vouloir dire & what does "Tanguy syndrome" mean in French?
Semence: Sowing seeds for a French flower garden

How to say crutch or crutches in French

Spaniel and cafe (c) Kristin Espinasse
""The rare Frenchman who uses the crosswalk" Computer is back and so are some long-lost photos from years ago! Youpie! Yay!

une béquille (beh-kee)

    : crutch, stand; kickstand (bike)

Audio File: listen to Jean-Marc pronounce the following expressions: Download MP3 or Wav file

Elle marche avec des béquilles. She walks with crutches.
mettre une moto, un vélo sur sa béquille = to put a motorbike or bike on its stand.
se déplacer avec des béquilles = to get around on crutches

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE... by Kristin Espinasse

I was staring up at a flower seed display with packet after packet of possibilities when I heard a tap tap tap coming up from behind me. Turning, I saw a woman on crutches who was now looking up at the same rack of flower packets.

"Bonjour," I smiled, quickly turning back around in discretion. A moment passed before I thought to scoot over so that the newcomer could see the entire display.

"Ne bougez pas. Vous ne me gênez pas du tout," she assured me. Her hair, gathered up in a large twist, was the color of Mexican poppies ...or maybe honey-colored nasturtiums? ...the ones I was debating  whether or not to buy. I liked the idea they were edible plus pretty to look at. I had recently bought a pack of blue starflowers, or bourrache, for that very reason. Come to think of it I had recently bought quite a few packets of flowers, so maybe I'd better head off now, and meet-up with Jean-Marc, who was two aisles over, in the "automatic watering systems" section of the store.

But before leaving I felt the urge to say something to the middle-aged lady with the béquilles. During the handful of minutes that we had stood staring up at the flower seed présentoir, I sensed her endearing presence. We had only exchanged a brief greeting and that is when I saw what my dear aunt Charmly would refer to as stardust. It's that heavenly sweetness that emanates from a kindred spirit.

"Wouldn't it be lovely to have them all!" I said to the stranger, betting on the possibility that she, too, was overwhelmed by what the French call l'embarass de choix. There were so many flowers to choose from. I went to put back the seed packet I had been holding when the lady with crutches responded to me.

"Which one is that?" she asked.

"Oh... cosmos," I offered.

"Cosmos?" She had never heard of the flower before.

"Ah," I said, smiling. "They grow this high..." I motioned with my hands," and are covered with fuchsia flowers. (I was thinking of the cosmos that my mom had so loved, back at our farm in Sainte Cécile-les-Vignes. The thought of Mom fawning over those flowers threw me back in time.)

Perhaps emotion had cast a fragile shadow over me, for next the stranger offered an affectionate compliment.

"Hold on," the woman said, as I  returned the seeds to the display. "I will plant them and they will remind me of you."

It was such an intimate and generous thought that it caught me completely off-guard. I thanked the woman with the Mexican poppy-colored hair and quickly hurried off.

It was a strange reaction and, even as I was walking away, I wanted to turn back... to say something back to her just as nice! But what?

Two rows over, in the watering section of the store, I stood there debating. I should go back and get the seeds that she had been looking at (morning glories, I think they were...) and tell her I'll plant them and think of her, too! But as the seconds turned to minutes I convinced myself that the window of opportunity had passed. At this point it would be too awkward to return.

Hélas this touching encounter will be filed under Missed Opportunities. Meantime somewhere in France dozens of cosmos will bloom this summer. I see the woman with the Mexican poppy color hair hobbling up to admire them. She's finished with her crutches by now, and a part of her is even jogging down memory lane.

Post note: Recently, I discovered in my seed collection a packet of Mexican poppies (a gift from Malou a few years ago). I will scatter them and think of the golden-haired stranger. She won't have the joy of knowing my gesture (as I had knowing of her plan) but that brings me back to stardust, which must--like the emanating and far-reaching light from which it is born--illuminate kindred spirits the world over. Somehow she will know.

To comment, click here. Share your remarkable experiences with strangers or talk about another theme in today's edition. Thanks.

French Vocabulary

le présentoir = display rack

ne bougez pas vous ne me gênez pas du tout = don't move. You're not bothering me a bit

le bourrache = borage

les béquilles (f) = crutches

hélas =  alas

un embarras = a difficulty (more here)

l'embarras de (or du) choix = embarrassing variety of choice, multiple possibilites

Au présentoir des fleurs je suis resté bête devant l'embarras de choix.
At the flower display I was stumped before all the choices.

avoir l'embarras du choix = to have too many solutions

Rainbow over the vines (c) Kristin Espinasse
Months before we moved to our first vineyard, in Sainte Cécile-les-Vignes, we would visit it. Here is a picture of Jean-Marc beneath a rainbow... and on the verge of a colorful future in winemaking. You can also see the kids and our dog Braise.

Jean-Marc will kick off his USA Wine Tour in March!  Click here for more info and to see what other cities he'll visit. 

The Dog Wash (c) Kristin Espinasse
A blessing in disguise is what Jean-Marc calls my latest computer crash... for when my PC was repaired, we recuperated all the pictures that were lost during the first computer crash! It is fun to see the kids, in 2007. That's Braise they are washing... in an old grape bucket from Uncle Jean-Claude's vineyard

Pronounce It Perfectly in French - with exercises in sound discrimination and accurate sound creation. Order your copy here.


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For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety


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Debby Montague

Thanks for the lift to a day that started badly. Now I can think of stardust

Eileen - Charlottesville, VA

I love this story Kristin! I think I went overboard on the seed buying this year. I have a whole shelf of seeds and I have started some in the basement under grow lights. I purchased lots of Butterfly Weed because I heard the Monarchs are in decline because of the loss of this plant.
I love the photo of the kids giving Braise a bath. I think you mean we recouped all the pictures instead of recuperated. :-)

Linda R.

Your stardust definition and greetings exchanged by the flower packet display are perfectly wonderful - you have such a kind and gentle spirit. I don't think they were necessarily her favorite, but I remember my mom's beautiful flower garden abloom in cosmos, especially in her later years; I smile when I see them in other gardens. Sweet peas bring back memories of my grandmother.

Linda R.

p.s. I like the photo of Jean Marc beneath the rainbow - perfect for our upcoming Saint Patrick's Day! Luck o' the Irish to you. : )


In 2007 I was travelling around Bandol where you are now and I was speaking to my friend in English.A man in a wheelchair asked me where I was from and seeing him in the chair assumed he,did not know my part of Canada.When I told him he knew the area well,and all I could think was how do you know my world in a wheelchair.he told me he has a bike accident and was paralyzed as a result.He told me also that Canada was on the leading edge of spinal cord research.In an instant this man touched my world and I think of him all the time.He taught me in that short encounter not to judge by what I assumed.I often think I will venture back to see if I can find him.You may one day find your seed lady too and if not you will have the flowers to remind you of the encounter.

Kirk Woodyard

Just got to Zagreb and enjoyed this story so much. I'll have to explain to Anne that it's stardust next time she tries to brush what only appears to be dandruff from my shoulders. Cheers!


Thanks, I love the idea of stardust. Back in the seventies a student brought me a beautiful violet with double flowers. Even now, 30 some years later, it reminds me of her and has multiplied into many violets that have been given to others.
Récupérer is the perfectly correct verb in Fench when you recover in the sense of get something back. So i think it influenced your English! No surprise there! You're bilingual. It happens.

Jeri Carlstedt

Stardust and kindred spirits...such a lovely thought for today...amidst a few tears...a reminder of how vulnerable I feel.

On another note...am traveling to Rennes with students for a family home stay. Last time I had 5 glorious days in Paris by myself; this time our home stay placements are in Rennes. For some reason, I am at a loss...in Paris you can be invisible and yet present, in Rennes I am afraid it will be obvious that I am alone and wandering...any suggestions? I will be there Mar 29 - April 3 which is Easter weekend and such a family time as well. I want to make the most of the opportunity but am feeling a bit underwhelmed...

Will take the thought of stardust and kindred spirits around the world with me to Rennes...in hopes that such a connection is made in the brief time that I am there.

Kristin Espinasse

You are all stardust. I am teary eyed reading some of these notes, yet laughing from Kirks message. May I borrow your idea, Kirk?

Debby, may your day get brighter and brighter and, Jeri, your too (re walking around in Rennes--I suggest carrying a camera. Mine makes me feel  less alone, and conversations are struck up when curious citoyens want to know where you are travelling from)

Eileen, love learning about Butterfly weed. Also, thank you for the correction, and, Carol, for the note about the bilingual confusion. Also, is the the same violet? Wow! If only your student knew the gift keeps giving!

Jackie, I will be looking for him.

Linda R, thank you!

Bill in St. Paul

Thanks, Kirk, I'll have to use that line with my Ann "It's not dandruff, it's stardust!" Love the picture of the kids washing the dog. It seems dogs have a special look when being washed, "what'd I do to get this" look.

Pat Cargill

Jeri, encounters between kindred spirits are all around us. Just keep your heart and eyes wide open and all will come. Traveling mercies, Pat


But of course! COSMOS is the origin of STARDUST!

Kristin Espinasse

Pat, beautifully said!

Mary, Midway through writing this story I discovered the serendipidous connection. Glad you caught it. Must be the universe smiling down on us.

Nancy,                     Cambridge

I have a border of cosmos along my front wall, but I take the seeds from the previous years' flowers. This is very easy to do: at the end of the season, harvest the dry seeds as the flowers fade (from the centers of the petals), and store them in marked envelopes. Voila!

Sue jean

One of your best ever stories, Kristin.

Herm in Phoenix, Az

Salut Kristin,

Love today’s photo! I may have to write a poem for that one.

Missed opportunities? Yes, at my age . . . many. One in particular stands out: I’ve climbed Camelback Mountain in Phoenix many times, but one time I was on the top enjoying the view, patting my self on the back for having climbed the tough trail of boulders in less then 40 minutes when I saw a real success story. There was a man up there with an artificial leg, no cosmetics, just the prosthesis with its springs and hardware. I should have walked over and shook his hand but I didn’t.

The forecast is for 94 degrees in Phoenix today. It’s going to warm up out here pretty soon!

À la prochaine




Julie Farrar

What a touching story. You may have missed the opportunity to tell the stardust lady you will plant to remember her, but it's still worth something that you're making the gesture.

Jeri, don't be a victim of missed opportunities because you're alone on this trip. Do carry a camera. And if you meet a nice person, do ask if you can take a picture as a remembrance. Act like an American and strike up conversations with complete strangers. It helps if you acquaint yourself with news in the local paper or have questions about the history or a festival in the area. It won't always be successful, but it will make you feel brave and a confident traveler.

However, I do also enjoy my alone time when traveling. Embrace it.

Jan in Atlanta

This story sums up how you approach life, it seems to me, Kristin. As Jackie said above, it's so easy to touch other people's worlds and let them touch yours. Doesn't take more than a few words or a smile to brighten someone's day,as well as your own. When I plant the cosmos seeds that my daughter brought me from a recent trip to Texas I will hope that some kind of stardust will help them bloom in Atlanta (since I've never planted flower seeds before) and I will think of this story and feel connected to your positive spirit and other kindred spirits that you encourage to "come out of the woodwork"!


This reminds me of the time when I went cross-country skiing in France. I asked for "béquilles" instead of "batons" (du ski). That was rather embarassing. But later in the day I fell and injured my knee while out on the piste. I had to use my batons as béquilles to get myself off the path and back to the ski rental place.

Sue Lennox

How true it is--those chance encounters--and your comments about kindred spirits! One does not often encounter these special souls, but when it happens, it is such a ray of light to the core.

Kristin Espinasse

Thank you, Jan!

Gus, after reading your note I picked up the phone and FINALLY called the young artisan who sewed a chair cover for us. Because Jean-Marc went to pick up our new chair cover, I did not get the chance to thank her... and have been meaning to for two weeks! I am sure how much longer I might have waiting (if forever--yikes!) to tell her this. She was so delighted by the call and I worked up the courage to ask if I could do a post about her garage atelier! The good feeling continued and this artisan (a tapissier, to be exact), on learning why I was waiting to cover the second chair, offered to help me by giving me some leftover samples so that I would only pay for the work--and not several more meters of fabric. (I will definitely bring her a couple bottles of wine, plus pay for her work!). THANKS GUS. I hope others will follow the nudge to contact someone they have been meaning to call or write.

Julie, great encouragement for Jeri!

Jenn, ouch! and how ironic :-)

Maureen from Freiburg

Sweetpeas, YES! Most beautiful flowers, so humble, but the colours and the scent!! Adore them......PLEASE Kristi, SAVE your photos onto an external disc - or whatever is out there in cyberspace for that purpose. Your pics are wonderful!


Braise doesn't seem too pleased about her bath. Yes, we are all stardust. So many fortuitous connections. Yes, she will know that you (and now we) remember her.

Skip Anderson

Hi there, Kristi. You know I love your writing and I am aware that you may be a bit more shy than me (isn't everyone?).

However, at 88, I think Gus has more experience than both of us.

We should (almost) always go ahead and SAY SOMETHING BACK to kind etrangers like the lady en bequilles looking at seed packets with you.

I don't want to sound like I am admonishing you at all, but I do tell myself that if a person speaks to you, my opinion is that it contains permission, nay, encouragement, to speak back. You may be right about "somehow she will know", but isn't it safer to speak and remove all doubt? Great story and I know I will be thinking about it all day...but I thought about writing you and felt like I couldn't think of this "go ahead and speak" philosophy without writing to you.

All the best, Skip (and Karen) avec regards to Jean-Marc

Leslie NYC

I think actually that nothing at all was lost. They say that part of valuing generosity is accepting generosity from others. Your lady-of-the-cosmos was in a very open and giving frame of mind. It affected you enormously and you are carrying her influence with you into subsequent encounters. Often we are flummoxed by kind gestures and run away in awkwardness. That's really sweet, too.
I think this was just her moment to be the generous one!
You are kindred spirits.

Gwyn Ganjeau

Kristin, i don't think you missed an opportunity at all! the other side of 'taking the opportunity,' is 'creating an opportunity'. and that's what you did with Madame Stardust. YOU reached out and engaged her first. which clearly touched and moved her. a little bit of magic happened there. it was a lovely circle.

Kristin Espinasse

Gwyn, love Madame Stardust! Could be a good title to this essay. 

Leslie, liking your Lady Of the Cosmos, too :-)

Skip and all the stardusters here, thanks for taking the time to respond to this story.

Lois Allred

My dear friend Marianna came in to my life as a result of a similar encounter at a display of paint chips. She,too, had red hair - topped by a red beret , which so typified her spirit. She "adopted" me at a time when I was trying to find my way in a new city, a long way from my roots. She shared her knowledge of our mutual interests in antiques, gardening and restoring log cabins, while teaching me about making maple syrup, owning and operating a farm, Indian rugs, red ware, treen ware, and so much more. Together we picked branches of apple blossoms from her trees for the bouquets she made for her son's wedding. I remember her fondly. Alas, she doesn't remember me because of Alzheimers. Thank you for your story.

Vera Marie Badertscher

Since I like word games, I'm always seeing connections that probably don't exist. For example. "Bouquez" (move)--could that be the genesis for the English word, "Boogie"?
Enjoy your flowers.


This story was magic!!
It touched me plus many others. I always wonder the "why" reading a simple story manages to find its way to the inside of me-then roost. I guess the bond created by its
telling is the reason. Your telling of the bond with the golden haired lady stirred up an unending whirl of a circle of us. Thank you so much for sharing.
I remember well the thrill I had all those years ago when the first seeds I planted brought forth the promised blossoms I was 9, living in Wyoming. I had seen some California Poppies all abloom in a neighbor's yard and begged for a pack of seeds. It was my first venture into the earth. The soil was warm, damp and comforting and the seeds were lovingly received. Then the waiting, then the happening. What beautiful, tender, brilliant spots of color those poppies gave to us. The least breeze trembled the petals and I loved them.
We now live in CA and already we are seeing
California Poppies in bloom. Beautiful.
I thank them for their giving and I thank you for remembering the fellow traveler who shares her part of your story.

Bill Facker

Aloha Kristin, You may or may not recall the Hollyhock seeds I put in my pocket from your St Cecile property ... they are at this moment growing next to my home on the beautiful Garden Isle .. a constant reminder of wonderful France as well as you and JM while you were still raising two young souls and hosting many visitors, and JM was proudly producing the excellent wines of DRBleu. Plants ... Gods gift. Aloha, Bill

Pat from Oregon

Ahh - thank you so much for sharing this moment in time. I, too, have reflected on 'missed opportunities' - usually with saddness - and your experience reminds me that even missed opportunities can be reclaimed with a twist! Thank you!


Touched I am, by your beautiful and heartfelt story. We should seize upon those opportunities to reach out to other souls.

Christine Dashper

Such a lovely story Kristin. Thank you


Our dear Kristi,
Not only another wonderful story and pictures(!) but also a wonderful example of showing thoughtfulness and kindness to others. I so remember the time when I was on crutches;my belle mere and I went to the market to buy some stuff at the deli, and were nearly run over by a herd of totally
inconsiderate people who were afraid I might hobble ahead and cut in line!
THANK YOU for such a gentle and lovely reminder to never forget kindness to and for one another!
Love, Natalia XO

tom Hamilton

a very beautiful story.

Cynthia Lewis (Eastern Shore of Maryland)

Your wonderful and touching story today made me think of Carl Sagan's PBS programs of twenty or so years ago when he gave wonderful descriptions and explanations of the cosmos. His quote that "we are all made of starstuff" is for me his most memorable. When you think about it, it could make you feel a bit of stardust swirling about almost everyone. I know that you brightened the stardust lady's day! And thanks for brightening mine. Bon week-end, Cynthia

Judi Boeye Miller, Lake Balboa, CA

Tu as touché mon cœur! This story brought me to a personal 'missed opportunity' of getting the full names of the two lovely people I met while traveling in Stratford-Upon-Avon. They were long retired, she in a wheelchair, her husband pushing her along enjoying a visit to the town where they used to live. They saw me looking at a street map and asked if they could help! We ended up spending a good share of the afternoon walking around, the husband sharing stories of his life as a WWII photographer who opened a camera shop after the war in S-U-A and operated it until they retired to Devon. It was one of the most pleasurable days on my trip, spent with Bill and Helen.... but for whatever reason, we did not exchange last names nor addresses... I wish I had - but, I have to remember what a wonderful encounter it was for me, and I think for them, as well. Precious moments!

Judi Boeye Miller, Lake Balboa, CA

P.S. That first photo of the cafe, with dog in front begs to be a book cover!

Jill Switzenberg

It's a reminder how just a small gesture can make someone feel good. It doesn't take much effort sometimes, to elicit warm feelings.

Rose Chandler Johnson

Thank you so much Kristi for the lovely story and your lovely pictures. So glad you retrieve them. Blessings...

Diane Young

Wow!I clicked on the link to Jules' flowers sent from readers in 2008 (before I started reading FWAD). What a wonderful response and glorious array of different flowers. Printemps venira la semaine prochaine. Nous pouvons commencer nos jardins!

Donna Peters

From what town is the Cafe photo? I would love to make that one of my treasure hunts.

Thank you for the sunshine. I don't feel you lost an opportunity as it was perfectly captured in the story!

Susan Carter (Westminster, CA)

Such a delightful story - I'd like to know that woman better!

Olga Brown

Your story is very touching.
Every time I travel I meet good people, just strangers. It's easy: just smile and be nice to people. I remember everyone of them.
Thank you for making my day.


Heather in Arles

Hello Kristin and thank you. "Magic" was also the word that came to mind as well after reading this lovely story--"post" certainly won't do. Isn't it amazing when our instinct talks to us, shouts and yet somehow the moment just doesn't click? I try to not let regret be too strong a presence in my life but there have been times for all of us...

One fun thing I can't help but smile over--I have photographed the same café as in your first photo! I remember it as being in a tiny hameau in the middle of nowhere and was beyond delighted with its carved letters and glowing patina.

Bon fin de weekend,

Vicki, San Francisco Bay area

Early on in my traveling days (read "inexperienced"), I was taking the train from Milan to Sorrento and had to change trains in Naples. I was traveling with my preteen son, and felt the extra burden of keeping him safe. Arriving in Naples, I became very confused, and a little panicked, regarding where to go next and was trying unsuccessfully to get answers from the person at the ticket window. My inability to speak Italian confounded the problem. Out of nowhere, an elderly gentleman came from behind me, picked up my large suitcase and without saying a word waved for me to follow him. I did so hesitantly, and he took us through a turn-style to a lower level of the station used for regional trains. He deposited my suitcase on a platform and I looked up to see it was indeed the one I had been searching for. I turned to thank him for his unsolicited gesture of kindness. He was nowhere to be found. Since that day the notion of "angels unaware" has taken on a very real significance for me.


What a lovely way to remember someone....the beauty of the flower which brings joy to the heart. No complications, no judgements, no regrets. Just purest beauty. You both have brought a joyful memory to each other.


Such a touching story.
It's these little moments in time that we remember so well and make us feel good every time we're reminded of them.

She will think of you when her flowers grow and you'll bring a smile to her face.


Pass it on! I loved your story, but how about passing on that kindness to someone else? Just pay a compliment to a total stranger or simply say something nice.
Years ago I gave a lift to a broke, srtuggling, single parent. She said 'I'll pay you back someday,' I said no, she could go and help someone else and ask them to pass it on. Dunno what made me say it, but it seemed like a good idea and is something I still do. I love your stories Kristen, you're giving to us without expecting anything all the time! Thank you so much!

Edie Schmidt


I love the idea of scattering flower seeds.
Let me know what comes up or better yet, take some photos!

Edie from Savannah

Linda Casey

Well Kristin, I echo all your readers' comments. You ARE Madame Stardust and you sprinkle your deliciousness across the planet like a Scandinavian fairy princess. I've forwarded this to a young Dutch friend of mine living in Greece who is herself a budding writer with similar experiences to yours, mine and many of your readers' above. Bless you dear lady .. just keep on being YOU and all will be well. Linda

Stacy ~ Sweet Life Farm ~ Applegate, Oregon

Happy to hear you have back your computer and most importantly, cherished photos. I am just catching up on last week’s reading. I am grateful I did not miss this story of kindness and remembrance. All I could think of while reading it was your stories are stardust. Bless you.

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