L'Oisiveté: Thoughts on Work, Love, and Writing

Eight Months in Provence
If you've ever dreamed of living in France, it is not too late! Diane Covington-Carter proved that in her delightful memoir, "Eight Months in Provence, A Junior Year Abroad, 30 Years Late." Covington-Carter headed off to Provence at age fifty and discovered that wisdom and maturity made her "Junior Year Abroad" not, after all, thirty years late. But rather, right on time. A great summer read! Order here.

Today's Word: l'oisivité

L'oisiveté rend à la fin le travail difficile
Idleness makes work difficult in the end.

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

The only thing harder than writing...is not writing. Now there is a thought that has been on my mind all summer, as I try to decide just when to take a break from this 18-year-old blog--this ongoing chronicle of our life in France.

What will happen if I don't write for a fortnight? A month? A year? At worst I would implode. At best I would lose the hang of things, lose ground, making this colossal effort of expression even harder. And we all know:  

The only thing harder than working...is NOT working, or, as the French saying goes: L'oisiveté rend à la fin le travail difficile. Idleness makes work difficult in the end.

Difficile...this brings me to a few lines that poured out of somewhere and into my thoughts while out on a walk this morning. I hope they make sense to you, as they made sense to me at the time (oftentimes what makes crystal clear, lightening bright sense to me while out on a walk--after two cups of coffee--makes no sense to me later on). Here are those initial thoughts, and the ideas that followed:

The only thing harder than writing...is NOT writing.
The only thing harder than running...is NOT running.

For just as the runner begins to get agitated/disturbed because he has not run, the writer suffers the words he has not expressed. This last thought brought me beyond writing:

The only thing harder than love...is NOT loving.
The only thing harder than truth...is NOT the truth (untruth).
The only thing harder than listening...is NOT listening.
The only thing harder than giving...is NOT giving.
The only thing harder than caring...is NOT caring.

...because these NOTS will eventually form KNOTS, stemming the flow of life and love....

I leave you now and invite you to share a few "The only thing harder than.... is NOT...." in the comments. I look forward to reading your words and will be back sometime in the next month...I just have to decide when!

(The only thing harder than deciding...is NOT deciding.) 

Wherever you are on your path, I hope these words help.

Amicalement,

Kristi

Kristi Annie
Relaxing with family. Thank you, Cousin Sabine, for the photo at Cousin Audrey's. 

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to help keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
 
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Gaga for Galets! Rock collecting: caillou, roche, gravier, pierre and other stones in French

Gravel petanque
Gravel is handy for a lot of things--including pétanque (boules)! Read on to learn about another benefit of rocks. (Pictured: family members, including André, who is measuring, at a picnic in Fuveau).

Today's Word: ramasser

    : to pick up, gather

Audio file: Click to hear Jean-Marc read the following French sentence:
Rockhounding, ou géologie amateur, est l'étude récréative et la collecte de roches, de pierres précieuses, de minéraux ou de fossiles de leurs environnements naturels. Les Rockhounds sont ceux qui ne peuvent pas passer devant un joli rocher sans le ramasser pour le regarder de plus près.

Rockhounding, or amateur geology, is the recreational study and collection of rocks, gems, minerals, or fossils from their natural environments. Rockhounds are the people who cannot pass by a pretty rock without picking it up for a closer look. -Rockhound Times


A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

Dropping another caillou into the palm of my hand, I think I can carry a few more stones if I balance things just so.... I reach to pick up another when our 11-year-old golden retriever lies down in the very spot where I'm collecting, rolls over, and wags his tail.

Really, Smokey? Are you a rock, too? Or maybe a rockhound?!

I give in to scratch his furry tummy. The pause gives me time to consider this new obsession with the stones, rocks, and minerals found in our front yard. There is even a word for it--rockhounding! Mom and I are currently gaga over galets! But it crosses my mind, as I deposit a palm-full of rocks to the bare landing near the kitchen door (a project Jules is working on), that I may be stealing Mom's joy?

Mais non! Mom's joy is contagious and she's always believed there is enough to go around, whether that is money or passion or rocks. She'll share it if she has it (just don't ask her to share her cookie. Everyone has their limits!)

Meantime, there are plenty of rocks in this yard for both of us, but, just in case, why not collect another color and work on another area of the yard? I notice a charcoal gray stone and begin to ramasser a neat little collection when, Aha! I think of my caper plant…This deep gray would really show it off! Feeling like a real nerd as I swap out beige rocks (leave those to Mom) and replace them with the gray ones, I remember back to when this folly began....

Moms rocks
Mom's rock stash from this morning...notice the birdfeed, too. Mom's always feeding the doves!

Two years ago after Mom moved to France we began working on this garden together. Jules suggested we upgrade the gravel (which was super sparse) with a nicer, smoother, rounded type of pebble ground covering. We never got around to it (laziness has its advantages). Entre temps, we began noticing the many different types of stones in our yard... especially when the spring flowers and weeds died back, revealing a bare floor. Though the floor was covered with pea gravel, another type of ground covering revealed itself via those larger, butterscotch-colored rocks Mom kept finding here and there. This home having been built in 1960, it's possible those were here before the pea gravel.

MVIMG_20200731_113931
Thanks, Mom, for the back stairs project. We were tracking in a lot of dirt, before Jules began covering the ground with her butterscotch rocks! It's taken months, which makes it all the more a treasure to have. Cécile repaired some of the broken tiles on the last step.

As we pick up stones and sort them, there are the occasional little découvertes that make this pastime so fun and satisfying: from the discovery of objects (lots of shells) to the discovery of the benefits. Rock collecting is:

--an activity we can practice with family
--gratuit!
--gets us outdoors, in the fresh air
--good exercise (Mom would add it is great for stretching!)
...keeps us in contact with nature and la terre
--gives us something to look for and bring back from vacation, besides tourist trap items

And I might add one more to this list--our recent interest in rocks has given me a topic to research and to write about today--and for that I am most grateful. Off now to find my Mom and our lovable rockhound....

MVIMG_20200731_113424
ROCK ON! I leave you with a few photos of rocks, and thank you for any edits for today's story. So helpful.

FRENCH VOCABULARY
le caillou = stone
le galet = pebble
ramasser = pick, gather
entre temps = in the meantime
les découvertes (f) = discoveries
gratuit = free, free of charge
la terre = earth

IMG_20151015_171339
A stone restanque (rock wall) at our vineyard crumbled. We had it rebuilt before we sold and moved on.


IMG_20200604_203934_596
Our new town, La Ciotat, became our rock! 

Kristi beach in italy
Vacation last year in Sicily, and a beach of smooth galets. It's a good thing rock-collecting hadn't yet become an obsession!

Serre Chevalier rocks
Boulders in Serre Chevalier.

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to help keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
 
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♥ $25    
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The French words are in the story (Some Assembly Required!)

Diy bricolage kristi
Putting the finishing touches on our new spinning composter...My excuse for not putting the finishing touches on today's post. But if you read through to the end you will pick up a lot of French vocabulary! Edits are always welcome in the comments section. Merci! 

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

Our new composteur rotatif arrived! It's a spinning contraption that'll transform kitchen scraps into garden compost within weeks...4? 6? 12?--on verra! I was surprised by the size of the package (picture a slim rectangular box), étonnant, given I'd ordered large barrel on a frame. Perhaps this delivery was for Jean-Marc? Had he ordered flat-screen TV?

Opening the cardboard colis I saw two stacks of long plastic panels and, beneath them, three large discs. D'accord! J'ai compris. The spinning tonneau and its frame were to be assembled entièrement! This flat puzzle was supposed to turn into a 3D moving entity! Looking at all the pieces--including a ton of nuts and bolts, I thought, Jean-Marc can put this thing together! He actually enjoys bricolage and is creative with it: witness his impressive sea urchin mop-spear--slapped together using my kitchen mop and stolen pieces from the silverware drawer, ie missing forks...).

On second thought, I'd better assemble it myself--or suffer a contraption-jalopy-of-sorts that might very well spit out screws and few prickly urchins (which reminds me: once this monster is built, I'd better let my husband know the compost rules: no animal proteins)!

Naivité and ignorance are necessary when diving into a DIY project or no one would persevere to the end. I opened the flimsy instructions pamphlet--more like a comic book comprised of squares: each square had an illustration of the next step. Only a handful of words involved. One of those words read "mark." I was to search for the panel with "the mark". Examining all the panels I may as well have been looking for The Mark of The Beast: hidden, elusive, deceptive.... 

Aha! Found it--an evil triangle no less! Why didn't the instructions indicate an "arrow," which is what this "mark" turned out to be? Ah well, no use arguing with a cartoon book! Onward!

The first step was awkward: balance (somehow!) the two giant disks three feet apart while attaching the panel (horizontally) to connect them. The rest of the assembly was straight forward: attach the remaining 6 panels in the same way. This would require a tournevis and some sort of outil to hold the bolts...

As for gathering the necessary tools: pas de problème! Gone were the days where I had to search in a messy, chaotic, storeroom. Last spring, during lockdown, my sister-in-law organized our cafoutche! Currently, I breezed in, selected a screwdriver and a wrench from the Wall of Tools, and whispered Merci, Merci, Cécile! once again on the way out of my She Cave. Admittedly, this composting tumbler is the first project I have gotten to.... (Though the She Cave is visited daily, as our dog food and chicken feed are now stored there.) 

Bon, back at the table on our front porch, it was hot and there was a ways to go... I grabbed the first screw and struggled to secure the bolt on the other side. 48 screws later my mind said SCREW IT! I'm done! My thumbs and my fingers were sore and I regretted working in the pretty top Mom had given me, when I should've worn an old T-shirt. But when my son suddenly arrived home from work, I had to keep going, if only to show off! Only, instead of noticing me, Max hurried in and out of the house, "I'm on my way to tennis! Love you, Mom!"

Mom? Don't you mean Brico-Mama? Queen of DIY? Did he even see my turning barrel contraption? It was almost done. But the mosquitos were now eating me alive, no thanks to all the sweat. 

I quickly assembled the frame and decided to leave the last screws (the ones I'd failed to put in first and now it was impossible to place them down deep in the barrel. Jean-Marc could help tomorrow....). I put down my tools and headed around the house to Mom's studio. I was going to say a grumpy goodnight and was in no mood to chat, so when Jules said she'd love to see my new composter, I explained:

"All that's left to do is lift the barrel and put screw it onto the frame. But I'm not going to do it now. I'm done! Too tired!"  

Mom was already following me back around the house, to the front porch. "Wow! I am so impressed!" she praised. "I am really proud of you! Look what you have done! You are a Marcus!" Mom said, referring to her family of beer-drinking builders and rebels.

I could almost taste a cold pression about now! Hélas, my beer drinking days are over. As for rebellion. Yes! This DIY project might be about that: a rebellion against the hamster wheel (even in France you can find yourself on one of those--always functioning in the same way, doing the same thing, day after day, year after year. Never testing the well of skills inside of you. Leaving others to do certain things for you. This composting tumbler project was a way to spin things around!

Mom, ever-willing to go for a spin, was already holding one end of the rotating barrel and I the other as we lifted it onto the frame in time for me to screw it into place. Those last two screws were almost impossible to tighten but Mom held on and as long as she did I didn't give up. 

Holy moly! The barrel was in place! It was revolving! But as it spun I saw a few holes here and there.... Oh no! Those last 8 screws were not extras after all.... I was ready to throw in the towel. Screw those screws! 

"I remember when your Dad built the storage shed..." Mom began.

"Really? Dad built those sheds?" How could I forget them, on either side of our trailer. They held whatever would not fit into a single-wide home--including, eventually, Dad. (Mom admits her own rebellion led to that. But we can't go back! We can only share our lessons with our children, helping them to persevere through the ups and downs of life.)

"And your rocking horse, do you remember?" 

"You built that?"

"Well, I had help," Mom said. "You always need a partner, a helper..." I looked up and saw Mom, tightening the last of those screws. It was finished! We stepped back to admire the amazing composting tumbler. "I'd leave it right there," Mom suggested.

On our outdoor dining table? Well, why not? At least until a few more family members could see it. Which reminds me, I now had a true appreciation for my husband's DIY projects. They may not be parfait, but the patience and perseverance involved--now that is perfection!

--
Thanks, Mom, for snapping the photo above, and for all the talents and wisdom you share. xoxo 

FRENCH VOCABULARY

composteur rotatif = composting tumbler
on verra = we will see
étonnant = surprising
le colis = parcel, package
d'accord = OK
j'ai compris = I understand
le tonneau = barrel
le bricolage = DIY, home-improvement
le tournevis = screwdriver
l'outil (m) = tool
hélas = alas
la pression = beer-on-tap, draught beer
parfait = perfect
MVIMG_20200506_115003
Mille mercis, Cécile, for cleaning up our cafoutche and creating these tool walls and more!
MVIMG_20200506_115118

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to help keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
 
♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

You can also support this journal by purchasing our book-in-progress, click here.