Wednesday, July 11, 2012
Who (or what) is your muse? For me it can be a scene, like this one... and suddenly inspiration comes! Photo taken in Les Arcs-sur-Argens, where we lived from 1999-2007.
I tried to find a French synonym for une muse, but I landed on a French definition instead. Here it is, along with the day's story, written two summers ago:
une muse (myooz)
: une source d'inspiration pour un écrivain, un poéte, ou une artiste
Audio File: Listen to Jean-Marc pronounce the definition to muse: Download MP3 or Wav file
la muse verte = absinthe (the drink that is said to have inspired 19 Century writers)
invoquer sa muse = to call on one's muse
courtiser les muses = to court the muses
taquiner la muse = literally to tease the muse (to give a go at poetry)
les muses = The nine Muses
un musée = museum (from the Greek mousaion, or "a seat or shrine of the muses").
A Day in a French Life... by Kristin Espinasse
Last night I dialed up Mexico and listened as Jules picked up the phone at the other end of the jungle. I felt grateful to hear my mom's voice and immediately asked whether she would like to hear about the fictional nouvelle that I had begun.
Mom was game. Only, as I heard myself recount the historiette (involving a senile goat that wears recycled espadrilles), I realized—before Mom even suggested it—that I still wasn't addressing the muse... or was it that the muse wasn't addressing me?... or rather neither of us was addressing but rather a-skirting. Quite simply put, we were, both of us, the muse and I, conveniently and once again skirting the heart's history. Whether or not skirts were involved is beside the point. Let's see, is there a point?
"I think you use humor to deflect," Mom pointed out, in so many mom-wise words. "Underneath the guise of comedy, lie your profound stories."
I offered a few mumbly yah-yahs and you're right about thats. Mom was unconvinced. That is when she reminded me of a line she had just heard in a movie, words that stirred her heart, and maybe they would stir up my own in time to share a few true lines.
"You are God's muse"
"You are God's muse," Mom said, quoting the film. She left enough silence for the words to find feeling in my mind. We are God's muse....
Later that night, after the house had fallen to sleep, I reluctantly put my espadrille-shoed chèvre aside. I reassured myself that the story could be told another time. Next, I thought of Mom's words:
"Remember, you are God's muse. Just fire up that computer, put your hands over that keyboard and LET IT RIP!"
I opened a new window on my computer screen. I took a sip of coffee, staring for a thoughtful while at the proverbial blank page. Finally, I typed in the title of my story. My throat tightened followed by a stinging in the eyes. Closing them, I felt wet lashes.
I looked up at what I had typed: only a word, no more than a title. It read, Naked.
Next, I closed the word document and shut off the computer. I walked down the quiet hall to the bedroom, where I changed into my pajamas. I can't sleep without them.
la nouvelle = short story
la historiette = anecdote, short story
la chèvre = she goat
Forward today's story to a struggling artist. Thanks. (Picture of Smokey taken two summers ago. What is he thinking? Click here to add a thought bubble.)
A Message from Kristi: Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal week after week. If you find value in this website and would like to keep it going strong, I kindly ask for your support by making a donation today. Thank you very much for being a part of this community and helping me to maintain this site and its newsletter.
Ways to contribute:
1. Paypal or credit card
2. A bank transfer via Zelle, a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.
Or purchase my book for a friend, and so help spread the French word.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety
Nice story, Kristin. I do not have a muse. A photo or a memory will often trigger one of the stories I post on Le Blog. The whole time I was reading your post, I could not help thinking about that hilarious movie with Sharon Stone and Albert Brooks: "The Muse." Have you seen it? I am glad most Muse[s] are not as demanding and picky as Sharon was in the movie :-) Veronique (French Girl in Seattle)
Posted by: French Girl in Seattle | Wednesday, July 11, 2012 at 07:55 AM
Proving that less is more, and sometimes it only takes one word .. one motion .. one thought to encapsulate millions of synaptic explosions that just wouldn't coagulate. You've certainly got it, Kristin! Aloha, Bill
Posted by: Bill Facker | Wednesday, July 11, 2012 at 09:19 AM
Love this story. I thought I'd have more muse during my stay in France this summer. But the only location that really works is butt-in-chair.
I would like to say that the story you told your mother sounds like an excellent start to a children's book - maybe even a series about a French goat. It could be fabulous in both languages! Oh, I see so much possibility!
Posted by: Julie F in St. Louis, MO | Wednesday, July 11, 2012 at 10:32 AM
Your Mom's words are powerful and true. Now that you've begun with that strong word, keep going! A mon avis...
Posted by: Deb Locke | Wednesday, July 11, 2012 at 10:46 AM
FANTASTIC! The muse part amusing of course.
And the discourse on Mom and Greek vocab, fine.
But what happens once the muse has been summoned!!!!!
FABULOUS, Kristin. Simply fabulous.
Posted by: susan klee | Wednesday, July 11, 2012 at 10:57 AM
Muses ! I'm somewhat of an amateur artist & love to do studies of faces with character in pastels . Sometimes a photo on Flickr , to which i belong,will speak to me & I contact the photographer for permission to use the photo. I can never say which face will do ths ,but when it does that's it I have to do it .
I know your muse works for you Kristin or how do you come up with the stories three times a week ! Most impressive! Keep it up
Posted by: Audrey Wilson | Wednesday, July 11, 2012 at 11:27 AM
Smokey says: I am better than the Flying Nun with these ears!
Posted by: Laurie | Wednesday, July 11, 2012 at 11:37 AM
Have you ever come across the word "une égérie" meaning muse? It was in a magazine I was reading last year and I jotted it down. I am sure your husband would know if it's current or one of those words one uses once in a blue moon. Keep up the great stories and mille mercis.
Posted by: Carol | Wednesday, July 11, 2012 at 01:51 PM
Oh Kristi--some day my muse is right there on my shoulder without so much as a yoo hoo--but often she seems to be after her own a MUSE ment and leaves me flat. Harumph. But I light a candle, turn on some classical music --no words--and start doodling with my pencil and sometimes I start getting the base of a painting and once in a while it's a goodie! So keep on keeping on and that tricky muse will pop back over before u know it. Also, musée is masculine if u wish to fix that little item above. It's a tricky one as we expect our double ee with accent to be feminine--must have a MUSED someone to pull a switcheroo. bonne journée!!
Posted by: Robyn France | Wednesday, July 11, 2012 at 02:08 PM
Bubble for Smokey: Ah, it feels so good to feel the breeze blowing through my ears...
Posted by: Dianne Vergos | Wednesday, July 11, 2012 at 02:14 PM
Smokey's thoughts "Love the wind in my ears, let's get in the car, let me stick my head out, then you'll really see me smile"
Posted by: joyce | Wednesday, July 11, 2012 at 02:30 PM
Smokey's thoughts, "Mom, this deck is too hot for my cute paws."
Posted by Suzanne
Posted by: Suzanne Michaels | Wednesday, July 11, 2012 at 02:51 PM
That Jules is a smart woman! Bless her and her "mama's wisdom" where would we be without them...She's right...Today's story was great...I think you are a great writer and have at least a couple of novels in you...God Bless and keep up the good work!
We all love your stories...you enable all of us to see the French life through your eyes. Which is a wonderful view...Take Care!
Posted by: Vickie Kent | Wednesday, July 11, 2012 at 03:04 PM
Write the story as you usually write and I'd bet the muse will appear. Now that your mind is "naked" and open to it.
To keep in line with your wonderful humor: Whether or not there are skirts (or nightgowns) involved is beside the point.
Thanks for a perfect post and for always being your true self. I'm certain God enjoys the muse that is you. Trust that.
Posted by: Karen Whitcome (Towson, Md) | Wednesday, July 11, 2012 at 03:11 PM
Smoky writes a Haiku:
The sun is so hot;
The cooling breeze is so sweet;
But where is the shade.
Your mother's words inspired me and made me feel loved. That's what moms do we well. My mom is in heaven and I miss hearing her voice, but her words are in my heart forever.
I love all your stories!
Posted by: Pennie Vandenbroek | Wednesday, July 11, 2012 at 03:45 PM
Smoky bubble: Un mouton, vraiment??
Posted by: Charlie Breed | Wednesday, July 11, 2012 at 03:54 PM
Bill F., that is it: the puzzle of trying to, as you say, *encapsulate millions of synaptic explosions that just wouldnt coagulate*. Thanks!
LOL, Karen. Love the nightgown reference!
Julie F, I remember Herms encouragement, which was similar to yours. Maybe I need to follow the goat in espadrilles path...
Carol, just the synonym I had been looking for! Thanks for *une égérie*.
Robyn, thanks for the correction. It was that double ee that threw me!
Vickie and Karen and all who sent writing encouragement -- mille mercis!
Im enjoying the Smokey bubbles. Thanks and keep them coming.
Posted by: Kristin Espinasse | Wednesday, July 11, 2012 at 03:55 PM
A very naked story, Kristin. Thank you.
I don't know where you were intending to go with that nouvelle/histoirette, and maybe that start wouldn't have taken you there. But as Herm and Julie F. have said, it is an interesting little start that may take you somewhere else.
Humor can be used to deflect from profound truths, that's true. But it can also be used to camouflage them for easier consumption. A spoonful of sugar and all that.
Posted by: Bruce in northwest Connecticut | Wednesday, July 11, 2012 at 04:20 PM
Even though I read your post 'religiously', I don't believe that I have ever commented. Yes, it is easy to feel naked when you express your thoughts. The word 'exposed' comes to mind. Each time I blog I wonder if it will be the last time as inspiration can be limited. Then there is the question of 'followers' or those who are interested in what you have to say. I often think of Groucho Marx's line, 'Why would I want to be a member of a club that allows me to be a member'. It is not as bad as all that, but I do feel your pain in writing.
Vai avanti. That is the only way. Best, Lisa
Posted by: Lisa DeNunzio, La Dolce Villa | Wednesday, July 11, 2012 at 04:30 PM
Kristin - Have you read the book, One Thousand Gifts - by Ann Voskamp? She is like you in that she is both a writer and a photographer. She is also a Christian and mom to 6 and her husband is a farmer in Canada...so she is affected by nature. It's the best book I've read this summer. It's gentle, profound and has the affect of making me want to slow down and savor what God is showing me through His book of Nature.
I like the thought of being God's muse in the lives of others....being a sign-post to Him and His glory. Thank you for your vulnerability and the gift of seeing through your pen and photos.
Maria in Newport News, Virginia
Posted by: Maria Cochrane | Wednesday, July 11, 2012 at 04:45 PM
It takes me a week to fix these ears after she makes me take a bath!
Posted by: Doug | Wednesday, July 11, 2012 at 04:58 PM
Dear Kristin.. all creative people hit 'bumps in the road'... do not fret.. everytime you have been 'naked' in your 'musings' and writing adventures, you have captured all of our hearts and minds... We rely upon you to provide us with some insights into finding happiness in the small and overlooked things in life! Keep up the great work... and PS, your Mom is a font of wisdom... How lucky can one girl get???
Judi in Tallahassee..
Posted by: judith dunn | Wednesday, July 11, 2012 at 04:59 PM
I recommend quiet meditation somewhere about the story you need to tell. Let the story unfold before you and listen to the message you are trying to deliver. It will come to you. I believe the goat in the espadrilles will fit in there nicely somehow!!
As for Smokey, a dog's thought bubble will most likely include food. "Attends, Il y a quelqu'un dans la cuisine??"
Posted by: Julie S. from San Diego | Wednesday, July 11, 2012 at 05:44 PM
But it's LE musee! Not LA musee
Posted by: Hilda Gould | Wednesday, July 11, 2012 at 05:53 PM
Nicely written and intriguing! Yes, go there, behind the locked door with the rusty chain.
Posted by: Marilynn Gottlieb | Wednesday, July 11, 2012 at 06:09 PM
I enjoy reading your stories and your honest sharing of your life. You are your own best muse.
That the fact that your mom truly listens to you is pure love. You are blessed.
Posted by: Jackie | Wednesday, July 11, 2012 at 06:10 PM
holy mackeral, the photo of the chain and padlock is a pretty powerful image at the end of this piece! and the next image in my mind was the beautiful collection of antique keys you have. you have the key. you have lots of keys. perhaps putting one near your writing desk as a talisman, or inspiration or physical reminder can help free those moments. i find that connecting and grounding those ethereal and abstract concepts by having something real and weighty in my hands gives shape to that abstraction.
on a different note, my son's belgian father-in-law had a lovely goat named juliette that he was head over heels in love with. every morning the first thing jean-claud would do was look out the kitchen window to see how juliette had fared the evening. she had quite the personality. when my son wed his belgian bride in that little village, he fought long and hard to have juliette walk down the aisle with the rings on a ribbon around her neck. only jean-claud and peter found it very charming--but to this day i love that image in my mind. :)
Posted by: Gwyn Ganjeau | Wednesday, July 11, 2012 at 06:14 PM
Moms can be so, honest and inspirational. Your story reminded me of my mom and how her voice and words always provided new ways of looking at things. You're lucky to have her around!
I just finished the book Sacre' Bleu. It is about muses and artists. So your word reminded me of that as well!- Love your words and keep up the great work!
Posted by: Sara Myren | Wednesday, July 11, 2012 at 06:23 PM
Bruce, enjoyed your thoughts about the use of humor and those deeper truths.
Maria, I will have a look at the book. Thanks.
Gwyn, great idea about a weighty physical object to give shape to all the abstractions. Currently, a pair of miniature boxing gloves hangs (hang?) from my computer screen... Im beginning to fear they are sending the wrong message: that I need to fight for the next word. I will hang the key... and simply (if only it could be so...) simply turn the key!
Sara, our moms have that in common: always getting us to try a change of perspective -- such a good idea!
Thanks to all for these encouraging words and for the change of perspective, too.
Posted by: Kristin Espinasse | Wednesday, July 11, 2012 at 06:54 PM
Smokey says: "If Dumbo can fly, well then so can I."
Posted by: Judythe Sieck | Wednesday, July 11, 2012 at 07:03 PM
Nakedness is our beauty.
Posted by: Joan Simon | Wednesday, July 11, 2012 at 07:31 PM
Fourth paragraph. First sentence. "Your" should be "you're."
Smokey says, "Ow! This deck is hot!"
Posted by: Sharon Cooper | Wednesday, July 11, 2012 at 07:40 PM
He's thinking, "When did I lose control of my ears?"
Posted by: Sue Wallace | Wednesday, July 11, 2012 at 08:01 PM
Humor does not have to mask anything. It can be uplifting as taking a difficult time and seeing the humor in it, but also, a life without simple humor would be rather dull. Such as your mother-daughter escape that was interrupted by Jean-Marc.
"Muse"....what inspires me? Actually there is an object that inspires me....the camera. I can tell a story, many stories with it. About people, nature, places;it becomes my pen and paper.
And Smokey looks like one of the mouton in the first picture.
Posted by: joie in carmel,ca | Wednesday, July 11, 2012 at 08:02 PM
The photo of the door with the chain and lock....makes one curious as to what is behind it. Perhaps another story.
Posted by: joie in carmel,ca | Wednesday, July 11, 2012 at 08:04 PM
Hi dear Kristin,
Loved this story and especially the pictures.(Love all your stories!AND pictures!) But this one speaks to each of us: finding our muse doesn't necessarily mean creativity,(which will find you in its own time)--it can be as simple as REALLY absorbing/understanding a passage in the Bible (as dear Jules said,"You are God's muse").ANYTHING that speaks to you!
Kristin,totally WONDERFUL!THANK YOU!!!!!
Love, Natalia XO
Posted by: Natalia | Wednesday, July 11, 2012 at 09:20 PM
Smokey's thought: Perhaps if I washed in wine instead of water my ears wouldn't stick out like this!
Lovely day today in Vancouver, BC.
Posted by: Peter | Wednesday, July 11, 2012 at 09:37 PM
"You talkin' to me? You talkin' to me?.......Then who else are you talkin' to? You talkin' to me? Well I'm the only one here. Who do you think you're talking to?"
(Version polie du monologue de Robert de Niro dans "Taxi Driver")
Posted by: Donnay | Wednesday, July 11, 2012 at 10:39 PM
Smokey says "I was the muse for the Flying Nun."
Posted by: Alanna Strong | Wednesday, July 11, 2012 at 11:19 PM
Kristin, I hardly remember your story, as the last two paragraphs were so very impactful, I'm still reeling. I want more! and those gave me 'more.' Very strong emotion from you in those last two paragraphs, memorable! And, then to follow it up with the locked door - if your muse wasn't in you then, I'm not sure it's anywhere! So profound I think that Jules is probably giving you time to 'be there' with yourself (and maybe with your muse!).
..minor vocab fix for definition of la muse verte, there needs to be space between 'haveinspired..' Also, in this sentence in the story: "....yah-yahs and you're right about thats." Thats should be 'that.' I'm not sure you see my edits when I do them so late for you - it's 2:30PM in CA right now, so about 11:30 your time .:-) I might resend them tomorrow. Meanwhile, I hope you are having a restful night in your pjs or whatever works for YOU!
Posted by: Judi Boeye Miller, Lake Balboa, CA | Wednesday, July 11, 2012 at 11:45 PM
No matter what your mother says...And I love her without knowing her...you did get the last laugh with the last line!
Posted by: Jan | Wednesday, July 11, 2012 at 11:47 PM
Smokey says: "Just washed my ears and can't do a thing with them!"
Posted by: Cassie Alexandrou in Dallas, TX | Thursday, July 12, 2012 at 12:41 AM
Smokey's bubble: Whoaaaa! I think my ears are levitating!!
Posted by: Andrea Hughes | Thursday, July 12, 2012 at 01:09 AM
Smokey says: She used starch on my ears and they won't go down. I told her no starch, but just like the cleaners, she didn't listen!
Posted by: Kathleen from Connecticut | Thursday, July 12, 2012 at 04:57 AM
Je m'excuse, Kristin, mais d'apres "Le Petit Robert", c'est "un musee", nom, masc.
It would be easier for us Anglophones if it were feminine (due to the 2 e's), but seems it's not! Merci !
Posted by: Carolyn Bush | Thursday, July 12, 2012 at 02:20 PM
Oh! Picture time again? Wait! I'm not showing enough tongue.
Posted by: Shirley | Friday, July 13, 2012 at 12:25 AM
Wow, LOVE this one! So grateful to revisit this petite and power-packed story. Just the reminder I needed today.
Nature is my muse and so are you!
Posted by: Stacy ~ Sweet Life Farm ~ Applegate, Oregon | Friday, July 13, 2012 at 12:40 AM
"Look at me doing my "Marilyn Monroe" impersonation!"
Posted by: Gretel | Friday, July 13, 2012 at 02:45 AM
" that hairspray IS really strong!!"
Posted by: Suzanne Codi, Washington, DC | Sunday, July 15, 2012 at 04:51 PM