autrement dit

Photo taken this morning... in the town of Visan. What strikes you about the image? Help us to see it, in detail, through your eyes, in the comments box. Many thanks!

autrement dit (oh-truh-mahn-dee)

    : in other words


Autrement Dit / In Other Words
(...or how not to get too personal when "the sweet life" turns to salt)

I was all set to write a story about our boozing bougainvillea (that's right...) when life, no matter how French, got in the way; autrement dit: I was fixin' to face the work day, full speed ahead--comme d'hab*--when someone threw a sabot* into the smooth machine that is our calm and collected family. (Truth-be-told: chickens will have teeth* the day our family is calm and collected.)

*     *     *
In the throes of our turbulent teens, Mom took to driving to clear her mind. As her daughter, I try to take her example; one day, I trust, my son will take mine....

I am driving, a bit slower than Mom would, alone on a country road, watching the barren vines that flank my path fly by. I am thinking about freedom, a song that is ever on my teenager's tongue, and I am thinking about passion: how plate-shattering passion alone can feed the hungry adrenaline that we sometimes need in order to feel alive and kicking.

We kick a door, run away (to the end of the block), into the cold, dark night. We hope that someone feels our injustice, feels it like the salty tears in our throat. We will stand outside forever!--in the freezing cold, under a blanket of stars...but will return just as soon as you beg us to "Please get inside this house right now! You are going to catch a cold!"

You will hurry up and beg, won't you? OK, then, forget begging. Order me in--and fast!--it's cold out here!

*     *     *
Mom also said these two things, and not necessarily in the same breath: "BRACE YOURSELF for your children's adolescence!" and "When you drive, take a new road each time."

And so, instead of heading to work, I headed out the door this morning (speeding past those vines) to look at other people's airing laundry.* By the time I returned home, I was ready to bring in my own--and to pick up where I had left off: facing a blank page.

(I'll hope to write about that boozing bougainvillea next week.)

More stories about my mom, in this book:
"Words in a French Life: Lessons in Love..."

~~~~~~~~~~French Vocabulary~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
comme d'hab(itude) = as usual; le sabot (m) = clog (note: the word "sabotage" [to sabotage one's plans] comes from the word sabot. See comment, just below, for more...); when chickens have teeth (French expression: Quand les poules auront des dents) = never; airing laundry = the subject of today's photo

*SABOTOGE*: I received the following comment from reader Mair Buddug:

I heard that sabot is a wooden shoe, which the Flemish people wore up until the early 20th century.  In the early days of the industrial revolution, the weavers were resentful that the industrialists were trying to replace them with machines.  One of the strategies they used to foil that plan was to toss their sabots into the machine; hence, sabotage--throwing a monkey wrench into the plans.

A Message from KristiOngoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal each week. If you find joy or value in these stories and would like to keep this site going, donating today will help so much. Thank you for being a part of this community and helping me to maintain this site and its newsletter.

Ways to contribute:
1.Zelle®, The best way to donate and there are no transaction fees. Zelle to [email protected]

2.Paypal or credit card
Or purchase my book for a friend and so help them discover this free weekly journal.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Franklin Levin

Chickens with teeth, pigs with wings and hot places freezing over. Language is wonderful; no matter which one.


I scream in the shower. Its sounds like my singing voice, so the rest of the family does not know of the emotional implosion going on under the streaming, steaming combined with my own steaming)water.

As for your beautiful photo, all I can say for now is that the "plate" (more appropriate than palate, here) of colors presents a sumptuous feast for the eyes!


It has certainly warmed up in the last day or two! The neighborhood has its washing out again.


I don't have a teenager yet, but I do teach them. I feel your pain, Kristin! If it makes you feel better, I'm stuck in the house in -7 weather with a two year old who is sobbing because I cut his banana the wrong way!
I wish I could get out and drive those roads! But thank you for the photo - It was a welcome respite!

Leonard Suarez

Remionds me of the some of the calles in Venice.


Oh, Renee!! We ALL feel your pain!


Miss the days when I could simply jump in the car and drive with a coffee between my knees, Blue Rodeo songs blaring and the window rolled down, fresh air blasting in my face....... In my mind, I go "there" sometimes, and so appreciate when others share a similar place in heart. Hopefully that new route has inspired fresh ideas for that blank page of yours, Kristin.

Annette Heat

A narrow street of drab color, though immediately I see the red couverture set out to dry, bright blue and white shutters. There are still hints of terra cotta on the "bridge" and a pale pink in the distance. What a fabulous place to be able to drive heart yearns for France. Thank you for this charming sight.


I have two teens of my own. My frequent yearning is for a "Finishing School" that will take in my son and return him to us when he is polished (respectful and responsible). It's a fantasy.

Camille Kelling

There is a wonderful book that has helped me tremendously in exactly those types of moments. "Get Out of My Life, but First Can You Take Me and Cheryl to the Mall". The author has great insight into the teenage way of being. Good luck!

Jules Greer

Oh Kristi Honey - I told you this day would come...soon I will be there to straighten out those little BRATS...tell them Grandma Jules will tie them up...I used to spend hours tying Max and Jackie up when you would leave me to babysit in 2003. Then I would tickle them...we had so much fun. After that I would have them ride theie bikes all around the yard and pool as fast as they could while I sat at my little table in the garden marking each lap with an X by their name. By the time I was through torturing them for the day they were too tired to get into trouble. They drew the line when I told them to ride their bikes into the pool full speed...NO WAY GRANDMA!!! My best advice at the moment is to get a great sense of humor, tell them you are going to be ME for awile and they will settle down til I arrive in March.

Jules Greer

Kristi Darling, why don't they have spell-check in the comments box...sorry about the previous typo's. Also my greatest simpathy for Renee...I used to put your dinner (which you wouldn't eat, in the fridge, and serve it to you cold in the morning.)

Also I love that you are visiting new villages, I put Visan in the google box and took a virtural tour of the village...this is a very interesting village. We should make a list of villages to visit when I arrive.




I see Red and Blue (Rouge-Bleu) in the beautiful picture...
Congrats to my beautiful wife for making such a nice job on images, too.


It's so funny that you said that! My mom would do the same thing - you seem very much alike. I simply put the banana on a plate, set it on the floor and walked away. Eventually my "puppy" settled down and ate it.
Thanks for your support!

Czfz Black

Wonderful photo Kristin! Sun and light and that blue shutter so evocative. My publisher used a photo, taken by my husband, of another village in the Drôme with a similar bridge type arch. We'd stayed in that "bridge' - it was the kitchen! They used it on the cover of Murder in the Bastille, shhh don't tell people it wasn't the Bastille.
bon weekend,

Jules Greer

Thank God for Jean-Marc, the rock of our family who can always see clearly, of course the photo screams "Rouge-Bleu" ...
Jean-Marc, since Obama is taking his mother-in-law to the White House to live with his family, how about taking me on your wine tour??? Just kidding...




I so feel your pain. I too have a teenager that "drives" me over the edge at times. I continue to tell myself how much I love her. I am learning that it is "I" not "her" that must change. I cannot parent this teenager the same way I have parented her as a toddler or young child. It's a shift in parenting styles that I am learning to adjust to. Hang in there, you are not alone:)


Beautiful picture. The village looks frozen in time. The weathered walls and the wooden door are silent witnesses to the passage of time. The pvc pipes and the plastic garbage cans lined up along the rue give away the modern age in which this picture was taken.


Teenagers....I have sent one of ours overseas to stay with a host family in Mesa, Arizona over our Christmas and summer break...he is having a wonderful time and we are enjoying missing him
Back into the throes of teens again next week!
Love to imagine what lies ahead following the path under the bridge.....

Mervin Moore

I want to know what is behind the photographer that is blocking the sunlight on the near structures. That shadow on the forground tends to emphasize the road beyond and what it might lead to.
I am intrigued by the exposed ancient wood lintel over the near pair of doors and the iron ties that seem to be holding the wall above the doors together.
The beauty of the photograph is the contrast of the red and blue colors with the weathered colors of the buildings.


Two dogs and a cat are enough of a challenge here. Hey Jules-you SHOULD go on the wine tour with Jean-Marc. It would be fun to meet you when the tour stops here.

Kristin Espinasse

Mom: Jean-Marc says you are welcome to join him on the US wine tour but that you can't have any wine (that second part is my addition).

Camille : I'll be checking out that book. Merci.

Mervin: opposite the building (where the laundry hangs) is another row of old buildings. Thank you for the word useful word "lintel". (I am working on architectural terms at the moment... and now I'll be able to identify lintels!)

Gretel: as for what lies beyond the path beneath the bridge: See the garbage can to the left? Just beyond, to the left, a road leads to the village center--where stray cats take up every nook, cranny, tree limb, stairwell... I have never seen so many cats in all of Provence.

Salil: thanks for the "pvc pipes" (those architectural terms again!)

Leonard: me thinks "calles" is another architectural term? Jotting that one down, too.

Matthew Spiro

I love a wide angle lens, as you apparently used for this photo. Its use forces us to see more broadly than we ordinarily do. You got the nice intense red and blue with a red and blue "echo" beneath each of the intensities -- and spread far enough visually so that it doesn't look pat. Nice pic. P.S. I read your book over the last three days and loved it. Thanks for it.


Calles is spanish for streets or roads. June at Superstition

Fred Caswell

The French tri-colors reflected throughout and there is light at the end of the "tunnel"!
Liberty, equality, and fraternity toujours!

Freezing temperatures, snow, short days, loneliness, frustrations and experiencing that the "gold" in the "Golden Age" can too often turn to pyrite -- fool's gold.

Down but far from out. Miss you and your family -- Love from Moi

P.S. Now I'll read your story above for some real gold FAC


Cats and garbage...thanks Kristin!


oops...last comment was said with a laugh as I was imagining a different vista...could be a good stage set for a musical! The joy of life is that it is full of suprises! Merci :)


What I notice in all of your photographs recently is the play of contrasts: light v. dark (shadow), smooth v. rough, vertical v. horizontal, straight v. curved, old v. new, earthtones v. bright splashes of color, and usually manmade v. nature (only a few sprigs of nature in this one.) Also your pictures have been framed or cropped very well. Wondering if this is the balance you seek in your personal life?

Some of us have a harder time with adolescence than others. I have told each of my five kids that I understand the confusion & turmoil they will be going through as they move from self-centered and protected childhood to adulthood with total responsibility for self and others. Some days I would say it was their day to be the parent and we discussed everything from that point of view (many laughs along the way.) I am immensely proud of the adults they are today.
Remember singing helps (even off key); it always raises your spirits.

Anna Spencer

The bright colours of the red blanket, blue shutters and white window frames are cleverly contrasted with the dilipidated buildings and generally down-at-heel appearance of this street.

Where are all the people? Was the picture taken so early in the morning, that they were all fast asleep, or was the picture 'posed'?

This photo shows how visible laundry can even enhance a view! Here in Australia, washing hanging from balconies, is illegal and a fineable offence! So much for countering global warming!!!

Kristin Espinasse

Cher Fred: Courage to you (and to all who, in the thick of winter, feel like the shutter in the photo: half-open, half-closed, all blue)! Spring is around the corner, soon to put a song in your step.

Anna: may I add the delightful "down-at-heel" appearance to my list of architectural vocab? As for time: the photo was taken at 11 a.m. The town was quiet but for the sound of birdsong and cat cries (and a few cries from housewives, fed-up with their lazy, stay-at-home charges). I hope to go back, at sunset, for better lighting.

Chirpy: Many thanks for your insights into the adolescent psyche and the not-so-evident job that is theirs (our teens) to shed their "self-centered, protected" self and move on to unchartered terroir: responsibility for self and others. Very helpful words.

I enjoyed your "take" on the photos and how they've been framed and cropped (I do both, first framing, then cropping if needed.) I'll be thinking about that "balance" that you mention.

Teresa Engebretsen

That photo makes me ache for Provence. I left a month ago, after spending six months in Arles. I am happy to be home with my family, but there is nothing so beautiful as seeing colorful laundry hanging out of an upstairs window. The colors against the concrete or stone walls takes me back... I do have a photo of someone's large-size underwear drying in Cassis in the fall sun that makes me laugh, though! Keep the wonderful photos and stories coming. And adolescence will pass, my dear. My children are 16 and 21, so I speak from experience. Long drives and tears in the shower. I have my little pity parties once in a while, cry it all out in the shower and life goes on, grâce à Dieu.


Kristin-Do not change Your photoexpressionism for anyone.Teresa has expressed for me well!-How I ach for Provence; having spent Three weeks there throughout the countryside,touring in a rented car. Our grandaughter Tif attended school in Aix and she was the catalyst for that beautiful trip. I loved all that Provence had to offer and I would trade my beautiful home here in Superstition for an apartment in Honte along the Midi. Jean Marc expressed with charm and pride to Tif,during your Phx. tour; that he met you in Aix at the "Mistral". This site keeps me connected until I will return to savour that which will never be duplicated anywhere dans le monde. I speak and write Spanish and have studied French for years. I read French quite well but speaking Francais c'est bien different de l"autre langage que je connaise de part de mon Pere et ma Mere. Provence etait un bout de ciel and that is the truth of your photos. June at Superstition.


Sorry about the misspell of Homps, on the Midi.Nothing to be ashamed,(hont-eux) of to misspell. The Midi Canal is all grace and non Honte exist La! June

Jules Greer

Hi Kristi,

I would like to let your readers know that you skipped adolescense - this is the real truth. You were and still are an ANGEL. Of course later on you did tell me a few of your secrets - I still find it hard to believe that right after you waved goodbye on your way to the prom you actually threw
your beautiful blue princess dress in the trunk and put on jeans for a keg party in the desert. Can Max and Jackie top this display of rebellion ?



Kristin, my 19 year old just wrecked her car, got a 1.23 GPA in her first semester of college, thereby losing her student loans, and pierced her lip.... twice. I hope this makes you feel a little better about the problems that you're having with your teenager. Remember, it could always be worse. :)

As for the picture, what strikes me is the little window in the arch. I hope it's not a bedroom window, because the noise from the rain on that corrugated roof, coupled with noise from any traffic below the arch would insist that whomever sleeps in that room be a terribly heavy sleeper.

I hope today is a better day for you and yours!


It truly is an excellent photo. At first glance it seems almost ageless. There is however always something which dates an otherwise ageless photo. In this case for me it is the modern wheeled rubbish bins standing in the street.Sometimes I think I would prefer to have a less well-developed eye for detail.


2 newletters to catch up at the end of the w/end!

Hello Kristin!
I have just been looking at the joyful and carefree “bicoque” offering so much to the passers-by. Thanks to the occupier(s), and to your photo, we are given the opportunity to share the outside scene of a humble little house with green shutters, flowers, plants, cat and so many other little treasures for the discerning eye. Mille mercis!
I assume “ Les jours se suivent et ne se ressemblent pas”. “Autrement dit”: There’s no telling what tomorrow will bring. At the top of this newsletter, the set up is so different! A brilliant photo of what, at first glance, looks … bleak? lonely? a bit sad? don't know. Perhaps I'm not in the right mood. Some people can see sun, light, exciting laundry and a beautiful evocation of La Provence. I can't, but I must look at it more closely.
Across the two sides of the street, my eyes caught the arch, surmounted by a wall. Over the years, time and 'natural elements' painted it in “grisaille” - grisaille spreading over the old washed-out red ochre paint. Then, my eyes and my mind went under the arch, slowly meandering through the old narrow street. No car, no bike, no people. Only cats and dustbins? A bit dull, a bit lonely. I quickly turned back to the arch, keeping my eyes on the strip of tarmac. Was it a picturesque cobbled street at the time the houses were still in their prime?

There I am now, back to the striking focal point: the 'bridge over a narrow street' – no, I am not in Barcelona, and the bridge here, in Visan, doesn' t belong to the same type of architecture. The gently arched window is offcentre, which doesn' t matter. My eyes have accepted the window ”telle quelle”. Then, at last, I smile... Thank goodness for the blue paint which lifts up my spirit! I love the proud & cheerful blue frame and welcoming shutters – LES VOLETS BLEUS... only one is opened, but the second one will follow. I can see a sign of hope, a blue hope, flapping its wings and emerging from the “grisaille”. Looking in the distance, I can now follow the same blue note, repeated here and there, beyond the arch. I am happy and amused to have noticed, right now, the bits of colour I hadn't seen in my first look. I am ready to believe this photo is taking us beyond the end of the journey along the narrow street... where there is more light, more freedom, more colours, more space, more joy, plenty of green grass and foliage, and birds singing... Am I getting carried away?

Sharp contrast on the left with a patch of red colour under white shutters.... bath towel? little blanket? What matters to me here is the red colour, complementing the blue of the charming shutters.

I imagine a quaint little statue in the niche above the gnarled old lintel. As for what remains of the stones on each side of the battered door, I am glad they haven't been rendered. The wall tie, like an upside down X, seems to hold up trouble & misery in a rather reassuring way, at least for a few more years. I would like to believe the old door hides a workshop … and a secret entrance through which, long long ago, and in more recent past, people were able to escape and get to some underground shelter. Oh dear! ….sounds like a scene in a war film!
The part of the building framed by two downpipes has been unfortunately covered with a very dull rendering. That section of the house is desperate for colour... Stretching my imagination, I can add some narrow painted window boxes in the recess of each window. Held by strips of wood, the window boxes are filled with evergreen foliage and in spring and summer, with colourful flowers...............

Once again, thank you Kristin!

Jules Greer






Hi again, Kristin,
My husband and myself grew up in different countries and very different environment. Our two children (19 months between them) grew up in, yet, a different type of environment. Add to all that the generation gap and each one's personality. They didn't go through their adolescence the way each of us (parents) did. We didn't expect similar reactions either. We stuck to a few essential points and had to improvise as we went along.
One of the two seemed to crown “les crises” by shouting and banging doors, but would quickly forget “les scènes” and would amazingly come back to her normal self, “comme si de rien n'était” (as if nothing) … until the next upheaval and drama! The other one seemed to go through the difficult years rather smoothly. He kept a lot to himself and always looked cool ... Whatever he hid or didn't express came out later on, in his twenties.
I had to learn how pointless it was to lecture or shout back in the middle of a rebellious performance. The louder their shouting, the stronger their opposition, the more calm and composed I had to be, never taking anything personally, as a challenge or as a defeat. Quite difficult for me!...

Looking forward to reading about your boozing bougainvillea!

Judi Christiansen

I just wanted you to know your emails are as refreshing as a cup of coffee to me. and i LOVE coffee!!!

Thank you for a French breath of fresh air.

Judi C

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Your Information

(Name is required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)