"To interest oneself in a lot of things, to be surrounded by people who we love--that's the secret to my longevity." -French actress Michèle Morgan. Listen to her words in French and see the translation, below. Picture taken in La Ciotat, where I bumped right into a reader of this word journal. Read Wendy's reaction below.
S'intéresser à beaucoup de choses, être entourée de gens que l'on aime est le secret de ma longévité.
--Michèle Morgan. See her in the classic wartime film Passage to Marseille on Blu-ray or Amazon Video
Passage to Marseille and many classic French films are available on Blu-ray or Amazon Video, click here
A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE
by Kristi Espinasse
My New Years resolution for 2018 was the same goal as last year: to think positively. What a disaster that turned out to be. Almost as soon as I set the intention, it was as though the universe clapped its hands and began rubbing them together greedily.
I am a positive enough person. It's those stray negative thoughts peppering my day--and the occasional barrage of doubtful thinking--that I was aiming to obliterate (perhaps that is where I go wrong--this tout ou rien approach to things?).
Ouf! It turns out positive thinking is not essential to good health. According to psychologist and author Susan Pinker you could be a very grumpy person and still live a long (and grumpy) life. More than eating well or exercise, it is social integration that leads to longevity. Les interactions en face-à-face are key to health and happiness. This could be anything from saying bonjour to the postman...to acknowledging the bus driver or waving (however awkwardly) your neighbor. Each time we connect with somebody, however little that connection, we get (and give) good vibes. Good vibes = a vibrant life.
Susan Pinker's book is available here.
"Faire d'une pierre deux coups"
To kill two birds with one stone is a terrible (and terribly useful) expression. It sounds so much better in French where there's no mention of the poor birds: faire d'une pierre deux coups.
It means to complete two things with only one action. Don't you love such éfficacité? Walking is a neat example. It is an activity where you can clear your mind, strengthen your muscles, and come face to face with humanity. It was the first two benefits that got me out initially, but, lately it is the social interaction that is keeping me in stride with life. The most unusual things can happen while out on a walk. Last fall a homeless man kissed me (an innocent "bise"). That's another story, we're getting off track!
I have a few other examples to share with you about some heart-lifting incidents while out on walk, but we'll skip ahead to Wednesday's chance encounter. Wendy heard about La Ciotat from my blog and decided to discover the old port--having traveled here from Cotignac (where she and her husband, Ken, are visiting from Canada). At the moment she and Ken pulled into the public parking lot and got out of their car, I was speedwalking right past them, oblivious to the synchronistic moment. That's when I heard a soft voice... "Kristi?"
We stopped to have a coffee together in the old town, before Wendy and Ken accompanied me part of the way home. For the last part of my walk, I mused about how different each and every day is when you step out of your routine--and when you don't rush home for whatever may seem pressing.
Post Note: In regards to positive thinking...it wasn't such a désastre after all. I just went about it in a backward way. First, step out. The positive thoughts will follow.
tout ou rien = all or nothing
ouf! = whew! phew!
la bise = kiss
faire la bise = to greet somebody with a kiss on each cheek
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Sky blue La Ciotat T-shirt with fleur de lys. Click here.
Protect your skin when you walk: La Roche-Posay repair face moisturizer with spf 30. Click here to order.
The Bonjour Effect: The Secret Codes of French Conversation Revealed. Click to order.
Looking for a host or hostess gift? French gourmet sea salt gift set, for a taste of France
Kristi, Ken, and Wendy. After coffee, we stopped into the tiny bookstore beside Le Café de L'Horloge. I believe it benefits Emmaüs charity (see this colorful bande-dessinée for the story behind Emmaüs). In the little boutique there is a "tirelire" (piggy bank) honor system where you put a few coins in for each book you select. Photo by Wendy, as you can see!
Wendy is a retired social worker, and Ken is passionate about WWI history. He is soon to begin a blog on the topic. Now read Wendy's account of our serendipitous meeting:
I want to thank you again for giving us some of your time yesterday. I am still feeling stunned at us bumping into you in that parking lot but basking in the glow of our chance meeting. As I looked back over the morning and the drive down from Cotignac to La Ciotat, I wonder at the purpose of the few traffic delays we had-one on the road where we had to pull over for 2 big transport trucks hauling enormous steel arcs and then traffic jams in La Ciotat. They all contributed to the perfect timing of our meeting.
When I gazed across the parking lot yesterday to see if you might know the parking lot rules, first I saw a lady with blond hair and then as you came closer, I wondered if it was you and then I thought, well let's try calling your name and if I am wrong, no big deal. When your face lit up, I was flabbergasted. What are the chances of this serendipitous event? I am still feeling so delighted. I have been following your blog for about 4 years and must say I look forward to it every time it comes in. I would like to mention that how you write really reflects the special person you are in real life.
It likely would be helpful for you to know a bit more about us. As you heard from Ken the deal was a month in Provence before we drove north in 2014 to visit all those military cemeteries of the fallen from the names on the Cenotaph in his home town of Cobalt in Ontario. He has been working on this research for several years a and it has been a great retirement project for him.
How did we end up in Provence? Well my friend from Ottawa and her husband (he was born in France) had been coming to Carces near Cotignac for the month of March for 20 years. They no longer come but she has given me info about the area. When I started researching possible villages, the internet indicated there is some English spoken in Cotignac due to the number of ex-pats. We only speak a little French so it seems like a good choice. And here we are-this is our 4th year of escaping some of our nasty Canadian winter by spending it in Cotignac. We have found a delightful apartment to rent with a good property manager and feel quite at home here.
Kristi and Wendy outside Lecture Ephémère, the charity bookshop attached to Café de L'Horloge.
Thank you very much, Wendy! Adding to the impossibility of our meeting, were the number of times that morning that I delayed going out for my walk. Finally making it out, I considered shortening my itinerary that day. I'm so glad I didn't! It just goes to show what good things happen when we go the extra mile.
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