A Saint in a "Niche"

The fixer-upper where we are fixing to move to. The glass is shattered, the dream intact.

une niche (neesh) noun, feminine

  1. alcove, nook, recess; kennel, doghouse
  2. trick, prank, hoax

La vertu, comme le corbeau, niche dans les ruines.
Virtue, like the raven, nests in ruins.
--Anatole France

Aunt Marie-Françoise is showing me the emerald green waters at Isle-sur-la-Sorgue* when I point to a hole in the wall, just across the river, and ask if there's a name for it. "Une niche," she answers, returning an admiring gaze to Sorgue's waters, less famous than its antique markets.

I study the "niche" in which stands a small stone figure. I ask Jean-Marc's aunt if she knows any expressions to go with the term. Her eyes search the glittering waters below. Then, like a lucky fisherman, she reels in a catch (or phrase, but not a catchphrase) as if from the waters below. "Où est-ce que tu te niches?" she inquires, more as a statement than a question. "It means 'where do you live'?" she explains.

The image of a doghouse comes to mind, not because I live in one but because some men do. I decide to share the expression with Aunt Marie-Françoise.
"We say 'He is in the doghouse' when a man gets into trouble." My charming tour guide is staring at me and I wonder if she has just discovered a blip in the Puritan society that I am told I come from. This time, I don't let the French down. "You know, like when he forgets to buy flowers for the wedding anniversary or fails to take out the garbage for weeks at a time...."

                                    *     *     *
Lately, I have been wondering about the name for the alcove in which saints sometimes stand, saints who are statues that is, or vice versa, for everyone knows that real saints are too busy to hide out in cubbyholes but stand barefoot to God's green earth, arms held out to the suffering.

Back in Sainte Cécile-les-Vignes, where we spent winter break and where we are fixing to move this summer, I wonder about the small stone saint above our future front door. Just what is its purpose if not to serve as a constant reminder that Someone is watching over us? Perhaps the answer lies in the question, which suits me just fine as I have always needed to believe that someone is guiding my steps. Alone, I trip over my own shoelaces before I even make it to the hills that need climbing.

Another perk to having a saint overlooking our front patio is this: should Jean-Marc forget flowers on our wedding anniversary, well then, out there under the stars (in a niche* of his own) he'll be in good company.

                                      *                  *                *

Mas or farmhouse in sainte cecile-les-vignes france vinyard

Vineyard update: The bank in Sainte Cécile-les-Vignes has agreed to loan us the money! Along with private investors, we will be officially acquiring eight hectares of vines on March 19th!

References: Isle-sur-la-Sorgues (a.k.a. the Provençal Venice); une niche (f) = doghouse

French Idioms & Related Terms:
  une nichée = a nestful, brood, litter
  faire une niche à quelqu'un = to play a trick on someone
  nicher = faire son nid (to build one's nest)
  se nicher = to lodge
  niché dans un fauteuil = curled up in an armchair

dénicher = to take (bird, eggs) out of the nest; to leave the nest; to discover, unearth (antiques, treasure...)

Wildflowers above the vineyard in sainte cecile les vignes

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