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Hérisser: from a prickly critter...to a verb to help describe an emotion we all felt last week

The Lost Gardens by Jean-Marc and Kristi Espinasse

Jean-Marc and I are finally telling the story of why we packed up and left our vineyard and our dream estate. Read our co-authored memoir, The Lost Gardens. 

In August of 2017, my family and I said adieu to our heavenly domain by the Mediterranean sea. Here, beside the famous Bandol appellation, my husband, Jean-Marc, started his vineyard from scratch, and here is where I fell in love with a wild permaculture garden. In the midst of clearing and planting, we settled into the 19-century mas at the edge of an ancient olive grove.

As romantic as it sounds, this is not a memoir about renovating a farmhouse in Provence, and our story is nothing like the Hollywood hit, A Good Year. It is an honest and raw account of what was for us--our marriage our mental health and our faith--One Hell of A Decade.

Between hailstorms and compost thieves, and in the midst of my sobriety and my husband's mad pursuit of wine, we survived the first vineyard (2007-2012) only to have our spirits pelted and our dreams crushed at the second domain (2012-2017). For ten years our lives were dictated by wine, the weather, and unbridled passion. Now, after a sudden move and a loss that nearly broke us, we are picking up the pieces, chapter by chapter, as we share about our struggles and the love misplaced, somewhere among the vines.

The online edition (in blog format, with photos) is $29. Upon purchase, a new tab will open with the memoir's website, login, and a password to access the story. Email me if you cannot find this information: [email protected]

You may also pay via Zelle, the preferred way to pay as there are no fees involved. Click on the "Pay and Transfer" tab at the Bank of America (or other US banking) website. Look for "Pay a Person". Click on "Send money with Zelle." In the "to" box, enter this email address: [email protected]  Enter the amount: $29. In the Message section, mention "The Lost Gardens" and include your email address. 

Excerpt from The Lost Gardens:

A creak at the door woke me from my trance. There was my husband of 22 years. The Frenchman who, letter by steamy love letter, wooed me back to his country. The father of my children. The man whose every inspiration I had followed, no matter where it led us. (Except for the time he wanted to move to Healdsburg, California, in search of American grapes. No! I put my foot down then. France was my home now, even if we were about to uproot once again.)

Watching Jean-Marc approach, I set aside the towel I had been folding: the cloth was stiff and bristly from drying on the clothesline (our dryer broke down at our previous vineyard--at which point it seemed like a good time to practice the French art of hanging the laundry: oh, the romantic illusions we create in order to withstand unconventional living).

My husband studied me for a few moments, his hazel eyes soft and tender before he said those unforgettable words: "I will understand if you want to leave me."


Kristin and Jean-Marc Espinasse by Cynthia Gillespie-Smith
photo by Cynthia Gillespie-Smith

The listing below shows the first 18 chapters. (Four more are not listed here.) All twenty-two chapters include a photo at the beginning and end of the section, making this online edition a good opportunity to share so many memorable pictures. There are also two photo albums in the book's sidebar. 


Kristi's narrative Jean-Marc's narrative
Chapter 1: In Limbo Chapter 1.5: Turning the Page
Chapter 2: A New Domaine and Doubts Chapter 2.5: A Dream Reignited
Chapter 3: Relationships: The Jar Analogy Chapter 3.5: A Mythical Summit
Chapter 4: Marriage Vows Chapter 4.5: The Stars Were Aligned
Chapter 5: A Sober Decision Chapter 5.5: What if we move to the States?
Chapter 6: Time to Surrender Chapter 6.5: The Roller Coaster Syndrome
Chapter 7: The Courage To Stay The Course     Chapter 7.5: Asking My Vines for a Favor
Chapter 8: A Close Call Chapter 8.5: Finding Level Ground
Chapter 9: Writing Through it All Chapter 9.5: The Story behind the Lunatic Label
Chapter 10: Adieu Doreen Chapter 10.5: Mas des Brun-Too Good to be True?
Chapter 11: Moving? Again? Chapter 11.5: Who Needs Meds in Paradise?
Chapter 12: The Big Move and our Pagaille Chapter 12.5: Paradise has too many Trees
Chapter 13: A Mas and a Marriage Chapter 13.5: Hurluberlu? 
Blog excerpt: Mom Visits Blog excerpt: So Much for Anonymity
Chapter 14: Staying Sober at two Wineries Chapter 14.5: In Memory: A Touching Dedication
Chapter 15: Laisse-Moi Faire! Chapter 15.5: Moving Mountains
Chapter 16: The Garden of Healing Chapter 16.5: First Whispering of a Wineshop
Chapter 17: Double Trouble Chapter 17.5: In the Eye of a Cyclone
Chapter 18: Pot in the Potager? Chapter 18.5 (coming up next!)


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For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety