grapevines in winter, francee, vineyard, wine, field, provence
Mystery, intrigue... and a flower thief in Sainte Cécile-les-Vignes. Read on. photo © Jules Greer

When my mom, Jules, steps off the plane in France she always feels like she has stepped back in time: into the very footsteps of French soldiers; their traces now obliterated: all that remains is the ghost of war. Regular old vines begin to look like calvary in Mom's artist's mind, ever seeing, ever inspired by another's bravery. Mom took this photo, so fascinated was she by the eerie effect of smoke (the neighbor was burning weeds) wafting through the vineyard. Read on, for more of my mom's impressions, in her letter below.
Today's Word: coupable (coo-pahbl) adjective
    : guilty

noun, masculine: culprit, guilty party

Audio file and example sentence:
Download Coupable wav . Download Coupable mp3
Ma maman commence à se sentir coupable.
My mom is beginning to feel guilty.

For as long as I can get away with it, I will bribe my mom to write this column, via her letters. It gives me time to catch up with all that sprints ahead of me: namely, meal-preparation, dust, and laundry. As for the bribe: Jules likes chocolate and a hot meal--and she's requested one of those fold-out nylon chairs (in which to sit comfortably as she watches her grandchildren at play, whether on the court or in the arena). Mom might also be coerced to continue writing in exchange for one of those Flip cameras -- so that she can start filming this "reality show" that is French Life Unfolding around her. What do you think? Can we trust her with a video camera? Meantime, enjoy her latest letter.

My Darling Kristi,

I am lying on your cot in your office thinking about all I have learned from you  -- just this morning !!!  I am exhausted as I know you are also.  We tend to feed off of each other and then escalate to the point of exhaustion.  As I am resting I sense the wonderful fragrance of lunch being prepared by you below, in your kitchen. You are still working away in that determined manner you have acquired along life's path.  I am feeling a little coupable, trying to justify my couch time against your zeal for order. I think you have inherited this gene from your Darling Dad.

We seem to have activated so many new projects in the past four days -- I think we tend to forget I just arrived last Thursday evening and today is just Sunday morning.  One thing I know for sure -- last September when I visited I tried to teach you the art of delegation - you have become a master of this.  I am now the victim of your new and highly honed skill as I hurriedly list all of the goals that YOU have assigned to me just this morning... as you run around repeating "MANY HANDS MAKE LIGHT WORK!"

*     *     * 

Comment on Mom's letter, or the photos (that's Jules, below, swiping flowers along a route nationale (between Jonquières and Orange). In the second photo she is hurrying to the car after I've ordered her back in a panic -- and just in time for a swift getaway!



Finally, Jean-Marc is in NYC today! It's not too late to join him for this -- or one of his other USA multi-city wine tastings tour! Have a look here for the list of cities where he will pour his wines, including his gold winner "Mistral".

A Message from KristiOngoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal each week. If you find joy or value in these stories and would like to keep this site going, donating today will help so much. Thank you for being a part of this community and helping me to maintain this site and its newsletter.

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For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety


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Debbie Chavers

Jules and Kristin, thank you for sharing your mother,daughter exchanges. This provides a good tear or two and at times comedy relief! What a blessing to share your friendship.


As you know, Jules, every home needs a "Martha" and a "Mary" and Kristin (Martha) will understand, as Jesus taught her to realize, that it is your season as Mary to kneel at the feet of our Savior and bath in the Light of his Word. Thus, pas coupable mais Grace! Continue your search for the beautiful and the true!



Jules sounds just like my Mom! Friends think Mom should be called the Energizer bunny. Hope you get your goals done and have a chance to relax and laugh.


Speaking of "coupable," I have come sadly to realize that no nation, no civilization, is free from the guilt of intolerance -- it appears to be ingrained in our human spirit. That being said, I have a question for you, Kristin, or for any of your readers. I am currently reading "The Discovery of France" by Graham Robb, and he early on mentions a group of people known since the 11th century as the "les cagots." They were literally treated as pariahs and were completely ostracized from society to the point of having to enter the church through a separate, lower door to debase them. They were forced to be carpenters; nothing else. And no one, not even Robb, has been able to definitively discover why these people were singled out, apart from the fact that they "looked" slightly different as far as hair and eye color, and were thought, therefore, to descend from the Visigoths. Do the French schools teach the children of this unsavory part of French history? We Americans have such guilt to confess regarding our treatment of the Native Americans and the African-Americans. Now I fear there is a tide turning against anyone who is or "looks" Muslim. Will we ever learn?


Hello Diane,

I just read your comment aloud to Mom (following Debbie's--hi Debbie!). We've taken your thoughts to heart and are already referring to each other by our new names (only, I made the mistake of calling Mom "Martha" and she quickly corrected me, "I'm Mary!"

Just to say, thanks for your thoughtful question in your second comment. I have not read Robb's book (though my good friends Kim and Steve have given me a copy... time to read it!) and cannot say if my own kids have studied about this separatism in school. Will look forward to reading everyone's thoughts via the comments!

Sandy Maberly

I had to laugh when I saw Jules, in my mind's eye, "the on location roving reporter" interviewing all those unsuspecting voisins with her video camera! You go girl! I'm sure we would all be delighted to see the results of your cinemagraphic labor of love.


I find after reading your lovely comments that I am a bit meloncoly-you are very blessed to have your Mom with you. It made me miss mine. I love the pictures and just everything. Thank you for sharing with the rest of us.


Camille Kelling

Thank you to both of you for such wonderful stories and pictures. You both are so much fun and have wonderful, positive energy.

poppy fields

Welcome back to France Jules. Don't get yourself arrested for any roadside flower swiping, because I want to read some more of your stories :)

Marilyn Munsterman

Do get the Flip camera for Jules. I would love to see a short video of your house and the children. I am thinking of getting one before I leave for my summer in France and it would be fun to see a film by Jules or one of the children.

Marilyn Munsterman

I just looked at Diane's comment on "les cagots" and I tried to do some research on them after I finished the wonderful book, "The Discovery of France." My favorite part is how people in the Auvergne used to curl up in bed and hibernate during the winter.


More information regarding "les Cagots" can be found at:

Sounds like things are really happening Chez Espinasse. Martha and Mary a-go-go. Have fun, ladies. We will enjoy your pictures and postings.


Fascinating article, Pat. Than you!


Pat -- here is the forgotten "k" so that I might properly THANK you:)

JacquelineBrisbane (Oz)

Wonderful photos of the plant-sharing incident! Carpe diem ILLUSTRATED!

Good on you Jules, plants, herbs, flowers are made to be shared around. Whether the “owner” of these is aware of the “sharing” or not!

My beloved maternal grand-mother, whom we called Bobonne, as is the custom in Brussels; was a specialist of this art. To the point where our family coined a new verb for this activity: “Bobonner” and accompanying adjective “Bobonnage”. Though my bobonne has been in that great garden in the sky for decades, these words have traveled with us to Australia where family and friends practise the art.

Janine Cortell

Chere Kristin:
Your mother writes as beautifully as you. I always enjoy reading her journal. Janine


Mystery, intrigue...and a flower thief...ohhh thank goodness I scrolled down...thought someone stole all the flowers off the vines for a moment!
Beautiful, atmospheric photo...


and yes...I had to find out then...grape vines DO have flowers although not particularly showy...


I am so glad for you both, with Jules back in France! Makes me miss my girl in Paris, but the stories warm my heart!


Nice pic of those smoky vines

Jennifer in OR

Thanks for the letter from Jules! The picture of the vines is great--it looks like fog to me, which would be a bit more romantic than smoke. :-)

Debbie Chavers

Hi! Kristin :) and Jules :)

Christine Dashper

Hi Krisitn and Jules,

Thanks for your lovely post and photos ladies. I also love the 'coupable'(well almost) smile on Jules' face in the second photo.

What is the French word for smile? My 'compact' French dictionary doesn't have it

all the best


Chris~ the French word for smile is un sourire - check it out on the Feb 16 mot of the day:


I am hoping that all is well with our Kristin...

Christine Dashper

Thanks Kristin!

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