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Entries from September 2015

Yeast in French... and in wine + next Bandol winetastings

Winemaker Jean-Marc Espinasse
Photo of Jean-Marc taken in 2008, after his first year of making wine in the Rhone Valley. Seven years and two vineyards later, he is in his element here in Bandol, where his natural rosé will be released in 2016!

TODAY'S WORD: levure

    : yeast

la levure chimique = baking powder, chemical leavening
la levure de bière = brewer's yeast
la levure sèche = dry yeast
la levure de boulanger = baker's yeast

ECOUTEZ/LISTEN
Hear Jean-Marc pronounce these French words:
Download MP3 or Wav

La levure. Les vins que je pense élaborer seront naturels, ce qui veut dire levure indigène, et pas de souffre ajouté, pour refléter notre joli terroir.

Yeast. The wines I plan to elaborate will be natural, which means indigenous yeasts, and no added sulfur to reflect our beautiful terroir.

Nov2014Mas de Perdrix. A home in France that artists and writers love to rent.  Work on your creative project in this inspiring environment.



A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE

Hi there,
 
You may know me as "Miss France", "Chief Grape" or "Mr Sacks" but actually, I am  Kristi's husband and my name is Jean-Marc. Kristi has asked me to talk about our new vineyard project at Mas des Brun, which actually started 3 years ago and which is, step by step, taking shape.
 
In 2014, we have planted 0.5 Ha (1.25 Acre) of Mourvedre and Cinsault grapes and this year, we have planted 0.8 Ha (2 acres) of Mourvedre, Cinsault and a bit of Ugni Blanc. Eventually, we plan to plant 3.5 Ha (8.75 acres) at the end of 2017 to produce only rose wines in the Bandol Appellation.

We are farming our vines organically with Biodynamics methods. The wines I plan to elaborate will be natural, which means indigenous yeasts and no added sulfur, to reflect our beautiful terroir. I plan to make a light and high acidity rosé wine to enjoy drinking casually.

Jean-marc-starts-the-yeast-process
Jean-Marc starts the natural yeast process at our previous winery, Domaine Rouge-Bleu

Our first official harvest will be in 2016 with only a maximum of 220 cases produced. Most of them will be sold locally but some will also cross the Atlantic.

Mas des Brun comes from "Brun" which is an olive varietal so we also have centenary olive trees which should produce enough fruit to make a decent olive oil production, after having been severely pruned two years ago. At last, we have a few bee hives to make a bit of honey and make this place as harmonious as possible.

Beehives-at-Mas-des-Brun
       Bee hives at Mas des Brun

Our vineyard is also our home, so it is private, but we often organize wine tasting upon appointment. Next ones are October 3rd, October 14th and October 19th where we taste some wines I made at Domaine Rouge-Bleu and some rose I made last year sourcing some grapes from local friendly vineyards. You are welcome to sign up for one of these events.  Kristi and I hope to see you.

Cheers,

Chief Grape

Jean-marc-santorini
Beneath a roof of dried grape stems, Jean-Marc and the agronomist discuss  natural winemaking and permaculture at Hatzidakis winery during our trip to  Greece

September-winetasting

Our most recent winetasting grew and grew and included two wine writers Katherine Cole and Robert Camuto. You will enjoy their books:

Katherine Cole's Complete Wine Selector: How to Choose The Right Wine Every Time

Complete-wine

To read the wonderful reviews of Katherine's book, and to order, click here.

Corkscrewed

And Robert Camuto's book Corkscrewed: Adventures in the New French Wine Country See the excellent reviews and order Robert's books, here

OCTOBER WINETASTINGS
We have added one more winetasting to our October calendar.
=> Contact jm.espinasse@gmail.com to reserve your seat.

October 3rd, 11 a.m.
October 14th, 3 p.m.
October 19th, 3:30 p.m.

Jean-Marc-watering

Watering his baby vines during last summer's heatwave. Thank you for reading and for sharing this post with a friend. And thanks for checking out our sponsors: 

Sablet home for high quality vacation rentals in the heart of Provence.

COMMENTS
To leave a comment, click here. For more words in a French life, click here.

 

Thank you for the time you've spent reading my column. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next story, please know that ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue doing what I love most: sharing these missives from France. Your support is vivement apprécié! Donating via PayPal is fast and easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! Kristi 
♥ Send $10    
  ♥ Send $25    
    ♥ Send the amount of your choice


"I have enjoyed this blog for years and watched your children grow up. You are staying strong through all the changes. Merci pour tout."
--Betty D.


Join us here at home + A Santorini Caper

Gary-group-winetasting

Join us tomorrow at 3:30 pm for a winetasting. Jean-Marc and I are happy to welcome you here (near Bandol). Confirm at jm.espinasse@gmail.com

More tasting dates: October 3rd and October 19. Email the address above, for more info.

TODAY'S WORD: la câpre

    : caper

le câprier = caper plant

ECOUTEZ/LISTEN
Listen to Jean-Marc pronounce these French words:
Download MP3 or Wav

Il y a longtemps on trouvait des capres dans les restanques de Provence, mais aujourd'hui ils ne sont plus cultivées, car ils ne sont plus rentables. A long time ago you could find capers among the rock wall terraces of Provence, but today they are no longer cultivated, as they are no longer profitable.

 

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

I first discovered caper leaves while eating lunch at Sigalas vineyard in Santorini. Having crashed my sister's Greek vacation, I was now calculating how many pieces of charcuterie I could slide onto my plate without seeming greedy. I noticed how Heidi and her friends enjoyed ordering many dishes and sharing them--an amicable practice to be sure--but for those who are impatient and food obsessed, it is torture to hold back in the name of good manners when your eyes are begging to try two of everything!

Heidi-kim-friends

When a plate of appetizers was passed to me, I chose one slice of pastourma, a match stick of goat's cheese and a sliver of roasted red pepper--regretfully leaving the salami that shouted "take me! take me!" Somebody else would appreciate it getting it. And sure enough, my husband snapped it up as soon as the plate circled back to him, adding it to the unrestricted choices he had made earlier and washing it all down with white wine!

Grrh! I sipped on my fizzy water, and ate slowly while keeping an eye on the next platter. "I think those are caper leaves!" my friend Kim said, passing me a plate of pureed fava beans (really split peas--but that's another story!). "Try them!"

I scooped up a (small) serving of puree, adding one--oh heck, three!--dark green marinated leaves to my plate. The pureed beans being garnished with chopped red onion, I grabbed those too.

One of the mysteries of life is this: you never know where or when a new passion will hit. And just like that you hunger to discover all you can about something to which you once gave short shrift. Chewing on those tender round leaves set the mechanics of my mind in motion: capers! I must know more about capers! And isn't it funny how the moment you become aware of something it appears around every corner?

Walking back to our rented apartment, looking out over the volcanic cliff to the turquoise sea, I noticed a magnificent specimen jutting from the rocky falaise. There it was! The caper plant! So that is what it looked like? Beautiful!

After the first sighting, I accompanied Jean-Marc to another vineyard. As a colleague at Hatzidakis Winery presented the organic domain, I looked around and noted many signs of permaculture - from the composting banana peels and withering zucchini tossed into the vines at the entrance--to the office trailer which sported a second roof (a thick layer of grape stems! Instead of tossing them, the stems were used to insulate the building) this winery was obviously sensitive to nature, and here was someone who could surely tell me more about capers! A plant that will take on more and more importance in the coming years of climate change (capers like arid soil and can grow out of a rock!).

As my husband drank in every word about his new favorite Santori wine, I dared cut into the conversation. "Excuse me, but could you please tell me something about capers?" Eyeing Jean-Marc, I said my mea culpas - pleading with him to be patient. He'd had his wine, now let me have my capers!

The vineyard man smiled. "Nobody has succeeded in cultivating capers on the island. You won't find caper farms here. The plants are wild!"

"I've managed to find some seeds," I explained, telling about the pod I'd harvested from a plant outside a tourist town.

"Good luck planting them in France," he said. "If they grow here, it is the local ants that help them along."

I imagined the ants consuming the seeds and leaving the droppings deep in the crevaces of the rock walls where these plants (weeds, really) grow. "Well, we have plenty of ants! I announced. Argentinian ants!" If an argentinian ant can conquer France, it will surely know what to do with these historic seeds.

Capparis-spinosa
"Illustration Capparis spinosa0" by Otto Wilhelm Thomé (1840-1925) - Flora von Deutschland Österreich und der Schweiz, via Wikipedia

That night in bed I began a google frenzy and learned even more about capers, notably their medicinal value. Those who suffer from arthritis (rheumatism) and gout would do well to increase their consumption of capers! I would be adding the berries and leaves to my husband's meals very soon!

I returned home with several bottles of pickled capers and caper leaves - and those precious seeds! No sooner had we touched down in Marseilles, but I was in our back yard making mud balls.

"Seed bombs," I noted, posting the pictures on my Instagram, where I like to record the progress of our garden. Seed bombs are used by guerrilla gardeners:

The first seed grenades were made from balloons filled with tomato seeds, and fertilizer. They were tossed over fences onto empty lots in New York City in order to make the neighborhoods look better. It was the start of the guerrilla gardeningmovement. (Wikipedia)

 

  Caper-plant

Pictured: The first caper plant spotted outside our hotel and the seedpod I harvested from another plant. And there are the seedbombs I made with some green clay from my medicine cabinet, two parts soil from our vineyard and a sprinkling of seeds (the rest of the seeds were saved for another try at planting, this fall and next spring!)

It felt so good to have mud on my hands and to breathe in the scent of childhood, when passions came so quickly and when we followed them anywhere, without fear!  

So much more to say about capers, we have only scratched the surface. But I am out of breath now, having blurted out all I've learned so far.  Once I settle down, I will send more updates on Facebook or Instagram, if you would like to join me there, and please do!

I leave you with our anniversary picture and the message I left Jean-Marc, on returning from Greece. And yesterday, I got the perfect anniversary gift: three caper plants from our local nursery. Sure, I had already planted seeds, but, as the French say:

Il faut  mettre toutes les chances de notre côté! One must put all luck on our side! How true this is for plants and even for a marriage. (No! More than luck, marriage is patience and tolerance and love and forgiveness. The same ingredients I will use to tend my baby capriers!)

Anniversary-kiss

Happy anniversary, Jean-Marc. I remember walking down the street with you, in my neighborhood in The Valley of the Sun, and seeing that the brightest light was walking right beside me! Looking up at you, I recognized a dazzling star and I wondered if I could ever reach it (that is, did you like me too?). I am still amazed, 23 years later, that you continue to hold out your hand for me, so that I may join you on the all mountain tops toward which you climb. Sometimes I've gone kicking and screaming, but, more and more I go with steps of gratitude. And I wake up each day wondering what I would ever do without you.

CAPERS, BOOKS, AND MORE!
When you shop at Amazon you help to support this free word journal at no extra cost to you.  Order anything from caper leaves to French CDs. Simply click on my book page link, here, and then type what you are looking for in the Amazon search box. Thank you for keeping this in mind, next time you shop, and thanks for your support. Click here to shop.

Smelling the scent of capers and caper bush on santorini island Greece leather sandals

Thank you for the time you've spent reading my column. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next story, please know that ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue doing what I love most: sharing these missives from France. Your support is vivement apprécié! Donating via PayPal is fast and easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! Kristi 
♥ Send $10    
  ♥ Send $25    
    ♥ Send the amount of your choice


"I have enjoyed this blog for years and watched your children grow up. You are staying strong through all the changes. Merci pour tout."
--Betty D.


Depaysement: A Change of Scenery unlocks inspiration

1-Mas des Brun wedding anniversary

We would be so happy to see you at our winetasting this Saturday, September 26th at 3pm. RSVP to jm.espinasse@gmail.com (Photo taken for our 20th wedding anniversary, here at home last year. We celebrate 21 years tomorrow!)

WORD OF THE DAY: Dépaysement

    : change of scene, disorientation, culture shock

=> dépaysement is often used  in a positive sense, for "a change of scenery"

ECOUTEZ/ LISTEN
Hear Jean-Marc pronounce this example sentence:
Download MP3 or Wav


Le dépaysement. Ce séjour sur l'ile de Santorini a été un grand dépaysement. Maintenant, si vous voulez vous dépaysez, venez à notre winetasting ce samedi 26 septembre. Change of scene. The stay on Santorini island was a great change of scenery. Now, if you would like a change of scene, come to our winetasting on Saturday, September 26th.

 



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

It turned out to be a very good idea, inviting myself along for my sister's Greek vacation. Sometimes you have to oser, or dare to ask what you secretly wish for. And when Heidi and her fiancé, Brian, agreed they would be happy for us to join them, my husband booked tickets from Marseilles to Athens, and on to the volcanic rock island of Santorini!

Jm-kristi-heidi-brian
  Jean-Marc, Kristi, Heidi, and Brian

Jean-Marc also found us an apartment perched above the port of Ammoudi - a deal at 100 euros a day. We stayed five nights. To get to our nest, high up in the volcanic branches of the ancient port, we passed several fish taverns and climbed a series of steps so steep that they might as well have been rungs on a ladder or verticle fish nets! Would we tip backwards and fall into the bay, only to be fished out by the octopus hunters? No, we would reach our destination in time to unpack and sample the fresh grilled squid!

Heidi-and-friends
Chris, Kelly, Randy, Merry, Kim, Randy, Heidi and Brian

On the second day we met my sister, her fiancé, Brian, and friends on the catamaran they had rented for the week, in celebration of one of their birthdays (happy 60th, Merry!). And it was on that boat that my shrinkwrapped world began to loosen and expand.  From that first swim with my sister in the salty mediterranean waters, and the laughter of friends--to the many steps we took trekking across the whitewashed villages, a quiet transformation was taking place inside of me - until eureka! - a fountain of inspiration sprang forth on the flight home.
 
Kristi-capers
Falling in love with the useful, medicinal caper plant, in Santorini

If I now had a new passion and, finally, an overdue pitch for a magazine article it was thanks to the rough and steep terrain which gives way to aromatic Greek cuisine and an ancient mode of transport!  (There are no cars in the village of Oia, but you could hire a donkey or a mule....)

Santorini-mules


As for the new passion, I will tell you more about that soon. For now I am off to pitch a story to--of all places--a car and travel magazine! Wish me bonne chance. If all goes well I will be able to experience and share a quirky new adventure with you very soon! (For a hint of the subject see this photo at the top of the previous post).

Warmest wishes from Bandol, where it is now time for a Greek-inspired lunch--right after giving thanks for this enlivening dépaysement. May you, too, enjoy a change of scene very soon!

Amicalement,
Kristi 

COMMENTS
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BLOSSOMING-IN-PROVENCEBlossoming in Provence. When you purchase a copy of my book, you help to support this free word journal - and you help a friend to improve their French. Order a copy here for un(e) ami(e). Merci beaucoup!




Dogs-of-santorini
I loved photographing each of these dogs, spotted in or near the town of Oia, Santorini. And it was heartening to see the many bowls of water and food left out for them by the ever-hospitable locals. Visit Greece!  See all of the photos from our Greek vacation, click here.

Thank you for the time you've spent reading my column. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next story, please know that ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue doing what I love most: sharing these missives from France. Your support is vivement apprécié! Donating via PayPal is fast and easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! Kristi 
♥ Send $10    
  ♥ Send $25    
    ♥ Send the amount of your choice


"I have enjoyed this blog for years and watched your children grow up. You are staying strong through all the changes. Merci pour tout."
--Betty D.


N'importe quoi: Deported from France, Kristin dusts herself off and imagines the ideal career.

Kristi driving ape truck
A clue as to where I really want to be these days: back in this ape triporteur with strawberries and avocados from my French garden in the truck bed and my dog by my side!


If you are new to this list, a warm and hearty bienvenue! When French Word-A-Day began in 2002 it ran 7 days a week--then 5, then 3, then 2. Now we are teetering at one post (and it is a re-run). Dear Lord, what is next? I don't know but I will hang on for the ride and I hope you will too! Meantime, today's essay looks back on a similar time of questioning.... Thank you very much for reading and for sharing!


TODAY'S EXPRESSION: n'importe quoi

     : nonsense

ECOUTEZ/ LISTEN
Hear Jean-Marc pronounce today's expression
=> Download MP3 or Wav

N'importe quoi. C'est du grand n'importe quoi.
Nonsense. It's rubbish.

 

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

 

In 1993 a fed-up Frenchman bought me a one-way ticket out of his country. Jean-Marc and I tried living together, but all that chemistry fizzled out after merging two cultures under one Mediterranean roof. He didn’t understand my stock of peanut butter (the French don’t hoard food), and I didn’t understand why his mother was still ironing his shirts.

Adieu! Back home in Arizona, there was no time to nurse my wounds. I needed a job! But I couldn’t go back to being a receptionist or to working in retail, and after spilling coffee in a customer’s lap waitressing was off limits.
 
Self-employment became my goal. Only by being one's own boss could one soar! Only by calling the shots could one skip out early for a matineeand lose herself in French life (on the big screen this time around). But which mêtier allowed for such freedom?

Girl Friday! I could be my own girl Friday! GFs got to do many things. Variety would be the spice of this new (if newly failed) life. I had all I needed to jumpstart this career: a used car and the adrenaline of a scorned lover! But what to list on my Girl Friday menu? What was I capable of besides getting kicked out of France?

Let’s see… I could type a report. Wash a car. Walk a dog. I could even do makeovers--if make-up were not part of my love story’s demise… (On our second date, in Roussillon, Jean-Marc painted my face with the colorful ochre earth. But instead of delighting in the romantic gesture, I self-consciously touched up my make-up.) No use dwelling on past mistakes! My GF venture needed a name--something French, non?  

N'importe Quoi”--now there was a catchy title for a service-oriented company! But was it prudent? Could “Anything At All” be misconstrued?

Onward! I could just see my business card: The background, a colorful scene from French life and, centered, the title N'importe Quoi. And there, lower right, my name above Your Girl Friday.

Business-cardSome girl Friday! I never even managed to run my first errand, to the printer’s. Instead, I grabbed an opening in a shipping department, where I stuffed boxes full of Styrofoam as my heart fell to pieces.

It would take years to grasp the meaning of n'importe quoi. Today I sit here at my desk, a self-employed writer, shaking my head at the would-be Girl Friday of yesteryear. What a pity it would have been to call my venture "Nonsense" or to offer anything at all when destiny was calling me to follow my dream.

I called Jean-Marc to inform him I was returning to France. He then surprised us both inviting me to share his life for better or for worse. And with a little mud on my face nowadays--the good French earth--I’m finally comfortable enough in my own skin to share myself with him.

--
Thanks to the editorial at France Today for printing this story and for offering the catchy subtitle seen in the subject line of this post. 


COMMENTS
Thank you for your comments. They are a joy to read! Click here to leave a message.


French Vocabulary
adieu = farewell
le métier = profession
n’importe quoi = nonsense

  Fruitsalad

Everything in this bowl came from our permaculture garden--including the arugula! Each morning it is a great pleasure to hunt for breakfast and to plan which bushes and trees will be added to the edible landscape. What ambition I once felt for publishing, seems to be dissipating into the balmy air above my strawberry patch! So, dear reader,  I will carefully ride out this moment, preferably in that cute orange truck you saw in the opening to this post =-)

Sauvez-leau

His protective T-shirt reads: "Save Water. Drink rosé."

Smokey is doing fine after the removal of a second cancerous lump (un mastocytome or mast cell tumor). The first was on his thigh, the second near his shoulder. He is his same old self and we will continue to give him belly rubs, shoulder massages, and pats all around to keep on top of these horrible growths.

Words in a french lifeWORDS IN A FRENCH LIFE
Do you know anyone who would enjoy reading these stories of French life? Thank you for purchasing a copy of my book. Your book support is a great boost to this French word journal. Merci beaucoup!

Click here to order a copy of Words in a French Life.

Thank you for the time you've spent reading my column. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next story, please know that ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue doing what I love most: sharing these missives from France. Your support is vivement apprécié! Donating via PayPal is fast and easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! Kristi 
♥ Send $10    
  ♥ Send $25    
    ♥ Send the amount of your choice


"I have enjoyed this blog for years and watched your children grow up. You are staying strong through all the changes. Merci pour tout."
--Betty D.


Tractopelle and Goings on Around here

Tractopelle
Olive trees, sunflowers and more grape vines on the way! Thanks for reading today's story, below.

Nov2014Mas de Perdrix. A home in France that artists and writers love to rent.  Work on your creative project in this inspiring environment.


 

TODAY'S WORD: Tractopelle

    : digger, backhoe

ECOUTE / LISTEN
Hear Jean-Marc pronouce today's word and example sentence
Download MP3 or Wav


Pour préparer le terrain de mes futures vignes, j'utilise un tractopelle qui enlève les souches des arbres et permet de niveler le terrain.

To prepare the field for my future vines, I'm using a backhoe that removes tree trunks and allows the terrain to be levelled. 


Paris Monaco Rentals

France and Monaco Rentals: short-term holiday rental properties throughout France



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

There's a rumble out in the fields, clouds of dust are floating down through the meadow and I don't trust that giant roving tractopelle around my dog! Such are my thoughts as Smokey and I remain holed up inside this morning, while the land around our farmhouse is being levelled for the next vine planting in March.

Today Jean-Marc is away helping another Bandol winemaker bring in a harvest.  So that leaves Smokey and me and this disconcerting bruit! Yesterday, that giant backhoe was like a bull in a china shop. As I stood out on our bedroom terrace, watching its massive arm claw towards our home, I called to Jean-Marc who stood behind the house.  "It hit the olive tree! The tractor hit the tree!" shouted. The cracking sound from the  300-year-old tree being repeatedly whacked as the tractor cab whipped back and forth was too much to bare.  I ran inside and called my mom.

"Kristi," she said, "You need to go for a drive somewhere and let those men work. Quit torturing yourself." I followed Mom's advice and headed to peaceful ground -- the supermarket. Food is a good comforter!

Olive-tree-limb

This morning that old olive tree is intact, and so am I. The kitchen door is cracked open should I be called on for help, and in case I can't hear the call, I have Smokey here beside me practicing his own little rumble in cadence with all the unusual sounds. 

When Smokey's growls turned to  barks, I opened the door to Roland, who is back to restore an old puit, or well, located in the field above our home. Roland gleaned many of the materials from our yard, including an iron lintel which was disguarded when we knocked out part of a wall to put in the giant windowseat.

Roland

Near the lintel, you can see where Roland is replacing the missing stones, using mortar to hold them together.

"Do you have an old door?" Roland asked, his eyes already roving our front yard.

I stepped out of the kitchen and joined Roland in the search, pointing out a few possibilities: "There is our old wedding table," I said, as we passed by the table top leaning against the wine cellar. Wouldn't it be nice to give it a new life--as a door?

Hélas no, the broken table top would not work. Roland and I continued our scavenger hunt, past the sunflower field, its drying flowers slumped over their wrist-thick stems. We crossed over the pétanque court, stepping over a carpet of fallen figs. And there, behind the house I saw it, an old wooden shutter.

"Cela fera l'affaire!" That ought to work, Roland announced. "And there are gonds, too. Parfait!"

As Roland walked away with the old shutter and the salvaged hinges, I felt a skip in my step returning to my post as "standby helper". A much better position to be in than that of worry wart.
 

*    *    *

COMMENTS
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Field-behind-house
Thank you very much to the previous owners, Michael and Maggie, who sent us some photos of what this land looked like in the 60's. You can see the field behind our house, where Jean-Marc will plant more vines this spring. But it looked nothing like this photo (taking in 66') when we moved here. The field had returned to its natural state, bursting with thyme, rosemary, and a jungle of interesting plants. In the photo where you see petit pois, or peas, Jean-Marc will plant his vines.

See more photos at Instagram, and thanks for sharing this post with a friend.  

Thank you for the time you've spent reading my column. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next story, please know that ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue doing what I love most: sharing these missives from France. Your support is vivement apprécié! Donating via PayPal is fast and easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! Kristi 
♥ Send $10    
  ♥ Send $25    
    ♥ Send the amount of your choice


"I have enjoyed this blog for years and watched your children grow up. You are staying strong through all the changes. Merci pour tout."
--Betty D.


The Secret Revealed: contre-courant

Contrecourant
The photo Jean-Marc took of our daughter, before she momentarily disappeared.

The illusion of calm attracts swimmers. However, when great waves diminish, they (swimmers) are taken far away from the beach. When they try to swim against the current, they tire, weaken, and end up drowning. (See French translation below). 

Today's Word: contre-courant


    : ripcurrent, pull of tide, undertow

Download MP3 or Wav

L'illusion de calme attire les baigneurs. Cependant, quand les vagues venant du large faiblissent, ils sont emportés loin de la plage. Quand ils essaient de nager à contre-courant, ils se fatiguent, faiblissent et finissent par se noyer. -from "Courant d'arrachement"  French Wikipedia entry.


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

"There is something I have to talk to you about." The seconds that followed my husband's startling statement were punctuated by heartbeats. Lying there in bed, in the old stone grange of a rented island cottage, my thoughts raced to guess Jean-Marc's next words. Our children safe in the next room, Jean-Marc said softly:

"Jackie disappeared into the ocean...."

The punctuated thumping I had felt earlier was coming straight from my husband's heart, which beat against my back as he pulled me closer. "I could not keep this to myself any longer...." he admitted.

But why had he kept the near-tragedy from me? The question reminded me of our dog Breizh's last days.  Maybe I could have done something different? Would our golden still be here? I harbored such guilt and painful questioning until I shared my grief with others.

Jean-Marc could not bear to relive the moment when he watched our daughter being swept out to sea, and now he resisted my efforts to comfort him. "I need to finish," he said, "please let me finish," he urged, as I assured him all was OK.

"I was on the shore," he explained, "taking photos of Jackie as she swam out with her bodyboard. The water was so calm. And then a giant wave rose up and Jackie disappeared! After the wave crashed, I scanned the water for her. Fifteen... twenty seconds passed and I still could not see her. She had vanished. I was quickly swimming out when I heard a surfer shouting, "She is over there!"


With his eyes steadied on his child, Jean-Marc swam towards the horizon.

*    *    *

When Jackie could finally share her own grief with me a day later, owing to a secret vow, she said: "Maman, j'ai bu la tasse. I swallowed a mouthful. When I came up from the water, the shore was so far away.... 

I tried to swim back but became exhausted. And then I panicked. I thought about my life, including our last fight, and did you know I always love you--

Then I heard Papa shouting, Swim! Swim! But I was afraid for him trying to reach me. It was impossible to reach the shore. We would both drown!

*    *    *

Jean-Marc continued to shout, "Get on your bodyboard!" Jackie did what she was told and soon father and daughter reached one another. They were met by a rescue team who helped them out of the water, to the shore, where they took Jackie's blood pressure before letting her go home. 

By the time I could comfort my daughter, a day later, I said to her, "Tell me everything you need to say. Get it all out." 

As she rested her head in my lap, I stroked her soft hair and listened. "Ce n'est pas facile à comprendre." It is hard to understand, she said. As her words trailed off, I recognized the voice of a survivor. 

Survivors
Smokey and Jackie.  When someone has returned from a traumatic experience, listen to them, for as long as they need to express their thoughts. 

Post Note: So why did my family keep this secret from me? Because, as my son says, "Tu es emotive." (My short response would be: "Yes, emotional. But with the strength to lift every lead-heavy hurt off of your heart for the rest of eternity. And that adds up to a ton of relief. So please accept it next time!") 

Thank you for sharing today's post with a friend, along with this tip (add your own): If you are caught in a rip current, swim across it, parallel to the shore.

Thank you for the time you've spent reading my column. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next story, please know that ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue doing what I love most: sharing these missives from France. Your support is vivement apprécié! Donating via PayPal is fast and easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! Kristi 
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"I have enjoyed this blog for years and watched your children grow up. You are staying strong through all the changes. Merci pour tout."
--Betty D.