avoir de la veine + Learning French strengthens your brain!
Friday, July 24, 2015
A meaningful gift our recent guests left us: drawing by Bill Logie.
AVOIR DE LA VEINE
: to be lucky
AUDIO FILE: Listen to Jean-Marc read the following example sentence:
Download MP3 or Wav
avoir de la veine. Maggie et Michael, et nous même, avons eu de la veine de se rencontrer.
to be lucky. Maggie and Michael, and we ourselves, were lucky to meet each other.
A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE... by Kristin Espinasse
In our car, on our way home from a jazz concert at Domaine de l'Olivette, Jean-Marc and I were talking to two very special house guests. "If we could do it over again," I said, "I would have encouraged our kids to take up piano! I learned too late that when children practice a musical instrument they are forming their brains to be even more receptive to learning."
Maggie, who shared the back seat with me, smiled, admitting she would have enjoyed playing the harp. As soon as she said it I could picture her there, on our ancient olive farm, where she spent summers from the age of ten. The year was 1949....
I could see Maggie again, this time in her twenties--when this 19-century mas was first renovated-- strumming the harp on the balcony over looking the a field of olives. Beyond, the sea might have been glittering (a sea's way of clapping, you know).
Next, I pictured my mom, with that very same conjured-up harp, this time it is placed in the garden behind our home where apples, avocados and artichauts now grow....
I was daydreaming of the past and the future, of harps and artichoke hearts, when Maggie's next words woke me from the rêverie. "But you have already given Max and Jackie this gift," Maggie assured me. Your children speak a second language!"
It's true, speaking two languages has the same brain-strengthening benefit! Maggie's comment cheered me even more when I remembered that my own brain has been in training ever since learning French in high school. But lately my mind is forgetful.
Writing is another way to train the brain. So I think I'll get some exercise now, by jotting down some of the things we have done with Maggie and Michael since the return to their former stomping grounds on Monday.
* * *
The picture is still crystal clear in my mind. I stood in the gravel driveway as Jean-Marc drove up with our guests. I squinted my eyes, trying to see beyond the reflection on the windshield--to the familiar faces inside the car. I searched for expressions that would be a clue as to what our invités were thinking of the changes to the land since they sold us their beloved home three years ago (notably the absence of so many trees, as Jean-Marc prepares the land for vine plantings!).
Standing beside the weeping mulberry, a freeing thought came over me: Let go... let go! Take the focus off your anxious thoughts - in time to see the twinkle in your guests eyes!
And that is how the three-day visit with the former propriétaires of our home unfolded, moment by moment, leading up to the much anticipated moment of truth: when we would learn just how Maggie and Michael felt about the changes they now saw.
As I reach this point in my story, I am overwhelmed with the meaningful moments from this week; perhaps it is best to choose just a few (followed by the touching conclusion I hinted to you about):
From our family favorite (Jean-Marc's barbequed daurade) to our neighbor, Annie's, Soupe au Pistou (shared with Annie and her daughter, Margot) we enjoyed several meals on the front porch, enjoying stories of this historic farmhouse and the surrounding land.
Shopping in old St Cyr
Maggie and Michael did most of their errands and shopping in the old town of St Cyr, and it was a pleasure for them to return three years later, to buy a battery for Maggie's watch, to drink une noisette (espresso with a splash of milk) at Cafe de France, and to stop in to the old quincaillerie, with me, to inquire about a knife-sharpening prestation (yay! the shop offers this service, and will aiguiser my dull set very soon, for 2 euros 50 per knife).
The Search For Breizh
Our 9-year-old golden, Breizh (mother of Smokey), had a seizure on Tuesday, causing her to be disoriented and to wander off. Maggie, Michael, Jean-Marc and I each set off in a different direction, combing the property in search of our dog. It was Michael who found her along the path less traveled, below the old stone cabanon. Breizh was panting heavily beneath a stickery bush, one with enough shade to protect her until help arrived (mille mercis, Michel!).
Michael went on to walk the property line with Jean-Marc, helping Chief Grape to know just how far he can plant the next field of grapes.
The cabanon, a former pig pen.
Tuesday evening we piled into Jean-Marc's small boat and rode leisurely up the coast, anchoring just outside the port. Huddled together in the bow, our guests enjoyed rosé and cacahuates and a view of La Ciotat, Les Lecques, and the ile verte.
Swimming with Maggie
On Wednesday our dear matelots , or sailers, treated us to lunch at Port d'Alon. Over salmon and shrimp salad Maggie told us of her father's love of swimming, and how he used to do laps across the calanque, or creek here not far from his home (where we now live today).
After lunch, Maggie and I swam out to sea. As we looked back I saw the waves we made returning to shore like salty tender memories.
The day of our guests departure, I found Maggie and Jean-Marc in the kitchen--tears in the corners of their eyes. Maggie turned to me and said:
"Among the blessings I count in this life--my husband, my children, my grandchildren--I count selling our home to you a true blessing!"
(This Blog Post)
As we ate breakfast that morning together, Jean-Marc looked up, his eyes bright as he said to our guests, "Kristi would like to write an edition about your visit!"
"Oh, no!" I explained, downplaying the idea I had since given up on. "Not really an edition! I just thought I would mention we saw you and..."
The truth was, I so wanted to put to words the time we had shared with Maggie and Michael. "But," I explained, "while it is easy for me to write about Jean-Marc and the kids... the moment I write about friends the words risk coming out clumsily. And I wouldn't want to intrude on your privacy. And..."
Awkwardly addressing the subject of What Can And Will Sometimes Go Wrong When Writing About Others, I heard Michael address me.
"Kristi, We think you are very sweet and we are not worried about your writing." Michael's words, like the opening scene by the mulberry tree, were so freeing. I called my Mom soonafter.
"Honey," she said, "every since you moved to that house, you have truly written from your heart."
... to Maggie and Michael and to those who read these stories: Thank you for your support and words of encouragement. Each story written is a step farther along the writing path. And what a joy to write along a path flanked by olives and vines, and with the hint of the harp's melody coming from the terraces above....
The old fireplace here at Mas des Brun, formerly Mas Fraser, as noted in the drawing by Bill Logie
Maggie and Michael recommended many books and movies that take place in France, or very near. Here is a favorite of mine and theirs, and another I have just ordered, recommended by Michael.
- Jean Giono's, The Man Who Planted Trees, is a very short read and a must-reed treasure of a book.
- And a book I just bought, after Michael's recommendation: How to Live: Or a Life of Montaigne in One Question and Twenty Attempts at an Answer
SABLET HOME for high quality vacation rentals in the heart of Provence. Particularly suited to groups of up to four discerning travelers.
Photo by Sheryl Simmen, who writes: "Some day, I hope you can be at my lavender party, Kristin Ingham Espinasse, as it was you who introduced me to French Lavender Wands."
Thanks, Sheryl! I'm putting your lavender party on my bucket list! And for anyone interested in making lavender wands or lavender bottles, see the post Tresser: To Weave. 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
Vous etes un grand ecrivain Kristin....From the heart..amicalement.
Posted by: John P Senetto | Friday, July 24, 2015 at 02:26 PM
How great to hear about your visit with the former owners Michael and Maggie! It seems to me Maggie is right to cherish selling the property to you and Jean-Marc.
You may wish to include "Peyruis" by Charles Hood on your list of readings about France. It chronicles the small town by the same name, situated south of Aix. It so happens I did the illustrations for this treatise, so this counts, I suspect, as an incident of shameless self-promotion. When researching the illustrations I stayed in house dating from the 10th or 11th Centuries in the town of Peyruis and truly enjoyed my time in Provence. If you can't find an issue, I may be able to send one. Very much enjoy your column, and hope one day soon to visit friends in Peyruis.
Posted by: Bruce Bartrug | Friday, July 24, 2015 at 02:42 PM
John, Thank you so much!
Bruce, Very happy to learn about this book and your illustrations. I will Google it now.
Posted by: Kristin Espinasse | Friday, July 24, 2015 at 02:46 PM
This piece is so beautiful....by the time I got to "Boat Ride" my eyes were filled w/tears. I felt I was there, sipping the wine and drinking in the surrounding beauty, basking in the joy and presence of dear friends. Your lovely words allowed me to savor those moments as if they were real...the fulfillment of such a longing for France.
Posted by: Annette Heath | Friday, July 24, 2015 at 02:58 PM
Once again, beautiful words from your heart touching mine.
Thank you, Kristen!'
Posted by: Marcia Stoub | Friday, July 24, 2015 at 03:01 PM
Kristin life is made up of awesome moments in time and with your guests this week you have made awesome moments.As a therapist for 42 yrs I encourage parents to focus on what they have given to their children. To me as you write about them I note how well you have done it ,providing them with the Tools of Life.
To me two languages is a greater gift than the piano lessons and they can chose to do that on their own time now as adults.
Hard to lug a panic around but look where life will take them with two languages😀😀😀😀😀😀
Posted by: Jackie | Friday, July 24, 2015 at 03:01 PM
Marcia and Annette, so touched by your tears and your words.
Jackie, cheered by your thoughts about a second language being more valuable (and more practical) than lugging a piano around. Thanks!
Posted by: Kristin Espinasse | Friday, July 24, 2015 at 03:07 PM
I am so happy to be reading your stories & escapades. France would be my home if possible. Merci beaucoup. Have a most beautiful day.
Posted by: ann sorocki | Friday, July 24, 2015 at 03:08 PM
Your friends' visit was a wonderful treat for both families. The drawings are beautiful, thank you for sharing them.
Posted by: Linda R. | Friday, July 24, 2015 at 03:13 PM
Sigh. There is so much written between each line in this essay! I, too, sometimes find myself overwhelmed by anxiety about whether I am providing my children with the valuable gifts that I wish to impart to them. There never seems to be enough time to share all that I wish to share with my loved ones. Yet, we only have this moment. My own harp now sits in a very visible spot, reminding me that even when I have *only* five minutes, I have a whole five minutes that I can utilize to their fullest. This essay is such a beautiful reminder about letting go and allowing for more space to create itself! I agree with Jules about your writing. It feels that your home is precisely where you belong, where you find solace and where the right words can find you. Kristin, thank you, once again, for writing so beautifully, in a way that speaks to all your loyal readers.
Posted by: Katia | Friday, July 24, 2015 at 03:18 PM
Linda, the visit was a treat, as you say, and it was relaxing to be with Maggie and Michael.
Ann, good to see your note, and I look forward to sharing more words and photos (there is a picture taken at Domaine dOlivettes, on the evening of the jazz festival, here https://instagram.com/kristinespinasse/?hl=en
Katia, lovely to read about your harp! I hope to see a photo at FB. And I like your words about how much 5 minutes can be.
Posted by: Kristin Espinasse | Friday, July 24, 2015 at 03:42 PM
Ditto to what everybody else has said. This is truly a meaningful and heartwarming blog. I could feel the love. It must've been a wonderful visit.
Posted by: Tom | Friday, July 24, 2015 at 03:47 PM
What a delightful blessing Maggie bestowed on you with her words, and what a blessing you and J-M have given her and her family by caring for the land and their former home.
Posted by: Trina from St. Petersburg, FL USA | Friday, July 24, 2015 at 04:01 PM
Tom, thanks for such tender words.
Trina, Maggie and Michael said it was a pleasure to visit their former second home--especially since this time they did not have to worry about what needed fixing =-)
Posted by: Kristin Espinasse | Friday, July 24, 2015 at 04:11 PM
Kristin, I have been reading your blog for several months now. Each time I feel that I am sitting with you and having a wonderful visit with you. Thank you for sharing your talents. You are a very special person!
Posted by: Mary Terese Hancur | Friday, July 24, 2015 at 04:50 PM
Kristin, never give up on writing, even if it is just for yourself. I believe it is therapeutic for oneself, but when you also share it is a gift. I hope that breizh will be ok. I grew up with a dog who had seizures. It was awful, but we were able to love her for 16 years. My parents had her for 2 years before me. I too am forgetful nowadays. It's hard after haven't a momory was too good for so long. I hear it's a part of aging. I am not dealing with Aging as well as I should.
Enjoy your wonderful days there in France. I am sure we who read your blog are their in our minds.
Posted by: Buffy | Friday, July 24, 2015 at 04:55 PM
Lovely drawings but I'm not sure who did them. Maggie's husband?
Really nice and full of the flavour of your home. They were lucky to have you renovate the property.
Posted by: Suzanne Dunaway | Friday, July 24, 2015 at 05:20 PM
Suzanne, A good friend of Maggie and Michaels did these drawings.
Posted by: Kristin Espinasse | Friday, July 24, 2015 at 05:41 PM
Great story Kristi Darling -
Never stop sharing your gift of writing.
Somehow you are always able to transport us into your story - your generous musings are in their full art form with this post.
Hopefully all of your friends/readers will share this post with their circle of friends so your spirit will spread throughout the internet.
You are truly special Kristi...I am so proud of you.
Posted by: Jules Greer | Friday, July 24, 2015 at 05:55 PM
I am a pianist and a harpist-and my French isn't on par anymore! Both instruments still give me endless joy. Sounds like your visit was more of a journey than a visit!
Posted by: Dana | Friday, July 24, 2015 at 05:58 PM
Kristin, Thought you might appreciate this quote I came across today.
"There is a myth, sometimes widespread, that a person need only do the inner work ... that a man is entirely responsible for his own problems; that to cure himself, he need only to change himself. The fact is, a person is so formed by his surroundings, that his state of harmony depends entirely on his harmony with his surroundings. " ~ Christopher Alexander, The Timeless Way of Building
BTW, thanks for thinking of me the other day; very appreciated
Posted by: Trina from St. Petersburg, FL USA | Friday, July 24, 2015 at 06:04 PM
Thanks for a wonderful post. I wish I could read your post each morning with my coffee. It just sets the day off right!
Posted by: Faye, Gleneden Beach, Oregon | Friday, July 24, 2015 at 06:18 PM
You and Jean-Marc have a gorgeous home. It's amazing to see from your blogs over the years all that you two continue to have new ideas, new friends as well as old. And in a tiny corner of the world where so many have visited there. What a pleasure to read about it.
Posted by: Diane Young | Friday, July 24, 2015 at 06:20 PM
Kristin. What a delight to read your emails and listen to Jean-Marc pronouncing the word or words of the day. Your writing paints such a beautiful picture of your lovely region in the country that I would love to call home. Alas, we are locked in to living in Willamette Valley, Oregon - rather the sister of Burgundy. As I practice my French in preparation for our trip there next June, Jean-Marc brings such life to the language that is just not there in my French language tapes. Thank you!
Posted by: Suzanne Ridley | Friday, July 24, 2015 at 06:50 PM
Our dear Kristi,
Once again you have transported us away today to the most wonderful of places and experiences,always gifted ekphrasis
that wraps us in hugs.
No better way to start the weekend!
PS Montaigne is a favorite!
Posted by: Natalia | Friday, July 24, 2015 at 06:52 PM
Beautiful post today Kristin! How nice to have spent time with Maggie and Michael and I'm sure they love what you have done with the property!
Posted by: Eileen deCamp | Friday, July 24, 2015 at 07:21 PM
As I was reading today's column I swore I would not have tears in MY eyes by the time I reached the end. Wrong again!
Peter, Vancouver BC Canada
Posted by: Peter Bull | Friday, July 24, 2015 at 07:24 PM
Lovely post. Lovely sentiments. It's magical to be in the company of friends who share the history so important to you and your family.
Posted by: Christine Webb-Curtis | Friday, July 24, 2015 at 07:39 PM
Kristi-- you address so many concerns that others share, but don't know how to express: have I given my children what they need, how can I bear the aging process of my pet, how can I ever express the depths of my gratitude to someone, and many, many others. Thank you for putting such tender words on those feelings. -- julia
Posted by: Julia de Vos | Friday, July 24, 2015 at 09:07 PM
Charming post. You and the former owners share a love for this land; it's a unique bond that you beautifully expressed.
Visiting a Jean Giono museum in Manosque was a highlight of one of my trips to Provence. I didn't write a full review of Giono's short The Man Who Planted Trees, but I remember its being encouraging on several levels. Here is my Goodreads review of the book about Montaigne
I hope you enjoy it. I did.
Posted by: Jane Hoppe | Friday, July 24, 2015 at 09:09 PM
I love your blog! I love your blog! I love your blog! Keep on writing your tender stories please.
Posted by: Jill Ferrie | Friday, July 24, 2015 at 10:49 PM
Chère Kristin... We have never met, but I do feel as if I know you. Over the years I've watched you develop as a writer, have always enjoyed your stories and been immensely grateful that you decided to write about your life in France. Thank you for sharing your visit with Maggie and Michael. I too shed tears, of understanding ... so happy for all of you. xo Cindy
Posted by: Cindy | Saturday, July 25, 2015 at 12:27 AM
Hi Kristin, When you are in heaven (c'est sur!!) I imagine you'll be plucking your harp, if only because you won't be able to pick it up like a guitar and strum it. Even if you are endowed with super-human strength in the after-life. A friend of my sister plays the harp, and she has a special little van for transporting it to "gigs".
My wee Westie Tommo sends his best wishes to Braise and Smokey.
As a writer and student of French (and now Spanish) I hope you're right about them being good for the brain.
It's not so sunny here today in Brisbane, so I'm going to spend part of the day on the deck braiding lavender following your instructions from a few weeks ago.
Posted by: Christine Cormack | Saturday, July 25, 2015 at 01:19 AM
Tres bien avec the drawings. I enjoyed your recent post beaucoup!
Edie from Savannah
Posted by: edie schmidt | Saturday, July 25, 2015 at 01:29 AM
This story was absolutely breath taking! I was feeling your warmth as well as your friends warmth.
So love the drawings, a treasured gift indeed.
Posted by: Karen Cafarella | Saturday, July 25, 2015 at 02:09 AM
An all-around lovely post, Kristin...thank you! I especially loved the story about you and Maggie swimming. Best wishes to Breizh; I hope she is doing well. We have a 12.5-year-old Golden, Henry, who is an active dog who, as he has aged, has needed protection from summer heat. We have an old box fan that we turn on and set in front of him when he is panting from heat, and he literally lies (lays?) down and basks in front of it. Our 9-year-old Long-Haired Dachshund, Bob, does the same thing. When we recently had two weeks of 90°-100° days and very warm nights, they both were in front of a fan most of the time (i.e., when they weren't drinking water or swimming in a local river). You might want to try something similar for Breizh, given how hot it is in your part of France in the summers.
Posted by: Leslie in Oregon | Saturday, July 25, 2015 at 02:30 AM
So much beauty and thoughtfulness in your writing today. What treasures you have given to your friends and to us. Thank you, you touched my heart. I've been trying to think what gift I might have given my daughter as she was growing up and it's hard not to wish I could have given so much more, I guess, "everything" would have been nice, but then what would she have left to learn all by herself, to make herself proud and strong. She did give me a gift the other day as we drove through the Santa Inez foothills. I said I wished she could have come to CA a bit earlier, in the Spring when all the hills were such a beautiful green. She said, but Mom, you taught me how to look, to really see, and that even brown can be a beautiful color. I almost cried! It reminded me of how Jackie thanked you for being so thoughtful when you were in Paris! You've given her a lot, and Max, too. And, now today I see how much you've given to Maggie and Michael! You're a very special person!!
Posted by: Judi | Saturday, July 25, 2015 at 02:35 AM
Kristin, I am grateful for you and your writing. Your writings are a gift to me, and I am transported by what you say - taken from my daily tasks to your day, your thoughts, my love for France, to our friends in France, to remembered smells and sounds of France. Thank you. This was beautiful and once again moved me to tears. Frances in Napa.
Posted by: Frances | Saturday, July 25, 2015 at 02:42 AM
A very moving post, Kristin. I loved hearing about Maggie and Michael and seeing the drawings of little vistas around your home. How wonderful that you now have stories from the 63 years of Maggie's and, later, Michael's residency at the mas. What a treasure.
Posted by: Bettye Dew | Saturday, July 25, 2015 at 03:02 AM
Like so many others I read your moving story today through tears. All the thoughts and emotions I felt have already been beautifully expressed by your readers. You seem to touch all of us in very much the same way. My heart is with Breizh right now...
Posted by: Chris Allin | Saturday, July 25, 2015 at 07:11 AM
Every time you mention La Ciatot, I remember how my husband and I discovered this beach area, by accident, as we drove around trying to escape the Summer heat. We walked along the wall where we saw a darling girl in her sun hat, admiring her new shoes. Suddenly, we noticed all of the topless sunbathers, a little shock to us Americans.
Soon we relaxed and could enjoy the warm sun and cooling water.
Posted by: Brenda | Saturday, July 25, 2015 at 08:23 AM
BEAUTIFUL post, Kristi! So glad it all went well -- exceptionally well -- with Maggie and Michael! Your writing talent is extraordinary -- I almost felt I was there on your "path" with you savoring the Soupe au Pistou, swimming in the warm sea, and searching for poor Breizh. Taking us along with you -- that is the mark of a brilliant writer. BRAVA KRISTI!
Posted by: Cynthia Gillespie-Smith | Saturday, July 25, 2015 at 10:40 AM
Beautiful story, Kristin. It has been a joy over the past many years to see you grow as a writer, as a mother, as a wife, and as a woman. Your way of seeing deep into the heart of every situation and truly appreciating your family and your friends and life itself and then using your talent to share your insight with all of us in such a moving and meaningful way is so moving. Thank you.
Posted by: Sherry in Kentucky | Saturday, July 25, 2015 at 05:32 PM
I have been a harpist for nearly 20 years (began a bit later in life). The harp sounds beautiful played simply, especially at an outdoor wedding and certainly would in the lovely place you call home.
Posted by: Gypsy Perry | Tuesday, July 28, 2015 at 12:15 AM
An story enchanting Kristin, I am going to make the Barbeque Daurade with John-Mark's receipe and of course served with Chateauneau Du Papa, p.s thanks for the kind words
Posted by: elizabeth Taza | Friday, October 07, 2016 at 06:02 PM