kif-kif! + list of Arabic words you will hear when in France
Pictures of Grimaud + conjugation

une mare

Jules visits Serignan-du-Comptat (c) Kristin Espinasse
I didn't have the chance to run this by Mom and get her permission to post her photo... so I'm taking advantage of the fact that her computer is broken. She can kill me later (for the fabricated "rain dance" caption) when her laptop is repaired and she catches up on all the missed editions of French Word-A-Day. I know she misses the stories--and especially the comments, where she would send you her all caps LOVE! (Photo taken some time ago, in Sérignan-du-Comtat)

No photos off our flooded house to illustrate this edition, so how about a picture of Mom doing a rain dance? 

Speaking of the deluge, did you know that inundation is a defense strategy? The dutch used to flood land to hinder the Spanish army (see Hollandic Water Line). Meantime, Jean-Marc and I defended our own soggy turf here at home, trying to evacuate water flooding like an open dam into our kitchen and bathroom after Sunday morning's storm! Story follows. 

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une mare (mar)

  1. pond
  2. puddle
  3. backwater 

une mare entre les rochers = rock pool
une mare de sang = pool of blood

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

I woke up yesterday morning with the delicious realization that it was Sunday. Dimanche! No need to rush out of bed--except to let the dogs out... after-which I could return with a nice cup of kawa and a cozy view of the storm with its thunder claps and pouring rain--quel spectacle!

As I lingered au lit a few minutes longer I enjoyed the windy scene outside the open window. There was a lone bamboo playing coucou, or peek-a-boo, just beyond the window pane. Now I saw her, now I didn't. For a moment, I wondered if she could see me too? Just because one couldn't see eyeballs didn't mean a plant didn't have vision! Perhaps one day we will be amazed to learn that, all this time, plants have been observing us, too!

My eyes travelled past the playful reed where, beneath the dark sky, the rain poured down. It was pleasing to know that the flowers and vegetables in the garden were getting cups full to drink this morning. I could almost see the extra blossoms and the fattened fruit (just this week I'd discovered three melons growing in our permaculture garden! How to say hot-diggity in French?).

Bon, enough admiring the splendours of nature, it was time to let the dogs out before they rained down on the tiled floor. Our golden retriever, Braise (pronounced "brez" like "Pez"), had a couple accidents last month, but we no longer awaken to a flooded entryway as long as we stay one step ahead of the deluge.

Stepping into the front room I cast a look around, to verify there were no accidental puddles. That's when I noticed the water seeping in from the kitchen....

Ah, another leak! For a split second I believed I could sop up the wet floor on my own... (allowing Jean-Marc to sleep in for once). And then, little by little, the gravity of the situation hit me. Mon Dieu--we were being inundated! 

Approaching the kitchen, it sounded as though someone had left the tap running. I hurried in to shut it off... when I realized the water wasn't flowing from the robinet--it was rushing in from beneath the kitchen door! Looking down, I saw my new leopard-patterned flip-flops were submerged. I began to back out of the room as my brain stammered, "towels... towels...thick absorbent towels..."

By now the water had followed me to the end of the second room--reaching my feet as I stood there slack-jawed and frozen. When I watched the water engulf our dogs, who were lying at my feet, and observed how their golden coats now doubled as sponges--I sprang to action.

JEAN-MARCCCCCCCCCC!!!!!! The house is flooding!!!!

A second later and Jean-Marc was hopping forth, managing to pull on his pants en-route.

He hurried outside, running through the rain, around the side of the house to unclog the water duct. Meantime, I dashed back-n-forth, grabbing towels... only to learn that my efforts to soak up the flow were akin to "a drop in a bucket". After twisting dry the useless towels I grabbed a salad bowl from kitchen drying rack and tried to evacuate the water this way, splashing the water into the bowl.... but the water rushing in from the kitchen door discouraged my efforts. Then I had an inspiration: I could sweep the water out the opposite door!

I ran and got our biggest broom and went to work. "Braise! Smokey! Là-bas!" First, I swept the dogs into the family room (conveniently up a level, on dry ground).

I was busy with all the water-sweeping when suddenly my hair stood on end. That is when I noticed that my husband's telephone charger was plugged in. My eyes traced the cord, the other end of which was now meeting the trickle of water which flowed out from the kitchen.

This was it. Electrocution! My fears of electric shock returned as I tried to stay calm. Jean-Marc appeared in time to shut off the mains, assuring me of the impossibility of an electrical accident, "And anyway," he said, " you would not be harmed because everything is up to standard." I still don't quite believe that things would automatically shut off, if the wires touched the water, but there was no time to argue--we were now up to our ankles in rainwater!

"C'est une mare!" Jean-Marc cried, stepping into the pool of water. My husband grabbed a second kind of broom (one with a wide wiper-blade on the end--a favorite of mine for mopping the floor and perfect for our mission!). Jean-Marc hurried to the kitchen. Ça y est, his efforts outside had worked and the water no longer rushed into the house like an open dam! 

Jean-Marc began sweeping the water out of the kitchen to the dining room, where I rerouted the flow--with the help of my broom--out the front door! We worked like this for the next hour, relaxing into our effort, buoyed now by our growing bantering.

"And I had been wondering if you were going to help me clean the floors today," I laughed.

Jean-Marc laughed at my jokes and listened as I pointed out all the positives:

"Good thing we don't have moquette! Can you imagine what a disaster wall-to-wall carpet would be? And thank heavens this happened on the weekend. What if it was a hectic school morning?"

 All the teasing and joking waned as we grew exhausted from the chore of evacuting what amounted to hundreds of liters of water. I began to wonder what I would have done if Jean-Marc hadn't been there? Worse, what if both of us had been away--as we were last weekend? What would the kids have done? And what if my belle-mère was the one house-sitting? 

"What would an elderly woman do under the circumstances?" I asked Jean-Marc. "Who would she call?"

"Les pompiers," Jean-Marc answered. "But the firemen wouldn't come for a little job like this."

"But this would be a big job--an impossibility for an older woman," I argued. "What would she do?"

"Call family and friends," Jean-Marc answered, sweeping the last of the water out the front door.

I couldn't help thinking of the future.... But any fears were immediately replaced by thankfulness. How lucky I am to have Jean-Marc. But what about those who are all alone?

That afternoon, yesterday, that is, we went and visited my belle-mère. What a hectic week it must have been for her after moving to a new apartment. Even though we helped with her move (Jean-Marc and his brother, Jacques, painting her new apartment and putting down new floors, their sister, Cécile, packing their mom's boxes, and me helping clean up her old apartment in Marseilles), my mother-in-law is on her own. After our flood, which revealed my own weaknesses, how much more I think about my belle-mère's challenges.

"You know," my mother-in-law said, as we walked arm and arm back to her apartment, having enjoyed an ice-cream on the beach, "I have seen a lot of lonely people in my life. As a nurse-on-call, I visited many households and I looked Loneliness in the eye. I am happy to say that I am not a lonely person. What a horrible thing that is."

I trust my belle-mère means what she says but, just in case, we are now only a stone's throw away.

"Quite a storm last night," my mother-in-law says, handing me her apartment key as we arrive home.

"Oh, those thunder claps! J'ai sauté du lit!" She chuckles. 

"Me too, I leapt up from bed when the thunder struck too!" I laugh as I help my mother-in-law into her apartment. I watch her walk to her room, to turn off the blaring radio she's left on in her absence. And I'm suddenly filled with a mixture of relief and gratitude--to finally live so close that we hear the same thunder and see the same rain.

...And given how loud she plays her radio... if I listened closely enough, I could probably hear Charles Aznavour from just across the gulf of La Ciotat, where my mother-in-law will tune into her favorite golden oldies program, and let her thoughts drift back to the comfort of the past....

La pluie ne cesse de tomber
Viens plus près ma mie
Si l'orage te fait trembler
Viens plus prés ma mie

*    *    *

To respond to today's story, or to comment on any item in this edition, please click here to join the conversation.

A soggy Mr. Sacks (c) Kristin Espinasse
Though the water rose to our ankles, Mr. Sacks was up to his buckle in rainwater!

Poor Mr. Sacks! Jean-Marc's beloved sacoche was rescued, though some of his contents didn't fare to well. (Jean-Marc tells me my passport is a little soggy. I wonder if it will still work at airport immigration?) 

French Vocabulary

le dimanche = Sunday

le kawa = coffee 

le lit = bed

coucou = peek-a-boo (also means "hi!")

bon = O.K. 

quel spectacle! = what a show!

Mon Dieu! = My Goodness

le robinet = tap, faucet

là-bas! = (move) over there!

la belle-mère = mother-in-law (can also mean step-mother)

La pluie ne cesse de tomber /Viens plus prés ma mie/Si l'orage te fait trembler Viens plus prés ma mie
The rain won't stop falling, come closer my dear/ if the storm makes you tremble / come closer my dear

Beekeeper Jean-Marc (c) Kristin Espinasse
In other news: first batch of honey here at Mas des Brun! Jean-Marc had the pleasure of making honey when we lived at the vineyard in Ste. Cécile, and he is now delighted to bottle his first batch of local honey from the hills of St. Cyr-sur-Mer. 

However, those were no honey bees that were buzzing above the ceiling of our family room (just beneath our daughter's bedroom! The droning grew louder and louder this week until, on Saturday, Jean-Marc intervened--donning his bee suit with built in mask and arming himself with a can of guêpicide. Now there are no more guêpes, or wasps, freeloading here at home. 

For Science buffs...
And speaking of wasps, they're not all bad. Did you read about the wasps that live in our figs, ripening them? Happy to report that this year's harvest is delicious (and every wasp made it out... well before we sank our teeth into the fruit. Don't miss the story, here--but first you have to promise you will still eat figs when you are done! Promise?)

Gladiator (c) Kristin Espinasse
What a week, between a wasp invasion, a move, and an inundation. Is it okay to fancy oneself a ... a... (well just what would you call this flying woman pictured above? Surely not a gladiator?) Photo taken at Parc Astérix, in Paris. 

Jackie and Michèle-France (c) Kristin Espinasse
Whatever she is, she has nothing on these dearies. That's our daughter Jackie (7 years ago...) and my belle-mère, Michèle-France. Though its an out-dated photo, one of the girls has not changed one iota. The other is enjoying day 4 of fashion school. Wish her luck! Our turn now to wish every one bonne rentrée, or happy back-to-school (or back-to-work, if that is the case). 

Comments welcome here. 

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