You only get one shot at it

I was corresponding the other day with Joe at Seldom Seen Photography about the view from the top of Notre Dame cathedral (check out the last image of his beautiful post).

It’s long been my favorite perch from which to survey — and photograph — Paris. But during my visit last September I was dismayed to find the entire viewing gallery covered in fine mesh.

Notre Dame lice under hairnet 1380235 BLOG

The docent explained that just three weeks earlier a tourist had either dropped or thrown something, and that the falling object had almost hit a visiting dignitary in front of the church.

On the bright side? I now know how it feels to be a louse stuck under a hairnet. Still, I was frustrated that one person’s selfish/careless act had ruined it for the rest of us. And poor Joe was even more disappointed:

I regret not going up when I was there about 6 or 7 years ago,” he wrote. “I thought the line was too long at the time. Just goes to show that we shouldn’t always assume we will be able to come back later and get the shot.”

I told Joe about an even more distant past in which the towers of Notre Dame were open to the sky, and you could actually touch the gargoyles. (In hindsight, I wish I’d taken more — admittedly weak and grainy — photos. But this one’s for you, Joe.)

Notre Dame Gargoyle 8148 CR CL BLOG

Which leaves me with the metaphorical lesson from the towers of Notre Dame: Whether we realize it consciously or not, we only ever get one shot. The moment will never repeat itself. And anyway, there are no guarantees. So seize your opportunity. Stand in line. Crawl on your belly. Brace against the rain. Whatever it takes, be present in the moment — and give it your best shot.


    • Well said, Jim. We often take the things around us for granted because they seem “mundane” as part of our daily lives — until they’re gone. (I suppose this is a good lesson for life too, eh?)

  1. Ah, you remind me of the days when the menhirs of Stonehenge were open to the air and you could weave your way around them freely. I remember sharing the top of Notre Dame with the gargoyles – are they netted too now?

      • Thank you for your kind words! I’ve spent my entire life trying to live in the present and not worry too much about the future. Maybe framing it as a fantasy will help. 😉 Thank you so much for stopping by!

    • Indeed, Elaine! I remember those Stonehenge days fondly, too. Some days I begrudge my aging body its aches and pains, but I am grateful to be old enough to have predated the orange fences.

      As for those gargoyles: They still enjoy la vie en plein air. It’s just the tourists who are netted in, which I actually think is quite fair. (Grin.)

      • Those aches and pains are the battle wounds of life. Wear them with creaking pride 🙂

        I do think, sometimes, that the changes one generation remembers are the things that bind them together in time. All those shared memories of ‘how things were once.’ Like the memory of a time before mobile phones or personal computers.

        But I also think that there are more imaginative ways of protecting passersby on the ground below Notre Dame from objects thrown from above. That netting does look a bit punitive – a version of ‘somebody put chewing gum on my chair, so the whole class has to stay behind at lunchtime.’

        • I will try to embrace your suggestion that I wear by battle wounds of life with creaking pride, Elaine — though I do get frustrated when they interfere with my enjoyment of life. 😉 And you’re so right in observing that the net seems rather punitive. I do hope that perhaps in a few years when it gets tattered and weather-worn they’ll take it down and decide not to replace it. Sigh.

  2. Thank you H for the post. Your shot of the gargoyle is great – I didn’t even think of shooting from that angle. Nice work!

    And your topic is something I’ve thought about covering on my blog. There are more and more examples of this. For example, I don’t know if you saw my post on Palouse Falls last May ( But most the images I took there are no longer available without breaking the law, as a new fence was put in last October and keep out signs attached even though the land on the other side of the fence is state park land.

    Oh yes, I feel your aches and pains. Before my recent trip to Europe, I went through 8 weeks of physical therapy for my knees. The stairs at Notre Dame (and also in the catacombs the day before) were one of the first tests of my post-therapy knees. They did ok, but it sure isn’t like 30 years ago!

    • Oooh, Joe … *thank you* for the link to your Palouse post. I’d missed it somehow, and it’s GLORIOUS. I’m so glad you were there to capture those magnificent shots before it got “shut down,” so to speak.

      I think the sad reality is that as more and more people crowd these places, access will inevitably become more restrictive — which may be necessary to preserve them, in some cases. But hopefully officials will be open to considering compromises by allowing access on certain days to serious photographers so these places can continue to be documented.

      As for those knees … ah, I feel your pain! My husband and I rented a garret apartment for our next trip and I’m already wondering how I’m going to fare after a six-story climb several times a day. Well, at least we’re still alive, right? 🙂

      Thank you again for the creative inspiration, Joe.

    • The simplest lessons are the hardest to follow, aren’t they, dear Rochelle? 🙂 Thank you so much for stopping by.

  3. That is also sooooo amazing just like ur other photos!! They r soooo good that I can’t even use the word good for them, overall I have to come to an end with this comment so I’m gonna say, great job!!!! 🙃

    • Thank you! I looooove my fisheye lens — even though it’s turned me into rather a lazy photographer (because I used to really work at trying to come up with creative solutions when it didn’t all fit in one frame). 🙂

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