colombe

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Along the steep zigzagging path to the sea in Sicily, we stopped to peer in to this tiny chapel. The doors were locked but we stole glances all the same.
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colombe (ko lohmb) noun, feminine

    : dove

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

 (Continued from the previous story: "Switch-back")

On New Year's Day I was walking along a steep and slippery path to the sea, one very much like life itself: get past the obstacles--both real and perceived--and cross the finish line in victory! You might wonder just what reward awaits on the other side of the broken ribbon... but, consider: Life is not a race and the prize may just lie in the act of taking it all in stride, at a peaceful pace.  

Currently I strode, in panic mode, behind my husband of 16 years. I wanted serenity and I knew, by instinct, that Peace is what happens when you give in and quit fighting life's current. For the first ten years in France, I'd swum against the stream, it is only recently... since following my husband's dream... that I've begun to float. 

"Ça va Mon Amour?" Everything okay, Love? There were two ways to answer the question; similarly, there are two ways to face the new year: by caving in (to fear) or by venturing out (by faith).

I ventured a "Tout va bien!" and, voilà, we swiftly rounded an uncertain switchback, and landed on the seashore. 

As soon as my husband's feet hit sea level, he was off! Scrambling over the giant rocks beneath the seawall to kiss the salty waters beyond (in the end, he opted for a splash-on-the-face "bath" and not full immersion!).

I was still standing in the road when a foot-dragging dog limped past me. The dog seemed to live in the modest house at the back of the parking lot, which faced the sea. My eyes followed the crippled creature to an empty, industrial lot, farther on where thousands of birds were gathering.

Amid the commotion, a figure began to appear from within the frenzy of feathers. It was a man! The man, of a certain age, was holding a 20 liter bucket in each hand, the source of so much excitement on the part of the birds.

I followed in the dog's tracks... drawn to the stranger's simple act of charity. Why would a man lug such a heavy burden, then stand still as an altar... only to risk being capsized by a hungry flock of seed thieves?

The answer was written on the stranger's face: for the joy in giving!

I leave you with photos of "Antonio" and his dog "Lupo". And who said there is no prize at the finish line? I do believe this man and his dog and "their" birds of peace were the reward for following the path of life, for trying--one step forward, two back... to take fears and doubts in stride.

 

 Le Coin Commentaires / Comments Corner
Corrections and comments are most welcome. Click here to leave a message.

 

Audio File: Listen to Jean-Marc pronounce these French words: 
Click to Download the MP3 file

L'homme était en train de nourrir les colombes.
The man was feeding the doves. 

Please help me to resolve a technical issue by trying out the audio feature, above, and then giving feedback on the following question (those reading via email may need to click over to the blog to see the question and to vote)? To comment on this question, thanks for using the comments box (click here).

 

 

 

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Look closely and you will see the man in the photo, above...

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I thought they were pigeons... but Antonio pointed out the colombes....

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Yes -- doves!

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Sweet Lupo...

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What a lovely man and dog -- and a flock of fans to prove it!

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Do you have a minute to read the story "Tourterelle" or "turtledove": it's short--under 200 words... and you'll learn the French word for "lovebird"! Click here.

 Exercises in French PhonicsExercises in French Phonics is " a great book for learning French pronunciation", "useful and practical", "high quality material, good value for your money" --Amazon customer reviews. Order a copy here.

 

Thank you for the time you've spent reading my post. 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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"Sent with love and gratitude for all of your wonderful, insightful and creative stories and photographs. My life is enhanced reading your books and blogs beyond measure! May you continue to be blessed doing what you love and feel the gratitude of your devoted readers. Appreciation, hugs and love to you and your beautiful family!"
--Lisa


epingle a cheveux

Ionian Sea (c) Kristin Espinasse 
Jean-Marc and the Ionian sea in Sicily... where the saline breeze draws you to the salty waters, pleadingly. 

épingle à cheveux (ay pehngl ah sheuh veuh) n.f.

    hairpin bend (road, path); switchback

Audio: Listen to Jean-Marc pronounce these French words: Download MP3 file

Le chemin de terre qui mène vers la mer descend en épingle à cheveux.
The dirt path that leads to the sea descends (in a series of) hairpin turns. 

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

 (Continued from part one: "Peur Bleue: A Morbid Fear".)

The miles-long footpath on which Jean-Marc and I were treading, from a Sicilian city down to the shores of its sea, changed from urban, to industrial, to earthy. I was anxious about crossing through the dark, graffitifed tunnel, when a sudden spell of terror, born of an overactive imagination coupled with every macabre news headline that I had ever read, had me freezing in my foot-tracks!

The idea of turning back was quickly factored out: just look at Jean-Marc, l'homme de la nature! He was so completely in his element, taken up with the salty breeze—pulled forth by the foamy claws of the sea! (I just knew he was looking forward to swimming in the winter waters below. A New Year's Day "bath" is a tradition for a true Marseillais.) 

But just when I let my spirit lift, we came out of the tunnel and face to face with a group of idle youths.... (Idle Youths = Tourist Abuse! in my news-headline-hazy head.) 

I watched my husband, who nodded an international greeting to the group, but my own neck was so stiff with suspicion that it couldn't manage the same salutation.

The group was seated on a rock wall, the other side of which plunged to the shoreline below. As we drew near I listened to their voices, which were foreign to me: not Italian, not French, not Spanish were they speaking. The headlines roared once again in my mind as we approached the strangers, who jostled one another, smiling and having a good time.

Tout va bien, I thought, reassuringly, there are women in the group, and they are all just having fun and acting carefree. But then so were Charles Manson and his "family"...! 

The grassy path we were now sharing was a switchback, hairpin turns from here to the sea. I studied the modern-day hippies. The only way to access the sea was via the switchback where the group sat, threateningly, according to my mind's graphic cinema, which reeled, helter skelter, with headline horror stories.   

 (Read the next and final installment here...)

Le Coin Commentaires / Comments Corner
Corrections, comments, and stories of your own are welcome. Click here to post a comment to the blog. 


French Vocabulary
l'homme de la nature = refers to an out-doorsy, Mister Nature type
tout va bien = everything's all right

Trivia: Today's word "épingle" appeared briefly, in only one of the 1100 French Word-A-Day word editions. Discover it here.

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We'll soon meet a character from this Sicilian city... so don't go anywhere and do check back on Friday. .

  Kristin & Smokey

Meantime... "The Continuing Education of Smokey-Doodle" (pictured here at 8 months):

Today's lesson: French Fashion!

No, Smokey dear, these are not to be worn in your mouth. These boots, that have trod upon thousands of Gallic grapes (I can understand your attraction to their sweetness...), yes, these cleat-covered caoutchoucs are to be worn as head ornaments. Voilà, Smokey-Doll. Now, your turn.... hold your head up high and don't let those fashion victims in the capitol intimidate you! It's all about creativity! And the best-dressed dog wins le prix!

Feel like learning a few more words... or seeing a few more pictures of France? Check out the French Word Archives, here!

Thank you for the time you've spent reading my post. 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


"Sent with love and gratitude for all of your wonderful, insightful and creative stories and photographs. My life is enhanced reading your books and blogs beyond measure! May you continue to be blessed doing what you love and feel the gratitude of your devoted readers. Appreciation, hugs and love to you and your beautiful family!"
--Lisa


peur bleue

Door in Sicily (c) Kristin Espinasse
The French have a colorful word for what we scaredy cats feel. Read on. Photo of Italian door taken in Aciereale, Sicily. Get out and take some photos or keep a point and shoot camera on hand, at all times, and never miss a shot!

une peur bleue (per bleuh)

    : a morbid fear 

(also, in French expressions including color, see "l'heure bleu")

      .
Audio File
: listen to the following words: Download MP3

Je connais des gens qui ont une peur bleue des serpents, des araignées, et des rats. Et vous? C'est quoi votre peur bleue? I know people who are frightened to death of snakes, spiders, and rats. And you? What scares the daylights out of you?

Pronounce It Perfectly in French with Audio CDs

avoir une peur bleue = to be scared stiff
faire une peur bleue à quelqu'un = to put the fear of God into someone

 

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

The rain in Catania, Sicily had us changing our plans: forget a periple through the vine-dotted hinterland—, we might take our chances and follow that patch of open sky.... 

In a rented Fiat Panda, Jean-Marc drove toward the clear coastline, and we hoped the industrial zone that we were currently passing through would break, just as the clouds had, and it did. We coasted into the city of Acireale, our eyes filling with history as it draped itself across the façades of the Baroque bâtiments.

A New Year's day parade was underway and we weaved in and out of the Catanian crowds, like fish in the Ionian sea just below, and when the sea breeze wafted past we followed our noses out of la piazza, past a dozen churches and chapels....

"Ça te dit de marcher jusqu'à la mer?" Jean-Marc proposed, pointing up to the street sign, which indicated a footpath to the sea.

I am not so adventurous as my husband, but it is a new year!: a good time to shake off one's lazy ways and a good time to put other's wishes before one's own. 

Halfway down the isolated path, doubts began to creep in. Strangely, there was no one else around—unless you counted the ghosts of graffiti. And where there are graffiti there are gangs, are there not?! I thought about the industrial zone we had passed through earlier... industrial zones where delinquents roam!

Stop imagining the worst! I cautioned my mind, which was ever jumping to conclusions, thanks to the news reports that had fed it over the years!

Still, I began to panic. What if a couple of drug-hungry hooligans were hidden at the end of the painted tunnel through which we walked? Switchblades came to mind. My heart thumped and, fast as that, my mind was off and running... with all of the sensational headlines that I had ever read! The macabre news came back to haunt me. It was for this very reason that I had to stop reading the newspapers last year, when the collective shock value of so much bad news had begun its debilitating effect until it seemed safer to stay in ... than to venture out.

It is thanks to almost daily telephone calls to my mom, Jules, that I am reminded of all of the good in this world, despite so much tragedy. Though my mom spends a lot of time in her room, when she does get out the door... to the Mexican streets beyond, she is shaking hands and kissing faces and smiling at the locals—and wondering why she doesn't get out and dance with life more often.
"But Mom!", I always warn her, "you should be careful where you go!" Nevertheless, by the end of our conversation, I have listened to yet another lively story of love: or what happens when you reach out and literally touch someone. 

During last night's call we shared our sadness about the horrible tragedy: the shootings that took place this past weekend in our former home state of Arizona. And yet, Jules reminds me, you've got to trust others, despite it all. We cannot live in fear, which only perpetuates more of the same.

The antidote to this peur bleue, or "blue fear", may just be a red badge, or un emblème rouge: the courage to face our fears, to continue to count on and be counted upon by others, and to trust that it is, after all, a beautiful life.

 ***

(Read part two of this story, here.)

To post a comment on this story or on today's word, click here.

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French Vocabulary

le bâtiment = building

la piazza = Italian for square (village square)

Ça te dit de marcher jusqu'à la mer? = Are you up for a walk to the sea?

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Graffiti and all, it's still a beautiful life! Photo taken in Aciereale, Sicily, Italy. 

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Smokey (pictured here as  a pup) recommends the story "Mémère"--about his own mom and the funny French term of endearment that they gave her as a pup! Click here.

 

Bien dire magazine Keep up your French with Bien Dire (magazine subscription). A 52-page magazine to improve your French that you'll enjoy reading! Full of interesting articles on France and French culture, Bien-dire helps you understand what it is to be French order here.

Thank you for the time you've spent reading my post. 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


"Sent with love and gratitude for all of your wonderful, insightful and creative stories and photographs. My life is enhanced reading your books and blogs beyond measure! May you continue to be blessed doing what you love and feel the gratitude of your devoted readers. Appreciation, hugs and love to you and your beautiful family!"
--Lisa


gourmandise

Chairs, Tiles, Bouteilles (c) Kristin Espinasse
If you have not yet done so, you must read Robert Camuto's book "Palmento" (as Jean-Marc does, in the following story!). Read the rave reviews. Photo taken last week at the iCedri B&B in Sicily....

gourmandise (goor mahn deez) noun feminine

    : a fondness for food

J'ai mangé par gourmandise et non pas par faim. 
I ate for the fondness of food and not for hunger. 

Audio File: Listen to today's word and example sentence: Download MP3 or WAV

 

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

I am sitting cater-corner from my husband, on the edge of the B&B bed. I have covered the hand-sewn lace bedcover with two small bath towels. I would not want to drop so much as une miette anywhere in Vittoria's chambre d'amis, prepared with such care and hospitality.

Outside, the camellias are in bloom and the fresh scent of citrus perfumes the air. Only in Sicily! It is wintertime but the flowers in southern Italy are blooming like well-nourished souls, which brings me back to my mission: le dîner.

As for the evening victuailles, it is each to his own or chacun pour soi tonight, especially since we have enjoyed a copious lunch, one that lingered on into the afternoon.... Jean-Marc, at the head of the bed, is reading, but that won't keep me from eating. I reach for the paper bag, wondering how to say "delicatessen" in Italian? I should have paid more attention to the names above the shopfronts but my eyes were trained on the colorful cauliflower (in purple!) and the plethora of prickly pear, or fichi d'India, that decorate the streets this time of year.

Currently all of my attention goes into opening this paper deli sack as quietly as possible.  I try to be discreet because I can't bear it when my husband stops to watch me eat. He always has to make such a big deal about it, as do all of the French with their vocal voeux of "bon appétit!

Jean-Marc Espinasse (c) Kristin Espinasse
                     I stole away to Sicily last week... with him...

With Jean-Marc completely absorbed in his book, I reach into the noisy sack. I notice that my husband has bought two kinds of cheese, quelques artichoke hearts in olive oil, two typical bread rolls (one covered with toasted sesame), a box of bruschetta crackers, and two chocolate bars....

Continue reading "gourmandise" »

Thank you for the time you've spent reading my post. 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


"Sent with love and gratitude for all of your wonderful, insightful and creative stories and photographs. My life is enhanced reading your books and blogs beyond measure! May you continue to be blessed doing what you love and feel the gratitude of your devoted readers. Appreciation, hugs and love to you and your beautiful family!"
--Lisa