se moquer de quelqu'un
en berne


Le Paysan (C) Kristin Espinasse
Read about "the last peasant" -- in today's story column, then forward to a friend.

le paysan (pay ee zahn)

    : farmer, peasant

la paysanne = woman peasant

 Audio File & Example SentenceDownload MP3 or Wav File

Un paysan est une personne tirant des ressources de la nature proche de son habitat. Il peut adopter ou subir une économie de subsistance. A paysan is a person who makes a living from the natural resources near his dwelling. He can adopt or suffer an economy of subsistence. -from Wikipedia

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

"The Last Peasant": Endangered People, Endangered Values

Walking through the town of Buis-les-Baronnies, I experienced what long-distance runners feel: that endorphin high that comes from steady exertion. It didn't take a marathon for the feel-good chemicals to kick in: the rush came from picking up my camera again.

Salon de The (c) Kristin Espinasse

Sabot (c) Kristin Espinasse

(see the full picture of this window, here)

Wheelbarrow (c) Kristin Espinasse

How long had it been--six months? one year?--since I set out to capture the endangered beauty of a village and the timeless character of its people?

Ah yes, its people. This last detail explains the recent bout of camera shyness from which I have suffered. I had had a few run-ins with the French -- only two, to be exact (once while photographing a pot of geraniums and once while zooming in on an old wooden shop sign. I hadn't seen the woman seated deep in a leafy courtyard, behind the potted flowers... and I hadn't seen the grand-mère in the window above the artful wooden shop sign. I didn't see them because my lens was not trained on others, but on objects. I knew better than to point my camera's objectif at a person, but I couldn't help what transpired when all my attention focused in on an object, blurring every detail around it. It wasn't until the blurry "detail" began jumping and wagging an angry finger (in the periphery of my lens!) that I noticed the angry, accidental models!

In the town of Buis, I re-experienced the drug of photography. Holding a heavy appareil photo felt so good: curling one's fingers around the body, pulling the unit up to one's eye, peering through the viewfinder... seeing life through the narrow lens helps one focus on the intricate details that are so often missed. I love the feel of my hands twisting the zoom lens... my finger pushing down on the release button. Finally, there's nothing like the sound, or déclic, of a capture! The comforting click that records Here and Now, while Father Time spins his heels beyond the lens.

Zigzagging along the streets of the mountain community, I lowered my lens each time I was eyed by a curious citoyen or shopkeeper. There was that feeling that at any moment I'd be caught. But it isn't illegal to take pictures! I reminded myself, pressing forward in my photo journey. I remained discreet, snapping pictures quickly.

Rounding a bend I ran into a living monument. That Frenchman who encompasses the past--its traditions, its romanticism... while living and breathing in the present! 

I knew I had to have a picture of this man (with his neck-scarf and beret... his débardeur and cane!), but the angry women's voices (from behind the geranium pot and, again, from above the wooden sign) came back to haunt me, "Pas de photo! PAS DE PHOTO!"

I stalled at the corner, eyeing le monsieur. He was as charming as any potted geranium, with as much character as any chipped and peeling shop sign. I would have traded any photo in my camera's archive -- all of them!... pour lui....

I thought about stealing away with his photo! I could do the ol' "snap-n-run" technique... or the "pretend to be photographing the horizon" scheme (only to zoom in on the subject). But I did not have the energy for deceit, and so I quit plotting. 

I began to turn on my heels, when something inside said: Just ask his permission, Dummy! And, fast as that, I beelined it over to the bench!

"Pardonnez-moi, Monsieur.... Would you mind if I took your photo?" And then, not wanting him to feel like the object of some elder scam, I introduced myself. "I live nearby... I am just on my way home from the horse camp, where I left my daughter for the week".

The man recognized the name of the centre équestre and, voilà, we had a contact in common. I told Monsieur that I loved to take photos of France, especially because it is changing so quickly. "Sometimes," I explained, "I return to a village, only to find fresh paint over a perfectly charming publicité -- the old painted advertisement gone forever."

Monsieur shook his head. "Everything's changing." With these words, he introduced himself: "Je suis le dernier paysan".

"I am the last peasant." His words struck me as I sat listening to his story. In the old days, he walked eight kilometers to the field and back. Work, as a child, consisted of harvesting gladiolas, "un travail d'esclave"...  As a teenager, he would work in the olive orchards, in the verger (picking abricots), and he would harvest grapes ("pour la maison").

His brothers and his sisters worked just as hard, lest his mother remind them of their standing. "Elle ne nous a pas gardés pour notre haleine!" he explained.

"She didn't keep you for your breath"? I had never heard such an expression but it didn't take a dictionary of idioms to understand the harsh reality behind it: the mother had mouths to feed! All members of the household were required to be industrious. She wasn't keeping the kids "for their breath", or for her amusement. She had work to do!

I thanked Monsieur for his story and for his photo. It was time to move on (besides, I noticed a shopkeeper, up the way, who seemed to have a protective eye on the venerable villager). I didn't want to cause anyone concern. And so our conversation came to a close.

But Monsieur seemed so alone... I wished I would have asked him what became of his siblings, the ones that worked as hard as he did as a child. I only learned that, after he retired, rest would not be his reward. He left the fields to begin caring for his mother. "It is the hardest job of all to take care of another," Monsieur admitted. His words had me thinking about the old Eastern values concerning caring for our parents. A friend once reminded me:

We care for our parents until they cannot walk anymore, at which point we carry them over our shoulder. We don't question it. More than our duty it is our honor to care for the elderly.

But the mental and physical testing of our strength often blurs our vision and our very values. Monsieur and I sat side by side in the silence, lost in thought. Only a deep, long sigh reminded me of Monsieur's presence.

I thought about the sad irony. Monsieur's mother did not have the luxury of keeping her son "for his breath". But he did keep her... until her very last.



Post note: I was surprised that Monsieur called himself a "paysan" as I have heard that the term can be pejorative. Not only did Monsieur refer to himself as a paysan, but he said, more than once, will all sincerity, that he was no more than "un petit paysan".

Le Coin Commentaires

Comment on this edition or answer the following question: What are some endangered things that you'll regret one day no longer seeing (in architecture... in local characters... wildlife? Endangered traditions or valtues?) Click here to leave a comment.

Related stories:

"Tricoter" (To Knit): Meet the woman who was keeping a protective eye on "the last peasant". Click here to read or review the story and to see the photos.

Capture plein écran 22072011 104134
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French Vocabulary

la grand-mère = grandmother

un objectif = camera lens

un appareil photo = camera

le déclic = click

le citoyen (la citoyenne) = citizen

le débardeur = sleeveless T-shirt, tank top (sometimes called "un Marcel")

pour lui = for him

le centre équestre = riding school

le verger = orchard

un travail = work

esclave (m/f) = slave

l'abricot (m) = apricot

Trenet One way I learned French was by listening to the classics (check out songs by Charles Trenet). Or you might prefer something more modern, like  Tour de Charme by Patricia Kaas


 I Heart French mailboxes... and French Script! Photo taken in Buis-les-Baronnies. Never miss a picture, sign up yourself--or a friend--for the free emailed version of French Word-A-Day.


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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.

Julie F in St. Louis, MO

Ah, Kristin. I know I say this about once a week, but this is your best post ever! Like you, I usually take pictures of objects because I feel guilty about surreptitiously taking a person's photo and posting it. I don't post if a clear face is showing (usually). But like you I sometimes lack the courage to just ask for the photo. That line "I am the last paysan" is so priceless that I think you should find a place to send this character sketch for broader publication (and money). He definitely is one of those quickly disappearing features of French life.

Julie F in St. Louis, MO

A second thought -- "I am the last paysan" and your desire to capture rural French life before it disappears would be a great premise for a book to shop to an agent. Get a notebook and start making notes about what's changing, how, why, and how it redefines the culture in a bad (or good) way. The farmer just handed you a great title "The Last Paysan" --- go do it!


Another wonderful post, Kristin, words and pictures blending beautifully to paint a marvellous picture. Up here in deeply rural southern Normandy, our elderly neighbour refers to himself quite happily as "un paysan". He's a retired farm-worker, who still keeps a few animals, and he seems to use the world to refer either to a farm-worker or to a simple country-dweller. Either way it doesn't appear to be pejorative.

Pamela Plançon

Just a lovely story - aren't you glad you stopped and asked for his photo? Very sweet.

Beth Vosoba

What a sweet and timeless story. You inspire me to have the courage to ask permission and start the conversation, rather than pass up all those interesting images and more importantly, people that I would love to capture on film.

Glenn from St Paul

The claim that the universe is made of stories, not atoms is attributed to poet Muriel Rukeyser. It seems particularly apropos here. Nicely told.

Shelley Longmire

Beautifully told and photographed. I have to agree it's great material for a book. Way to go for just asking if the photo was ok which led to getting a great story.


You seem to have a wonderful gift for getting to know people, and letting them get to know you, even for a quick passing moment. I love how you bring France to those who can't be there at the moment, through your words and picture's. Hope all is well. Have a wonderful weekend! We are having a heatwave here...I am ready for Fall already.


Yes Kristin, I think an enjoyable way to learn French is with Songs, in fact , I recommend that after French-word-a-day, your readers should go to a music-video and copy the singing of a great artist. My personal favorites shows a bias towards Women. Partly that's just me, partly their voices are sometimes clearer. Teenagers might like Alizée. Easy to hear. I like Charles Aznavour, who ranges from easy to hard. My favorite female Composer is Lara Fabian. All these and others can be found by putting Youtube/auralsp in your browser and elsewhere on Youtube and Google-videos. Sing a long with the singers, and translate the songs properly with an online dictionary. Then go back and check the French word a day archives.

Eileen deCamp

Lovely story and photos Kristin! I'm glad you asked him for his photo and got to know him!


I love this story and photos. The wooden shoe is so expressive. Your gentleman represents most of our pasts because my grandfather would have had a similar story here in American and in his native country, Slovakia.
This sounds like another great topic for a book - last vestiges of the le payson.

Tom from Detroit

Kristin, what a superb closing line, "Monsieur's mother did not have the luxury of keeping her son 'for his breath' But he did [keep] her... until her very last." How, insightful to see the connection between his idiom and mankind's condition. I love reading your work and viewing your photos. This week I passed on word about "French word-a-day" to a young couple who will be moving to France in a few months. What better way for them to learn the language and also to appreciate the "soul" of a people and culture!


There is so much that is disappearing in this small Texas town, even though many still have "country ways." My elderly neighbor would tell me about how the kids would ride up and down our road on horses, some with rifles in case of snakes or the occasional rabbit for supper. No one thought anything of it. Sadly she and her stories are gone now. I think about getting off this hot dry 10 acres we naively thought we could turn into paradise, but something holds me here -- the history, the ghosts, the land.

Gregory Kruse

Kristin, bien dit, et bien écrit. C'est le pourqoui du voyage, le pourqoui d'aborder l'étranger. Vivre à l'étranger, s'éxpatrier, c'est souvent se découvrir, se comprendre mieux. Ce vieux, il a vecu une réalité très étrange, très différente de la nôtre, mais, au fond, nous ne sommes pas des étrangers. Tu te sentais à ton aise à côté de ce vieux, non? Et nous, tous, il nous ferait aussi un très grand plaîsir de bavarder un peu avec lui. Merci de cette petite fenêtre sûr toutes nos nostalgies!

Johanna DeMay

Chère Kristin,

You have done it again!

"... there's nothing like the "click" sound of a capture! The comforting click that records Here and Now, while Father Time spins his heels beyond the lens."

Poetry! And in fact, this is exactly why we write, or paint, or make art of any kind: to capture the Here and Now while Father Time spins his heels.

Thank you for another great post!

Johanna DeMay

Jan Marquardt

Hi Kristin,
I love that if this is where you sat and talked, the fountain is called 'auditoire' :)

Jan Marquardt

oops. l' got cut off l'auditoire. jtm


In Italian (among Italian-Americans, at least) we say "paisano" [pie- ZAHN-oh, usually shortened to pie-ZAHN] with great affection to mean someone with whom we share a heartfelt heritage. I think Monsieur shares this feeling.


The white undershirt with the bandana around the man's neck strikes a note that cannot be put into words. Thank you for showing us an aspect of France that we might never see otherwise. I pray for your protection and safety as you drive the roads of France.

Jean(ne) P in MN

This is a wonderful story and you handled your encounter with true grace, as usual. My husband's step-father was somewhat of this kind of man--a hard worker, and proud to be one. Thanks for the insightful post.

Cheryl in STL

What a lovely start to my computer time this morning! I love the photos and the post, everything from the click of the camera to the glimpse of such an endearing monsieur. Thank you for sharing with us.

Fred Caswell

Dear Friend, Kristi--

A delicate story artistically written which jolted me upon reading the profund words relating to caring for our parents and the elderly. As an octogenarian always emotional, still pretty much independent and mobile, this subject is rather painful to me.

My young dear wife has said she will take care of me if needed and one of my 2 daughters would do what she could for a needy dad (her home is the only one of my kids' homes where I feel "at home").

That means I am very fortunate. Yet there is a real and strong separation between me and my 2 sons, one of whom has over the years refused to see or communicate with his father and the other has gradually become less and less respectful of his pere; without details, he hug-up on me during our last phone conversation and was most disrespectful to me in public the last time I visited. He now doesn"t want to see me and due to events in the past I have had enough of my 2 sons to the point where I no longer want to expose myself to their attitude and behaviors.

I have a loving wife, 2 daughters who love me, many friends and acquaintances that respect and either love or like me while enjoying my company. Time spent with them is peace and love -- more than enough!

In our country there are far too many examples that clearly show a sad decline of respect for elders and a desire to help care for their parents, unless you consider putting them in a home for the disabled and elderly while often doing nothing more or very little more as loving and honorable. Too much looking after selves and seeking wealth and material things???? I believe so.

Love and best of wishes de Fred

Suzanne Codi, Washington, DC

The contrast between the pictures of Smokey and his "eye patch' ( quel bandit!! ou pirate!...died laughing ) and the wooden shoe with the cobweb ( or was it smoke, or the "haleine" of the past wistfully streaming out of the shoe? breathtakingly beautiful and haunting) shows once again your great talent with the camera. Can't decide which you do better, take photos, or write.
I agree with Julie F in St Louis that your next book should be titled " le dernier paysan" or something along those lines, and should definitely include some of your photos, and animal anecdotes,whose humor you capture so well, and that everyone loves to read!!!


Love the photo of the old man and as a some times costume designer, love the way he's mixed the modern with the traditional and still has the old look about him......also very interested in the word paysan, as I don't believe it is a derogatory term, as peasant is in the English language, my understanding is that it is simply someone who works the land...I have friends who refer to themselves or their family as paysans.

Alberta Boileau

Chere Kristin, You bring out the French in me. I live in an Anglo community but I am so pleased to receive your pictures and comments on life in rural France. There has always been enough French culture in my life to help me feel your message. I am ninth generation Canadian French but as we say "Canadienne pure laine, pas un brin de coton". I can trance my lineage back to our french ancestor from Normandie (all French).
Both my parents are from very french families in small Quebec communities. Tes petites histoires touchent mon coeur. Grand merci....... Alberte

Je suis fiere d'etre bilingue. (no accents yet on my computer)

Alberta Boileau

P.S. I forgot to mention that in Quebec the now-called Francophones used to call themselves "Canadien(ne)" which automatically meant of French origine. We used to say "we were "Canadienne Francaise"


Lovely story...
When we lived in the Vendee the local farmers proudly referred to themselves as 'paysan'.

Candy still in SW KS (for 10 more days!)

The photo, the story, the sentiment, the love of life and living - so very charming when seen through your eyes and words, chere Kristin. A very poignant story for me as I begin the move back to my house in CO and will be moving my mom with me. Life is coming full circle for me and I look forward to this new part of the journey.

Eleonore Miller

Bonjour, Kristin: I couldn't help identifying with le paysan as je suis une femme d'un certain age comme lui! I grew up in No. California picking prunes, working the apple and hop belts as did all my friends. Proudly, we'd earn enough for our school clothes and then some,each summer! Our poor kids of the "developed" world, now are so out of touch with the land. Vive le paysan! Ellie Miller

Julie Schorr

Bonjour Kristin,
Thank you for this wonderful posting today. Like the others, I do love the title "le dernier paysan". I think all cultures around the world are witnessing this to a certain extent. The old ways, the old lifestyles are disappearing and there is a certain nostalgia for simpler ways of living. I loved all the photos today. The picture of monsieur is charming and I love the trompe l'oeil tree painted on the side of the house. The wooden clog appears to have smoke coming out of it! Have a wonderful weekend and stay cool on Provence!

Michael Wrenn

Oh, Kristin, tu es véritablement un trésor! What an amazing story- and how lucky we are that you were there to meet this wonderful paysan and hear his story to share it with us.

The combination of this photo and story is worthy of the 13h magazine on TF1! It is truly sad to see the paysan disappear from the French cultural landscape and with him all that tradition and history that came from living off the land.

Like reader Jan, I can't help but appreciate the irony of the "Fontaine de l'Auditoire" as you sat and listened to his story. Just beautiful!

Meanwhile, I can't stop thinking about our visit to Domaine Rouge-Bleu. I hope you and the family are well and making the best of the bad weather.

Bonne continuation, Michael Wrenn

Rina Rao.

Hi, Kristin---as you've mentioned the East and how children are supposed to look after their parents. I thought I would write back.
There is a legendary story in India about a boy named Shravan Kumar, how he literally carried his parents on his 'shoulders'. It is part of our history, folklore and culture and its consequences were/are an amazing part of the Epics of the 'Ramayan' and the 'Mahabharat', which encompass a few thousand years.
Your line of 'he carried his mother till her last breath'made me feel that as awriter, you will like knowing this.
Children are still told these stories and most do look after their parents, but things are changing. I hope and pray that it doesn't change too much---should not if the 'children' realise that they will be old too, someday.
Take care and Thanks.


... he said, more than once, will all sincerity, that he was no more than "un petit paysan".

Kristin, this is a very interesting remark "qui en dit bien long" about the man in question. This is the picture I've got of him:
He was not "un petit fermier", and wouldn't have called himself "un agriculteur or "un cultivateur"... simply because he never had any land or cattle of his own (apart from a big garden and maybe a few goats, hens.... He lived all his life "à la campagne", and earned his living by "travailler la terre", but, the fields where he worked so hard all his life were never 'his'. He was employed as an "ouvrier agricole" for one or maybe several employers.

Nowadays, "les jeunes de la campagne" have more options. Seasonal staff for harvest are not just local people, but students, foreigners... and, all the year round, the hard work has been mainly mechanised. He is indeed, one of the last "petits paysans"... and even considers himself as being 'the last one' -- the last one in his area, maybe, but I'm sure there are still a few like him in other parts of 'rural' France: I'm thinking of Les Causses, les Cévennes, l'Ardèche...

Sadness, resignation?... I'm not sure. I've got the impression he also likes his life "à la campagne". The proof is that he didn't abandon his area to find a job in town and become "un citadin", as so many did in rural France in the fifties.

By repeating several times he was no more than "un petit paysan", I also understand he got the 'minimum' of education. He probably left school after his "Certificat d'Etudes Primaires". If he is around 70-75, he might have left school at 13 or 14. Not unusual...
"Petit paysan"? Yes, and proudly so...

Minimum of education, a hard life, physically and financially, but certainly a great heart!

When I mentioned he did not leave his area, as so many "petits paysans" did, I was thinking of Jean Ferrat's song -> "Pourtant, que la montagne est belle"!

"Ils quittent un à un le pays
Pour s'en aller gagner leur vie
Loin de la terre où ils sont nés ......"

.... Deux chèvres et puis quelques moutons
Une année bonne et l'autre non
Et sans vacances et sans sorties ......

Pourtant, que la montagne est belle!...


In the second photo of monsieur, I noticed a sign that says, "fontaine de l'auditoire". It doesn't look like a decorative fountain, but the blocks in front of it seem to indicate that it is not a drinking fountain. Since I can't see the larger context, I can't tell if it is located in front of an auditorium or a church. I am just wondering.

Stephen M Jaeger

I love this story. Please draw the courage to ask for more photographs as you wander about. The worst they can say is "non".


♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥-> the name "Fontaine de l'Auditoire".

Sure, you were the best "auditoire" the man could have possibly had on that day!

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥-> "les toiles d'araignées"

Mille mercis for zooming in the old hand-carved olive wood clog and hammock web that were part of the picturesque façade shown last time.
Kristin, Have another look at the big gate (No6? or 8?) next to the bench where our "petit paysan" is having a rest. Look at both photos, and .... there you have... more and more cobwebs!
Not bad to have a residence along a majestic old "grande porte" and be part of "l'auditoire" of "la dite fontaine", but, if I were a spider, I would rather choose the friendly comfort of that hand-carved clog by the little window!

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥-> "la devanture du salon de thé, en jaune et bleu."

a colour combination I have at the moment in my garden with the blue spires of Perovskia over the profusion of little bright yellow balls of Santolina flowers (gorgeous silvery foliage)

Have a lovely w/end!
will be away from my laptop on Sunday.... back end next week


Bonjour Kristin,

I love the photos you take!

I was following along with the "last peasant" and his story and trying to imagine the hard, dirty work he had to do all his life. But when he mentioned "harvesting gladiolas" that stopped me. I never thought of flower harvesting as difficult work and only saw the beauty of the flower, but yes indeed it must be difficult work to harvest anything!

Vera Marie Badertscher

I love this column and the wonderful pictures. I, too, am nervous about asking people, but in Italy, once, a lady asked ME. We were walking up a steep cobblestone street in a village and I stopped to shoot geraniums framing a doorway. A lady popped out of the house across the way, pointed to her flowers and smilingly said something in Italian. She obviously was saying "What about MY gernaiums?" If you want to see the result, it is on page 4 of this article:


Love the photo and Love the story more!

Pat Nottingham

Love all your "stories"....Love all your pictures....and now I know
that I am not the only one trying to take the "oh-so French scene",
with the intended subject matter not realizing that they are the real
subject! Have been fussed at several times and realize that maybe I need to stick to doors & windows....but then you end up without the wonderful le paysan!


Ah yes, the ol' "pretend to be photographing something else" method. Guilty as charged. I'm very interested in photographing architecture, particularly when I travel, but people are really the most interesting subject of all. I was visiting Villefranche, photographing a brightly-tiled church roof, when I noticed 4 dames d'un certain age sitting on a bench nearby. How could I resist? So I snapped them using the "something else" method, plus the zoom to boot. But later, when I printed the picture, I saw that 2 of the ladies were looking right at me, quite unfooled.

Anyway-- a lovely story, Kristin. And the best thing about asking for permission is that it engages you with the subject, making your photo even more memorable.



Kristin, I had the same question as you--so is the term paysan pejorative or not?

Anne Daigle

Great essay, Kristin.
Anne Daigle


Salut Kristin: Again, another great anecdote and photos. Looking at les toiles d'arraignée on le sabot en bois and the large door, I think sadly of my home garage side door which I rarely use. Those annoying cobwebs never stop coming; ça m'énerve sans cesse.
I laughed reading about the "accidental models" behind the geranium pot, which made you nervous to photograph. I have nothing against French women, but from experience, some of them are a lot more harsh than les hommes. I was in Paris, once upon a time, taking un cours de couture. Knowing that I’ve taken up Fashion Design in USA, the French professeur always looked at me with distrust when I asked a question. She said to the class that my questions were to test if she had good answers!!! :-( I honestly wanted to learn the French (couture) secrets and nothing else. Apparently, she did not believe me, for she later told a teacher trainee to be…aware of my questions :0(
Newforest seems to me, some French lady living in UK, ai-je tort? She seems to know a lot about France and the culture. I love Newforest’s input and have learned a lot from her. I totally agree with her analysis of “le petit paysan”. And for a “petit paysan”, ce monsieur looks quite dashing. I bet he was charmed that you had asked permission to take photos.
Bonne fin de semaine, Kristin!

Stacy, Applegate, Oregon

Very touching! As always, your story and photos expose the beauty, uniqueness and fragility of life and are shared with true compassion and depth. Thank you!


OMG, Kristin! It seems as if giant white sneakers have finally invaded the bowels of France!

Your ' le dernier paysan' has on a pair of bright shiny new white ones -with Velcro closings.

I never thought I would see that happen.

Marianne Rankin

Rather than document the disappearing rural population in a "report" type of book, maybe you could someday write a book or short story called "Le Dernier Paysan," using a character such as the man you met.

I recall when I was taking a French course which included contemporary life in France, we read a book about what seemed to be two towns, very different in many ways. It turned out that one was the town as it was around 1950, and the other, the town as it had become in 1985. I'm sure this is true not just of France, but almost everywhere. After all, the very small town where I went to college had one traffic light while I was there, and now it has at least two! Plus an amazing Italian restaurant (hope a French one will be next).

Bill from St. Paul, I'm sorry about the situation with your sons. My mother eventually had to enter assisted living, because it wasn't safe for her to live alone, and she was no longer able to drive. But I not only handled all the "details" of her life such as paying bills and taking her to appointments, I did my best to involve her in the family and take her to places she was capable of going to. It wasn't easy while working full-time and being both mother and father to my young son, but I did what I could - and I know others who are doing the same. I'm glad you enjoy your daughters' company. If you get to the D.C. area, look me up.

Marianne Rankin

Sorry - I got Bill from St. Paul mixed up with Fred Caswell - my remarks were more directly related to him, although they relate to many people, I would think.

Michael Wrenn

In my experience, the French word "paysan, paysanne" does not have the same connotation that peasant does in English. In fact, in France, it is often a badge of honor along the same lines as the noble farmer of the heartland in the U.S. One of the most amazing things in Paris is the annual agriculture expo where all the paysan descend on the capital. A must-see if you are visiting Paris in the spring.

Julie Tufo

Not the first to say it, but this may be my favorite post. Lovely.


love your slice of life writing..I just feel like I am in the moment with you about the last paysan... wonderful

Jennifer in OR

Beautiful, touching story, Kristi! Love everything about it, and it's so encouraging to me. In many ways, we are all the "Le Dernier Paysan"...

Karen Whitcome

Hi Kristin.

Those photo breaks can really lend you a new look at things when you finally revisit them, can't they?

Anyway, I just wanted to say that, after just watching the wonderful video called "Paris: The Luminous Years", I was blown away and SO THANKFUL by and for the photographs that captured those very early days of Paris. It brought it all to life. So, to me, each single photograph you take and share now could one day in the future bring a whole history to life. That's what is so awesome about what you are doing - one paysan at a time.

Jacqueline Gill

Loved this story as I love them all; this reminded me of something I miss: when my father passed away a few years ago, several of his old "buddies" came to pay respect. Hearing them speak in their richly accented Italian dialects was a sad reminder that soon, the sounds of their voices would disappear too. I grew up listening to that Italian-American blend and never appreciated its beauty until I was middle age. How sad! And my children seldom hear it. In my small river town, we grew up walking everywhere-to the library, to school, church, to the swimming pool, to Grandma's, to visit friends and relatives. I am sorry for my children and grandchildren who never got to experience much of that idyllic life. Now I take my small grandson as much as possible and recreate some small pieces of that wonderful existence each week. I know it's a losing battle, but still I do it. Blessings and thank you.

George Fulton

I too am a lover of small details, things hung on the wall in apparent careless fashion but creating an unmistakable ambiance. Being an architect, I love to look at old buildings that have evolved over the years. In my grandmothers village of Ervy-le-Chatel there is an area with farm buildings that have grown with the village. You can clearly see different time periods with small or large expansions here and there within these structures going back hundreds of years.
I also love the uncaged chickens running free and living in some of the bushes there.
The people are all characters too, much like your paysan. My cousins each have their own character and the older ones make me regret that I do not speak French better so I can hear their stories.
Thank you for highlighting things that I also treasure and please keep recording them because they are disappearing.

Chateau Oie

Much like your “drug of photography,” a bar of linden soap is responsible for my travel to Buis-les-Barronies. It all started when I walked into a local boutique and was held captive by an unknown scent – a linden-scented bar of soap. Never having heard of linden, I began researching. I discovered that Buis-les-Barronies, the linden capital, holds a linden festival each year on the first Wednesday in July. Three years later, I was on my way to visit during their festival. I could smell the linden wafting through our rental car as we approached the outskirts of Buis. It was heaven. We were early and we were able to watch the farmers unloading their linden blossoms, negotiations, the weighing of each large square of burlap filled with linden, and the transfer of the linden into the big perfume companies’ huge trucks. What a process! What was striking to me was that all the linden farmers were middle-aged. Where were the younger members of these families that would continue the linden tree farming? During our three-day stay, we discovered that Hannibal’s elephants drank from the town’s fountain, the old Roman bridge over the Ouvèze, a bit of the amazing geology, some of the remnants of the silk industry, and that Buis is protected from the Mistral. What a gem – all because of the drug of the scent of linden. Your drug of photography encouraged you to ask the le paysan for a photo, my drug of the scent of linden compelled me to visit an amazing place. And, both of us have great memories!

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