Today's Word: le congé
: leave, time off
: sabbatical, career break
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.
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 :-)
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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
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