Who is Chuck and why does he like to travel?

I was born to be a writer and when I wrote my novel Wild Point Island, Chuck, my orange and white recently rescued feral tabby, got it in his head that he wanted to travel to the island and see the place for himself. Well, of course, Wild Point Island, can only be seen by revenants (you'll have to read the book to find out who they are) and Chuck is no revenant so instead, I concocted a plan to take Chuck with me when I travel around the world, which I do frequently. Not an easy task. First, I have to deflate the poor kid of all air, stuff him in my carry-on bag, remember to bring my portable pump, and when I arrive, I pump him back up. Ouch. But he's used to it by now and given the choice to either stay home in his comfy cat bed or get deflated, he pulls out his passport, ready to travel, every time.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Gargoyles Trump Joan of Arc in Rouen,France


When you travel with a rascal cat, things rarely go as planned.

Case in point.  We were in France.  Heading toward Rouen, the capital of the Haute Normandie region, which is in northern France, near the River Seine. If you are up on your French history, you know that Rouen--besides once being the largest and most prosperous city in medieval Europe--was also the place where Joan of Arc was burned at the stake in 1431. 

I’d told Chuck the story of Joan of Arc. She was both a folk heroine and Roman Catholic saint who had begun her life as a peasant girl but who claimed to be guided by God and led the French army to several victories, enabling Charles VII to be crowed King of France.  She was captured and executed at 19 years old, but twenty-five years later she was declared a martyr by Pope Callixtus III.

Chuck wanted to see the place where Joan of Arc was laid to rest so we traipsed into Rouen, on our way to her gravesite, and passed the magnificent Notre Dame Cathedral.  

The cathedral has a long history dating back to the 4th century when the first church was present, but over the years, the cathedral has been struck by lightning several times, raided by Vikings, burnt down, blown down by fierce winds, reconstructed, damaged during War, damaged during hurricanes, bombed . . . well, you get the idea.  

           But still the cathedral survived, was transformed and even immortalized by Claude Monet in his painting Notre Dame Cathedral which now hangs in the Musee D’Orsay in Paris.

On our way to see Joan of Arc, Chuck stopped. He was gazing upward at the cathedral wall, with that typical “cat quizzical look” on his face.  He sniffed once, then again, as if he could sniff out what he had spied.

“What are you looking at?”

Chuck couldn’t take his gaze off the wall.
I followed his gaze, intrigued at what was holding his attention. 

Suspended from the wall was a gargoyle.  

             I’d heard about gargoyles on buildings.  They were put on churches to frighten off evil or harmful spirits.
Chuck moved closer to get a better look, and I thought he needed an explanation.

“Chuck, the practice of putting gargoyles on buildings like churches actually started here in Rouen.  Many years ago St. Romanus,” I said, beginning the tale of the France legend, “who was eventually made Bishop of Rouen, had the job of scouring the countryside around Rouen and finding the monster called Gargouille.  Now Gargouille was a typical fire breathing dragon with batlike wings and a long neck.  St. Romanus, smart man that he was, used a crucifix to subdue the Gargouille, and he brought him back to Rouen and burned him. The head of the Gargouille was mounted on a newly erected church to scare off any other evil spirits that were lurking out there.  This was the first instance of a gargoyle used for protection.”

Chuck continued staring at the strange monster-like creature which was plastered on the wall of the church.  

“Are you ready to go see Joan of Arc?”

He glanced at me, and we turned away from the Cathedral.  We walked down the street, when suddenly Chuck stopped again.  He was staring up at a building this time. 
“Chuck, honestly.”
Two more gargoyles reared their ugly heads away from the building.  I had to admit they were interesting to look at.

             Finally, we reached the place where Joan of Arc was laid to rest.  No more gargoyles.

“She was killed a long time ago, and people still come to see her.”

Chuck looked up at me with that disappointed look.

“Excuse me.  People and cats still come to see her.”

And it hit me then, Joan could have used a gargoyle or two for protection.  


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