The raging fire destroyed the timbers that held up Notre Dame’s roof.  This support system is called The Forest.  To rebuild it, the largest members will require 200 trees like the two we saw at the Delord sawmill.They will measure a straight 15 meters (50 feet). These trees will be at least 150 years old.  Additionally, the rebuilding will require 80 trees that are 20 meters (66 feet!) long.  These trees will be at least 200 years old.  Throughout France the search is on.  So far all of the trees have been donated by the various landowners.   

Im the original plan, two years of drying time would be required before the lumber could be used. A historian stepped up and pointed out that the original construction used logs that were floated down the Seine.  The new strategy is to saturate the lumber with six months under a shower of water.

Friday, October 1, 2021

September in Bourdeilles


Monday, September 20, 2021

A Sunday Morning in Bordeaux

 Here's a dip into a few hours in a small part of the elegant city of Bordeaux. I wandered the narrow streets, visited the Town Hall, shopped at the Flea Market, and walked back along the quai of the Garonne River.