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The hidden Provencal estate where I learned the words, "Pour vivre heureux vivons cachés"

Casa abril provencale bergerie architecture France pastoral
One week ago we were walking in the countryside around Flavia and Fabrice's historic domain, where we enjoyed a traditional French meal with some Brazilian sizzle!

Today's word: les ailes

    : wings

une aile = a wing
 

Click here to listen to les ailes and the following quote

Les paroles sont comme des oeufs : à peine écloses, elles ont des ailes. -Proverbe malgache
Words are like eggs: when they are hatched they have wings. -Malagazy proverb


A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE


    by Kristi Espinasse

It was a wonderful day, Jean-Marc said, remembering lunch at Flavia and Fabrice's last Sunday. If only my husband would continue that thought--and write the rest of this compte-rendu! The tricky thing, you see, about recounting your life in an online journal is knowing where to draw the privacy line--especially when writing about friends. But with my friends' blessing, I'll now share about an inspiring afternoon in the countryside near Aix.

...Entering the Franco-Brazilian couple's country home, I had the urge to take photos. Instead, I hung mes affaires on a carved hook, and tucked my smartphone (and its lens) inside my purse. After all, I didn't know Flavia and Fabrice well enough to take such photo-op liberties. Even if this was lunch at my sister's (it wasn't) I would not splash her life all over the internet--at least not without her permission.

Bref, it was thanks to my sister that this reunion with Flavia (who I'd met over 25 years ago at a wedding) came about. Flavia's son was going to Denver for an internship, so Flavia contacted me to see if I could put her in touch with my sister, Heidi, who lives in the same city....

By the time we walked into Flavia and Fabrice's library last Sunday, for the champagne apéro, I was kicking myself. Talk about a photo op! The entire length of one wall held a fitted antique bookcase and built-in fireplace with its carved mantel.  The fire below crackled as it might in an 18th-century novel (indeed, leatherbound books lined the paneled bookcase. Photos graced the shelves as well, offering a sentimental history of the family who lived here.

Fabrice and flavia gite house rental in provence near aix-en-provence
Fabrice and Flavia

After meeting at Berkeley and living for years in Sao Paulo, les jeunes mariés decided to move to France and into Fabrice's family home, which had been empty for decades. The young couple threw open the shutters, dusted off more than a few tables and chairs, and went about reviving the historic, memory-filled domain (Flavia and Fabrice were married there, years before) of 400 hectares, including family vineyards and wild thyme-scented garrigue. 

I took a seat on a long leather couch which faced several fauteuils, their carved feet reflecting the beauty of the piano in the background. 

"The piano doesn't work!" Flavia insisted, "but it is useful." Our hostess demonstrated by setting down a silver candleholder, a gift from Sylvie and Jean-Charles who had come up from Marseilles to join us for lunch. As we greeted les Marseillais, that awkward new-acquaintance feel quickly fell away and soon we were chatting passionately with the friends of our friends. Sylvie, a dentist, created an unusual concept for a French dental office: she put in a large window behind which her sterilization room is visible to clients. What a novelty in France! (My first French dental appointment was in a private home in Lille. I could smell dinner cooking in the next room while my dentist drilled my tooth...not bothering to first numb the area. Surprisingly it did not hurt, unlike a story--which can suffer when you wander off track....)

Back to Flavia and Fabrice's. It was now time for le dejeuner. By the time we followed our host, Fabrice, past a maze of rooms, past the sunny Provençale kitchen with its cast-iron cooker, to the dining room with its arched ceiling of stones, we were moving on to the meat of our conversation (as well as the meat of our Sunday meal!: wild sanglier--compliments of a local hunter. Flavia admitted her family receives a lot of "gifts" like this, and I could relate, having lived on two vineyards and having received more than a fair share of wild pig, rabbit, and even a feathery pheasant).

Back to the meat of our conversation, for me it was the moment Sylvie's husband, Jean-Charles, shared a quote that summarized the challenge I'd felt, up to here, about writing: 

In French we say, "Pour vivre heureux, vivons cachés." Hearing the wise and sobering quote, I felt a familiar pinch.  Deep down I know a peaceful life is a private life.

"To live happily, live hidden" the words were immediately relatable, but it took on even more meaning when I returned home, to look it up. Turns out those are the last line in a famous fable, "Le Grillon," by Florian. Here briefly is the story:

A little cricket is lamenting his sort as he watches a magnificent butterfly go from flower to flower. Admiring the purple and gold of her showy wings, the cricket complains about his rather ordinary face and lowly existence...when next he sees a group of children chase after the butterfly. Grabbing at its wings, its head, and its body, the crowd accidentally tears the butterfly apart. The little cricket is stunned and promises never to want to live in the limelight, like the poor butterfly.

Jean-Charles, pointed out that in France, the French are careful not to be showy. They don't talk about their salaries or their possessions...or too much about their private life. They don't talk too much about themselves because... Pour vivre heureux, vivons cachés! To live happily, live hidden. Or, said in another way, Great honors are great burdens.

To bring this essay full-circle, the fable helps to explain the pros and cons behind writing about the high notes or private notes of this French life. And so I said to myself on the way home from an idyllic lunch, I'm not going to write about this. I mean how would Flavia and Fabrice feel about me describing their library or their kitchen--their private home! A while later, still restless, I remembered my sister's words. "Kristi, you worry too much! You just have to trust yourself."

And there is someone else a writer has to trust, each time she writes a story: the reader. If you don't trust the reader you may as well put your stories in an old drawer. And you can put your wings there too. Lock them up forever. 

Now what would the little cricket say to that?

 
FRENCH VOCABULARY
le compte-rendu = report
mes affaires = my things
bref = in short
un apéro = a drink before a meal, usually with hors d'oeuvres
les jeunes mariés = the young married couple
le fauteuil  = armchair
le sanglier = wild boar
Gites location apartments for rent in the provencale countryside
Thank you, Flavia and Fabrice, for providing some photos to illustrate this post, and for being such graceful and lovable hosts! 

Pictured above is "La Bergerie" - one of the rentals on Flavia and Fabrice's property (30 drive from Aix-en-Provence or Marseilles). Flavia writes, "If ever you have any friend looking for a rental in Provence I will be more than happy to send them info with pictures." For those who would like more information on this rental, leave a message in the comments and I will forward your request to Flavia :-)

Butterfly in st cyr les lecques france mediterranean sea

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