Maybe it is because I am a leftie (une gauchère), or because I do things backwards (reading magazines)... but the marketeer in me thinks the back of Diane's book is most enticing! Satisfy your curiosity by viewing the front cover, here.
Eight Months in Provence, A Junior Year Abroad 30 Years Late. It is never too late to fulfill a dream. CLICK HERE to order the book
TODAY'S WORD: le témoignange
: witness, testimony
: evidence, account, record
=> Listen to Jean-Marc pronounce today's quote, CLICK HERE
Soyez partout charitable, reconnaissant, facile à vivre, et tous vous rendront témoignage.
Everywhere, be giving, thankful and easy to live with, and all these things will be your testimony.
From the words of Bernard of Clairvaux. Read more of Bernard de Clairvaux here.
A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE
by Kristi Espinasse
Saturday, not far from Salon de Provence, we celebrated Marianne and Michel's 50th wedding anniversary. You may remember them from their 40th anniversary, recounted somewhere in this blog. Brèf, Marianne and Michel are the parents of our son's godfather, Fred.
But let me get right to my story, which I thought would be about our two-day fête where one hundred friends converged in an historic inn deep in the Provencal countryside. Until something that happened at the piscine, that second day, changing the orientation of my story, orienting it towards the blond disciple in the bikini.
As Jean-Marc dragged our lawn-chairs over to the pool's shaded area, where two other chaises-longues were already occupied, I said bonjour to the blond in the bikini, figuring she was part of the wedding party. "Qu'est-ce qu'on est bien ici dans l'ombre," I said, as a way to break the ice.
"Ah, vous êtes americaine!" came the warm response.
"How did you know? I could be English!"
"I recognize your accent. I traveled to the States, years ago, on a TWA state-to-state trip, and stayed with Christian hosts.
A couple of the stranger's words jumped out at me and, after a short debate, I decided to hone in on them. (I avoid using the French word for Christian -- afraid of bumbling it with the term cretin, which I'm not quite sure of the meaning (fool? hypocrite? dummy?). Playing it safe, I asked my question in English: "Did you say your hosts were Christian?"
I soon learned that the woman and her husband (presently returning to his lawn chair, dripping wet from a swim in the pool) were distributors of Gideons bibles. Remember them? You used to find them in every hotel room - in the dresser drawer. Remember?
"It is hard to find a Gideons these days!" I said, "especially in Europe! But my Mom found one years ago, in St. Moritz! Reading it changed her life."
The woman in the bikini whipped out a notepad. "May I take your Mother's temoignage?"
Around this time Jean-Marc returned, dripping wet from his swim. I tossed him a towel and ushered him to sit down. This was our chance for some hands on healing! Only things didn't quite turn out that way--and thank God for that--as we were beginning to make a big enough spectacle of ourselves....
Having learned that my husband has been suffering from depression for 6 months, with another setback just this week, the woman in the bikini whipped out another item from her purse--a thin volume of Psalms--and flipped to no. 84.
As she read about the Valley of Tears, I marveled at how it was the exact message for Jean-Marc!: lorsqu'ils traversent la vallée des Larmes, ils en font une oasis (As they walk across the Valley of Tears, they will make from it an oasis.)
"That's it! Just the message needed!"
Hearing my enthusiasm, the woman in the bikini offered a suggestion: "Do you know you can sing the scriptures?" And with that, she snapped her fingers to the beat, and sang out the rest of the passage! At first I thought this was kind of cool...until I became aware of the wedding group at the other end of the pool. How chic everyone looked with their fedora hats and fine linen towel wraps. Meanwhile the four of us sat huddled together, dripping wet and singing the Gospel off-key.
Growing increasingly self-conscious, the thought occurred to me: Then again, we might have been chanting La Marseillaise--in preparation for the night's well-anticipated soccer final between Portugal and France!
This reminded me to ask the stranger a pertinent question? Which side was she on? I mean, was she here at the wedding party as a friend of Marianne's or Michel's? That is when she answered,
"Who are Marianne and Michel?"
My eyes shot over to the wedding party, where we might have been stylishly congregating--if we weren't sitting like wet hound dogs, howling hallelujah! Just who were these people, after all? I looked at the couple facing us.
The woman was singing and snapping her fingers, her face the picture of peace and joy. "Don't worry if you sing off key! Just sing!" she said, opening her eyes to look at me. The louder she sang, the more I began to fidget... until some familiar words came to mind:
Aucun prophète n'est bien accueilli dans sa patrie.
A prophet is not welcome in his home town.
I realized it was true. If these four lawn-chairs--this small gathering of believers--was her home town, then my current vibes were making the disciple feel less and less welcome!
I just couldn't help it. Perhaps 24 years in France had made me as reserved as the French? I guess I now worshiped a little more discretely. Concerned Jean-Marc was feeling ill-at-ease (or projecting my feelings on him?), I was about to whisper we needed to be moving on... when the woman in the bikini made our escape easy on us: "I think they are calling you to the lunch table," she said, pointing to the well-heeled party headed to the dining hall.
"Well, it was lovely meeting you!" I said, "Give me a call!" and fast as that I ran to join the group, most of whom were as foreign to me as the two evangelicals I had just ditched. As Jean-Marc and I ate with friends of friends at the table, I looked toward the pool to the couple who had become familiar to me. But they were gone.
The next morning I took my dog, Smokey, for a walk in the forest. The woman's words came back to me, tree by tree: "What's important is love and serving others," and "Try singing the scriptures. Don't worry. It's okay to be off-key!"
I tried remembering Psalm 84, and a few words came back, something about better to be a doorkeeper in God's house, than to dwell somewhere else. But mostly I thought of the disciple in the bikini. And how she could not know the impression she had made on me. And I thought of others, out there, who may have felt just like her, on watching their captive audience suddenly high tail it out the door.
To the woman in the bikini, and to you who are reading, remember this: it did not mean your message wasn't heard. Little do you know the difference your words may have made--to a friend, to your teenager, to your spouse, to your colleague, to your sister, your father or to a stranger. Your message may have found them peacefully singing, to their dog, on a quiet evening, somewhere.
Postnote: I found the woman's phone number in my beach bag. I'm going to give her a call. Anyone who feels free enough to sing her heart out among strangers is someone worth getting to know!
To leave a comment, click here.
Snapshot from our garden.
SABLET HOME - for high quality vacation rentals in the heart of Provence. Click here for pictures.
FRANCE & MONACO We offer exclusive short-term holiday rental properties throughout France and Monaco. Click here.
Our front porch this time of year, and a few shopping suggestions to bring a bit of France chez toi!
Tour de France Roadmap T-Shirt and don't miss the boxer briefs! Click here.
Shop for French groceries: Carte d'Or coffee, berlingots candies, cassoulet and more. Click here.
Laguiole steak knives are for sale in many of the local French market stands, and these bright colors are extra-Provencale! Order here.
Beautiful French Kitchen Towels by Garnier-Thiebaut. Order here.
Thank you for considering a contribution today!
Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and improving this free language journal, for the past 18 years. If you enjoy this website and would like to keep it going, please know your donation towards this effort makes all the difference! No matter the weather, on good days or bad, I am committed to sharing a sunny, vocabulary-packed update with you, one you can look forward to. I hope it fuels your dreams of coming to France while expanding your French vocabulary. A contribution by check or via PayPal (or credit card, links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!