When coquelicots unite they set the French countryside aflame...
solidaire (so-lee-dair) adjective
standing together, united, interdependent
Pourquoi nous haïr ? Nous sommes solidaires, emportés par la même planète, équipage d'un même navire. Why hate each other? We stand together, carried by the same planet, a crew of the same vessel. --Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
From beneath the shady mulberry tree in our front yard I look out over a leafy green sea. Not two months ago, barely a feuille* separated our terrace from the two-lane country road beyond. Now the full-grown vines form a natural screen of privacy behind which one can pace about in one's pajamas and leave the grapes in the first row to do the blushing--something they are literally trained to do.
I set my coffee cup down on the picnic table and revel in the cool morning quietude. Jean-Marc and the kids have gone into town to buy bread and I hope the baker is working though it is a jour férié.*
Férié! I remind myself to stay put in this garden chair, to resist the temptation to dress--let alone unpack my car and distribute yet another load of vaisselle,* linens, and bric-à-brac* which I have hauled up from Les Arcs* at the start of this three-day weekend.
I relax back into the chair only to begin plucking lint off my polyester robe-turned-"attrape tout". The clingy "catch all" cover-up (one of my warmest) is a veritable, wearable dust buster and about as attractive as one. It occurs to me that I wouldn't even be caught dining on dandelion roots* while dressed this way! So why not change? Because nobody can see me, I remember. Youpi! J'adore cette vie privée--cette liberté!*
That's when I hear the engine and turn to discover a tractor which grumbles to a stop not ten meters from my neat bubble of liberty. It is too late to keep up appearances and, at this point, I only hope the contractor will recognize me and not ask to speak to Madame Espinasse. Without mascara to prove their existence, my eyelashes look seared--all the better to highlight the blotchy skin beneath. Sans maquillage,* dressed in that Velcro robe which has picked up every airborne particle from here to the pits of Paris, traces of the sandman in my eyes and ten-hour breath... I greet our mason.
"I thought today was férié?
"It used to be. But since 2003 it is a journée de solidarité.*
"Oh," I say, casually running my hand through my hair, hoping to puff it up. I pause to glare at the good-for-nothing screen of vines where the grapes, no bigger than câpres* this time of year, respond with some sassy solidarity of their own (via a collective blush that would make a vintner proud).
* * *
References: la feuille (f) = leaf; le jour (m) férié = public holiday; la vaisselle (f) = crockery, dishes; le bric-à-brac (m) = odds and ends; Les Arcs (Les Arcs-sur-Argens) = medieval village in the Var; to dine on dandelion roots = (from the French "manger les pissenlits par la racine / to eat dandelions by
the roots" (to be pushing up daisies); Youpi! J'adore cette vie privée--cette liberté! = Yippee. I love this private life--this freedom!; sans maquillage = without makeup; journée de solidarité (explanation follows...); la câpre (f) = caper
The "lundi de Pentecôte" (Pentecost Monday), formerly a rest day, was sacrificed in 2003 after the deadly heatwave in which healthcare services were limited. For most Frenchmen it is an unpaid working day (the wages from which are turned over to the government and deposited into a solidarity fund for elderly and handicapped citizens). Read more here.
:: Audio File ::
Listen to Jean-Marc pronounce today's word and quote: Download solidaire.wav
Pourquoi nous haïr ? Nous sommes solidaires, emportés par la même planète, équipage d'un même navire.
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For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety