French for 'to upset, annoy, frustrate or impede'...

Jackie and Breizh at our first vineyard
Jackie and beloved Breizh at Domaine Rouge-Bleu. Jean-Marc writes about our kids, who harvested with us, in his latest chapter.

Hi Kristin, I lost track of French Word-a-Day years ago. Out of the blue I checked back in and, what, Jackie was all grown up and living in Colorado, what?? So I started going back through the archives to somewhat catch up. Found out about your new book-in-progress, and on a whim, signed up. I am so glad I did!! I don't think blog writers realize how wearying, over time, it is to read about their seemingly endless streams of good fortune and triumph; it is so not like real life. Well, let me just say: you are different. YOUR BOOK IS REAL. I love it so much! Thank you from the bottom of my heart, Martha, A reader from long ago

Merci, Martha! I hope your review will inspire others to read our book. It is thanks to your support that we are able to advance on this memoir--something we have wanted for a very long time.

Today's Word: contrarier

    : to upset, to annoy, to vex
    : to impede, frustrate

Also: contrarier un gaucher = to make a left-handed person write right-handed


A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

I'll bet you thought the misunderstanding with my neighbor had something to do with fish! Surely you were thinking I tossed some rotten poisson over her fence or that I was about to ditch the stinking swordfish in her poubelle because I was too lazy to roll out the bin on garbage day! And those guesses are in line with the theme of today's story: assumptions, misunderstandings...and paranoia.

Let's go back now to the front gate, where I was about to dart across the street to throw some rotten fish into the municipal trash can. Any plans to passer inaperçu were foiled when a car pulled up to the 4-way stop. I casually waved it forward, Allez-y! Go on! But the driver did not budge....

On closer look, it was her! The woman my Mom had met last fall, who happened to live across the street. I remember coming home from my walk and seeing the two chatting there at our portillon. Being all sweaty and puant, I was not ready to meet anybody, but that didn't faze Mom who was just happy to introduce her new friend....

Not two minutes into the conversation that followed and I began to wonder (and said as much to Mom later on): Shouldn't Mom be more careful about the strangers she meets on the street?

Fast forward several months. Here she was now, the neighbor I had been avoiding. Oh, hello. You are C (name withheld) I said, having reluctantly approached the car to peer through the passenger window. 

Yes, C said. Do you have a minute? There's been a misunderstanding and I need to clear things up! 

Of course, I said. Why don't you park over there....

Having backed into a space in front of our house, C got out of the car and we both turned, noticing the way the vehicle was parked à travers, almost diagonal and out of the parking lines. It reminded me of how anxious both of us were to set an awkward matter straight.

Don't worry about it, I said. I know why you are here and I am very sorry about the misunderstanding, I began.

Yes, C, agreed. I believe I said something that might have made you think I was....

No worries. Here, come on in and I can explain, I said, pointing to our gate, but C hesitated. 

I have been very distressed over this. Très très contrariée, C admitted, clearly upset.

Yes, I see that, and I can explain, I offered, getting right to the point: You have to understand...at the time, you were a complete stranger to us. And when you told the story of how your Aunt, the butcher, tried to poison you with un saucisson... well, it painted a vivid picture in my head!

Yes, C sympathized. I realized that later, but I was so at ease talking with your Mom. And it was at that point that you walked up. And that's the last I saw of you or Jules.... You must have thought I was nuts. I have been so upset over what you might be thinking about me! I felt so bad for such a long time, C insisted. Très très contrariée. The thought that you misunderstood me! 

I feared it would take time to convince C that I'd come 'round, that I didn't harbor any more doubts about her coming from a long line of French butchers who try to slowly kill people....

I have a funny story for you, I said to C, hoping that by sharing it on sera quitte--or we would sort of be even in the What I thought you thought category...

This whole time I worried you misunderstood me too! Because you hadn't seen Jules out and about lately, I feared you thought I had locked up Mom...in the little garage behind the house! And that I was tossing bits of bread to her and not letting her meet any friends or have any fun!

C laughed. No! I never thought that! I assure you! 

Mom is free to meet whomever she likes, I said. But I do think she should be careful not to invite strangers back to our home. You never know who these people are. 

I agree! C said, as we hugged and kissed.

Still, I was a little irritated, or contrariée, with Mom! After all, how come C thought I didn't like her? Had Jules shared what I said--after I asked her not to?

I hurried back to the dark garage where we keep Mom (just kidding, it was a garage until we remodeled it into a beautiful studio where we have invited Mom to live!). All but grabbing Jules by the ear and rushing her to the front gate, I informed her of her visitor. And I reveled, just a bit, in catching Mom off guard--just as she catches me off guard whenever she introduces me to strangers--and that is often!

Mom surprised me--and even inspired me--by being chiche or up to meeting whomever had just stopped by. With a bright and welcoming smile she greeted C and gave her a big hug. I am so happy to see you! I have missed you!

REUNITED
The three of us sat down at a table in the garden, where a final misunderstanding was cleared up. Turns out Mom had never tattled on me to C. It was only my fearful thinking that made me think so.

The moral of the story is: don't wait so long to dissiper un malentendu. As for fearful thinking, we need to toss it out--continually--like stinky fish!

 
FRENCH VOCABULARY

le poisson = fish
la poubelle = garbage
passer inaperçu = to slip past unnoticed
allez-y = go ahead
le portillon = gate
puant = stinky
à travers = across, through
un saucisson sec = dried sausage
on est quitte = we're even
chiche = to be game to do something
dissiper un malentendu = clear up a misunderstanding

Mom picking passiflora flowers
My beautiful Mom, Jules. If you have a minute click here to read the story about our walk on La Voie Douce (the gentle path)...and all the strangers I meet thanks to Mom.

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Ongoing support from readers like you helps me to continue doing what I love most: sharing vocabulary and cultural insights via these personal stories from France. Your contribution is vivement appréciée! Donating via PayPal is easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! Kristi
 
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How to say 'minor crime' or misdemeanor' in French? And a fishy story for you today....

Municipal garbage
Is it OK to toss your trash into a neighbor's garbage can? Or into a city trash receptacle? Are there limits to this? Is it a minor offence or are your greatly offended to find another's trash...for you to manage? Read on, in the following story.

Today's word: le délit mineur

    : misdemeanor, minor offence, minor crime

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE, by Kristi Espinasse

It all began with a very fishy story--this malentendu between my neighbor and me. And how ironic that the whole matter was cleared up the day I threw out the trash.

 
Paused there at my front gate making sure the coast was clear, I had not imagined running into Mom's friend, who lived in a condo across the street. A week-old swordfish hidden in a sack behind my back, the idea was to avoid seeing anybody as I hurried over to the municipal garbage can to pitch the leftovers rotting in our frigo. Heaven forbid anyone would witness my stinky délit mineur (was it legal to use the public poubelle for one's private waste management? It's tricky to keep up with the garbage when the truck's already passed and you've missed the latest pick-up!).
 
There was no way this stinky espadon was going to sit 3 days in the back yard trash can. Recently I had come up with another option when things in our fridge perished: la poubelle municipale ! Intended for the plastic cups, cigarette packages, beer bottles and icecream wrappers the tourists sometimes tossed over our fence on their way back from the beach, this handy poubelle de rue is emptied daily. Surely I could use it for a fishy emergency?... Little did I know the Universe had an emergency of its own: to unite a couple of estranged voisines.... 
 
***
To be continued.... Sorry to have to cut the story in two. To make up for it, I've packed extra vocabulary in the first three paragraphs :-) 

FRENCH VOCABULARY
le malentendu = misunderstanding
le frigo = fridge
le délit mineur = misdemeanor 
la poubelle = garbage
l'espadon (m) = swordfish
le voisin, la voisine = neighbor

Field of phacelia
We received some encouraging feedback on Chapter 6 of the vineyard memoir Jean-Marc and I are writing together. I leave you with readers comments as well as another excerpt from The Lost Gardens

[A] heart-wrenching telling of a trying period. So vividly told. I remember reading the "same" stories while you were living them, and you were similarly adept at making the period sound stressful but ultimately rewarding... --Janet

Your raw, honest account of how you really felt at this time is stunning. And your sincerity is overwhelming. This story from you and Jean-Marc , written individually in your own words, is brilliant. Looking forward to future chapters. Bravo! --Chris

CHAPTER 6 (excerpt from The Lost Gardens)

On top of our bickering about all the little details of the harvest, Jean-Marc wasn’t himself lately. As he set out in every direction to bring this whole wine project together, he was losing a lot of weight. And he was constantly on the phone. I knew he was updating friends on his various exploits at his new vineyard, as well as ringing up suppliers--whether for extra harvest buckets or to locate a needed part for the tractor he'd just learned to operate. But were all of the calls to professionals? I began to wonder. What if there was another woman? As silly as that would seem when we were alone out here among fields of grapes, it would explain my husband's unusual behavior--especially the disconnection I had felt from him lately....
 
Click here to order The Lost Gardens, and begin reading right away.

Kristi harvesting
Reader feedback on Chapter 6 of The Lost Gardens:

How overwhelming it must have been to know you must help and figure what was needed to help your husband on your own. It must have been a physically demanding and draining experience. Certainly, the young female harvesters couldn't escape your notice. I am glad to hear that you had a "letting go" experience. It is so important to realize that we cannot control everything. --Teri

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Ongoing support from readers like you helps me to continue doing what I love most: sharing vocabulary and cultural insights via these personal stories from France. Your contribution is vivement appréciée! Donating via PayPal is easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! Kristi
 
♥ Send $10    
♥ Send $25    
♥Send the amount of your choice

"Bonjour, Kristin, I have enjoyed your blog now for a great number of years, watching your children grow up, your moves from house to house, enjoying your stories and photos and your development as a writer. It's way past time for me to say MERCI with a donation to your blog...which I've done today. Bien amicalement!"--Gabrielle


s'emparer & seizing the mystery of communication from 'beyond'

Johan_Barthold_Jongkind_010

I wonder if today's story is confusing or if it may sound strange? Then again, telepathy--whether with the living or the dead--is a mystery! (painting from 1880 of  our seaside town, La Ciotat, by Johan Barthold Jongkind)

Today's word: s'emparer

    : to grab, seize, take hold of

Example Sentence:
Au tournant du xxe siècle, les partisans du spiritisme s’émerveillent des progrès de la technologie et s’en emparent pour démontrer la validité de leurs thèses sur les phénomènes parapsychiques, comme la télépathie ou l’interaction avec les défunts. -Les spectres magnétiques de Thomas Alva Edison

Translation:
At the turn of the twentieth century, partisans of spiritualism marvel at the progress of technology and seize it to demonstrate the validity of their theses on parapsychic phenomena, such as telepathy or interaction with the deceased.

 A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

The Other Side

During a morning swim in the sea, I begin looking for my daughter who works in one of the paillotes de plage, or beach restaurants right here along the shore. Normally, I try not to be so conspicuous when I pass by Jackie's workplace (often on foot, via the boardwalk)...but after her father nearly ran his canoe ashore while spying on her, I figure a lap or two...in the near vicinity... is innocent enough.

 
Some 30 feet off shore, wearing my giant sunhat, I'm doggy paddling past the restaurant and its rows and rows of transats. Glancing over the sun chairs to the dining area, I can't see my daughter. I do see the bartender, the beach attendants, and the manager. I'm sure Jackie is working today... Why isn't she anywhere in sight? 
 
When next I catch sight of her and begin watching my daughter from afar, I am visited by a thought that's been on my mind lately, especially since close friends of ours are grieving the loss of their son. I wonder as they do: are the dearly departed watching us from beyond? And can they somehow communicate with us?
 
Being somewhat in another realm myself --I mean, far out in the seafloating--whilst my daughter is on material ground (the solid shore)--my swim provides another perspective on this afterlife mystery....
 
Looking to shore, I can see my dear one. She is currently unaware of my loving regard from "beyond" as she goes about her busy workday. 
 
Ah, she is wearing her new shorts and the restaurant's t-shirt. Is that a white bandana in her hair? I see she is sporting a ponytail today. And look at her go! She's her usual efficient self...when at work at least! 
 
I am now smiling from afar when suddenly my daughter pauses and her eyes scan the horizon.  Does she sense that I am out here? Oh, that gut feeling. Hers is particularly strong!
 
What with hundreds of tourists in the water, I easily hide behind a cluster of swimmers. It's best she does not know I am around. It will only interrupt her. And she needs to stay on track. Oh! There are some customers! Hurry, Jackie! I can see them even before my daughter does, and she suddenly turns, as if by an inkling... and greets them with that lovely smile. 
 
My heart swells so big that I begin to float away, along the shimmering barrier that separates us, when I see my dear girl turn once more. She is walking towards me now! 
 
Ouf! She is only on her way to set another table (still completely oblivious of my presence on the other side of the shore). Good. Keep going, Jackie. You are doing great! Today the restaurant, tomorrow the sky's the limit.
 
I'm swimming away now. I've got to let her be. Goodbye my girl. Though you can't see it--somebody, on The Other Side, is sending you good energy!
 
 
FRENCH VOCABULARY
s'emparer = to grab, seize 
la paillotte = a restaurant along the beach that can be taken down at the end of the season
le transat = sunbed, deckchair
ouf! = phew!
 
BOOK UPDATE: THE LOST GARDENS, by Jean-Marc & Kristi Espinasse
Jean-marc and kristi around 2010
Photo of Jean-Marc and me taken midway into the first vineyard project--right when things were calming down--and just before life stirred up once again...

Reader feedback from Chapter 5 of our memoir, The Lost Gardens:

I had always wondered how you actually got going, so my thanks to Jean-Marc for the insight. I think that for me there is sense of wonder at the way you both balance your writings.  The story would not be the same if it came from a single author. Keep it up. --Mike Young

Thank you, Mike, for your note! I hope it will encourage others who have not yet bought the book, to jump in and follow our ongoing narrative about our vineyards and our struggles. 

Vineyard in Sainte Cecile les vignes

Excerpt from The Lost Gardens

At some point, I started to be disconnected from the reality since, at that point, everything I was doing ended in a positive result. This led to a lot of excess confidence which caused some big tensions between me and my wife. But since I felt certain I was right, I thought that these disagreements were not worth debating and I was sticking to my own ideas, insisting on them even when they made my wife nervous or uncomfortable as she held on to those "unstable ladders" that I climbed, two rungs at a time.

Even with no experience, I really felt like I was going to rock the wine world with the upcoming harvest, making wines which would rapidly become the most famous ones in the area... and beyond.

That was indeed my euphoric state of mind a few days before our first harvest began...and this, just one year after I had suffered from my first depression.

Click here to order The Lost Gardens, and begin reading right away.

Jean-marc t-shirt

Has a friend forwarded you this post? Receive your own FREE subscription to French Word-A-Day. Click here

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me to continue doing what I love most: sharing vocabulary and cultural insights via these personal stories from France. Your contribution is vivement appréciée! Donating via PayPal is easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! Kristi
 
♥ Send $10    
♥ Send $25    
♥Send the amount of your choice

"Bonjour, Kristin, I have enjoyed your blog now for a great number of years, watching your children grow up, your moves from house to house, enjoying your stories and photos and your development as a writer. It's way past time for me to say MERCI with a donation to your blog...which I've done today. Bien amicalement!"--Gabrielle


Oreilles, ecouter & 25 years ago tomorrow....

Town hall marriage
July 4th 1994 - For our civil ceremony, 25 years ago, we were surrounded by close friends. More about marriage, in today's chronique.... 

Two words for you today: oreilles & écouter...
(look for the translation in the quote below)

Ouvrez grand les oreilles. La meilleure chose que vous puissiez faire pour renforcer votre relation c’est de parler moins et d’écouter plus.

Open your ears. The best thing you can do to strengthen your relationship is to talk less and listen more.


A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

"25 Ears"

Setting out to write about our 25th marriage anniversary, I was wondering how to distill a quarter of a century into a neat and tidy blog entry...when I absentmindedly typed a title to this essay. A moment later, I noticed the coquille, or typo. Well isn't that the truth! I thought. 25 Ears is what every person needs in order for a relationship to succeed.

I don't know that success is the right word for this, either. This commitment. This partnership. This union. Success can be fleeting and nobody anticipates that when they walk down the aisle. Endurance is a better word. The verb is even more poignant: to endure.  I wonder what to endure is in French? Hang on--let me go look....

Here it is. The French word is supporter:

to
support, bear, endure, stand, carry, sustain....

Oh, yes! I like that for marriage! Especially the word sustain. But just what does that mean? I asked the same question, recently, in our memoir-in-progress, The Lost Gardens.  I leave you with an excerpt, below. As for distilling 25 years of marriage into a tidy post. No! It may take hundreds of pages....
 
I sometimes wonder what is the glue holding us together? Surely it is the wedding vows we took so seriously. Or could it be our insecurities? Our need for family? Or our fears? (Of what? Loneliness? Of making a mistake? Disappointing others?) Or is there...deep down in the depths of our souls...a Holy Grail answer? 

Perhaps as important as what keeps us together is what threatens to drive us apart. And though I have an idea or two, what if, after all, I am wrong? We are such complex things, we humans. And yet among the intertangled fibers of our hearts we all long for one and the same thing: unconditional love.

Is this why we behave so unlovably at times? Are we only testing Love's infinite waters? 

 
*   *   *
I spoke to my father on the telephone last night. He told me he will be happy to read our memoir when it is finished. I told him I completely understand his preference to read it straight through, and not in installments

For those of you who prefer the finished manuscript, remember just that, it will be 'finished': the finishing touches will have gone in and certain material may be taken out (like chapter 2. What was I thinking?!).

I was telling my Mom just the other day, 'Who knows, perhaps after the chapters are written we will remove my entries and let Jean-Marc's story stand alone.' One thing's sure: his chapters are flowing beautifully! Jean-Marc is gradually telling the story of what led up to his crash: the fiasco that led to this decision to sell our dream vineyard.

For those who want the unedited grits-and-all version, do not miss our book-in-progress which you can begin reading immediately. Every book sale that comes in sustains ( supports, bears, endures, stands, carries) our writing project. Mille mercis for the strength  you have given us!

Kristin and Jean-Marc Espinasse by Cynthia Gillespie-Smith
photo by Cynthia Gyllespie-Smith

 

Has a friend forwarded you this post? Receive your own FREE subscription to French Word-A-Day. Click here

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me to continue doing what I love most: sharing vocabulary and cultural insights via these personal stories from France. Your contribution is vivement appréciée! Donating via PayPal is easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! Kristi
 
♥ Send $10    
♥ Send $25    
♥Send the amount of your choice

"Bonjour, Kristin, I have enjoyed your blog now for a great number of years, watching your children grow up, your moves from house to house, enjoying your stories and photos and your development as a writer. It's way past time for me to say MERCI with a donation to your blog...which I've done today. Bien amicalement!"--Gabrielle


Une vue de l'esprit - what a great term in French!

Beach in la ciotat canicule heatwave

A special thanks to those of you who left a comment following the previous post, about writing. if you only knew how much your words keep me going!

une vue de l'esprit

    : attitude of mind
    : pure illusion, a mental projection

 

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE

You may have heard about the current heatwave in France. Here in La Ciotat we're melting! At the farmers market, the cashiers fanned themselves with cardboard and la canicule made as good a topic of conversation as any:

C'est une vue de l'esprit, the old man bagging cherries beside me remarked. He's got a point, it is sometimes a matter of perspective.* I should know this as I'm from the stifling hot Sonoran Desert (Phoenix) and experienced the record high 122F in 1990. 

And yet I can't sleep at night! As I type this it is 92F and I've just closed our wooden shutters (we do this after opening all the doors and windows at 6 a.m., to let the cool air flow into our home). But this morning, crossing the garden on my way to feed the chickens, la chaleur stopped me in my tracks. Paused there on the scorched yellow grass, I thought back to my beau-frère's warning last week: "It is going to get so hot that there won't even be relief during the night--when things normally cool down!"

NO COOL DOWN
Since the heatwave began, we've lost 3 fish--all found floating on the top of the warmed water in our fountain-pond (shaded by a giant tree...). As horrible as it was to discover the fish, it is a swift reminder to keep our eyes on those who are older than us, those younger than us, and to look out for our pets during the heatwave. I keep checking on my Mom, who assures me all is well (she lived in Mexico the last 22 years--sans la climatisation!).

But what was my surprise when my daughter, Jackie, checked on me. After holding her hand against my skin, she told me to get right into a cold shower. Tout de suite!)

Earlier, I moved our hens' water dish (it hangs from the olive tree, and receives the morning sun!) to an area with full shade. Still, the hens--and all of our wild doves who Mom has trained--are panting. Have you ever seen an overheated bird? They hold their beaks open and their tongues flutter like mini fans... (Note, the hens did not enjoy being sprayed with our garden hose but it seemed a good idea--even when it almost sent them over the fence and onto the street--so desperate were they do get away from the spritz!)

Unfortunately, our domestic birds can't head to the beach at 8 a.m. as Jean-Marc and I did this morning--joining dozens of locals who were beating the heat with the help of the cool sea.

OUR CAR IS MELTING?
OK, that's it--or almost all I wanted to say today. Once home from the beach we began the work day. Jean-Marc has an important appointment at 11 am, only, on his way to our car he noticed it was melting! What now?

(What now? How the term brings me back to our vineyard, before we sold it and moved to La Ciotat to rest and recuperate...)

What now? we thought, seeing a thin liquid pouring from our car's carrosserie. Perplexed, both of us stuck our heads under the car, only to come away as confused as before. That's when Jean-Marc cupped his right hand and placed it beneath the car to collect the liquid. After a sniff or two, he licked his wet palm.

It's wine! he confirmed.

Wine? (Next, my husband reached into the back seat, to find one of the bottles from a case of rosé he had just stowed had broken). It all brought me back, once again, to our vineyard--where wine all but poured from our taps! Wine everywhere! (and here, now, flowing out of our car!!).

I used to say that the universe was playing some sort of joke, moving our family to a vineyard after I made the decision to quit drinking. If you have not yet begun reading our book-in-progress, now is as good a time as any to jump right in--because things are heating up, just like the canicular air inside this room where I am signing off from this latest post. Time to run through the sprinklers--and take the chickens, the dog, and Mom with me!

Amicalement,

Kristi

* a matter of perspective. The first time around, I misunderstood the man at the farmers market. He may have been saying that the heat is an 'illusion'. But I can now say, it's no illusion! Keep cool and 'see you' all in the next edition. (Then again, if I 'see you all'...in this heat...that would amount to a mirage!

FRENCH VOCABULARY
une vue de l'esprit = an illusion
la canicule = heatwave
la chaleur = heat
le beau-frère = brother-in-law
la climatisation = air conditioning
la carrosserie = car body
amicalement = yours 

Kristi around the age of 30
I was around 33 years old in this photo, taken on New Year's Eve after a few drinks. Unfortunately for some, like me, a few drinks leads to a few more or one too many. Find out what led to my decision to quit, in Chapter 5 of our memoir-in-progress. Click here to purchase it, and begin reading right away.

I leave you with a message I woke up to this morning:

I have a special admiration for those in recovery and sobriety. Your difficult personal journey transformed you into a healthier Kristi and your commitment and work benefit not just your family but everyone, including your readers! I have been reading your blog, gosh, probably 6- 7 years, and I gleaned from the get-go a wisdom, frankness and “living in the now/one day at a time” sensibility from the start. --Julie Borders

Thank you, Julie! 

Has a friend forwarded you this post? Receive your own FREE subscription to French Word-A-Day. Click here

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me to continue doing what I love most: sharing vocabulary and cultural insights via these personal stories from France. Your contribution is vivement appréciée! Donating via PayPal is easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! Kristi
 
♥ Send $10    
♥ Send $25    
♥Send the amount of your choice

"Bonjour, Kristin, I have enjoyed your blog now for a great number of years, watching your children grow up, your moves from house to house, enjoying your stories and photos and your development as a writer. It's way past time for me to say MERCI with a donation to your blog...which I've done today. Bien amicalement!"--Gabrielle


Seize the day (then write about it!) Une causerie with writer Sylvain Tesson at Château de Pibarnon

Image003


The above is part of the invitation Jean-Marc and I received, to attend a most inspiring causerie. Read about it in today's chronique....

Today's Word: une causerie

    : une causerie is an informal talk by an interpreter, given in a familiar tone and often accompanied by a demonstration, a theatrical animation, a slide show, etc.

Click here to listen to the example definition in French

Une causerie est une conférence informelle d'un interprète, faite sur un ton familier et qui est souvent accompagnée d'une démonstration, d'une animation théâtrale, d'un diaporama, etc.

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

'Beyond Fiction'

A somewhat fractured compte-rendu for you today...as I'm anxious to post Chapter 5 of our memoir (and promise to this afternoon)...

Compte rendu
, just the word to dive into today récit, about a talk Jean-Marc and I attended on Sunday. Mille mercis to Eric de Saint Victor, Anne-Laure Couralet, and the friendly team at Château de Pibarnon, for introducing us to an adventurer, philosopher, and geographer--and especially the writer Sylvain Tesson.

Screenshot_20190624-195457

Éric de Saint Victor welcoming his guests.

There in the chateau's poetic Orangerie looking down through the pines to the Mediterranean, the sea breeze cooling the room, some 100 fans were captured by the guest of honor, Sylvain Tesson, during an interview or causerie by fellow author Sébastien Lapaque.

As an autodidact whose writing practice intensified when this blog began, I found yesterday's causerie inspiring. I could relate to Sylvain Tesson, who says he has never written fiction. And yet, 30 published books under his belt, and he enjoys (literally finds joy) in writing essays, comptes rendus, chroniques and, perhaps especially, in keeping up his journal intime.

How that brings me back to my own diaries, set aside when I began this blog--this 17-year warm-up for the novel I fear I should write if I am to be considered a 'real' writer.

MVIMG_20190623_163525
Nonsense! Sylvain Tesson might say. He doesn't see the point in labels--or even the need to write fiction or an epic novel--not when everyday life is filled with experiences that are beyond fiction. As he spoke, my mind drifted back to early that morning, when a dragonfly alighted on my hand as I reached into our fountain to fill a watering can. Those 10 seconds were epic. The glint and glimmer of the libellule's wings were like cathedral glass; the insect's long pause on my skin reminded me of a conversation with a friend who'd lost her mother. Before her mother passed away, my friend said to her: Send me a message when you reach the other side, Mum. But how will I know it is you?

I will be everywhere in nature, her mother answered, in the squirrel that runs across the grass, in the bird that flies past...(and, I wondered, remembering my friend's mother--who was also my dear friend, Kate--was she here...in this mysterious dragonfly, with the great big eyes?). 

I so wanted to write an essay about the dragonfly encounter, yet--in the order of priorities--I needed to finish my current chapter!

What would Sylvain Tesson say about all of this? (This and transparency. Something I've struggled with in the writing of our vineyard story, having torn out three-quarters of the last chapter).  I don't know what Monsieur Tesson would say, I did not have the chance to ask him. But one other thing he talked about that resonated deeply, was this: the betterment of his writing. That is: he does not or has not measured his advancement as a writer nor does he think he has advanced. His writing today, he trusts, is the same as when he began journaling, chronicling, essaying, as a young man. 

Notre dame
Sylvain Tesson's 80-page tribute to Notre Dame de Paris after the fire.

As or me, I like to think that with all this writing we learn ways in which to better express ourselves. So write, write, write!

But I need to learn to relax! relax, relax! It brings me back to striving, something I spoke about in a previous edition, about a sabbatical. Take away striving and what are we left with?

Purity, innocence, and perhaps even beauty? (And peace and rest and tranquility!) This, according to Sylvain Tesson is a lesson he learned later in life, after catapulting himself--literally by his own to feet--to far off places in search of happiness. Most people know, he said, that happiness is right in front of us, if only we will stop to look around. Happiness is in the familier. And yet we strive for novelty.

Which brings us back to novels.... or writing.

As Sylvain would agree, joy is jotting down--in a little carnet, or calpin--the record of one's day: a day that is first lived organically (physically?), and then lived again, on paper, as we retell the adventures of our journée. Just knowing that we will be writing them down at the end of the day influences our decisions--the decision, for example, to seize the opportunities that come our way.

I have only told you about Sylvain Tesson's writing and not his favorite subjects. You can discover his adventures, his philosophy, his deep love for trees and rocks and nature, in these books, Including the original French versions. He has won many awards and surely many hearts, by his example.

Tesson consolations
 

*   *   *

Sylvain Tesson and I have one more thing in common. I was deeply moved to hear him speak (at a vineyard, before a crowd of wine-lovers...) of his own adieu to drinking. And that is the story I've been struggling to write in Chapter 5. If you have not yet begun reading our memoir The Lost Gardens, please join us now by ordering here. Your purchase is the best motivation to complete the next chapter--and the next.... Merci beaucoup!

FRENCH VOCABULARY

un compte-rendu = report
le récit = story, tale, account
une causerie = talk, conversation, chat
mille mercis = a thousand thanks
orangerie = orangery = a room, often with large oval-topped windows, in which citrus fruits are protected in winter

la chronique = chronicle
journal intime=diary
une libelulle = dragonfly

le carnet or le calepin = notebook

Vivre
I purchased a few of Sylvain's books, including this one: Abandon yourself to life!

View from chateau de pibarnon
At the breathtaking Château de Pibarnon, more here.

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"Bonjour, Kristin, I have enjoyed your blog now for a great number of years, watching your children grow up, your moves from house to house, enjoying your stories and photos and your development as a writer. It's way past time for me to say MERCI with a donation to your blog...which I've done today. Bien amicalement!"--Gabrielle


Ephemere (Jean-Marc is taking over today's post...)

Jean-Marc Espinasse and his Oregon wine Ephemere Ephemera
With my new Lover : Ephemera :)
 
Today's Word: "éphémère" 
 
  - Qui est de courte durée, cesse vite.
  - That which is short-lived, stops quickly

Click here to listen to the soundfile for today's word



A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE... by Jean-Marc Espinasse

Ephemeral... like this unusual short edition. When, this morning, I asked Kristi to mention that a few cases of my Willamette Valley Pinot Noir Natural Wine (Ephemera) were still available in the US, she offered to let me write today's post.

Actually, I could also have used "écriture" as the word of the day since writing is also now part of my life, telling chapter by chapter in our common book, The Lost Gardens, the whole story of losing the Mas des Brun "promised land". And since Kristi is about to unveil an important part of her life in our online book, I will let her concentrate on her chapter today... by elaborating this French Word-A-Day promotional edition...
 
Summer is about to knock on our doors and if you are looking for a fresh, light, easy drinking red wine that can actually be enjoyed cool, Ephemera is just what you are looking for.

A few weeks ago, I had the great surprise of having a quote on the local Willamette Week Newspaper. Jordan Michelman wrote a very accurate note that you can read here. This tasting note will objectively tell you more about this special wine.

To get some Ephémère within the USA (if you live in a State that accepts wine shipments), you can contact Avalon Wines (marcus@northwest-wine.com - (503) 206-8589).

If you live in the beautiful area of Portland OR, go to Providore, 2340 NE Sandy - (503) 232-1010 or Pastaworks at City Market, 735 NW 21Street - (503) 221-3002 to get some (give a call before to make sure there are some on the shelves).

At last, for Europe, please contact me at jm.espinasse@gmail.com

Thank you all of you for the already great support and feedback I had on Ephemera. A special "remerciement" for our Dear Friends Chris and George who posted the picture below with a note :

"Your Ephemera is really good. The essence of this wine lingers on the palate".
 
Chris
To wrap up this edition, I would like to say that this ephemeral wine project in Oregon has really helped me to continue turning the page of the painful Mas des Brun "fiasco", in giving me a chance to make wine, even with no more winery of my own. And writing The Lost Gardens will hopefully permit me to definitely close this unforgettable chapter of my life...
 
Cheers,
Jean-Marc
 
FRENCH VOCABULARY
éphémère = fleeting, short-lived, ephemeral. Ephemere is also the word for a pop-up shop or store
l'écriture = writing
le remerciement = thanks, acknowledgment

(from the text below the illustration)
un sac de noeuds = complex situation
chute de manne = type of fish bait (chute = drop manne = mayfly...and also manna)
 
BowlkersArtofAnglingFrontpiece_Mayflies
Les Ephémères. Mayflies from Charles and Richard Bowlker's Art of Angling, 1854. 2. "Blue Dun" mayfly. 3. "March Brown" mayfly
Kristi here... Did you know that the French word éphémère also means mayfly in English? Those winged insects are known for their short, fleeting (ephemeral) life.  According to Wikipedia, In pre-1950s France, "chute de manne" was obtained by pressing mayflies into cakes and using them as bird food and fishbait. I love the serendipity of this word, as Jean-Marc is a newbie fisherman--and passionate about it, along with all  of the pros and cons... (Hit the arrow in the middle of the screen, below, to see our son Max, along with Jean-Marc, trying to sort out a tangled line or 'un sac des noeuds'.) Follow along on Instagram, where these stories from our family life continue in between the weekly posts :-)

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Ongoing support from readers like you helps me to continue doing what I love most: sharing vocabulary and cultural insights via these personal stories from France. Your contribution is vivement appréciée! Donating via PayPal is easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! Kristi
 
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"Bonjour, Kristin, I have enjoyed your blog now for a great number of years, watching your children grow up, your moves from house to house, enjoying your stories and photos and your development as a writer. It's way past time for me to say MERCI with a donation to your blog...which I've done today. Bien amicalement!"--Gabrielle


le congé sabbatique, career break

Les lecques
Vacationers in the neighboring town of Cassis, France

Today's Word: le congé

    : leave, time off
    : sabbatical, career break

Sound file: Click here to listen to the following sentence:

(En France...) Toute personne ayant au moins six années d'activité professionnelle et ayant passé au moins 36 mois dans son entreprise actuelle peut bénéficier de ce type de congé sabbatique. -Wikipedia

(In France...) Anyone with at least six years of professional activity and having spent at least 36 months in their current business can benefit from this type of sabbatical leave.


A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

The other day, staring dreamily out of my bedroom window (instead of working on upcoming deadlines), I thought about the concept of un congé sabbatique....

Outside, I could see my chickens and all of the turtledoves that congregate around our poulailler. What a life they live! Their bare feet in the rich soil, they hunt for savory treats all day long. Une vie gourmande! When they tire of snacking, the hens settle down, tummies on the cool ground, where they begin their daily dirt bath. As rays of sunshine stream through the giant pin parasols above, the birds turn over on the ground until their entire feathered bodies are covered in dust. 

Next comes a little aerobic activity as they flail their wings and hop around until all the poussière has flown off--along with any unwelcome hosts (puces). Finally, a little drink from the hanging reservoir and it's now time to bask in the sun, one's newly clean chest feathers puffed out for all the other birds to admire. 
Kristi feeding hens

Admiration. Is this why I strive so hard? Are my own gleaming feathers disguised as polished prose? I can trace it back to school days. As a bad student, I nearly failed high school. But once I got into the university (under probation), and began striving for straight A's--those grades defined me, or at the very least improved my self-esteem. I strove and strove. and graduated with honors in French.

After moving to France and having children, I was floundering again...until I took up writing and set up stress-inducing deadlines (similar to those due dates in school!). Like those straight A's, the feedback I began to receive from readers fueled me and kept me going for longer than I might have - had I filed away my unpolished stories in a folder and shut the drawer. 

Two decades after beginning this writing practice, I am thinking, once again, about a break--un congé...even une année sabbatique. Only, there never seems to be a convenient time to stop. (Coincidently, it felt the same way when I decided to quit drinking. There was never a convenient time to quit (suddenly we'd receive a dinner invitation--or there would be a milestone to celebrate--as the French do--with champagne!).

This all brings me to Chapter 5 of our memoir, a section of the story in which I am trying to write about what happened when I quit drinking in 2003: Incredibly enough, two years into my sobriety, my husband found a vineyard for sale. And that is when we went into the wine business....

Talk about an inconvenience. And yet, 5,971 days of sobriety later and--as the lyrics of Elton John--I'm still standing. Je suis toujours debout. (Propped up with the help of my trusty pen. Which is why a sabbatical from writing might not be such a good idea afterall :-)

*   *   *
Special thanks to those of you who are reading our chapter-by-chapter book-in-progress. We could not write this vineyard memoir without you. Knowing that you are counting on the next chapter update keeps us on our toes!!  More about our vineyard memoir here. 


FRENCH VOCABULARY
un congé sabbatique = time off, sabatical break
le poulailler = henhouse
le pin parasol = stone pine tree
une vie gourmande = the self-indulgent life
la poussière  = dust
la puce = flea
je suis toujours debout = I'm still standing

Doves by the sea in la ciotat
Doves by the sea in La Ciotat... I love this image of freedom.

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Ongoing support from readers like you helps me to continue doing what I love most: sharing vocabulary and cultural insights via these personal stories from France. Your contribution is vivement appréciée! Donating via PayPal is easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! Kristi
 
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"Bonjour, Kristin, I have enjoyed your blog now for a great number of years, watching your children grow up, your moves from house to house, enjoying your stories and photos and your development as a writer. It's way past time for me to say MERCI with a donation to your blog...which I've done today. Bien amicalement!"--Gabrielle


On June 6, 1944, 1,213 warships (battleships, destroyers ...), 736 support ships, 864 freighters and 4,126 gears and barges land 20,000 vehicles and 156,000 men on the beaches of Normandy.

Finding Gilbert front cover
Diane Covington-Carter’s memoir, Finding Gilbert, a Promise Fulfilled, recently won a Gold award at the Society of American Travel Writer’s Western Chapter meeting in Tucson Arizona. The faculty at the University of Missouri School of Journalism wrote:

“This is a gripping travel memoir of how childhood stories of World War II turn into a quest. A lot of travel is driven by the quest for answers–and this book fulfills that desire to find the truth in faraway places. This piece about a father’s love and
fulfilling a promise to a French war orphan is well done, and a recommended read.” Click here to order.

Into the Jaws of Death, photo by Robert F. Sargent
Into the Jaws of Death, photo by Robert F. Sargent

On June 6, 1944, 1,213 warships (battleships, destroyers ...), 736 support ships, 864 freighters and 4,126 boats and barges land 20,000 vehicles and 156,000 men on the beaches of Normandy.

Le 6 juin 1944, 1 213 bateaux de guerre (cuirassés, destroyers…), 736 navires de soutien, 864 cargos et 4 126 engins et péniches débarquent 20 000 véhicules et 156 000 hommes sur les plages de Normandie. (Text via Wikipedia... the 'merci' you hear at the end is from Jean-Marc)

Click here to listen to today's example sentence


IN MEMORY

So many of you have stories to share about family members who braved the shores of Normandy on this unforgettable day in history; June 6th, 1944. The comments box is open, now, for anything you might want to share--in honor of those who have sacrificed their lives for others.

Gilberts family and Diane Covington-Carter

Mille mercis to Diane Covington-Carter (pictured right, with Gilbert's family), for sponsoring today's post. Be sure to check out Diane's memoirs on France, including the hightly enjoyable Eight Months in Provence.

Covington-Carter, an award-winning journalist, has attended the 50 th , 60 th and 70 th anniversaries of D-Day. She will be in France for the 75 th anniversary and will be writing many stories for magazines and newspapers. Finding Gilbert, a Promise Fulfilled is her third memoir, and you can read more about it here.

Has a friend forwarded you this post? Receive your own FREE subscription to French Word-A-Day. Click here

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me to continue doing what I love most: sharing vocabulary and cultural insights via these personal stories from France. Your contribution is vivement appréciée! Donating via PayPal is easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! Kristi
 
♥ Send $10    
♥ Send $25    
♥Send the amount of your choice

"Bonjour, Kristin, I have enjoyed your blog now for a great number of years, watching your children grow up, your moves from house to house, enjoying your stories and photos and your development as a writer. It's way past time for me to say MERCI with a donation to your blog...which I've done today. Bien amicalement!"--Gabrielle


To flip somebody off in French

Beach in la ciotat (2)
Today's spicy story takes place here along the boardwalk in La Ciotat...

faire un doigt d'honneur à quelqu'un

    : to flip somebody off

Click here to listen to the following sentence


The driver--a woman in her 50s--flipped us off.
La conductrice--une femme d'une cinquantaine d'années--nous a fait un doigt d'honneur.


A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse


Oh, this wind! It's Day 2 of Le Mistral and this morning my husband actually said a prayer to protect us from people's humeur or moods!

Cranky, irritable, rude--my daughter and I witnessed the gamut yesterday, after Jackie invited me for Mothers Day lunch.
(Our 21-year-old is back home from Colorado and, having worked all season at The Ritz Carlton--where she won an award for excellence in service!--she is now waitressing on the beach. She'll work sept sur sept and long hours all summer, but she doesn't mind. The only thing is, we are finding it difficult to spend time together--and we didn't see each other at all last Sunday, which was Fête des Mères here in France.)

At a local restaurant here in La Ciotat, Jackie and I chose indoor seating after seeing the dining room was almost empty (nice and quiet). But once we sat down, we heard the blaring radio. So when the waitress appeared, I asked if she would mind turning down the music...just a little bit.

'Well, hopefully not so low that the rest of us can't enjoy it,' she snapped, before barging off. 

Alors, laissez-le! I snapped right back (was the Mistral wind getting to me too?). Jackie told me to shush, and we brushed off the initial greeting...but not for long.

'Vous avez de la daurade?' Do you have sea bream on the menu, I asked, searching for the familiar fish.

'Il faut regarder.' You'll have to look, came the cheeky answer, as the waitress pointed to the menu. 

'But it is usually your specialty', I countered.

'I don't know. I usually work at the bar,' came the reply. Next, the waitress stomped off to check with the chef. I widened my eyes, making eye contact with the couple in the next table, who seemed as baffled as we were.

Bon, I said to Jackie. Let's just get cheeseburgers and enjoy our time together. From that point on, we were extra nice to the waitress, who must have been having a bad day. Jackie left her a nice tip and we left, to stroll along the boardwalk, arm in arm.

Returning home, we jaywalked across the street--as every local does--only the car coming towards us would not slow down. I looked beyond le pare-brise and saw a middle-aged woman at the wheel. Jackie made eye contact, too, and added a few choice words directed at the driver who, having let us pass, abruptly blared her horn. Turning we watched the driver reach out of the window....

And flip us off!

Elle nous a fait un doigt! Un doigt d'honneur! I said. I can't believe it! Who would flip off a mother and daughter walking arm and arm? That is so bizarre!

Jackie didn't seem to find it so unusual. Laughing, she offered, Maman. Ça a pimenté notre sortie mère-fille

Looking at it from my daughter's angle, I lightened up. True, it only spiced up our mother-daughter outting.

***
Book update:
Speaking of spice, things are heating up in our memoir! Midway into chapter 4, this is the perfect time to jump in and read our book-in-progress. Read about it, here. 

FRENCH VOCABULARY
le Mistral = a cold and strong northwesternly wind
sept sur sept = seven days a week 
la Fête des Mères = Mothers Day
alors = well then
laissez-le = leave it
Vous avez toujours de la daurade = do you still have sea bream?
le pare-brise = windshield
pimenter=to spice up


WINE TASTING IN MARSEILLE
Jean-Marc will be pouring his latest wine, Ephemera, at Le Vin Sobre wine shop where he works. You can also taste a selection of some of the other wines on offer--this June 6th at 6pm.
2, av. Maréchal de Lattre de Tassigny
13009 MARSEILLE
Tél. 04 91 30 68 35 

Ephemera wine by  Eileen DeCamp
Thanks, Eileen deCamp, for this wonderful picture of Jean-Marc's Ephemera wine!

Has a friend forwarded you this post? Receive your own FREE subscription to French Word-A-Day. Click here

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me to continue doing what I love most: sharing vocabulary and cultural insights via these personal stories from France. Your contribution is vivement appréciée! Donating via PayPal is easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! Kristi
 
♥ Send $10    
♥ Send $25    
♥Send the amount of your choice

"Bonjour, Kristin, I have enjoyed your blog now for a great number of years, watching your children grow up, your moves from house to house, enjoying your stories and photos and your development as a writer. It's way past time for me to say MERCI with a donation to your blog...which I've done today. Bien amicalement!"--Gabrielle