souci (soo-see) noun, masculine
: calendula flower (pot marigold)
[from the Latin solsequia, meaning tournesol (sunflower)]
souci (soo-see) noun, masculine
: preoccupation; concern
[from se soucier, from the Latin sollicitare (to worry)]
See (and hear!) a list of terms and expressions, and add your own, at the end of this letter.
"Qu'est-ce que c'est que ça?" What's that? Monsieur Delhomme (senior) says, chuckling in his characteristic way: his is a laughter "scented" softly with cynicism.
Monsieur is climbing up the restanque* that separates his potager* from the outskirts of our property. I hold out my hand to assist him but he waves it away impatiently.
"Bahhhh! I'm not dead yet."
Monsieur will turn 89 on November 14th. His white hair is neatly trimmed and he is wearing a black sweater with a geometric motif; the darkness highlights his handsome features and I want to tell him how good, indeed handsome, he looks but something tells me that wouldn't be appropriate.
Monsieur makes it up to the next level, where the lawn is green and dotted here and there with flowers.
"Des soucis?" says he, still chuckling, as if the marigold that he is pointing to is wearing a cream pie on its "face". Monsieur is not so much laughing at the flowers in our yard... as he is at the newbie countrywoman whose family sowed them.
I look across our lawn, to the yellow and gold flowers that have popped up in the last month. It is interesting how the colors of the flowers mimic the autumn tones in the field beyond. I notice how the purple and blue flowers of spring and summer have disappeared completely (apart from the violet-colored "cosmos"). I am amazed to have flowers at all, and my gardening good intentions are reignited, never mind Monsieur's doubts.
"Pas de soucis!"* I answer, offering up a play on words and a joke all rolled into one. Monsieur laughs... the way one might laugh at city slickers.
It has been one year and four months since my husband moved our family to this "petit trou perdu"* as friends are wont to call it. But, far from being discouraged, we fall in love with the countryside a little bit more each day... not that we know the secrets of gardening or of farming. But we are learning and our "findings" never cease to amaze us.
"Findings" such as those little, cranberry-sized "bulbs" (I think they are...) that I found this morning, cleaving to the mama plant like sucklings.
"What are you doing over there?" Monsieur asks, and I imagine he's expecting a good laugh.
"Planting muscari!"* I anwer with pride--and in stride, this time.
"Muscari?" he questions, and that cynical snickering of his returns.
He should talk. For a countryman he sure can't name flowers--and he's no Monsieur Farjon (my other venerable voisin,* a.k.a. "The Herbal Don Juan"). I show Mr. Delhomme the great clump of dirt that I have "fished" out of a big flower pot, having been amazed at all the "baby" bulbs that now surrounded it. I got the little bunch of grape-colored flowers at the outdoor market last year, excited to learn that it wasn't too late to plant bulbs (that is, if you bought the kind that come with flowers "attached".), and plant them I did: the "easy way" (by sticking them in the nearest, unencumbered pot). This time, I am doing things the right way: planting those secondary bulbs in good ground. Specifically, I am targeting those brown, empty patches along the lawn, hoping to see ink-blue flowery clusters in their place, come springtime.
Monsieur has a good laugh at all this "nonsense" going on, up in our yard before he offers some farmerly advice:
"Fraises!"* Plant a row here!, just one row--all along the edge. He tells me that one of the prior owners had planted strawberries and melons... before heading to Syria during the war.
It occurs to me that Monsieur has lived through a world war (nearly two, in fact...) and so it's no wonder that he laughs at flowers. What good are hyacinths where hungry exists? When the village shops were closing during WWII and food was scarce, Monsieur and his family had grain fields. The oven at Monsieur's home was fired up and feeding the family (and some of the town's unfortunates) fresh loaves of bread.
I toss my clump of baby bulbs aside, but only for the moment, and invite Monsieur to taste my husband's new rosé.* Wine, I guessed, was another thing a farmer with foresight might enjoy during the war. Whether or not, like flowers, it is an "essential" is, essentially, up to one's tastes.
* * *
une restanque (f) = a little "muret" or wall; le potager (m) = vegetable garden; pas de soucis = no worries (pas de soucis could also mean "no marigolds"); le petit trou (m) perdu = middle of nowhere; le muscari (m) = grape hyacinth; le voisin (m) la voisine (f) = neighbor; une fraise (f) = strawberry; husband's new rosé: (the secret's out: Jean-Marc has created his first rosé wine. Check back to this address to find out when it will be available!)
Race to the finish with this sleek new version of Mille Bornes, the classic auto race card game.
Fallot Dijon Herbed Mustards - Set of 4 French Mustards
Cote Sud magazine and "the art of living a sumptuous life in the South of France."
Words in a French Life: Lessons in Love and Language from the South of France
Soucis: terms and expressions:
avoir le souci de plaire = to be anxious to please
avoir souci de quelque chose = to worry about something
avoir le souci de bien faire = to be concerned about doing something well
avoir le souci de la vérité = to be meticulously truthful
se faire du souci = to worry
sans souci = carefree
se soucier de son avenir = to worry about one's future
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