Parasol pines and the sunset over the Mediterranean, at Le Port d'Alon in St Cyr-sur-Mer.
coucher du soleil (kew-shay-dew-sow-lay)
Ce soir à Bandol, le coucher du soleil est à 16h56.
Tonight in Bandol, the sunset is at 4:56 p.m.
A Day in a French Life... by Kristin Espinasse
I felt guilty taking Smokey for the walk this time--after all, it was Braise's turn. Ideally I could promener both dogs, but golden retrievers are strong engines and it's difficult to control two leashes hooked to that much dog power!
"It's okay, Braise, we'll be back--with dinner!" I say, hurrying Smokey into my car--as though we were only going for take-out food. But Braise is sharper than both of us, she's nobody's fool. Because she is a gourmande, or foodie, she'll turn a blind eye on things this time--just as long as we return in half an hour with dinner!
I feel horrible backing out of our driveway, Smokey by my side. I know it's wrong to show favoritism, and I never set out to prefer one dog over the other. But every since our youngest golden was attacked by two dogs, I can't help but feel for him. Every single time I see his pendant tongue--dried like cardboard from constant contact with the air, I'm reminded of his misfortune.
Walking is therapy for both of us. Hiking through the coastal forest we are free to explore our surroundings, both literally and figuratively (Smokey likes to sniff out those "marked" rocks, while I'm busy turning over pebbles in my mind. I know the answers are under there, somewhere. Come here often enough, and I'll find the hidden keys).
Occasionally we encounter another hiker and I automatically call Smokey close, putting on his leash. I wouldn't want the stranger to feel uncomfortable or afraid. Of course there is no reason to fear Smokey, but how could a stranger know that? By pulling my dog close, I can at least put the other person at ease.
But what about my dog? What kind of message am I giving him? Have I only been reinforcing the fear I'd hoped to erase? "Smokey, come here!" I say, chaining him whenever a stranger approaches. I wonder, now, just what kind of message this is to the former victim.
The leash-or-not-to-leash question came up several months ago, while hiking my favorite coastal path. Braise (for it was Braise I was walking this time--I assure you it was!), yes it was Braise's turn to walk the day we encountered an elderly man and his unleashed boxer dog.
Noting Braise's excitement, the man offered a solution: "Why don't you unhook her from the leash?"
I watched, amazed, as Braise immediately dropped her intimidating act (restrained while her would-be-foe was free to attack--she had no choice but to pretend to be something bigger than him. In this case she was pretending to be a grizzly bear!).
The experienced worked that time, but here now--as Smokey and I approached the last leg of our walk, I spotted another leashless dog....
It seemed to be a labrador-boxer mix. Did he or she belong to the lovers who were blocking the trail? I tried to get eye contact, but the couple was unfazed as they stood, bodies entangled, staring out to the horizon.
"Excuse me," I said, getting more nervous by the moment (yet careful not to transfer my emotions to Smokey). "Is that your dog?"
The couple's trance was temporarily broken when the man looked over at the black and gray dog. "No. I don't know who it belongs to." The lovers returned to their peaceful embrace, as they gazed out to sea.
Meantime Smokey and I needed to step past them and that unpredictable dog just beyond! In a ready-set-charge mode I seized Smokey's leash, ready to streak past the catatonic trio (the dog's eyes were trained eerily on us!).
Suddenly the man turned to me and raised his hand. "Shhh!" he said, putting his finger to his lips.
Shhh! he repeated, and he smiled as he pointed to the horizon. I turned to see a dark orange disk sinking slowly into the sea.
"Qu'est-ce que c'est beau!" It's beautiful! said another voice drifting up from the hillside. I looked down to discover another group of hikers, eyes glued to the far side of the sky. They whispered in awe as they, too, watched the sun set over the Mediterranean.
With everyone standing there goo-goo eyed--bodies flushed with the drug of scenery--I realized, finally, this was no time to be on a mission! My eyes disconnected from the threatening dog, settling instead on the coucher de soleil. I gently turned Smokey's head in the same direction, before kneeling beside him to enjoy Nature's closing act.
When the sun disappeared behind the sea, the strangers began to look around at each other, in unspoken appreciation of what they had just seen. That's when I noticed the "scary" black dog. It had quietly wandered up to Smokey and me, to rest peacefully beside us.
As the strangers dispersed, so did a few more of my fears. Little by little, they are dropping off to sea... one sunset at a time.
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