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Entries from June 2019

Une vue de l'esprit - what a great term in French!

Beach in la ciotat canicule heatwave

A special thanks to those of you who left a comment following the previous post, about writing. if you only knew how much your words keep me going!

une vue de l'esprit

    : attitude of mind
    : pure illusion, a mental projection



You may have heard about the current heatwave in France. Here in La Ciotat we're melting! At the farmers market, the cashiers fanned themselves with cardboard and la canicule made as good a topic of conversation as any:

C'est une vue de l'esprit, the old man bagging cherries beside me remarked. He's got a point, it is sometimes a matter of perspective.* I should know this as I'm from the stifling hot Sonoran Desert (Phoenix) and experienced the record high 122F in 1990. 

And yet I can't sleep at night! As I type this it is 92F and I've just closed our wooden shutters (we do this after opening all the doors and windows at 6 a.m., to let the cool air flow into our home). But this morning, crossing the garden on my way to feed the chickens, la chaleur stopped me in my tracks. Paused there on the scorched yellow grass, I thought back to my beau-frère's warning last week: "It is going to get so hot that there won't even be relief during the night--when things normally cool down!"

Since the heatwave began, we've lost 3 fish--all found floating on the top of the warmed water in our fountain-pond (shaded by a giant tree...). As horrible as it was to discover the fish, it is a swift reminder to keep our eyes on those who are older than us, those younger than us, and to look out for our pets during the heatwave. I keep checking on my Mom, who assures me all is well (she lived in Mexico the last 22 years--sans la climatisation!).

But what was my surprise when my daughter, Jackie, checked on me. After holding her hand against my skin, she told me to get right into a cold shower. Tout de suite!)

Earlier, I moved our hens' water dish (it hangs from the olive tree, and receives the morning sun!) to an area with full shade. Still, the hens--and all of our wild doves who Mom has trained--are panting. Have you ever seen an overheated bird? They hold their beaks open and their tongues flutter like mini fans... (Note, the hens did not enjoy being sprayed with our garden hose but it seemed a good idea--even when it almost sent them over the fence and onto the street--so desperate were they do get away from the spritz!)

Unfortunately, our domestic birds can't head to the beach at 8 a.m. as Jean-Marc and I did this morning--joining dozens of locals who were beating the heat with the help of the cool sea.

OK, that's it--or almost all I wanted to say today. Once home from the beach we began the work day. Jean-Marc has an important appointment at 11 am, only, on his way to our car he noticed it was melting! What now?

(What now? How the term brings me back to our vineyard, before we sold it and moved to La Ciotat to rest and recuperate...)

What now? we thought, seeing a thin liquid pouring from our car's carrosserie. Perplexed, both of us stuck our heads under the car, only to come away as confused as before. That's when Jean-Marc cupped his right hand and placed it beneath the car to collect the liquid. After a sniff or two, he licked his wet palm.

It's wine! he confirmed.

Wine? (Next, my husband reached into the back seat, to find one of the bottles from a case of rosé he had just stowed had broken). It all brought me back, once again, to our vineyard--where wine all but poured from our taps! Wine everywhere! (and here, now, flowing out of our car!!).

I used to say that the universe was playing some sort of joke, moving our family to a vineyard after I made the decision to quit drinking. If you have not yet begun reading our book-in-progress, now is as good a time as any to jump right in--because things are heating up, just like the canicular air inside this room where I am signing off from this latest post. Time to run through the sprinklers--and take the chickens, the dog, and Mom with me!



* a matter of perspective. The first time around, I misunderstood the man at the farmers market. He may have been saying that the heat is an 'illusion'. But I can now say, it's no illusion! Keep cool and 'see you' all in the next edition. (Then again, if I 'see you all' this heat...that would amount to a mirage!

une vue de l'esprit = an illusion
la canicule = heatwave
la chaleur = heat
le beau-frère = brother-in-law
la climatisation = air conditioning
la carrosserie = car body
amicalement = yours 

Kristi around the age of 30
I was around 33 years old in this photo, taken on New Year's Eve after a few drinks. Unfortunately for some, like me, a few drinks leads to a few more or one too many. Find out what led to my decision to quit, in Chapter 5 of our memoir-in-progress. Click here to purchase it, and begin reading right away.

I leave you with a message I woke up to this morning:

I have a special admiration for those in recovery and sobriety. Your difficult personal journey transformed you into a healthier Kristi and your commitment and work benefit not just your family but everyone, including your readers! I have been reading your blog, gosh, probably 6- 7 years, and I gleaned from the get-go a wisdom, frankness and “living in the now/one day at a time” sensibility from the start. --Julie Borders

Thank you, Julie! 

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
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Seize the day (then write about it!) Une causerie with writer Sylvain Tesson at Château de Pibarnon


The above is part of the invitation Jean-Marc and I received, to attend a most inspiring causerie. Read about it in today's chronique....

Today's Word: une causerie

    : une causerie is an informal talk by an interpreter, given in a familiar tone and often accompanied by a demonstration, a theatrical animation, a slide show, etc.

Click here to listen to the example definition in French

Une causerie est une conférence informelle d'un interprète, faite sur un ton familier et qui est souvent accompagnée d'une démonstration, d'une animation théâtrale, d'un diaporama, etc.

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

'Beyond Fiction'

A somewhat fractured compte-rendu for you I'm anxious to post Chapter 5 of our memoir (and promise to this afternoon)...

Compte rendu
, just the word to dive into today récit, about a talk Jean-Marc and I attended on Sunday. Mille mercis to Eric de Saint Victor, Anne-Laure Couralet, and the friendly team at Château de Pibarnon, for introducing us to an adventurer, philosopher, and geographer--and especially the writer Sylvain Tesson.


Éric de Saint Victor welcoming his guests.

There in the chateau's poetic Orangerie looking down through the pines to the Mediterranean, the sea breeze cooling the room, some 100 fans were captured by the guest of honor, Sylvain Tesson, during an interview or causerie by fellow author Sébastien Lapaque.

As an autodidact whose writing practice intensified when this blog began, I found yesterday's causerie inspiring. I could relate to Sylvain Tesson, who says he has never written fiction. And yet, 30 published books under his belt, and he enjoys (literally finds joy) in writing essays, comptes rendus, chroniques and, perhaps especially, in keeping up his journal intime.

How that brings me back to my own diaries, set aside when I began this blog--this 17-year warm-up for the novel I fear I should write if I am to be considered a 'real' writer.

Nonsense! Sylvain Tesson might say. He doesn't see the point in labels--or even the need to write fiction or an epic novel--not when everyday life is filled with experiences that are beyond fiction. As he spoke, my mind drifted back to early that morning, when a dragonfly alighted on my hand as I reached into our fountain to fill a watering can. Those 10 seconds were epic. The glint and glimmer of the libellule's wings were like cathedral glass; the insect's long pause on my skin reminded me of a conversation with a friend who'd lost her mother. Before her mother passed away, my friend said to her: Send me a message when you reach the other side, Mum. But how will I know it is you?

I will be everywhere in nature, her mother answered, in the squirrel that runs across the grass, in the bird that flies past...(and, I wondered, remembering my friend's mother--who was also my dear friend, Kate--was she this mysterious dragonfly, with the great big eyes?). 

I so wanted to write an essay about the dragonfly encounter, yet--in the order of priorities--I needed to finish my current chapter!

What would Sylvain Tesson say about all of this? (This and transparency. Something I've struggled with in the writing of our vineyard story, having torn out three-quarters of the last chapter).  I don't know what Monsieur Tesson would say, I did not have the chance to ask him. But one other thing he talked about that resonated deeply, was this: the betterment of his writing. That is: he does not or has not measured his advancement as a writer nor does he think he has advanced. His writing today, he trusts, is the same as when he began journaling, chronicling, essaying, as a young man. 

Notre dame
Sylvain Tesson's 80-page tribute to Notre Dame de Paris after the fire.

As or me, I like to think that with all this writing we learn ways in which to better express ourselves. So write, write, write!

But I need to learn to relax! relax, relax! It brings me back to striving, something I spoke about in a previous edition, about a sabbatical. Take away striving and what are we left with?

Purity, innocence, and perhaps even beauty? (And peace and rest and tranquility!) This, according to Sylvain Tesson is a lesson he learned later in life, after catapulting himself--literally by his own to feet--to far off places in search of happiness. Most people know, he said, that happiness is right in front of us, if only we will stop to look around. Happiness is in the familier. And yet we strive for novelty.

Which brings us back to novels.... or writing.

As Sylvain would agree, joy is jotting down--in a little carnet, or calpin--the record of one's day: a day that is first lived organically (physically?), and then lived again, on paper, as we retell the adventures of our journée. Just knowing that we will be writing them down at the end of the day influences our decisions--the decision, for example, to seize the opportunities that come our way.

I have only told you about Sylvain Tesson's writing and not his favorite subjects. You can discover his adventures, his philosophy, his deep love for trees and rocks and nature, in these books, Including the original French versions. He has won many awards and surely many hearts, by his example.

Tesson consolations

*   *   *

Sylvain Tesson and I have one more thing in common. I was deeply moved to hear him speak (at a vineyard, before a crowd of wine-lovers...) of his own adieu to drinking. And that is the story I've been struggling to write in Chapter 5. If you have not yet begun reading our memoir The Lost Gardens, please join us now by ordering here. Your purchase is the best motivation to complete the next chapter--and the next.... Merci beaucoup!


un compte-rendu = report
le récit = story, tale, account
une causerie = talk, conversation, chat
mille mercis = a thousand thanks
orangerie = orangery = a room, often with large oval-topped windows, in which citrus fruits are protected in winter

la chronique = chronicle
journal intime=diary
une libelulle = dragonfly

le carnet or le calepin = notebook

I purchased a few of Sylvain's books, including this one: Abandon yourself to life!

View from chateau de pibarnon
At the breathtaking Château de Pibarnon, more here.

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
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Ephemere (Jean-Marc is taking over today's post...)

Jean-Marc Espinasse and his Oregon wine Ephemere Ephemera
With my new Lover : Ephemera :)
Today's Word: "éphémère" 
  - Qui est de courte durée, cesse vite.
  - That which is short-lived, stops quickly

Click here to listen to the soundfile for today's word

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE... by Jean-Marc Espinasse

Ephemeral... like this unusual short edition. When, this morning, I asked Kristi to mention that a few cases of my Willamette Valley Pinot Noir Natural Wine (Ephemera) were still available in the US, she offered to let me write today's post.

Actually, I could also have used "écriture" as the word of the day since writing is also now part of my life, telling chapter by chapter in our common book, The Lost Gardens, the whole story of losing the Mas des Brun "promised land". And since Kristi is about to unveil an important part of her life in our online book, I will let her concentrate on her chapter today... by elaborating this French Word-A-Day promotional edition...
Summer is about to knock on our doors and if you are looking for a fresh, light, easy drinking red wine that can actually be enjoyed cool, Ephemera is just what you are looking for.

A few weeks ago, I had the great surprise of having a quote on the local Willamette Week Newspaper. Jordan Michelman wrote a very accurate note that you can read here. This tasting note will objectively tell you more about this special wine.

To get some Ephémère within the USA (if you live in a State that accepts wine shipments), you can contact Avalon Wines ( - (503) 206-8589).

If you live in the beautiful area of Portland OR, go to Providore, 2340 NE Sandy - (503) 232-1010 or Pastaworks at City Market, 735 NW 21Street - (503) 221-3002 to get some (give a call before to make sure there are some on the shelves).

At last, for Europe, please contact me at

Thank you all of you for the already great support and feedback I had on Ephemera. A special "remerciement" for our Dear Friends Chris and George who posted the picture below with a note :

"Your Ephemera is really good. The essence of this wine lingers on the palate".
To wrap up this edition, I would like to say that this ephemeral wine project in Oregon has really helped me to continue turning the page of the painful Mas des Brun "fiasco", in giving me a chance to make wine, even with no more winery of my own. And writing The Lost Gardens will hopefully permit me to definitely close this unforgettable chapter of my life...
éphémère = fleeting, short-lived, ephemeral. Ephemere is also the word for a pop-up shop or store
l'écriture = writing
le remerciement = thanks, acknowledgment

(from the text below the illustration)
un sac de noeuds = complex situation
chute de manne = type of fish bait (chute = drop manne = mayfly...and also manna)
Les Ephémères. Mayflies from Charles and Richard Bowlker's Art of Angling, 1854. 2. "Blue Dun" mayfly. 3. "March Brown" mayfly
Kristi here... Did you know that the French word éphémère also means mayfly in English? Those winged insects are known for their short, fleeting (ephemeral) life.  According to Wikipedia, In pre-1950s France, "chute de manne" was obtained by pressing mayflies into cakes and using them as bird food and fishbait. I love the serendipity of this word, as Jean-Marc is a newbie fisherman--and passionate about it, along with all  of the pros and cons... (Hit the arrow in the middle of the screen, below, to see our son Max, along with Jean-Marc, trying to sort out a tangled line or 'un sac des noeuds'.) Follow along on Instagram, where these stories from our family life continue in between the weekly posts :-)

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
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le congé sabbatique, career break

Les lecques
Vacationers in the neighboring town of Cassis, France

Today's Word: le congé

    : leave, time off
    : sabbatical, career break

Sound file: Click here to listen to the following sentence:

(En France...) Toute personne ayant au moins six années d'activité professionnelle et ayant passé au moins 36 mois dans son entreprise actuelle peut bénéficier de ce type de congé sabbatique. -Wikipedia

(In France...) Anyone with at least six years of professional activity and having spent at least 36 months in their current business can benefit from this type of sabbatical leave.

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

The other day, staring dreamily out of my bedroom window (instead of working on upcoming deadlines), I thought about the concept of un congé sabbatique....

Outside, I could see my chickens and all of the turtledoves that congregate around our poulailler. What a life they live! Their bare feet in the rich soil, they hunt for savory treats all day long. Une vie gourmande! When they tire of snacking, the hens settle down, tummies on the cool ground, where they begin their daily dirt bath. As rays of sunshine stream through the giant pin parasols above, the birds turn over on the ground until their entire feathered bodies are covered in dust. 

Next comes a little aerobic activity as they flail their wings and hop around until all the poussière has flown off--along with any unwelcome hosts (puces). Finally, a little drink from the hanging reservoir and it's now time to bask in the sun, one's newly clean chest feathers puffed out for all the other birds to admire. 
Kristi feeding hens

Admiration. Is this why I strive so hard? Are my own gleaming feathers disguised as polished prose? I can trace it back to school days. As a bad student, I nearly failed high school. But once I got into the university (under probation), and began striving for straight A's--those grades defined me, or at the very least improved my self-esteem. I strove and strove. and graduated with honors in French.

After moving to France and having children, I was floundering again...until I took up writing and set up stress-inducing deadlines (similar to those due dates in school!). Like those straight A's, the feedback I began to receive from readers fueled me and kept me going for longer than I might have - had I filed away my unpolished stories in a folder and shut the drawer. 

Two decades after beginning this writing practice, I am thinking, once again, about a break--un congé...even une année sabbatique. Only, there never seems to be a convenient time to stop. (Coincidently, it felt the same way when I decided to quit drinking. There was never a convenient time to quit (suddenly we'd receive a dinner invitation--or there would be a milestone to celebrate--as the French do--with champagne!).

This all brings me to Chapter 5 of our memoir, a section of the story in which I am trying to write about what happened when I quit drinking in 2003: Incredibly enough, two years into my sobriety, my husband found a vineyard for sale. And that is when we went into the wine business....

Talk about an inconvenience. And yet, 5,971 days of sobriety later and--as the lyrics of Elton John--I'm still standing. Je suis toujours debout. (Propped up with the help of my trusty pen. Which is why a sabbatical from writing might not be such a good idea afterall :-)

*   *   *
Special thanks to those of you who are reading our chapter-by-chapter book-in-progress. We could not write this vineyard memoir without you. Knowing that you are counting on the next chapter update keeps us on our toes!!  More about our vineyard memoir here. 

un congé sabbatique = time off, sabatical break
le poulailler = henhouse
le pin parasol = stone pine tree
une vie gourmande = the self-indulgent life
la poussière  = dust
la puce = flea
je suis toujours debout = I'm still standing

Doves by the sea in la ciotat
Doves by the sea in La Ciotat... I love this image of freedom.

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
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On June 6, 1944, 1,213 warships (battleships, destroyers ...), 736 support ships, 864 freighters and 4,126 gears and barges land 20,000 vehicles and 156,000 men on the beaches of Normandy.

Finding Gilbert front cover
Diane Covington-Carter’s memoir, Finding Gilbert, a Promise Fulfilled, recently won a Gold award at the Society of American Travel Writer’s Western Chapter meeting in Tucson Arizona. The faculty at the University of Missouri School of Journalism wrote:

“This is a gripping travel memoir of how childhood stories of World War II turn into a quest. A lot of travel is driven by the quest for answers–and this book fulfills that desire to find the truth in faraway places. This piece about a father’s love and
fulfilling a promise to a French war orphan is well done, and a recommended read.” Click here to order.

Into the Jaws of Death, photo by Robert F. Sargent
Into the Jaws of Death, photo by Robert F. Sargent

On June 6, 1944, 1,213 warships (battleships, destroyers ...), 736 support ships, 864 freighters and 4,126 boats and barges land 20,000 vehicles and 156,000 men on the beaches of Normandy.

Le 6 juin 1944, 1 213 bateaux de guerre (cuirassés, destroyers…), 736 navires de soutien, 864 cargos et 4 126 engins et péniches débarquent 20 000 véhicules et 156 000 hommes sur les plages de Normandie. (Text via Wikipedia... the 'merci' you hear at the end is from Jean-Marc)

Click here to listen to today's example sentence


So many of you have stories to share about family members who braved the shores of Normandy on this unforgettable day in history; June 6th, 1944. The comments box is open, now, for anything you might want to share--in honor of those who have sacrificed their lives for others.

Gilberts family and Diane Covington-Carter

Mille mercis to Diane Covington-Carter (pictured right, with Gilbert's family), for sponsoring today's post. Be sure to check out Diane's memoirs on France, including the hightly enjoyable Eight Months in Provence.

Covington-Carter, an award-winning journalist, has attended the 50 th , 60 th and 70 th anniversaries of D-Day. She will be in France for the 75 th anniversary and will be writing many stories for magazines and newspapers. Finding Gilbert, a Promise Fulfilled is her third memoir, and you can read more about it here.

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
♥ Give $10    
♥ Give $25    
♥ Give the amount of your choice