Books, News, writing

To the Writer Who Saved Notre Dame

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I was just one of millions who were shocked yesterday at the fire that destroyed Notre Dame in Paris, France. But all the memories I had from nearly four years ago with this structure came rushing back. While in Paris, I loved walking to this city center and did so several times. I took a walking tour around the island that taught me a lot about the history and art. I climbed to the belltowers, found sanctuary inside the sanctuary, attended an evening service, picnicked in its shade, and even explored the underground crypt. I never imagined that this building that pointed to God for over 850 years would be destroyed in my lifetime.

Without the dedicated firefighters working hours upon hours yesterday, Notre Dame would be in worse condition than it is now, and for that I’m thankful. But we must also remember that it’s possible there wouldn’t be a cathedral to save today if a writer hadn’t saved it nearly 200 years ago.

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Victor Hugo and The Hunchback

Notre Dame de Paris wasn’t always as beloved as it is now. After years of neglect, it found itself in a state of disrepair in the 1800s. At the time, a Parisian writer by the name of Victor Hugo decided to do something about his beloved city center. He wrote a book titled Notre Dame de Paris. It ended up being translated into many languages. In the English translation, it was titled The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Maybe you’ve heard of it?

As the popularity of the book spread, readers spilled into Paris to visit the now-famed Notre Dame. This eventually pressured the government to restore the cathedral to its former glory. Why? If you haven’t read the book, the story might not be what you’d expect. Many of us think of the Disney adaptation, which, while I didn’t enjoy it much as a kid, as an adult it became one of my favorite Disney movies due to its unique themes. Victor Hugo actually spent more of his book describing the Notre Dame, with the storyline more as a selling point. It’s even darker than Disney’s darkest cartoon, and does not have a happy ending. But the point was made, and Victor Hugo got his real-life happy ending of a restored cathedral. I was able to visit Victor Hugo’s final resting place in the Pantheon in Paris, lying amid other famous French who shaped their culture.

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What Writers Can Do

As I watched the live updates of Notre Dame burning, I couldn’t help but think of Victor Hugo and how he used his character Quasimodo to save the cathedral only to have it destroyed today. But if a writer could save Notre Dame once, could another writer save it again?

I’m not saying that writer is me. Although I have toyed with an idea of a story about a backpacker who visits places like Paris, it’s still only an idea in my head and not on paper. I did feel a personal connection to Quasimodo as I stood in “his” belltower, I actually have the same type of scoliosis that this character did. (Obviously, mine is a mild case where his was much more extreme.) As an urban backpacker, this can cause extra pain as I travel. Paris was the first place I visited in Europe, and while I was already starting to feel pain there, I couldn’t help but feel like it was a place of refuge and freedom.

But most of us are writers in some form or another. In this modern age where anyone can be published, maybe we all can work together in writing our way to save Notre Dame again. I’ve already been inspired by the news reporters saying that it will be rebuilt (though we don’t have a timeframe yet- hopefully in this lifetime!) and the people on social media who have pledged money and shared their own stories. If you’ve been to Paris, share your personal experience so that the Notre Dame’s memories will not disappear, even if its roof has. If you haven’t seen Notre Dame, I know its tales have still affected you in some way. Share what you’ve learned about the historic cathedral, or write about how excited you are to see it being rebuilt. Who knows? Maybe one of us will become the next Victor Hugo, writing a book that features the future Notre Dame.

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Start now: What’s been your experience with the Notre Dame, whether in person or through books/movies/etc? How did you feel when you heard it caught fire? Share with the world in the comments below!

All photos taken by me, Jessica Lippe, July 2015.

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photography, seasonal

Fall Foto Fun

I’ve been enjoying the fall colors and associated activities over the past few weeks! Before the constant rain started, I decided to take my last mud-free opportunity of the year to hike Table Rock and see the foilage from above.

I went to the pumpkin patch twice this year. On my second trip, I decided to get a blue pumpkin, which I never had before. The following days were all pumpkin-themed. I roasted the seeds from my pumpkin, baked cookies and cheesecake brownies from canned pumpkin, and carved the pumpkin in a park under the colorful leaves of a tree.

Last week was the first Friday of the month, which called for an evening trip to Ashland for the First Friday Art Walk. After that I headed down the street to Southern Oregon University, where I joined a haunted tour. But the most incredible thing I saw happened before all that: I parked my car at Lithia Park, and saw these trees between the duck pond and Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

If you want to see more of my pics, be sure to follow me on Instagram. I’m @jessicalippe.

travel tips, Walk

First Friday Art Walk

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Location: Ashland, Oregon… only available on the first Friday of the month!

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Length: Galleries are available all around Ashland. However, most are located close to each other on the main street of downtown, which is what I chose to stick to.

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Foot Traffic

I doubled up on walks last Friday. After dropping off the kid I explored Hawthorne Park with, I headed south to Ashland. Although I started this stroll solo, I soon found myself among a sea of humanity. Many other participants had come from all over the place to explore the unique art of Ashland. Although some of the art was from faraway artists, many galleries allowed several artists to come stand next to their work and answer questions. Musicians lined the streets and occasionally inside galleries to provide a variety of eclectic music. It was a fun mix of people.

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Foot Feelings

Downtown Ashland bustles with art galleries and restaurants. When I arrived around 5:30, I figured I’d browse a few of the galleries, then choose a restaurant to dine at before exploring more art. After a few galleries, I realized that restaurants would be unnecessary tonight! Most of the galleries served cheese, fruit, chocolate, cookies, or other snacks, as well as beverages (both wine and kid-friendly).

Despite living close to Ashland for the majority of my life, I’ve only been to the First Friday Art Walk one other time. During my freshman year of college, my humanities teacher made it a requirement that we all attend one night. I’ve wanted to go back since, but either forget or get too busy by the time the first Friday of the month rolls around. I’m glad I made it a priority for April!

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Foot Notes

-Ashland hosts an art walk the first Friday of every month from 5-8pm. Each month is a little different in which galleries are open and what art is displayed (and what refreshments are served!), so your experience is guaranteed to be unique!

-Can’t make it to the art walk? Ashland still has lots of public art displayed 24/7, and numerous galleries that are open every day.

-You can enjoy other shops and services between galleries. Maybe even enjoy performing arts in the form of a Shakespeare play (I at least went to the gift shop). I also took a quick walk at dusk through Lithia Park, since that’s where I parked my car.

-I realized that my favorite type of art is functional art. While there is value to a piece that only serves the purpose of decorating a wall, I would rather have art that can tell time, help me in the kitchen, or serve as furniture. Last week I discovered a piece of art that I’ve found extremely functional, and I got it before I even went to Ashland! Strawesome is an artistic company that makes decorative glass straws. I got one that I’ve used just to dress up my drinking glass, as well as protect my teeth. (Acid and sugar in beverages can cause tooth decay. Because I often drink ACV water, using this straw is promoting my holistic health while also promoting my enamel health!) Because Strawesome straws are reusable and not made of plastic, they help the environment’s health, too! An especially great idea since Earth Day is coming up. Carry one of these awesome straws around as you sip and stroll through eccentric Ashland’s art galleries, and you’re sure to get some compliments!

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Strawesome provided me with a glass straw so that I could review it. No other compensation was made. Thanks!