Monday, January 17, 2011
Pictured: the perfect parcelle for a Sunday nap. And how did you spend your Dimanche?
la terre (ter) noun, feminine
: soil, land ; earth; property; clay
Audio File: Listen to Jean-Marc pronounce these words:
Download MP3 file
Je m'allonge sur la terre pour contempler le ciel.
I lie on the ground to contemplate the sky.
terre à terre = matter of fact
redescendre/revenir sur terre = to come down to earth
sous terre = underground
la terre cuite = terra-cotta
travailler la terre = to work the land
sur la terre comme au ciel = on earth as it is in heaven
A Day in a French Life... by Kristin Espinasse
Field of Dreams
Lying on a parcel of freshly turned earth, I look from side to side: just rocks and dirt. I wish the ground would stay this way. How neat and tidy things are out here in nature's own home!
It is dust that drove me out of the house... and yet dirt--from whence dust issues--is somehow clean and serene.
Stretched out on my back, I think about spring, when the weeds will shoot up. It won't be so neat then. Then again, this may turn into a field of poppies... might we help it along with a few seeds? Or will last year's poppies return, automatically?
Les coquelicots... my thoughts now wander to Flanders Fields. How the mind shoots from one chose to another.... then to Lily, who is buried here, at the end of this parcel.
I lie still sur la terre and feel the cool earth come over me, one dust particle at a time....
I look up to the oak tree which towers over Lily and me.
"You ought to take a nap outside, under that tree." If only mom could see me... bundled up here, in wool socks, a knitted cap, and a coat lined with fleece.
"Just lie under that tree and look up to the sky. Magnifique!"
I do as Mom says and begin to feel my cares slipping away.
The land on which I lie is one level down from the vineyard. It once held fruit trees... which became diseased, then a kitchen garden... and a few sunflowers (how I'd toiled in vain. Dragging the garden hose all the way out to the field... and how I'd stared, stunned to see the radish seeds up and march off indefinitely... thanks to an army of ants who saw an opportunity.)
And here is where Jean-Marc planted four small olive trees, one of the gifts he gave me on my birthday. I reach up and grab the label from the sapling towering above me. (How a sapling towers when you lie beneath!) The label notes the life span of an olivier: 2000 years....
My eyes run up the dirt wall which rises behind me, until they reach the blue sky at the edge of the turf. I remember the fresh hoof tracks I'd seen and I begin to imagine a herd of sangliers charging towards this drop off, beneath which I rest. Will they stop in their tracks... or will they fly over me? I squint, when next a whooshing sound has my eyes widening.... a flock of birds flies over! I listen to the rush of thrushes. How to describe the sound of so many wings batting? It would take poetry.
I stand up and dust myself off. Nothing poetic about that. I gaze at the field as one would an old friend: with a reverent we must see each other more often. Yes, we must make the time and see each other again.
Le Coin Commentaires
Corrections are most welcome and comments are most enjoyed! Thanks for leaving a message, here.
le coquelicot = poppy
la chose = thing
sur la terre = on the ground
magnifique = magnificent
From left to right: Herm, Sharron, Karen, and Bob. You may recognize the names "Herm" and "Karen" from the comments box. These two organized the first word-a-day meetup in Phoenix! Four people showed up... if you count Herm's and Karen's spouses... and isn't that a start? :-)
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For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety
Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful, your nap under the sapling, the flock of birds, the quiet day. I felt wrapped in fleece, the cold air, smelled the earth, felt the rocks, planned to find my own place under a tree, against la terre.
Posted by: Suzanne Dunaway | Monday, January 17, 2011 at 11:14 AM
Sigh...it sounds divine! I feel rested as I finish your last word of this post. I have a passion for trees and being out indulging nature and have secretly fallen in love with a huge Eucalyptus. I think about it, muse over my hugs around its trunk with closed eyes - those aromatic moments embraced by its whispering leaves. D'accord these stolen moments we must attend, as they recharge the very soul....
Posted by: Cindylee | Monday, January 17, 2011 at 11:37 AM
It's good to see you take the time out to enjoy the world we live in, I enjoy your poetic way of writing about it. Thanks for the pleasure of your daily 'word' long may you continue.
I have rediscovered poetry in my old age having been given an anthology (Philip Larkin, Collected Poems) for Christmas and having aquired two beautiful volumes by French poets: Jaques Prevert, 'Parole's' and Paul Eluard, 'derniers poemes d'amour'. All three wonderfully uplifting encouraging every human emotion.
If anyone would like to have a Word a Day meet-up and who lives within a couple of hours drive of the south Vendee please contact me through this column.
Posted by: Mike Hardcastle | Monday, January 17, 2011 at 11:40 AM
Ah, to be able to lie under a tree, even bundled up in fleece, I'd be lying on 3-4 feet of snow. Instead we snowshoed among the trees and with the deer in the river bottoms. I can't wait for Spring to be able to, as Suzanne said, smell the earth again, but this year it's going to be many months before that can happen!
Posted by: Bill in St. Paul | Monday, January 17, 2011 at 01:02 PM
A nap on the ground is something I do so enjoy in summer in France after a large lunch. And here in South Africa members of our Sunday walking group usually stretch out on the ground after a sandwich lunch marking the mid point of our long walks. Thorns need to be watched for and avoided when we stretch out - like the little ants and insects which may bite. This raises a prickly point. American English is comfortable with the word 'dirt' which we are not used to in this context. Dirt is altogether less pleasant than the soil which supports life on earth. In Britain (and in South Africa) both soil and earth may be tilled, planted and slept upon - but not dirt!
Posted by: Alastair Grant | Monday, January 17, 2011 at 02:04 PM
And who might Lily be? I don't see a search function on the site, so I must ask. A former furry friend of some sort?
Posted by: Cyndy | Monday, January 17, 2011 at 02:04 PM
Cyndy: click on the highlighted (in blue) reference to Lily or go here:
and read the entry plus the next one.
Posted by: Bill in St. Paul | Monday, January 17, 2011 at 02:20 PM
Sounds a lovely way to spend Sunday. I too love trees. I photograph them when ever possible,but unfortunately don't get a lot of time to lie under them ,except on holiday !
My youngest daughter a resident of Alaska is about to move to Phoenix. I shall visit her sometime so perhaps I might be able to link up with Herm & Sharon ??
Posted by: Audrey Wilson | Monday, January 17, 2011 at 02:27 PM
Whether horizontal, gazing at the wonders above, or vertical, observing what lies around us, being in nature is one of life's most potent gifts. Kristin, your writing transported me there with its vivid description of your experience.
My favorite parcel of terre is in the backyard, under an arbor (created from the bones of an old swing set--all swinging things removed) where wisteria and roses twist and turn with abandon, providing havens for birds' nests. Whether seated or (preferably) reclined in the wooden swing there now, I can be trasported to Mother Nature's all-encompassing, monkey-mind- reducing haven. Being. Being there. (Remember the movie!?)
Walking the trails (how I would love to snowshoe-sounds wonderful Bill in St.Paul), bike riding, paddling in the funky paddle boats at Watoga St Park, etc are also lifting and refreshing experiences. This reminds me to recommit to daily walks w/Maxine, which I easily put off or do not do.
Living in Roanoke, Va, I do not know if there is anyone close enough to join up with for a FWAD outing, but that would be nice. Loved seeing pic of Herm and Karen.
Finally, my first thing to do a la blog this a.m. was to catch J-M's "wav," thoroughly enjoying sa voix, si calme et charmante...ok, that's my francais-attempt de la jour, hope it isn't too off!
Happy Trails to all.
Posted by: Pat Cargill | Monday, January 17, 2011 at 03:02 PM
Yes, we should all lie outside now and then and look at the sky. Probably most of you have gazed at clouds from time to time and "seen" things in them of various shapes.
Pat Cargill, if you get to the D.C. area sometime (I know it's close to 200 miles from you), you could look me up. Give me a day or more notice on this blog.
I remember Lily. The story, which I reread, was especially poignant because a couple of days ago, out driving, I saw a cat by the side of the road, without, it seemed, a mark on it. I made a U-turn, parked off the road, and went to look at it. I'd hope it might just have been knocked unconscious, but apparently was killed by a passing car. On closer inspection, I did find a wound. I felt so sorry for that cat, and I know there are many like it. I thought the comment that appreciating life anew was Lily's legacy was a tribute to her.
Do you still have the other cat, Coco?
Posted by: Marianne Rankin | Monday, January 17, 2011 at 03:10 PM
Kristin: As-tu lu le roman «La Terre» d'Emile Zola?
Mike: Enjoy Philip Larkin. He has been one of my favorite poets since I was 16 or 17 (a frighteningly long time ago).
Posted by: Passante | Monday, January 17, 2011 at 03:59 PM
The afternoon siesta outdoors sounds lovely! It is so good to put faces to the fellow French-Word-A Day followers too! I enjoyed my Sunday afternoon walking outside on the walking trails near my home in San Diego and admiring the view and the clearness of the air after all the rain we have had recently. The earth is greener and bright with budding flowers everywhere. I must remember to stop and pause more on these trails and relax on the benches. Thanks for the inspiration!
Posted by: Julie Schorr | Monday, January 17, 2011 at 04:38 PM
Lying outside in a vineyard sounds wonderful.
I so enjoyed meeting up with Herm and his wife Sharron. What great stories!
Audrey it would be great to meet up with you sometime, and of course anyone else in the area.
Posted by: Karen from Phoenix, AZ | Monday, January 17, 2011 at 04:51 PM
Lovely thoughts. Melancholy mixed with hope. best to you and yours.
Posted by: alicia brown | Monday, January 17, 2011 at 05:11 PM
The "message" in today's story is the exact same message that I emailed you about earlier. How connected is THAT?
Your words today are most enlightening. I like this type of active meditation! It's distracted by your thoughts but it brings you closer to them, too. I'm impressed by the fact that you then remember them by the time pen meets paper.
Posted by: Karen W (Towson, Maryland) | Monday, January 17, 2011 at 05:15 PM
Cindylee, enjoyed my visit to your site. Great turkey photos, too!
Bill in St Paul, quelle chance to see the deers in the snow. (also: thanks for helping Cyndy with the link! And to Cyndy, for your interest in the story.)
Alastair: many thanks for pointing out "soil" or "earth" -- much better. I will try to remember next time. Meantime, I'll see about changing things in the text to this story.
Mike: hope you find some others to meet up with. Send photos! And thanks for sharing the poets, and for Passante, for recommending and for pointing out La Terre (I'm reading some excerpts now.)
Suzanne and Audrey - here's hoping you find the perfect tree under which to rest and to dream.
Pat: loved the swing set recycling. Also: JM appreciated your sound file feedback, which I read aloud to him via shouts down the hall to his bureau... Can one hear "blushing"? I think I did!
Marianne, Coco ran away two years ago. I never wrote about it because I felt too awful, and believed it was my fault for not having neutered him on time (I had taken him in but the vet said she couldn't do the procedure as Coco had a cold. That week he ran away).
Julie, enjoyed your reminder to stop and to use those benches -- taking it all in. Enjoy the "budding flowers everywhere".
Karen, thanks again, and to Herm, (and Sharron and Bob, too!) for the photo.
THank you Alicia, just saw your note, and Karen W... off to read your email now :-)
Posted by: Kristin Espinasse | Monday, January 17, 2011 at 05:29 PM
One of your most beautiful posts, Kristin! I needed to start my day with some uplifiting words and, again, you did not disappoint! Mille mercis for continuting to share your journey with us in words and photos. I do not always have time to leave a comment, but I never miss a day!
Posted by: Sue | Monday, January 17, 2011 at 05:53 PM
I'm dreaming of the time I can take my old quilt to the little patch of grass out in my back garden and lie there, looking at the clouds. Or the stars, depending on the time of day. But it's going to be -2 F for a high temperature this week in Minnesota and there are 3 feet of snow in the backyard...and I hate making snow angels, so I'll have to wait.
Can't you get just so much thinking done in that position: face-up to the sky? Sometimes I take my harp outside and just let the wind play the strings for me. Oh spring, where are you?
Posted by: Amy Kortuem | Monday, January 17, 2011 at 06:05 PM
2011-01-17 aka Monday
I am a very long way from being even mildly competent in French but I am going to stick my neck out on this one. In today's list of words and phrases you give the translation of "terre a terre" as "matter of fact" when, as a matter of fact, it means "down to earth" doesn't it?.
While I'm in this stupid nit picking frame of mind wouldn't "redescendre" mean simply "to go back down" from anywhere to anywhere thats lower and that "revenir sur terre" means "to come back down to earth" unless we're talking about someone who is coming out of a hole in the ground?
Posted by: John Cunnell | Monday, January 17, 2011 at 06:07 PM
I enjoyed today’s story and I can relate to your relaxing experience.
Ah . . . . À comune avec la nature (to commune with nature) helps clear the cobwebs from the brain. I get a similar effect by hiking in the Arizona desert. The call of the quail, the melodious song of the cactus wren, the occasional howl of a coyote and the aroma of the creosote bushes can be very relaxing. Of course, we’re always on the lookout for the occasional rattle snake, scorpion and tarantula.
I enjoyed the rendezvous with Karen and Bob and look forward to future “meetups” with, maybe, more Francophiles from the Phoenix area.
Posted by: Herm in Phoenix, AZ | Monday, January 17, 2011 at 06:36 PM
Coquelicots are my favorite flower. When in Provence, I can't take my eyes off of them. Not good in a car! Will someone please tell me how to get them to grow in Indiana? I've tried a little water, a lot of water, moderate water; lots of sun, and less sun. They pop up for a while to greet me and then die. I always think they will reseed the next year. They are so stubborn that they will not do it. For me, that is. My mother-in-law, years ago, had them popping (poppying?) up in the cracks in her driveway and they drove her crazy. I say, what a problem!!!
Posted by: Susie | Monday, January 17, 2011 at 06:49 PM
Someone call a medic! It's the middle of winter and Kristin is on the rocks!
Posted by: Bill Facker | Monday, January 17, 2011 at 07:00 PM
Thank you for reminding me to take time to listen and dream.
Posted by: mary | Monday, January 17, 2011 at 08:02 PM
Hi Alastair - I feel the poetry within your post to Kristi, how sweet of you to kindly polish off the rough edges of her essense. I have tried to do the best with my two girls, Heidi and Kristi...made sure they grew up with the dream of college (they were
the first in our family.) I don't think you have been around this blog long enough to know I was the one kicked out of school at 16...and probably the one who embeded Kristi's fertile mind with the word "dirt".
I loved your kind lesson to "us" Kristi and me today, we've already been on the phone, she called me in Mexico just to tell me how touched she was with your reply.
Oh how I love to soar on the beauty and power of words.
Posted by: Jules Greer | Monday, January 17, 2011 at 08:34 PM
Here the earth smelled like spring today - although it was too wet to even contemplate sitting on, let alone lying down on. After a very severe winter it is nice to feel mild air swathing you when you walk out the door. Wonderful to see the primulae up and brightly at it, the first snowdrops piercing the dank, heavy earth with their little green spears....Hopefully the winter is over, but it's too early.....You put our hopes up, Kristin, with your midwinter (?) rêverie! Thank you!
Posted by: MAUREEN WINTERHAGER | Monday, January 17, 2011 at 08:46 PM
I went back and read your "Lily" post. We too, had rescued a little kitty. She was older than Lily, but still did that strange double dip from near comatose to almost perky and then down again. It was a near thing for her, but she did eventually make it. Cats are such fragile creatures and so hard to read.
You gave me pause with your beautifully written story to Thank God for our little fuzzy friend. My husband, in particular, tends to take her for granted now she's grown, but she is a very lucky little girl, as are we for having her in our home!
As always, I love your posts! Keep us thinking and remembering to be grateful Kristin!!
Posted by: Holly K | Monday, January 17, 2011 at 09:07 PM
My Dimanche? a long walk in the woods with my sister; it is very much winter here in NE- 20F, and a foot of snow. The walk was magical under tunnels of snow laden tree limbs....
but on another note, I would host a word-a-day rendevous in Boston if there is interest (sorry-can't get to Phoenix)...
Posted by: nancy Rial | Monday, January 17, 2011 at 09:45 PM
Love your story today! I enjoy lying on the grass and looking up at the sky. We had a hammock tied between two trees when Tara was in kindergarten and every day when she got home we would have lunch and then read a book and gaze up through the trees. She would usually fall asleep and I would just treasure that time we had together. I clicked over to your June 2, 2008 FWAD "pipette" and read about Lily. What a cute little kitten and I'm sorry she didn't pull through.
Posted by: Eileen deCamp | Monday, January 17, 2011 at 09:47 PM
You inspired me to spend a bit of time (20-30 minutes) outside on the front deck, basking in the winter sun, like a lizard sunning itself on a rock. Hard to believe it's winter up in "our" mountains, 72 degrees fahrenheit and sunny, especially after all the rain and snow and cold we had in December. Winter isn't over, but it's nice to enjoy a little early spring in the middle of January! (from Idyllwild, California)
Posted by: Bob Haine | Monday, January 17, 2011 at 10:02 PM
Beautiful, loved these words today.
Posted by: Jennifer in OR | Tuesday, January 18, 2011 at 01:05 AM
Marianne - I believe we met at J-M's wine dinner in D.C. last March, and am SO HOPING he will return there again this year. Will be there.
Posted by: Pat Cargill | Tuesday, January 18, 2011 at 02:55 AM
You may find the following lines useful:
- "par terre" -> if outside = on the ground
- "par terre" -> if indoors = on the floor
- une question "terre à terre" = a basic question
- avoir "les pieds sur terre" = to be down to earth, realistic, practical, full of common sense
- "sur la terre comme au ciel" = on earth as it is in heaven -> used in the Lord prayer context (God's will being done "sur la terre comme au ciel")
- "revenir sur terre" (figurative)
used in the 'imperative mode' to tell a dreamy person to face the real world!
"Reviens sur terre"! = Come back to earth!
Hope it all makes sense.
Posted by: Newforest | Tuesday, January 18, 2011 at 03:35 AM
I so enjoyed today’s lovely post and such a wise woman Jules is. Like mother, like daughter, to follow her suggestion and invite yourself to a complimentary showing of magnificence. I love the vision of you wrapped up in warmth, lying on the bare earth. It is my passport to peace; being in the woods, especially lying under or sitting up against trees. Here I realign myself with the pace and the groundedness of Mother Nature. The beauty opens my heart and the serenity calms my mind.
I enjoyed seeing the faces of some FWAD family. This weekend I was thinking how wonderful it would be to have a FWAD harvest crew or summer camp --- looks like others may share my idea.
Posted by: Stacy, Applegate, Oregon | Tuesday, January 18, 2011 at 04:04 AM
I can see a sort of rubber mattress / air mattress, so, I guess this was the spot where you had your nap on Sunday afternoon, "près de ton petit olivier" (near your little olive tree) - ... a nap? keeping your eyes wide open and your mind fully active. I guess you did close your eyes for a while... Well, what a wonderful place to unfold and to let your mind wandering about.
Impossible to do the same here on my "petite parcelle de terre", which is NOT a field, but a simple garden. It was wet, wet wet and slightly windy. Besides, I am suffering from a head cold at the moment and hoping it won't turn into sinusitis. So, my best place was not outside but, as you may guess, in my sitting room, by the woodburner. I was sitting very comfortably, my hands and fingers fully active, delighted to get on with some craftwork, while my husband enjoyed some indoor tennis practice at the local club.
"J'adore la terre", but at this time of the year, I simply let it sleep. It needs its rest, and there is no work for me to do to the soil, the plants or the trees.
It is rare to have a bright blue sky these days, so, "je prends le temps comme il vient" (= I take the weather as it comes). I get used to the 'all grey up there' and get my compensation by looking further down for other treasures from Mother Nature.
At this time of the year, nothing for me is more uplifting than the lily-of the valley type of perfume of this lovely little evergreen shrub called 'sarcococca' ('the Xmas box' - must try to find the French name) - almost insignificant flowers, but what a rich sent (just by my front door).
Although Winter will still be with us for a while, the days are lengthening a tiny bit, crocuses have just started to show the tip of their heads... The early daffodils will soon follow!... primroses are getting ready. One of our variety of hamamelis in the front garden gave us a dainty yellow surprise over the weekend! What a treat! The Vibernum Tinus are in full bloom, and the Viburnum bodnantense 'Dawn' are once again full of small clusters of pink heavily scented flowers... Still plenty of red berries and crab apples for the birds but also plenty of 'energy food' in the various bird feeders scattered in the garden!
Spring is still a long way away and I haven't taken the time to dream about Summer - well, no yet.
Posted by: Newforest | Tuesday, January 18, 2011 at 04:19 AM
This photo caption came to mind...
The first meeting of "la Société des Amis de Mot Française du Jour".
Posted by: Jeff Cwiok | Tuesday, January 18, 2011 at 04:20 AM
Thank you Jules and Kristin. I was afraid I might have raised some eyebrows, if not ire, but you have both responded gently. Gentil /le - amiable, kind. So much French in English. And I often feel that we should not find French difficult. I have been trying to write a passage of about 500 words in French using only words which are common to both languages but my French is not up to that level. A project for you Kristin? It is not as easy as it seems. I see many of you are feeling winter blues while it's midsummer down here at 34 degrees south latitude and snow is only seen on the mountain ranges as a light dusting in June or July. This is not to be envied as we live in a water-stressed region. I enjoy all your comments.
Posted by: Alastair Grant | Tuesday, January 18, 2011 at 08:52 AM
Glad that you have "la terre" showing in Provence, but here in Connecticut we still have at least a foot of snow and now there is a layer of sleet on top of it with rain expceted today with rising temperatures(equates to flooding) and then another snow storm a few days later. I guess that you can tell I'm waiting for the snow to melt.
How lovely to hear about the flowers from Newforest. We have 61 or so days until spring.
Love the story.
Posted by: Kathleen | Tuesday, January 18, 2011 at 02:55 PM
Ah to lie under the curly willow in my back yard and gaze up at the sky. But alas the willow wispy yellow branches are coated in ice and the sky is grey/white dripping a wintry mix. When it clears in the next few days I will go out, stand under it, look up at the sky and think of you in lovely Provence. Thank you for transporting me to all of the wonderful times I too have laid on my back and stared up at the sky letting all of the tensions of the day flow into the earth.
Posted by: Suzanne, Monroe Township, NJ | Tuesday, January 18, 2011 at 03:31 PM
How "mignon" is your "petit olivier"! And how fitting that it is near your sweet Lily. The one sending life to the other. Do you ever name your trees? :) I spent a long half hour in my backyard yesterday as the temps rose to almost 60 here in SW KS. The sunshine felt too good to ignore. My dogs thought so too! Merci, Kristin - for your lovely posting and for the photo of Herm and Karen (and spouses). I may have to make a trip to Phoenix! :)
Posted by: Candy in SW KS | Tuesday, January 18, 2011 at 05:30 PM
J'adore la description de la contemplation du ciel et de la nature. Ma classe de français a appris beaucoup aujourd'hui!
La classe de français a Harpeth Hall!
Posted by: Judy Quinn | Tuesday, January 18, 2011 at 05:58 PM
What a wonderful post. It is interesting how the starkness of the winter landscape is actually full of wonderful shapes and figures. The light is so different. The silence is quite revealing. What was hidden in the spring and summer is unveiled in the naked landscape of winter. Soon nature will advance on the landscape and hide its architecture and bones again.
Margaret in Durham, NC
Posted by: Margaret Dennis | Tuesday, January 18, 2011 at 06:55 PM
Sorry that Coco ran away. I hope he found a good home.
Another note on cats: Years ago, I had a cat whom I named "Ami." I explained to the vet and others that it was French for "friend," yet they always wanted to call him (yes, him), "Amy."
Pat Cargill, yes, if J-M gets to the D.C. area, or reasonably close to it, again, I plan to be there.
I'll be glad to meet with Any FWAD readers whether or not there is a wine-tasting, if you are in or near Washington, D.C. sometime. We could have lunch or dinner and speak some French. Give me some notice on the blog.
Posted by: Marianne Rankin | Wednesday, January 19, 2011 at 04:12 PM