collier

Colmar (c) Kristin Espinasse
Today's story opens in the poetic place known as Colmar, France. Never miss a photo: sign up, here, for French Word-A-Day.

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le collier (kohl yay)

    : necklace

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Le collier de Nan a été apprécié par tout le monde.
Nan's necklace was appreciated by everyone. 

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

We met up with our friends Charles and Martha in Alsace last month. They said they had a special present for me, un cadeau that had not left their care during their multi-city périple (beginning in Florida) prior to our meet-up in Colmar.

The gift, Charles explained, was from Nan. I had not met Nan before--not en personne that is. Charles had introduced Nan to my Word-a-Day newsletter a few years back and, since, Nan and I have exchanged a few emails. I have a picture of Charles, Martha, Nan, and Jean-Marc taken, I believe, at a wine-tasting in Florida. Their smiling faces greet me each morning as I walk past our postcard rack, headed for the coffee machine.

The night that Charles and Martha presented me the gift, we were in a rush to make it to a wine dinner in honor of Jean-Marc. 

"I think it is best that I open the package after dinner..." I hinted to Charles. I didn't want to rush the experience (from the way Charles and Martha spoke of the gift, in hushed, reverent voices, I had a hunch that whatever was in that box would merit full concentration).

Currently my undivided attention was on the clock: we had a matter of minutes to shed our sweaty vêtements de long voyage, shower and dress for the dinner.

"Now's the time," Charles insisted, and something inside of me yielded, in time to trust my friend to put my priorities in order. Dinner could wait.

Meantime, we waited patiently until Martha and friends Kim and Bill could join us for le dévoilement, or unveiling. The honorable opening-of-the-gift ceremony would require an audience. 

 

Kristin & Jean-Marc
                                           Kristin & Jean-Marc 

When we were all gathered around the box, anticipation was so thick you could cut it like a satin-bowed ribbon! In that moment I was reminded that part of the pleasure that a gift brings is in the gift's opening! No longer feeling rushed, I took the time to open the box, carefully lifting the lid....

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                                  (picture by Tante Michou)

Un Collier!

And what a necklace! To fully appreciate the handcrafted oeuvre--an intricately beaded neckpiece--you would have to be familiar with our life... a life of vines & vocabulaire.

The magnificent neckpiece paid tribute to both une vie en prose... and a life in vine rows! Never before had my husband's and my own passions been united in one precious link... le grand collier!

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                     Pictures by Charles McGrath and Martha Melvin

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The words read "perles", "syrah", "vivace", "dentelle", "carignan", "mourvèdre"....

On studying the necklace, I wished I were a bead artist or an artisan de perles--so as to not miss one precious detail! But soon enough I would see the necklace through the eyes of others. In the weeks to come, during wine tastings and family visits, I presented le collier to all our guests...

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It was Aunt Michou's response that most touched me. She noticed the neckpiece immediately, pouring over each detail... She declared the collier "une oeuvre de l'esprit... une oeuvre d'art extrêmement émouvante qui vient du coeur et qui parle au coeur tout en comblant le regard." 

I could not have said it better, and so I listened, as les tantes appreciated this grande oeuvre de l'esprit et du coeur:

"Regarde!" said Aunt Marie-Françoise, "there is even a (little beaded) moon next to "lunatique". The necklace was partly made up of tags, or flaps, each beaded with French words symbolic of our work: many of the words came from my stories (trésor, vivace, sieste...) , and others of the mots represented the varieties of vines growing on our vineyard (Morvèdre, Syrah, Carignan), or the wines that came of them ("Dentelle", "Mistral", and "Lunatique").

(And I have so far failed to mention the colors!... in reference to our vineyard's name: Domaine Rouge-Bleu!)

"'Merci' est un des plus jolis," The 'merci' (flap) is one of the prettiest! Michou remarked, more than once. Aunt Michou pointed out how certain letters were punctuated by spheric perles (notice the "i"--of Mistral on the second photo below...).

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                       These pictures are by Tante Michou...

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      "Une intelligence de coeur et d'esprit" -Aunt Michou, praising the neckpiece.

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A tongue-in-cheek detail was the blue and the red corks (from our Dentelle wine). Nan had thoughtfully included them in this thematic, truly dramatic neckpiece. Every detail, down to the silver "grapes and leaf" clasp on the back whispered our lives, lives entwined with vocabulaire and vines....

Charles remarked that it must have taken two years to complete the piece. Martha added that so much care had been taken....

But how to thank the artist? Comment la remercier? This is the question! Perhaps I could share with Nan this compliment, coming from our art-savvy aunt, Michou in Paris: C'est un bijou de haute couture. On imagine même que Christian Lacroix créerait une robe tout exprès pour ce collier! It is a work of haute couture. We can even imagine that Christian Lacroix would create a dress especially for this necklace!

And, while racking my brain for a proper thank-you, I'll borrow Aunt Michou's words (whispered while admiring the various beaded words of the collier): "'Merci'... est un des plus jolis"....

Meantime, while waiting for Mr. Lacroix' attentions... I'm pairing the neckpiece with a trusty pants-and-top combo. Many, many thanks, Nan! And thanks go to Charles and Martha, who did a wonderful job transporting le collier!

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                                (Kristin, with daughter, Jackie, right).

Le Coin Commentaires
Comments, corrections, and stories of your own are welcome here, in the comments box. P.S. While rushing to finish today's edition, I have not checked the French words or written the vocab section. Any help is appreciated. Sorry for any French mistakes! Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this "piece" in the comments box

 => Check out Nan Heldenbrand Morrissette's site at Art4Life.

FRENCH VOCAB LIST
Thank you very much, Newforest, for creating this enriched list of words and definitions

un cadeau (des cadeaux) = present(s), gift(s)
un périple / grand voyage = a long journey, an adventurous trip
en l'honneur de = in honor of
vêtements de voyage = travelling clothes
le dévoilement = the unveiling
soulever le couvercle = to lift the lid
Quel collier! = What a necklace!

une oeuvre / un ouvrage = a work
une oeuvre d'art = a work of art, artwork
un chef-d'oeuvre = a masterpiece

une perle = pearl (jewelry)
une perle = bead (made of glass)
une perle 'fine' (en bijouterie) = a 'real' pear

    a person you qualify as:
        "une perle" = a gem, a real treasure!
        "une perle rare" = a real treasure

    in a literary sense:
        une perle (de sang, de sueur) = a drop (of blood, of sweat)
        les perles de la rosée = dewdrops

    but... (fam) une perle / une erreur grossière = a howler


un artisan = a craftsman
combler le regard = to satisfy/ to please the eye
tout en comblant le regard = (while) pleasing the eye at the same time
l'esprit = spirit, mind.

le vocabulaire = vocabulary
mots = words
la vigne = vine (here used in the plural)
    (but the drink -> vin = wine- is masculine! :-) )

un(e) des plus joli(e)s = one of the nicest / one of the prettiest

Related story: Read more about the delighful Aunt Michou in the story "cachette" and learn a favorite word she taught me, in the story chouia.

And, whatever you do, don't miss this post about aunt Marie-Françoise, who passes down the family tradition of lavender weaving

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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