Monday, January 09, 2012
Jean-Marc's latest pastime. Read on in today's story column.
un casse-tête (kass tet)
: jigsaw puzzle, brainteaser
: difficult problem, headache
Note: un casse-tête is a synonym for puzzle. The French more often call a puzzle "un puzzle" or "un jeu de patience".
Audio File: listen to Jean-Marc read today's word and the following example sentence: Download MP3 or Wav file
Les premiers puzzles se faisaient en peignant une image sur la surface d'une fine planche de bois que l'on découpait ensuite à l'aide d'une scie à chantourner... le mot anglais "puzzle" signifiant d'une façon générale une énigme ou un casse-tête. The first puzzles were made by painting an image on the surface of a thin wooden board that was then cut with help of a jig saw... The English word "puzzle" means, generally speaking, an enigma or a brainteaser. —fr.wikipedia.org
A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE... by Kristin Espinasse
There is nothing so soothing as watching an overworked man piece together a jigsaw puzzle. Sitting quietly beside the crackling fire, a puzzle piece held gently between rough, calloused fingers, my husband is lost in concentration. I have had the chance to observe this "pieceful" scene, almost nightly, ever since Jean-Marc cleaned out the cellier, salvaging this old puzzle in the process.
Just outside the window, the rows and rows of grapevines—now leafless, woody, and sleeping like a log—no longer vie for his attention. For a rare moment, Jean-Marc is at peace.
On the table before him, my husband has laid down one of my mom's largest oil paintings—it appears to be the perfect base on which to construct his scattered oeuvre!
(Jules will not be shocked to learn that her painting currently serves as a foundation—au contraire—she is known to roughhouse with her art: scrubbing down dusty paintings and, sometimes, completely obliterating scenes with a coat of wet paint!
Sometimes Mom forgets her plein air paintings, leaving them out in the rain—only for them to survive, blessed by God's tears, dried by the muse or le Mistral!
Yes, by unwittingly lending her painting as a puzzle support, I think Mom will even be honored to learn that she is participating in this restorative effort, one that has an especially calming effect on her treasured—and tired—beau-fils.)
From the kitchen, where I am putting away dishes, I pause, enjoying the scene of a tired man "puzzling". The scene is restful, even to me. I sit down at the kitchen table to sip a steaming tisane and watch my husband work, this time effortlessly.
Initially, Jean-Marc tried to interest our daughter (owner of the puzzle) to participate with him in this jeu de patience. When Jackie eventually lost interest (or patience?), Jean-Marc continued working on her puzzle without her.
As I observe my husband I am humbled by his appreciation and interest in our daughter's puzzle. Watching him devote all his concentration to the subject, I can't help but feel a little ashamed at an unfair remark I made many years ago, before we broke up for the first time:
The heated scene took place on a busy street in Marseilles and went something like this:
Me: "You are so macho!"
Him (hugely offended): "Je ne suis pas macho! JE NE SUIS PAS MACHO!"
I can't even remember what the subject was then, but tonight, sitting here sipping my tea, it is hard to contain my smile as the puzzle in the next room begins to come into view, piece by piece....
I now see two fuzzy kittens clinging side by side—innocent and helpless, such a fragile couple!
How sweet to see a big strong man putting together a kitten puzzle! I think, when suddenly my mind returns to the accusatory scene on the busy city street, some twenty years ago....
Macho? What was I thinking?! I look over, affectionately, at the puzzle maker and feel a strong sense of gratitude for one man's care and diligence in piecing back together the innocent and fragile couple. It takes puzzle maker's patience. This I know for sure.
Learn more about our exciting (and rocky...) courtship, in the intro chapter to Words in a French Life. And in the follow-up book, "Blossoming in Provence", a girlfriend-come-wife learns many more lessons in patience!
Le Coin Commentaires
Corrections and comments regarding today's story, or edition, are welcome here, in the comments box.
le cellier = storeroom
une oeuvre = a work (painting, book, film)
au contraire = on the contrary, just the opposite
plein air = a painting produced outdoors
Mistral = strong wind coming from the north or northwest
le beau-fils = son-in-law
une tisane = herbal tea
un jeu de patience = puzzle
The pieces of Nature's puzzle.
A puzzle statue we spotted in Ramatuelle. I hope you enjoyed this edition. Keep up your French with the following, highly recommended book:
Exercises in French Phonics bestseller on French pronunciation and how to pronouce French words correctly! (click here)
A Message from Kristi: Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal week after week. If you find value in this website and would like to keep it going strong, I kindly ask for your support by making a donation today. Thank you very much for being a part of this community and helping me to maintain this site and its newsletter.
Ways to contribute:
1. Paypal or credit card
2. A bank transfer via Zelle, a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.
Or purchase my book for a friend, and so help spread the French word.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety
Only a man at peace with himself on so many levels could do what you have pictured Jean-Marc doing. That peace is what I wish for you. Namaste.
p.s. That first berry picture would make an awesome jigsaw puzzle.
Posted by: Betty Gleason, Hobe Sound, FL 55° at 6:35 am | Monday, January 09, 2012 at 12:35 PM
I LOVE JEAN-MARC...!!!
LET ME COUNT TH WAYS
#1. HE MARRIED MY DAUGHTER
#2, JEAN-MARC HAS CARRIED ON WITH THE DISCIPLINE REQUIRED
TO KEEP KRISTI 'IN THE GAME OF LIFE.'
#3. JEAN-MARC LOVES AND ADORES HIS MOMA-JULES.
I COULD GO ON AND ON ABOUT MY BEAUTIFUL JEAN-MARC, MOST OF ALL I LOVE THAT HE CALLS ME MOM WITH A LOVING NOTE IN HIS VOICE....
#4. JEAN-MARC HAS SHOWN ME 'THE WAY' ON MANY DIFFERENT
YEARS AGO DURING THEIR FIRST HARVEST AT ROUGE-BLUE I WAS
INVITED TO ATTEND, I WAS AT THE TIME GOING THROUGH ONE
OF MY 'DOWN-TIMES.' IT'S A GREAT STORY, TOO LONG FOR
RIGHT NOW - BUT THE PUNCH LINE WAS, 'FOLLOW THOSE
PEOPLE.' AND OFF I WENT AT 6 A.M. WITH BUCKET AND SHEARS
IN MY HAND, DOWN THE LITTLE PATH BEHIND THE GANG OF
JEAN-MARC KNEW HOW TO STRAIGHTEN ME OUT - I SOON
FORGOT ABOUT ALL MY WORRIES AND OLD BONES.
Posted by: JULES GREER - PUERTO VALLARTA, MEXICO | Monday, January 09, 2012 at 02:08 PM
I have been following you now for a year or two....all the way from Australia. As a person who is just launching into a process of photographical self-education, I just had to say that I am often impressed with your photos: the one on your story today of the flower hips against the blue of the sky was enchanting......and, oh ! I do hope that with practice, I too shall be capable of such shots. :)
Posted by: elizabeth barnhill | Monday, January 09, 2012 at 02:48 PM
Thank you! That was just the perfect thing to read while sipping morning coffee and starting our day.
Posted by: Carol | Monday, January 09, 2012 at 02:56 PM
You have so touched my heart with this beautifully written story.
Posted by: Ophelia Paine | Monday, January 09, 2012 at 02:56 PM
Beautifully written story today, Kristin. I could feel the love radiating from my computer screen.
Posted by: JolleyG | Monday, January 09, 2012 at 02:57 PM
Kristin, I love the way that you paint with words! It is still morning here so you have helped me start this chilly day (26 degrees F) with a warm, delightful story. Merci and blessings! - Mary in New Mexico.
Posted by: mhwebb | Monday, January 09, 2012 at 03:29 PM
My first thought before I started reading today, was "how cute to see a grown man putting together a kitten puzzle".
Such a sweet story!
Posted by: Eileen deCamp | Monday, January 09, 2012 at 03:34 PM
YOUR 'VIGNETTEE' THIS MORNING MADE ME SHED A TEAR...I FOR ONE KNOW HOW MUCH PRESSURE YOU AND JEAN-MARC ARE UNDER EACH DAY RUNNING YOUR LIVES IN PROVENCE.
I AM ALWAYS AMAZED BY EACH FRESH AND LOVING POST YOU MANAGE TO COME UP WITH - TODAY YOUR STORY TOPPED MY LIST OF 'PRECIOUS POSTS' - THIS GLIMPSE INTO YOUR LIVES IS DEFINITELY A CANDIDATE FOR YOUR FUTURE BOOK CONICALLING (sp?) YOUR JOURNEY THROUGH 2012.
CALL ME IF YOU ARE FREE FOR A FEW MOMENTS THIS MORNING.
Posted by: JULES GREER - PUERTO VALLARTA, MEXICO | Monday, January 09, 2012 at 03:38 PM
CHRONICLING - o.k. i will find a spellcheck that thinks like i do.
P.S. BETTY - HOW COOL OF YOU TO POST YOUR TEMPERATURE AFTER YOUR CITY.
Posted by: JULES GREER - PUERTO VALLARTA, MEXICO | Monday, January 09, 2012 at 03:44 PM
Kristin, I have to laugh. I too am married to a Frenchman, and we had a similar argument years ago, where I called him macho, and his reply was the same :).
He really isn't macho in the sense of "toughness" because he is very gentle, it was probably something he said or expected me to do (as his mother did everything for her "cheries".) But now, when I see him with my 7 year old daughter....how awesome he is as a papa, my heart melts in the same way you describe, and I take it back with all my heart... :)
Posted by: Barbara Danese | Monday, January 09, 2012 at 04:07 PM
I very beautiful and loving reflection ... isn't time wonderful?!
p.s. I smile at your wonderful mother who knows what's important in life.
Posted by: Linda R. | Monday, January 09, 2012 at 04:55 PM
Today's post was so delightful to read. A perfect gentle wake-up with my morning coffee. As I've met you both, it's so easy for me to picture the scene and it just puts a smile on my face.
Posted by: Candice | Monday, January 09, 2012 at 05:19 PM
What a lovely story. As a "jigsaw puzzler" myself, I know how soothing it can be (check out JigZone.com).
I finished my copy of Blossoming in Provence yesterday. I remembered some of the vignettes from previous books and your blog, but some were new to me. In any event, all were delightful stories and certainly brighten my day. Keep up the good work!
P.S. I would love to see you publish a coffee table book with your fabulous photos.
Posted by: Angela Fowler | Monday, January 09, 2012 at 05:24 PM
I second Angela's idea--a book of photos, both b & w and color!
Posted by: Martine | Monday, January 09, 2012 at 05:30 PM
Thank you for reminding me that the treasure is found in the often missed vignettes of existence. Mary
Posted by: mary | Monday, January 09, 2012 at 05:37 PM
The beautiful vignette ce matin warms my heart on a rainy, 40 deg Monday. From the bedroom window, crystal drops of water are clinging to the tree limbs--what a tres difficile un jeu de patience a snap of that would make, but not as pretty as one from the berries-in-blue snapshot above, as Betty G has said. That said, I am puzzled why I am using the sort of old-timey word "snapshot" today. I think I like being able to reference it as a "snap."
M-W says it is a casual photograph made by an amateur and the first record of its usage is 1890.
Ah bien! Sans doubte, I have used the RONG word, for Kristin's photograohy is anything but amateur work. She is our very recently, once again, published author/photographer of Blossoming. Wooohoooo, and cheers from the gallery!
In the scheme and theme of today's post, patience and appreciation come to mind. Patience for the day- to-day ins and outs of life that try our patience; yet the value of this patience when looking back, like the "macho" incident does. We find the noble, the beautiful and I think The Holy Moment when our gaze now lands on our beloved, and all the stuff of life disappears. The Mattermost emerges in all its beauty. And therein is the appreciation.
Merci, merci K for giving us these times of thoughful reflection, for drawing us together, I appreciate that you always make The Circle wider. Humanity is in high need of "circling up."
Posted by: Pat, Roanoke, Va | Monday, January 09, 2012 at 05:39 PM
thanks Kristin for another beautiful, moving story of your french life.... putting a smile in my heart for your tender fierce honesty, and compassionate, loving view of this fragile human life (like the fragile kitten couple) we all share, wherever we are. Thanks again. :-)
Posted by: Gayle Markow | Monday, January 09, 2012 at 06:09 PM
Nice story, Kristin. I think you may have just chosen the wrong word for JM. Instead of macho, I'm sure you meant manly & strong. Any wine maker would have to be strong and tough skinned. But here is the other characteristic I would imagine them to have - patience and gentleness. What a beautiful character combination to have as a husband, father and manly man. Cheap Grape has them all - kitten puzzle and all.
Posted by: Karen Whitcome (Towson, MD. USA) | Monday, January 09, 2012 at 06:48 PM
Kristin, you've have taken scattered pieces, some old, some new, to make a lovely, touching picture for today.
Thanks to you this morning from snowy northern Arizona.
Posted by: Gordon Lyman | Monday, January 09, 2012 at 06:50 PM
How nice that the caisse-tete gave Jean-Marc a chance to slow down and re-energize. In our household, they give my daughter (age 8) and me a chance to spend some time together and chat about whatever.
They are useful tools.
BTW, most toy boxes these days are labeled in English and French (so they can be sold in Quebec, I assume). I always laugh when I see the term "caisse-tete" and think of its literal meaning.
Posted by: Bruce in northwest Connecticut | Monday, January 09, 2012 at 06:55 PM
I love to do puzzles, too, and had the chance over Christmas to teach/help both my 6 year old granddaughter and almost four year old grandson put together puzzles. What amazed me was how both of them went from trying to put pieces in upside down or without matching colors when we first started, to picking up a piece and putting it right in as we progressed along. I received a puzzle of Paris from my dear wife which is a three layer, 1100+ piece History over Time Puzzle - should be fun and make winter (what little we've had so far) go faster. No snow, 43 degrees and full sun in St. Paul, Minnesota.
Posted by: Bill in St. Paul | Monday, January 09, 2012 at 07:10 PM
Hi Kristin! I loved todays read. Very touching, made me smile. I finished Bloosoming in Provence --- I loved it. I purchased another copy to give to my fellow student at the Alliance Francasis.
Today the central coast of Oregon is cloudy, no sun, and around 42 degrees.
Since I moved to the coast, I sure do miss the sun.
Stay well, and thank you for the peek inside your lives.
Posted by: Faye Stampe, Gleneden Beach, OR | Monday, January 09, 2012 at 07:25 PM
Nice story :-) I started a puzzle yesterday, so this post in in sync with my goings on!
Posted by: Pat | Monday, January 09, 2012 at 07:49 PM
Book arrived to much excitement at Hill head UK.Amanda and Nordine were still here pre their return to St Maximin.We are so proud of you and your family to have acheived so much,so perceptively,and to know,how lovely it is to follow your strivings and success.
How does it go---"to see a flower ,in a grain of sand",probably a misquote.
You are making those flowers blossom.
All love Kate and David
Posted by: Kate Dawson-Taylor | Monday, January 09, 2012 at 07:56 PM
My husband unwinds sometimes with a crossword puzzle, maybe a similar effect?
Lovely blue sky in the first photo of berries.
Posted by: Jennifer in OR | Monday, January 09, 2012 at 08:06 PM
What a wonderful post Kristi!!!
Posted by: Missy | Monday, January 09, 2012 at 08:40 PM
Such a lovely post Krisitn.
Posted by: Christine Dashper | Monday, January 09, 2012 at 09:50 PM
It is a great story, indeed
I am so blessed to have Kristi in my life
Posted by: Chief Grape and not macho | Monday, January 09, 2012 at 10:37 PM
Hello Kristin, ça va?
Your today's post is so well written. Reading it also brings me du calme, which I need, after the recent hectic holidays. How were your year-end celebrations? Suddenly now, I think back of your anecdote on the sapin that JM had brought home. Memories always flood back whenever I read any of your petites histoires, because you talk about your every day life, in such a way that many of us can connect. Et aujourd'hui, sans faille, tu me fais penser au temps où my husband and my children used quality time to play ce genre de casse-tête. Je me souviens encore du calme qui règnait when they were looking for the spot to fit their puzzle pieces and the uproar when they found them. Watching them from a near distance had always given me such a happy feeling, even though I had to finish the dishes in the sink. :-)
Posted by: Millie | Monday, January 09, 2012 at 11:12 PM
But isn't it cheating to have the picture out as a hint?
Posted by: Peter | Tuesday, January 10, 2012 at 01:11 AM
Love is funny sometimes. Who we love and why can be baffling at time.
Posted by: gail bingenheimer | Tuesday, January 10, 2012 at 03:25 AM
Peter, I wouldn't call it cheating. How else are you supposed to know what the puzzle is a picture of? I also confess to doing puzzles, usually, from the outside in. Once the "frame" is done, it's easier to add the rest of the pieces.
Reading this post reminded me of a visit to a French family, where everyone worked on a puzzle with over 1,000 pieces. Sometimes we'd spend "focused" time on it. At other times, we'd pass by and put a piece or two in place.
I was also reminded of assembling puzzles in our own family. We liked big ones, such as those with several hundred to 1,000 pieces, such as the state of Maryland with historic or other sites of interest around the edges, with the middle a map, complete with pictures of geographic features, etc. Our son, small as he was, was able to find where some pieces belonged.
Today rain was predicted, but we wound up with about 3/4 inch of snow. It's hovering around freezing now, in University Park, MD, a couple of miles from the Washington, D.C. line.
Posted by: Marianne Rankin | Tuesday, January 10, 2012 at 03:33 AM
I love to do puzzles and when I start one it is so hard to leave and do other things. I have one puzzle - not a jigsaw puzzle, but a puzzle with only 9 pieces and a pattern, but neither have I or any friends been able to put it together. It looks so easy but is sooooo hard!
Posted by: Kathleen | Tuesday, January 10, 2012 at 05:03 AM
I love your stories so much! They always brighten my start to the day :) Thank you :)
Posted by: Maria | Tuesday, January 10, 2012 at 09:01 AM
I recently discovered your first book and your blog. They are both a delight! I REALLY want to read your new book, but I am anxiously awaiting the debut for iBooks. Any idea when that might happen?
Posted by: Robyn | Tuesday, January 10, 2012 at 06:54 PM
Kristen (and Jean-Marc) Extraordinary and much needed change of pace for an extremely hard working man with little free time. I love his subject choice in puzzles. Had to chuckle. And, guys! What can one say about them? Just reading a novel where two men friends , one about to leave on a plane and the other dressed in a tux for a dinner dance, happen upon an open basketball court as they had a little time left to spend with each other. Do I need to ask," What do you think happened?" Kristen, it doesn't matter. Christmas Eve or 4th of July! Men are so worth writing about. P.S. I already told you how much I enjoyed Words in a French Life and read the introduction twice. You have a very wise Mom!
Posted by: Shirley | Tuesday, January 10, 2012 at 11:13 PM
I've started doing wooden jigsaw puzzles. They often have a few pieces called figurals that pertain to the scene and are carved into the shape of a "figure" instead of the standard cut puzzle piece (example: tree or a dog, or in this case, a kitten)! It's fun to find these special puzzle pieces and see where they fit in the puzzle.
I also enjoy crossword and number puzzles (kakuro and sudoku). I have to do one before I go to sleep each night; people don't understand how that can be relaxing instead of frustrating.
Thanks, always enjoy reading your posts!
Posted by: Nancy S., Michigan/Maine | Wednesday, January 11, 2012 at 01:23 AM
Robyn, I need to work on the e-book version. I will try to do that in the next month... thanks for the motivating reminder!
Posted by: Kristin Espinasse | Wednesday, January 11, 2012 at 04:08 PM
love the story today, Kristin. Relationships are indeed so fragile and are nourished by love, patience and learning to compromise.
BTW, just a small correction in the vocabulary section: I believe the Mistral comes from the north or northwest, not from the south. cheers!
Posted by: Jan R. | Tuesday, January 17, 2012 at 07:53 PM