Mediterranean Fishing Boat (c) Kristin Espinasse
We might have avoided the 14-hour chassé-croisé and its memorable bumper-to-bumper bouchon* at the Croatian border had we taken this cheery "pointu"* in place of our Citroën... (photo taken last week, on the Istrian island of Cres).

chassé-croisé (shah-say-krwah-zay) noun, masculine

    1. comings and goings
    2. a period of heavy, two-way traffic
    3. cross-translation
    4. (there seems to be a fourth usage of chassé-croisé in ballet... would anyone like to add their two-centimes' worth in the comments box? Thanks in advance!)

Audio File & Example sentence: Hear my daughter pronounce these French words:
Download Chasse-croise

LE GRAND CHASSE-CROISE. C’est reparti. Après la vague des juilletistes, les aoûtiens ont pris le relais. The great crossing. Here we go again. After the wave of July vacationers, August vacationers have taken over.
--L'Humanité .

A Day in a French Life...
by Kristin Espinasse

Our dog and our grapevines are about to burst: deliverance is in the air, if not in the soul... My worrisome mind darts back and forth, from our big-bellied Braise... to the dust... to the scorched pelouse*... to email and a full in-box.

Having just returned from a two-week roadtrip, I see our home is cloaked in a fine sheet of poussière* so that the interior now reflects the exterior in color and scope: ghost-town taupe. (How's that for a new entry on the color wheel? It is good to be creative at times like this, even if that means naming a new nuance.) Whereas one year ago our garden was teeming with colorful wildflowers, now, only clumps of parched grass cover the ever assoiffé* earth below.

Speaking of at times, it is always time to look on the bright side: the grapevines, despite la petite canicule,* are thriving, and so is our golden retriever, Braise -- many thanks to Uncle Jacques, who looked over her as a mother would her own child (my brother-in-law did not feel good about leaving Braise cooped up and alone all day... so he took her to work, in Avignon, at le chantier.* Man and delighted dog began their workday at the café, ending it at the brasserie for a beer. Jacques tells me Braise met many admirers and that our phone number was given out to several interested parties who learned that puppies were on the way.

Now that we've looked at the bright side, and have remembered to be reconnaissants,* it is time to be creative about evacuating nervous energy. Vacation should have taken care of restless nerves, but nothing can quite still September....

September represents, among so many other things, the formidable rentrée -- the busy, back-to-school rush to get the kids settled in school--and stocked up with an absurd amount of "equipment" (I still don't understand three-quarters of the vocabulary on the school supplies list that the teacher hands out each fall).

September also happens to be the month that all of my friends, family, and acquaintances were born or married (the reader will please excuse the exaggeration--exaggeration being just another symptom of the malaise that is the theme of this letter). There is the need to acknowledge, via cadeau* or card, these special dates... or at least not forget them!

And September is the month when new readers sign up to this French word server, and the pressure is on to compose. Though writing for longtime readers feels like sitting around the fireside chatting in our pajamas -- the thought of a new reader has me rushing to my closet, rooting around for my wedding dress and tiara. Will the dress still fit? Is it too formal for the occasion? Can't we pitch protocol all just hang out in our pantoufles* and be ourselves?

All this makes me anxious, sends me swiftly into three-ring circus mode in which I feel both the funambule* and the freak: the CONTROL freak walking on the tight rope otherwise known as "The Balanced Life". Step one millimeter to the left ...or a catastrophic centimeter to the right... and the world--along with its freaked out funambulist--will flip! This is the bungled belief system that I can't help but get tangled up in this time of year -- the belief that I must control all of the variables -- or be eaten alive. Meantime, it is, in reality, not the variables -- but the nerves themselves -- that are eating me alive whilst "the variables"--that happy-go-lucky go-with-the-flow group of elements, incarnate, are sitting over there in a cafe corner, shaking their heads, slurping their beers, sideline philosophers who have figured out, some time ago, that sitting still and taking time to smell the beer vapors can be good

Nothing doing! There's no use in trying to mimic those vacuous variables, busy upending their beer cans, butts bound to the bistro chair -- for this time of year, aka "September" (have you noticed, dear reader, that I am no longer abiding in August... but already exist in shell-shocked September -- yet another symptom of this malady which is the theme of today's letter), for September is also the harvest month! There are the harvesters, who will soon arrive: friends and family interested in the evolution of our grapes and in offering a helping hand. Now to learn to delegate, to let go of these reins which I tend to wrap tight around our home and our family. If vacation taught me one thing, it is that the world continued to spin without my slapping it into motion with a whip.

In spite of the still spinning sphere, nommé Earth, dust managed to land while we were away on vacation, but what, dear reader, is dust? Who cares about dust? What's the big deal about poussière?!!! Will you still like me if you come over to my house and see piles of it (can dust be piled? OK, how about piles of clothes, then?)

After all, this is where my mistake lies: in still caring so much about what others think... that I'll let go of my own rules...
instead of standing strong beneath them...


*   *   *

Post note: Now if I can only get past the poop (Ha! Try to control IT) -- but that'll be in October, by my calculations (at which point the puppies will need to be potty trained)? For now, I'll try to keep it in the day... Chaque jour suffit sa peine.* I'll start by delegating to the dog. We'll go from there... Wish us luck.

And a big "PS" here: today I will also need to delegate to you. Please add the missing definitions to the following vocabulary words in the comments box, and, while you're there, be sure to share your response to today's story or to tell us a story of your own. Mille mercis d'avance!

French Vocabulary:
le bouchon (speaking of "bumper to bumper")
le pointu
la pelouse
la poussière
la petite canicule
le chantier
le cadeau
la pantoufle
la haleine
chaque jour suffit sa peine


Macrame & Madras (c) Kristin Espinasse
"Macramé and Madras" on the Croatian island of Cres. There are so many photos to show you from our Mediterranian escape. See them soon at Cinéma Vérité!


Mastering The Art of French Cooking, by Julia Child

Paris, Je T'Aime: Stories of Love from the City of Love (see film clips here)

French soap: The practical and very neat Provendi revolving soap fixtures have adorned public school washrooms throughout France for years

Music: C'est L'amour: Romantic French Classics

A Message from KristiFor twenty years now, support from readers like you has been an encouragement and a means to carve out a career in writing. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider a donation. Your gift keeps me going! Thank you very much.

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