Caromb, next-door neighbor to the beloved towns of Bédoin and Crillon-le-Brave. 

mansuétude (man-sooay-tood) noun, feminine

    : tameness, gentleness, "mercifulness"; leniency

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A Day in a French Life...

by Kristin Espinasse

We were watching, she and me—that is, if heliotropes can see.


I, through my camera's viewfinder
and she, the sunflower, gazing unencumbered,
without binoculars or a "digital blinder"


I followed her example, lowered my camera lens, and observed, unhindered, the scene before us: raw and real now that it was no longer grist for a photo mill.

"I'll tell you a secret," said she, the sunflower in the window sill above me...

"Open your eyes, your very own lenses, and you will see love... if you pay attention—and open up all of your God-given senses.

I studied the rubble outside her window and wondered where love could be hiding there?


I followed the sunflower's gaze, to a fragile figure down the lonely lane...
On closer look I saw a man—
baguette tucked under his arm, a cane in his other hand

 DSC_0055"There," said she, gazing affectionately. "Do you hear his whistle?"
"No, I hear mumbling. He is talking to himself... I think he is grumbling!"

"Listen closer, Dear," said the sunflower—
and I wondered, do sunflowers have ears?

"Pay attention," said she... "Remember to open your eyes—and your ears! Soon you will sense love, ever-present, quite near!

I noticed how she turned her head,
as certain flowers do, following the light as some follow whim.

Only she was chasing "Love" pure and simple, not the passing fancy kind.
Love, as personified in this mumbling man with his loaf of bread and vocal mind.


I wouldn't have believed her (she and her "Love" theory)—

Had not time stood still
when the man with the cane turned
and smiled up at the flower in the window sill.


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A Day in a Dog's Life...
by Smokey "R"

If Mama Braise sees my table manners she'll have a fit! So don't tell her. She won't put up with any mamsie pamsie behavior—not since my "accident". She's just trying to toughen me up.

But I do get tired sometimes... My jaw was displaced during the attack, making it hard for me to lap up liquids (most of the water falls out one side of my mouth, when it isn't drooling out the other! Good news is I have just discovered this position which lets in the maximum of liquid—and all I have to do is lower my jaw. Yee haw! high-five! and gimme a paw!

P.S. you might have noticed my new signature "Smokey R". "R" is not for "Robinson"--it stands for "Russell". I get the name—and my good looks—from Gramma K's dear Uncle Rusty.


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What a wonderful story and a wonderful lesson. It cautions us to slow down and observe -- be patient. We can't always do that with the camera at our eye but as your pictures show, the strategy perhaps results in a very different picture.

You have to train yourself to hear the bird call which, in turn, will turn your eye to the bird. That was an important lesson I learned and it has been well worth it.

As for Smokey R, slop it up the best way you can. I am so glad you are writing a small column in the daily blog. Judging by you size which seems to double every week, I would say the displaced jaw is not slowing you down.

Margaret in Durham NC where we are preparing for a nasty, nasty storm filled with snow, sleet, and ice -- extreme wintry mix.

(Kristin, you will be happy to know we had plenty of warning so we have waffle mix and potatoes on hand!)

Jean Marc (l'autre)

Merci beaucoup for everyone who talks to flowers, trees, dogs, cats, birds, and fish. And stones too. And hears them respond. Without the magic of life, we would only exist. Thank you Kristin for another lovely post to help warm up a frigid 7 deg F morning in Michigan.

Angela Sargent

What a lovely story Kristin. We all need to remember to stop a while and observe.
Angela in Sussex,England.
A mild day with a little sun but rain on the way.


Your poety was lovely!

Susan Murphy

What a lovely story. I enjoyed that.

Patricia Anzalone

Loved loved loved the story. A good lesson for us all, and one that I will take to heart.

Dear Smokey R. -- You may drink and eat any way you wish -- no one will tell, Precious!

Debbie from Baltimore


So often your stories just tug at my heart strings and bring tears to my eyes. You are a beautiful writer and a lovely person. Thank you for contributing so much to the world of "francophilia!"

Debbie from Baltimore

Oh, I should add that your gorgeous photographs lend just the right touch as well!

Linda R.

Your story was enchanting and just took me right into your world. You have a beautiful way with words/dialogues. Merci beaucoup.


I loved your poetry today. I, too, have to remember sometimes to put my camera down and use my other senses when traveling.

Ah, poor Smokey. I had forgotten he had the displaced jaw. Is there anything they can do now that the wound has healed?

It's très froid here in Missouri, but I don't think we'll get all the ice the weather people have been panicking about.

Cheryl in STL

What a lovely, lovely story! "Elegante" just doesn't seem to work here! What I'd give to see some sun, let alone some sunflowers right now. Yours did me a world of good this morning. Thank you!

Candy in SW KS

"Just around the next bend . . . " We are often pleasantly surprised when we think, see and hear with our hearts! Thank you for this beautiful story. And for the update on Smokey R. Love it! Cold, snowy and wintery here in SW KS - a "winter wonderland". It gives a "mansuetude" (new word for me) to the chill of winter.

Eileen deCamp

Hi Kristin,
I think this is one of your best stories yet! I loved it so much I had to read it again. I love the shot of the sunflower which seems to be following the man down the lane. Lovely!
Smokey is so cute.
We are getting ready for 8 inches or so of snow here in Charlottesville and it's only 27 degrees.

Suzanne, Monroe Township, NJ

We're spending the weekend in NYC so will try to remember your advice when traveling down those bitterly cold concrete canyons. There is always something wonderful to discover in the Big Apple. We're going to Daniel Boulud's DBGB restaurant in the Bowery tonight for some wonderful Provencal inspired sausages and maybe some Cote-du-Rhone wine! Saturday night it's Carmen at the Met! That should warm up frigid NYC.


In a country where sunflowers find their way out of a window, be it winter or summer, you can expect them to talk to the people who stop in front of them, who take their time to look at them and listen to them as they whisper their “theory of love”. Kristin, you were the perfect passer-by, ready to see & listen with your heart and to sense love around you.

You may need to have another look at the pile of rubble to see beyond its distress and find some hidden love, or a cry for love. As for the old man... his smile to the flower and his vocal mind must have made your day! Your tale surely made mine et je te dis mille fois merci.

I am looking again at your photo showing the sunflower gently bending its head. The colour of its row of sepals is nearly matching the turquoise of the woodwork around the window and the door. Under the window, there are yellow echoes of its petals. It's as if the sunflower has become an integral part of the façade. It more or less stands as a perfect outdoor light, bringing a smile to everyone's face and enlightening people's soul.

Thank you Kristin for passing on to us the message of your “rencontre”.

Barbara Andolsek Paintings

oh how i love your romantic senses... btw, i was just re-storying our dear Smokey's story to someone last evening. Smokey Dokie (aka Russell) is just the best ever finding ways to outsmart the water situation. he is such a dear one. we all love him and love your most wonderful blog Kristen. hi to Jules!


About the Mot du Jour:
I find the choice of “mansuétude” really pleasing as the word implies “douceur”, “bonté”, “bienveillance”... There is also some serenity in its meaning. I look at “mansuétude” as a wonderful virtue!

On a sheer vocabulary point of view, it has all the charm of “ un mot littéraire” (a literary word)
Besides, I must admit it has a lovely effect on my mind... A few words in “ude” are bubbling out of my head at the moment!

Hilda Brooks

Thank you for the update on Smokey, Kristin. I enjoy your entire blog but since the puppies were born I scan to the end first thing - Smokey looks so grown up today! How handsome he is. Greetings to all from another 'best place to live' - the Sunshine Coast of British Columbia. Hilda

Barbara Hall

I could not have read a more lovely, inspiring and uplifting piece of writing this morning, while sipping my coffee and preparing to start my day. Thank you Kristin for your words and photos. This story is a precious gem.
A little foggy but mild here in Sonoma, CA.


Talking about words, how can I miss the additional "R" added officially today to Smokey's name?
It's an honour to you, Smokey, to keep the first letter of this dear uncle Rusty's name and to add it to your signature!
By the way, you'll do brilliantly in life if you keep 'adapting' as you're showing us here on the photos. Have a wonderful day!


Beautiful, just plain beautiful.
The poodles want to make sure you have popsicles on hand for Smokey. They are fun to lick and almost as yummy as those rare spoonfuls of milkshakes.

Diane Scott

Pure delight! We must hearken to the whispered wisdom of all Creation. In it is the still, small voice of God!


Dear Friends of "Sunflower",

If only the faux flower in the window could read your words... she would be delighted about her decision to have shared her wisdom with this passer-by. Thank you, as always, for contributing to these vignettes and to these photos--making them an ongoing "story" and enriching the characters with your own creative comments.

Newforest, thank you for commenting on mansuétude and for drawing out its meaning. I was lucky to find the word in a synonym search (for "altruism" or "kindness" or... I can't remember now. Thankfully, the word "fits" the story and I have enjoyed the synonyms that you shared.

Diane: Let's harken away :-)

Martina: I had never thought of popcycles. What a terrific idea. I will tell Smokey they are from Tante Martina!

Karen - Maryland, USA

Thanks for capturing this moment in Caromb for us through your eyes, ears, heart & words. Truly a magical poetic post today!

Love to the adorable Smokey R and his inner strength.

Fr-Fr- Freeeezing cold in Towson, Maryland.

Sue - Brunswick MD

Your writing, and this example in particular, remind me of the poetry of Jacques Prevert. Your words are from the heart. Je vous adore, tous les deux.

Quite cold in Western Maryland, no snow yet today.

Ophelia Paine

What a lovely, lovely piece of writing.... You have a true gift.

Bon WE.


Simply beautiful. Would that we all take the time to smile at flowers. Merci.

Christine in Salt Lake City

Newforest! So good to see your name here in the comments again - we missed your contributions!

Wonderful story and especially loved the photos today!

Ali Herron

That was beautiful!!! I feel living in France has made me much more appreciative of the love and warmth around - like you! Mille Merci - here in yucky rainy/snowy Burgundy

Jules Greer

Darling Kristi - one of the best stories you have ever published. You now have a new "character' to add to your bag - Miss Sunflower. Please place her in that special file of our favorite stories, she is so wise...I want to hear more from her.

NEWFOREST - you always and forever will be the STAR of Kristi's comments box. We treasure every word you share with us. Remember no pressure from us...take it easy and enjoy all of life and always know that we love you.




Smokey is getting so was such a tragedy what happened to him at such a young age, but he looks like he's leaving most of that behind now. I hope he gets lots and lots of kisses everyday! I wish I could give him a big hug around his neck and a lovely little pat on his head. His posts are the highlight of my workday!! ;-)

Hugs and kisses to Smokey R...XOXOXO


Gwyn Ganjeau

This story reminds me of a line in a book that changed my life. (How shameful that i do not remember the name of the book!!) In it, a wizened grandmother said, "One's capacity for delight is directly related to their ability to pay attention." All of the gifts are there--we just must see them. i read and reread and was changed.

Kristin, thank you for seeing with your huge and tender heart.

Joyce Hoover

I am close to Margret in N.C. but in SE VA. we are expecting the snow also. We only get about one a year so this one is to be exciting. I too love your stories and "ever refreshed when your messages come in,


Kristin...lovely story and as with stories each leads to another for instance I would love to hear about who and why someone so gently placed a sunflower high up in the window shutters to be seen by those travelling past...perhaps by someone with a sunny heart and a smile? :)

I am also enjoying sounding out your word of the day..."mansuetude" which is also slow and gentle like it's meaning...

Dave Kapsiak

Touching and such a joy to read-thank You!

Dave Kapsiak

Stacy, Applegate, Oregon

A JOY indeed! Merci, Kristi!

I absolutely LOVED today's story as I did Wednesday's. Dreamed of taking up a seat beside you, inside the lovely Madame Alberte's home, and listening to her share her story. She reminds me of my maternal grandmother, who is greatly missed. Delighted you share with us some of the treasures your heart has uncovered.

Newforest: Wonderful to hear your words were missed.


Again your pictures and story's are wonderful! Sun flowers are one of my favorites.
I think Rusty would be bragging it up that Smokey R. can figure things out for himself like he could-I'm not sure how, or when, he did it, but he got us all to stock up on Lemonaide Gatoraid for him, so when he did take a break he could assume a position similar to the one Smoky R. is modeling :)

We miss him so...


Beautiful story Kristen and I love the picture of Smokey R/ Dokey but his eyes look so sad.

Evelyn Jackson

Your Sunflower poem is inspired! Who doesn't love flowers and dogs? It's nice to see Newforest back. While it's very cold in Iowa, there is no snow in our forecast (we still have plenty on the ground, tho).


Thanks Kristin. This was a wonderful poem-story-blog. Started my Saturday off right. Especially nice since it's below 0 F here in NY.


The first thing this retired French teacher thought of was Le Petit Prince. Very St.Exuperyesque!
And Smokey is so terrific; what a survivor who is lucky to be in a loving family.


Beautiful story and wonderful reminder, Kristin.

Love to Smokey R as he forges ahead, dealing with whatever comes his way.

Welcome back, Newforest!

North Carolina, with about 9 inches of snow!


Sunflowers are my favorite flower also. I have 10 of them in a vase in my living room and they have been there since last Saturday and are still looking good. My husband was just commenting today how some are following the sun and others are not, but I had to inform him that once they are cut they do not follow the sun anymore - but who knows - maybe they do - or maybe they follow the people passing by.

I am taking French classes and I used your words for the day in my essay which is about the woman in the window. She was my inspiration.

I know that it would not be pleasant, but could Smokey get his jaw wired to help it rest itself?

Very cold in Connecticut - goes right to the bones.


Jennifer in OR

How kind of someone to place the sunflower in such an insightful position. I'm sure it's brought a smile to many, many faces.


Smokey and Braise make me smile every time. I love those sweet dogs.

joie  carmel,ca

Everytime I see Smokey I just want to reach out and hug him.


So glad to have found your site. Just lovely.

Can't wait to come back.

june furey

Kristin, I so loved your story and it has inspired me to get on with my next painting.
I haven't included many sunflowers in my paintings,but my senses came alive when I read your story and looked at the pictures. So much I even feel there is another story too. I wish I had two of me at times, one to write and another to paint. I have like you had to have some medical intervention to my arm, age and wear and tear have limited my time spent with the brush. Ever hopeful my mind sees all the wonderful little moments in time I have experienced during my sojourns in France. thank you for sharing ami artiste June

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