My goal or but in the new year is to photograph more lavender fields!

but (bewht) noun, masculine

  : aim, goal, objective; end

Être ce que nous sommes et devenir ce que nous sommes capables de devenir, tel est le seul but de la vie. To be what we are, and to become what we are capable of becoming, is the only end of life. Robert Louis Stevenson

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Shopping: 365 Days in France Calendar (A Picture-a-Day): sunflowers, lavender, postcard-pretty farmer's markets, bicycles, baguettes...

Three of "us four" dined alone last night. My daughter was at her friend Chloe's house for the second time this week, after the latter received karaoke for Christmas. While the girls were busy stretching their French vocal chords, aspiring to become the next Edith Piafs and more, Jean-Marc, Max and I were giving our voices a rest.

"Jackie nous manque." We miss Jackie, I said, trying to explain the silence. When Max giggled that no, we didn't miss her, the room came alive again. I reminded my son of the last time he and his sister fought over a chocolate tartine, how it was he who finally said "Go on, Jackie. You can have it." He even poured her a second glass of milk with which to wash down the sweet toast. Finally, he cleared the table around her, eliminating part of her chores.

Such altruism brings me to our New Year's goals which we, seated beside a quiet lake on the outskirts of Valréas, had shared with each other earlier in the day. While the canards klaxoned and convoyed, treading Vs and double V's across the glassy surface, we looked into the lake's "mirror" and contemplated our future and how to make it better.

As for goals, Jean-Marc mentioned patience. Jackie said she would try not to leave on the lights and Max chimed in about how he would make an effort not to lean back in his chair in the New Year. While my own goals included all three of these things, I hoped for flexibility, for a willingness to go with the flow of this French life.

That's when Jean-Marc conveniently brought up plans for our summer vacation and his desire to camp out for TWO weeks this summer.

The destination (Biarritz) did little to tempt me. As my mind conjured up the image of so many wind-strewn tents, lines at the port-a-potty, toilet paper in tow, and evenings of camp karaoke, I fought back the inflexible intruder inside my soul. Sweating from the brow, I saw that great Gallic gavel of mine barreling towards Earth, about to come crashing down on my new convictions. I watched as my mouth tensed, preparing to deliver a predictable three-lettered joy-kill: NON!"

Struggling, I tried to see my husband's request in a new "karaokean" light. That is, I tried to "hear the music" of my future "more flexible" calling. Keeping with the tempo and in chorus with conviction, I followed the word cues on the mysterious musical canvas that appeared out of nowhere and I sang out the words that filed across that screen, there, beside the lake, still and serene.

The song/response to my husband went something like this:

          Bien sûr, mon amour, je t'adore...
          Tout pour toi, pourquoi pas, et encore...

As I sang out a new response to Life's offerings, I saw that flexibility is easy when you let a power "greater than thee" write the words to your very own script de vie. Just sing along to Life's song:

          Bien sûr, mon amour, je t'adore...
          (But of course, my love, I adore you...)

         Tout pour toi, pourquoi pas, et encore...
        (Anything for you, why not, and then some...)

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References: la tartine (f) = piece of bread; Valréas = a town in the Vaucluse department of France; le script (m) de vie = life script

Get yourself an Oxford-Hachette French Dictionary and a French phrase book today!

:: Audio File ::
Listen to my son, Max, pronounce the French word "but" and read the quote:
Être ce que nous sommes et devenir ce que nous sommes capables de devenir, tel est le seul but de la vie.
Download but-goal.mp3
Download but-goal.wav

French Country Diary 2008 -- elegant datebook with dozens of photographs that capture the romance & sun-soaked beauty of the French countryside
Rick Steves' Paris 2008
In French music for kids: French Playground
In French film: The Visitors

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For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety