Le Papillon / The Butterfly (c) Kristin Espinasse
On the way back from the clothesline, freshly dried linens in my basket, I knelt down to discover these two beauties: one animal, one vegetable, both minuscule.

le papillon (pah-pee-yohn) noun, masculine

    : butterfly

l'effet papillon = the butterfly effect

Audio file: Listen to my son, Max, pronounce these French words: Download MP3

le papillon. l'effet papillon.

Prédictibilité :
le battement d'ailes d'un papillon au Brésil peut-il provoquer une tornade au Texas?
Predictability: Does the Flap of a Butterfly's Wings in Brazil Set off a Tornado in Texas? (The famous title to a talk, on chaos theory, given by mathematician and meteorologist Edward Lorenz.)


A Day in a French Life...
by Kristin Espinasse

Beauty and the Buck

At a roadside recycling center my son and I are tossing empty glass bottles into giant containers. This particular recycling island, located just across the street from our local supermarket, accepts only glass and paper. For plastic items, we use the yellow municipal bags provided by our local mairie,* which sends a collection truck by our farm every Wednesday.

I look over to the receptacles for paper, and notice a stack of magazines. Somebody has carefully set them aside, for a stranger's profit. And so, while Max continues to pitch the bottles, je profite* flipping through the stack of glossy fashion magazines.

The pages are in perfect condition, not like the revues one finds in a busy dentist's salle d'attente.* What a find! All the top French women's magazines figure into the pile. I recognize the famous faces on the couvertures*: there's the starlet of the season (the public can be fickle, second only to the star machine that creates these here-today-gone-tomorrow fresh faces. On another cover I see the French president's wife (former model, current French fascination). As for the other magazines, c'est du pareil au même*: more perfect faces, more "how to" headlines (how to look ten years younger, how to lose 2 kilos overnight, how to seduce a stock-broker).

I push the magazines back into place, before backing away from the pile of pretty faces. I do not want to get caught up in the advertising machine of trying to look forever like a teen.

"Take them!" the voice of Vanity murmurs to me. 30 euros worth of new revues! You can enjoy them on summer vacation. What a value!"

"It's no value," I argue back. "Talk about an emotional expense!" I thought about all those false needs--costly needs--created by the glossy ads and by the articles on ever-elusive aesthetics.

I pause to remember my first make-over at the cosmetics counter of a major department store. After the saleswoman applied le maquillage,* she stepped back to critique her work. "You look... younger!" she declared, before proposing to me over $50 worth of creams and hide-your-imperfections coverings. Re my new, "youthful" look... I didn't tell the make-up artist--but I was only 17 years old at the time.

My grandmother, on seeing my made-up face said, "Don't gild the lily," but her poetic opinion was lost on me ("gild" didn't figure into my vocabulary and I couldn't point out "lily" on a flower chart). I was so busy chasing beauty that I ran right past it as it danced in the fields beside me.

Looking back down at the glossy magazines, I realized that this pile of perfection, however free, is of no value, ultimately. Not if it costs a priceless peace of mind--one that has taken over two decades to find--ever since I listened to the beauty technician try to sell me youth, as a teen.

Comments, corrections--and stories of your own--are always welcome and enjoyed in the comments box.

~~~~~~~French Vocabulary~~~~~~~~
je profite (profiter) = I take advantange of...; la salle (f) d'attente = waiting room; la couverture (f) = cover; c'est du pareil au même = it's more of the same; le maquillage (m) = make-up

French Music Video: L'Effet Papillon by Bénabar
Note: if you are reading the emailed edition of this post, you may need to click over to the blog to see the French video. Don't miss it! (And if some of you would like to translate the song, thank you for sharing your work, here, in the comments box).


Si le battement d'aile d'un papillon quelque part au Cambodge
Déclenche sur un autre continent le plus violent des orages
Le choix de quelques uns dans un bureau occidental
Bouleverse des millions de destins surtout si le bureau est ovale

Il n'y a que le l'ours blanc qui s'étonne que sa banquise fonde
Ca ne surprend plus personne de notre côté du monde
Quand le financier s'enrhume ce sont les ouvriers qui toussent
C'est très loin la couche d'ozone mais c'est d'ici qu'on la perce

C'est l'effet papillon petites causes, grandes conséquences
Pourtant jolie comme expression, petites choses dégâts immenses

On l'appel retour de flamme ou théorie des dominos
Un murmure devient vacarme comme dit le proverbe à propos
Si au soleil tu t'endors, de biafine tu t'enduiras
Si tu met un claque au videur, courir très vite tu devras
Si on se gave au resto c'est un fait nous grossirons
Mais ça c'est l'effet cachalot, revenons à nos moutons (à nos papillons)

Allons faire un après midi aventure extra conjugal
Puis le coup de boule de son mari alors si ton nez te fait mal

C'est l'effet papillon c'est normal fallait pas te faire chopper
Si par contre t'as mal au front ça veut dire que c'est toi le mari trompé

Avec les baleines on fabrique du rouge à lèvres, des crèmes pour fille

Quand on achète ces cosmétiques c'est au harpon qu'on se maquille

Si tu fais la tournée des bars demain tu sais que tu auras du mal
Pour récupérer à 8h ton permis au tribunal

C'est l'effet papillon petites causes, grandes conséquences
Pourtant jolie comme expression, petites choses dégâts immenses

Le papillon s'envole
Le papillon s'envole
Tout bat de l'aile

Le papillon s'envole
Le papillon s'envole
Tout bat de l'aile

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What a pretty pretty photo! And yes two beauties ~

It's strange I would have been tempted by the pile of magazines because I don't buy them either..But my daughters have some and they always leave me feeling older:)

How can anyone's skin look like that?
Only babies and small children and maybe young women up to 40 ish:)IMHO)
Maybe that's why I fancy Home/Food magazines more. and seldom buy those too..The internet has opened up a whole new world!
Beauty is grace.

I have to add ,and most sincerely..
You and your mom are 2 beauties too.Exceptionally so.:)

Bruce T. Paddock

Great photo, Kristin! I don't think I've ever seen a butterfly drinking before. [Insert your own joke here]

A start:

If the flapping of a butterfly's wing somewhere in Cambodia
Sets off the most violent storms on another continent
Then the decision made by some people in a western office
Shatters millions of destinies, especially if the office is oval

Only the polar bear in his icy home is surprised
It doesn't surprise many people in our corner of the world
When the financier gets a cold, it's the working man who coughs
The ozone layer is far away, but you can pierce it from here
It's the butterfly effect, little causes, big effects
Eve though it's a pretty phrase, little causes, great damage

And now I have to go to work. Thank you for another great column.

Bruce T. Paddock

Oops. Last line should start "Even though…"

Bill in St. Paul

So here's a rough translation of the first three paragraphs and the first line of the fourth (I got lost on what I suppose to do to her husband). I'd spend more time on it but I am at the office!

"If the flapping of the wings of a butterfly somewhere in Cambodia
Causes the most violent storm on another continent
The actions of someone in a Western office
Disrupts the the destinies of millions especially if the office is oval.

There is only the polar bear who is surprised that his ice floe melts
That doesn't surprise anyone on our side of the world
When the financier catches a cold, it's the workers who cough
The ozone layer is very far but it's here that we pierce it
The butterfly effect has small causes, big consequences
Nevertheless it's fine as an expression, little things, great damage

We call it backlash or the domino effect
A murmur becomes a racket as the apt proverb says
If you fall asleep in the sun, you will coat yourself with Biafine
If you slap the porter, you must run very fast
If you stuff yourself at the restaurant it's a fact you will get fat
But this is the effect of the sperm whale, let's return to our sheep (to our butterflies)

Go have a fantastic afternoon delight..."

I took some freedom in translating that last line...

Barbara Berndt

Merci du Bénabar! Je m'en servirai à la rentrée.


Here, here! Beauty of the soul always trumps beauty of the face...and lasts longer too. :) ~kate


Thanks for the translation. I really couldn't figure it out, though like the melody. Kristi-you are one of those women who will be beautiful (inside and outside) your whole life.


Lovely picture, Kristin!

Ken Boyd

You are so correct on this decision .
False needs are wasting out lives, not just money .
After all, is not " time the stuff of life " Ken


For attractive lips, speak words of kindness.
For lovely eyes, seek out the good in people.
For a slim figure, share your food with the hungry.
For beautiful hair, let a child run his or her fingers through it once a day.
For poise, walk with the knowledge you'll never walk alone.
People, even more than things, have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone.
Remember, if you ever need a helping hand, you will find one at the end of each of your arms.
As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands; one for helping yourself, and the other for helping others.

- Sam Levenson (although often attributed to Audrey Hepburn because she enjoyed reading it to her children)


Hooray for you Kristin! The fleeting fashion gods leave only disappointment in their wake as they wash over our lives.

Here's a thought to consider from the wisest man in the world:
"Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised." Proverbs 31:30


I always thought the French found the "femme d'une certaine age" to be quite fascinating. Sad to know that the "journaux francais" are becoming like their American counterparts - touting the advantages of looking younger. Give me Sophia Loren and Raquel Welch any day! Although I decided that if Christy Brinkley can keep her hair long and blond then so can I (since we're the same age!) As always, merci Kirstin, for your "sagesse".


I do the exact same thing everytime I stand at the grocer's counter or see the free pile of magazines in the lounge at work. Nope...don't intend to get caught in this game. I recall reading some of these in my teens and so many years later, the articles are still the same! Nothing has changed! Now, I am not implying that I don't try to look presentable but NON, Nein, Merci, NOPE, and heck no to trying to look x years younger.
What a pretty furry papillon. Looks like he is wearing a fur coat.


Leslie in Massachusetts

The caption on your beautiful photo is a lovely little poem. Like a haiku, you captured a moment in nature and added to it with your observation. And thanks for the Benabar song! I'm a fan - yours and Benabar's.

Leslie in Massachusetts

Nice translation, Bill. I'll pick up where you left off since I don't have to go to work today. (I'd translate videur as bouncer: If you belt the bouncer, you'd better run fast.)
Then, the afternoon tryst, followed by a head butt from her husband. If your nose hurts, it's the butterfly effect - that's only natural, you shouldn't have tripped up.
On the other hand, if it's your forehead that hurts, it's you who are the deceived husband.

They make lipstick and face lotion for girls from whale oil. When you buy these cosmetics, you are putting on your makeup with a harpoon.

If you spend the evening bar-hopping, you know you are going to have trouble tomorrow morning at 8, getting your license back from the police station.

It's the butterfly effect, little causes, big consequences. Although it's a pretty phrase, small things, big damages.

The butterfly flies away.
The butterfly flies away
In a beating of wings.


Great story Kristen, and wise decision on the magazines. I think if you ask any one who doesn't look their age what they attribute it too, you would get very different answers. I am in my 60's and my answer is eating healthy and mild exercise, good genes also help.


Enjoying this photo and story before going through the newsletters I missed recently.

Very attractive photo!

Spots forming an arch on the underwing,
edgeband of the wings so daintly fringed ...
It's a chalkhill blue butterfly (Lysandra coridon) - brown wings, so it's a female - having a great time on a wild and friendly knapweed.

I assume the flower is a 'greater knapweed', a wild flower that might be une “centaurée scabieuse” in French, although the colour on the photo is pale blue and the flower I was thinking about is mauve.

Kristin, I could just imagine you, ... leaving your laundry basket on one side and discretely getting your camera, thinking "faut pas râter l'occasion"! (musn't miss the opportunity)! Bless you for kneeling down quietly and patiently in front of this exquisite little scene.

“La fleur sauvage et le papillon volage” are perfect examples of natural harmony and beauty.

PS What about the pile of glossy magazines with vain and flashy 'celebrities'? Did I miss your story? No... but..., as my movements are limited, "le papillon volage & la fleur sauvage" got all my attention and became my priority.

Geary Arceneaux

Enjoyed Benabar.

Also, I liked your sentence: "I was so busy chasing beauty that I ran right past it as it danced in the fields beside me."

Only looking back at photos of ourselves in our early years did I realize the 'beauty that was dancing beside us'. But I never had the words for it until now.



I love all the the pictures you take. It is really beautiful over there.

I am having a little problem with growing old. I know it's a fact of life, I still look younger than my 41 years despite the age my teenagers have imposed, but still, things change after 40. I work in a job where I have to stay fit. Being a Firefighter/ Paramedic can challenge the body at times. I think that is what keeps me youthful; that and good face care. Will never understand the measures women take to stay young the artificial way. Who wants to look like plastic?

Robyn Daniels


Beloved fellow artist. Another jewel of a piece in terms of photo and literary grace and social comment to boot. Thank you for sharing your beautiful 'eye' and 'mind. You and your site are an inspiration to me. I have returned to my childhood village in Wales to find much of the natural beauty gone in the name of commerce and residential developmen which jars with the traditional Welsh houses and landscape. I will try to open people's minds and hearts to save this childhood village of mine from further degredaton. Keep on doing what you do so well and share your vision and wisdom with the world, It can only be he better fo it.

Robyn Daniels

If the flower is spiky like thistle - it looks like Eryngeum or Miss Wilmott's Ghost as it is known in UK. She was a keen Victorian gardener who lived and is buried in my former town of Brentwood Essex. It got this alternative name because she used to harvest and sow the seeds 'par hazard' wherever she went.

Robyn Daniels

The Welsh word for butterfly is 'pilypala' not as beautiful as the French word but gives the notion of its flittng movement in the sing-song way of Welsh words with it's love of alitration. It is probably derived from the French word as Welsh words have much in common with Breton (and Cornish words) - acquired by process of migration along with the love of language and butterflies I should imagine.


HI Kristin,
I just love your blog, I have a busy life, but i always find a moment to sit down with a cup of coffee and " visit you". Love your humour, your view on life. You have a great family. Je vous trouve une famme extraodinaire.( tres tres jolie).
God bless. Have great week/

Dave Kapsiak

Papillon- another example of the beauty of the French language- it is so lyrical.
Thanks for the translation of du pareil au meme. If I'm not mistaken, there was(maybe still is) a children's clothing shop in Paris called Du Pareil Au Meme. My sister-in-law used to travel there often for work, and would buy my oldest son these great clothes. My favorite was a t-shirt that had "Un Garage Sur Mon Ventre" on the front.

Gene Holt

Love your Beauty and the Buck story.
Well written and tré agreable.
You were seventeen and i'm on the wrong side of sixty-seven, but i can still emphasize with your feelings and the ironie of it all.
Keep up the good work.

Sky Hackett

Fantastic column, Kristin. Brava!

Jeanine Hubert

Kristin : Vous etes tres sage...
Vous serez toujours belle du moment que vous sentez bien dans votre peau ! J'aime beaucoup votre rubrique... Jeanine

Christine Cormack

Your Papillon column was fantastic. Such wisdom in one so young! Félicitations!
Christine, Brisbane, Australia


Bravo! Well said!


I had an art teacher who signed my autograph book when I was leaving primary school at the age of about 10 or 11....
"beautiful old people create themselves" she wrote. I remember being mystified at the time but the older I get the more her special autograph means to me.... :-)

Bill in St. Paul

Thanks, Leslie, for finishing my start on the translation. I saw that videur could mean bouncer, doorman, or porter. I chose porter since it sounded more French, but seeing the rest of the translation bouncer makes more sense, especially if you're going bar-hopping.

Bill in St. Paul

I also wanted to comment on the French and recycling. The french seem to have been recycling a lot longer than most Americans have. I can remember those awful green recycling "stations" (what do the French call them?) from when we first started going to France years ago. When we were in Colmar two months ago we were recycling our wine bottles at a little "column" sticking out of the ground at the edge of a parking lot. When I first saw it I thought that you couldn't get very many bottles in that little thing, until I heard the sound when I dropped in the first bottle - aphase, then thunk! There was a large area below the "column". The next day we happened by the recycling point just in time to see them lift the whole thing - top column and storage box - out of the ground and dump the whole thing into the glass recycling truck. It seemed much more practical than a truck that has to stop at each house to pick up the bottles and other recycling like we do here in St. Paul, but I can't see my neighbors walking any distance to dispose of their recycling either, though.

Bill in St. Paul

(Where was my editor?) That should say: " a pause...then thunk".


Thank you Bruce, Bill, and Leslie, for the translation to this song!

Thanks, Douglas, for the quote.

Thank you, Geary, for noticing my sentence (and thanks to William C. Myers, who encouraged me to rewrite (for clarity) the original version:
"So busy chasing beauty, I ran right past it, as it danced in the fields beside me." (Talk about an incomplete sentence. Rewritten : "I was so busy chasing beauty that I ran right past it as it danced in the fields beside me.")

Merci, to all, for the kind words, educational comments, and more. I learn so much!


Kristin -

Great photo. There is such beauty in nature and the camera lens focuses so well on details that that our human eye could not otherwise behold.

On the topic of the cost of a priceless piece of mind: NEVER purchase a super-magnifying make-up mirror. (enough said)

I smiled at the image of you - amidst drab recycling receptacles - being lured by the splash of glossy sophistication emitted from those magazines. You wouldn't be you if you weren't tuned into those details of your day.

I LOVE what Gretel's art teacher wrote - that "beautiful people create themselves." Thanks for sharing that, Gretel. I will be using it. Kristin, my grandmother also said "Don't gild the lily"! It's so simply perfect and I believe that it is taken from Shakespeare - so - on that note, since we're waxing poetic with this post, here's another for you:

"Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?"

Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer's lease hath all too short a date:
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimm'd;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance, or nature's changing course, untrimm'd;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou owest;
Nor shall Death brag thou wander'st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou growest;
So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

William Shaksepeare


and kristin.... your line "I was so busy chasing beauty that I ran right past it as it danced in the fields beside me." is so beautiful and one of the best things I've ever read of yours. Having daughters, it would be great to be able to convey this to them - though I think it's only with the wisdom of age that we come to it's understanding.

Jules Greer

My Dearest Kristi,

I am now spending more time in your 'comments' section than I am in your word posts. I am facisinated (sp?) with your readers and their posts. I must admit I am addicted, they are the icing (sp?) on your cake. What a great story, and one I know is right on the mark regarding your thought process. I am so blessed to have a daughter that shares her thoughts, the most private of doors, I stand in awe.




Thank you for the song. It's perfect food for thought as I look out at the orange and yellow nasturtiums on my deck, happy to see a few honeybees are visiting again.

Arnold Hogarth

Ah - what a perfect presentation. A gorgeous photo (and who doesn't love Butterflies), a well written story WITH a moral, a thought provoking quote from Monsieur Lorenz, a beautiful and catchy French song - and the lyrics, to boot. This is a most tasty first rate five course meal for the mind. I am well fed for the day - thanks. Kristin - you are really good.


Kristi--thank you for saying what a lot of us think about true beauty.

Diane W. Young

Kristi-I had the pleasure of a visit from some cousins from another state this past Friday and when I sat next to my cousin Virginia,I marveled at the fact that she is 91 years old (or should I say "jeune"?). She attributes her ability to keep in good health to exercise and attends a class twice a week. She has a lovely figure and was wearing some pretty white summer shorts (knee length) which were very feminine, along with an equally lovely top and overblouse. Her weight hasn't changed in years (she never overeats!!!). I don't know if she's ever read the popular glamour magazines, perhaps when she was young, but her eyes sparkle, her hair is a becoming light strawberry blond and she's just a true beauty. Age has nothing to do with beauty. Beauty is certainly in the eye of the beholder, but is also a product of one's state of mind, philosophy, personality. She told me, as she does each time she sees me or sends me a card, that she prays for me and my husband. I think God created the butterfly, along with Andersen's "Ugly Duckling", to show us that we should not judge someone or something because we never know what the final result will be. And there is a type of beauty in everyone and everything. And the song tells me that we are truly interconnected worldwide so that everything we do may have some effect on others. There is a lot of controversy in Georgia and Florida right now about sharing water from the Chattahoochee and St. John's River, since those who live near the sources are concerned that they would not have enough if some is given to other areas. It's hard to share natural resources now that we know they are not going to last forever. The butterfly doesn't last long but gives so much pleasure while it's here. Thank you for sharing your photo, thoughts and experiences. You will always be a lovely person.

Jennifer in OR

Great decision on the magazines. At one of my local grocery stores, there is a checkout line among the many lines called "Family Friendly." The reason? No magazines lining the aisle of that checkout line. No matter how long the wait, that is the line I choose, so I (and more importantly, my children) are not stuck for many minutes with these dreadful magazines in our face. I have even been known on many occasions to turn over an especially disturbing magazine cover that is leering out at me and my kids as I stand in line in a store without a "Family Friendly" checkout option.


Kristin, you are a poetic and poignant writer, as seen here. Not to mention your eye for butterflies. And other things you see through your lens.



First of all, your butterfly made me dream... and then , it woke me up and kept my mind very active!

I don't get any "azuré" in my garden (the varieties I get are mentioned in my latest post on your "faux-amis" Newsletter. I could have also added: "the painted lady", but there aren't many!

Anyway, looking at yours, I immediately thought of the 'chalkhill blue' often associated with the knapweed flowers (see my first post) - but knapweeds are mauve and your flower was blue.

Then I thought of the 'Common Blue' but the only thing I became sure about was the plant. It is "un chardon bleu" (eryngium ... something).

I asked someone who knows a lot about butterflies. So, I think I now have the proper answer. Your little jewel is
--> a 'silver-studded blue' (Plebeius argus). I tried to find the translation in French and this is what I got:
--> "l'azuré de l'ajonc".

According to Wikipedia, "l'envergure" (the 'wing span') of "l'azuré de l'ajonc" is 12 to 15mm. Very small indeed! Well you did use the word 'minuscule'... so, I think this is it! but ...
To make it more awkward, should I tell you there is also an "azuré du genêt" (plebeius idas)... wing span, according to Wikipedia: 14 to 16 mm.

So, Kristin, if your eyes can measure in mm, then, next time you see it around, you will be able to confirm whether your charming little "azuré" is "de l'ajonc" or "du genêt".

Have a very good weekend!


Newforest: thank you for putting a wonderfully exotic name, l'azuré de l'ajonc, to this lovely creature. I am afraid that, like the butterfly, I am looping in and out of comments and email -- reading each and every one, but not able to respond as I would like to at this time.

I just want to say un grand merci, to everyone here, and to repeat myself when I say that I learn so much from all that you share.

I have just been on the phone with Jules, in Mexico, who appreciates everything she reads here, too. So "gracias amigos" on her behalf (and please excuse my Spanish mistakes. Andrea L., did I do okay?).


Hawi Moore

I absolutely love your blogs

Kristin Espinasse

Thank you, Hawi! This message (and another you recently left) really cheers me! Enjoy your weekend.

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