L'Oubli: Two accidental versions of the same story (on forgetfulness)
Words on Love and an "au pif" recipe

Papillonner: Mom's butterfly chair + a fluttery French verb for you today

Smokey in the papillon chairSmokey in the butterfly chair, or la chaise papillon. Papillon--it is a favorite French word but did you know there is a fluttery verb to go with it? Perfect for today's story, about Mom's favorite fauteuil....

Today's Word: Papillonner

    : to flit around, flutter about

Click here to listen to Jean-Marc read the following sentence:
Ne te laisse pas distraire par les événements extérieurs ! Prends le temps d'apprendre quelque chose de bon et cesse de papillonner! Don't be distracted by outside events! Take the time to learn something good and stop fluttering! --Marcus Aurelius

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

"Now this is the best spot!" Mom swears, as she settles into her portable garden chair and takes in her surroundings.

"Come over here, Kristi! You've got to see the view from here. This is the best spot!"

My mind is aflutter. Mom! You said that last time. And the time before! Instead of voicing such thoughts, I accept the invitation to sit down and experience Jules's new garden digs--make that her latest garden digs: the new location for her favorite chaise.

The chair is a Mariposa, meaning "butterfly," which hints at its shape. Here in France, it's called a fauteuil or chaise papillon. A gift from granddaughter, Jackie, I wouldn't have picked this particular model, but have since grown to admire it, having noticed how much Mom uses it. The easy chair with its canvas sling and folding metal frame was conceived in Buenos Aires in the late 30s. A description of the chair's design calls it "Nature meets art." Perfect for Jules!

Papillonner: aller de-ci de-la = to go here and there

Mom drags her butterfly chair all over the jardin, parking it according to her mood. If she is blue, the Papillon is stationed behind the house, where Mom will cloud-gaze alone or stare at The Narrow Gate (a "door" of blue sky amidst the distant parasol pines).

Jules's big blue chair sat for a tired while beneath the giant cedar tree, where she mourned her husband, John, and it languished, for a time, in the far corner of the yard, where Mom cried over the loss of her little dog, Breezy, buried back home in Mexico).

Up and down, a butterfly among the flowers 

Comme un vrai papillon, like a real butterfly the chair lands in various places, taking nectar, nourishment, and hope from nature's gentle surroundings. When Mom is happy, she totes her easy chair to the front yard, and reads beside the pond, after which her big blue papillon might flutter over to the blossoming hedge of laurier rose, where she listens to French tourists walk along the trottoir just outside. (It is a good way to practice her Français!)

No matter where her chair goes, our faithful golden retriever, Smokey, follows, as do her birds--a dozen tourterelles and, since covid, all the pigeons who no longer feed at the restaurants down the street.

"Look up at the sky, Kristi! See the passage between those two giant parasol pines? That's The Narrow Gate!" (and a meaningful scene for Mom to contemplate).

"Yes. Yes, Mom, I see it!" I sound annoyed but I am only tempering Mom's enthusiasm. She is so excited about THIS spot and about THAT detail.

"Did you see the way the sun is lighting up that one sunflower? Now THIS is the best spot!" Mom insists. "Come stand over here, beside my chair. The sun is now falling on the little patch of onions! Look at the shimmer of light! You've got to see the view from here...."

Mom doesn't know it, but she is a light. And a joy to see, moving her butterfly chair from tree to tree. Beautiful, comme un papillon qui butine.

Butterfly chair in garden
Mom's butterfly chair beneath the weeping pepper tree. Mille mercis to Jackie for this gift.


le papillon = butterfly
le fauteuil = chair, easy chair
la chaise = chair
le jardin = garden, yard
laurier rose = oleander
le trottoir
= pavement, sidewalk
la tourterelle = turtledove
butiner = gather pollen, gather nectar
comme un papillon qui butine = like a butterfly gathering nectar

Mom setting the scene
Mom, in her Jack Daniel's T-shirt (the one she swiped from Max). Thanks, Mom, for helping Smokey to pose for today's photo to illustrate this post.

A Message from KristiOngoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal week after week. If you find value in this website and would like to keep it going strong, I kindly ask for your support by making a donation today. Thank you very much for being a part of this community and helping me to maintain this site and its newsletter.

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


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Eileen deCamp

Dear Kristi, Jules and Smokey,
I so love this story today and you know I LOVE butterflies! Your mom is so joyful and I love that! Thanks for sharing this beautiful story today!
Hugs from Charlottesville!

Suzanne Dunaway

Your maman is one of a kind...I know you know that, and I know that one of a kinds can be one of a kind in many ways but all of them challenging and exciting and joyful and educational if at times, trying. Hey, we are all that way, right? And you HAVE your maman. I would love to borrow her at times, when I am so missing my wonderful mother.
Love from Loulou and Don and me,

Suzanne Codi

You are so fortunate to be able to watch your Mom delight in the beauty that you've created. And she is so fortunate to have you to share that delight! This was lovely, thank you! I miss France so much, and having lost work because of Covid, won't be traveling there anytime soon. But I'm also fortunate to have a garden that keeps me busy and happy during this very strange time!
Happy Summer to all of you,

Judi of Lake Balboa

How wonderful to have made such a beautiful garden and to have Jules there to share it with you - her views of it certainly show her wonderful artistic perspective! I had a papillon chair years ago and now I admire anyone who can physically get up and out of one!! Fantastic!

Debbie Lesser

Love this post, Kristi! Your mom certainly does bring a special light to your home -- what a treasure! And your descriptive accounts bring that light to all of us. Thanks so much for sharing,

Debbie from Baltimore

Leslie NYC

I love how Jules lives and I love how you write about how Jules lives!
In particular, I appreciate the part about mourning here and there. It just occurred to me that my week of paralysis and anxiety was actually mourning. Once I realized that, a weight lifted. It is so reassuring to read about different moods coming and going in the one garden. There is joy, beauty, sadness, communion, loneliness, Smokey, eavesdropping, gratitude.
You both have so much wisdom and joy to share. Thank you.


In lockdown, I always open your story as soon as it arrives, Kristi, because I know I shall be cheered up by what I read. TKS a million!!

Laura Slagle

Today’s post is full of love from many angles and several generations ❣️ I’m glad to see Smokey has a nose for comfort and can enjoy the magic of this precious gift 💝

Mary Ellen

Your mom reminds me of a lesson I learned from my Tai Chi teacher, who says that when he eats a cookie, it is always the best cookie he ever had, because it is the cookie that he is eating at this moment. He tells us not to compare today's cookie to yesterday's, because that cookie does not exist anymore. The cookie he is eating right now is always the best and fills him with delight.

Angie Quantrell

So much fun! I love how your mom is just flitting around and enjoying the garden. And the chair is just perfect! Enjoy your time together, seeing the many beauties and wonders. :)


What beautiful imagery … like a butterfly fluttering around the garden your beautiful mother finds a place to fit her mood. The photos are wonderful … transporting me into your lovely garden. Treasure these times with Jules as I do my memories of Portia. She too had her highs and lows. But she didn't have a Mariposa chair when she lived with us. I do remember they were all the rage in California in the '50's and we had several then.

Kathryn Duchene

This is lovely way to look at life. Thanks for sharing this lesson from your Tai Chi teacher.


Yes, very nice imagery.

And the portable chair is so much more attractive than the usual plastic version.


Dear Kristi: I can only echo the words & praises of all your commenters. Reading of your mom, Smokey, your reactions to it all, is so inspiring & joyous! You are both indeed fortunate to have each other & to enjoy your lovely papillones. We have a monarch butterfly garden here in New Bern, NC & so love to see them flit when they emerge & fly away! A biento! ann


Our dear Kristi,
Today's story just wraps us in hugs!
And!Makes me all the more determined to find --and hang onto--that incredible joie de vivre that you,Jules,and Smokey(!)have!!
Your words and thoughts are Absolutely wonderful!!
Thank you!!
Blessings always
Natalia xo


My French grandmother called me papillion and after she died, when I was 29, I began to wear a gold papillion on my necklace daily and when it fell off and was lost 10 years later, I had one tattooed on my back. (My singular tattoo.) Thanks for sharing your mother's sense of daily wonder.


Please give Jules a special hug from me!!💞💞💞

Gail V

The depth and beauty of your writing match that of your life. Your garden is a perfect reflection of you.


Bonjour, Kristi,
The love for your mother, for your garden, and for
Smokey and all your family is almost palpable in this story
and its photos. You have a talent for expressing the tender moment. It is such a gift when the world is grieving so very, very much.

GwenEllyn Anderson

What a wonderful photo! Such absolute comfort! :)

Janine Cortell

One of my favorite songs is LA CHASSE AUX PAPILLONS sung by George Brassens.Are you familiar with it? It is a charming story which I know you and Jules would love. You can google it and hear him sing it.
The photo with Smoky in the chair is adorable.


What a lovely post - your mother is an artist and sees the light and beauty in all things. Hope she is painting again. Your story fills me with feelings of gratitude and love. Think I will go paint. Hugs to all.

Chris Allin

Dear Kristi,

This is one of your most beautiful and touching
posts ever...

Dawn Johnson

What a blessing to have your maman there with you and for the sweet relationship you have. Wow your sunflowers are gorgeous, mine are only a couple of inches tall at this point .

Carol Swenson

I agree, one of the best posts ever. Each one brings me back to France, but this one brings me to a French garden and the butterflies flitting.Thank you for the breath of France you bring us.

K. J. Laramie

I agree! Very life-affirming. Warm, sweet, and so beautiful! Inside and out!

I’m painting ‘Inside the Butterfly’’ right now, a multi-canvas construction and part of a Peace series I’ve been working on for some time. Peace, Oneness, Harmony, and Metamorphosis! The work began long before the world started having the most recent, difficult labor pains launching us into a new age, and a new way of Being. Your post is definitely a confirmation and affirmation. Thank you, Kristi! 😊


That is so funny!! I was just thinking while reading about the chairs that we should get ours down from the garage and go to a lovely park in White Rock BC near where we live and do our New York Time's crossword puzzle..when I then read your comment and laughed even harder, as that thought came to me as well ...how will I ever get out of the chair?? better yet, how will the two of us get out?? Who will help us??


Nice thoughts, everyone...

Karen Cafarella

sending you all lots and love and big hugs

CJ Snitiker

Loved today's post!!

Here in Florida we just had a terrific thunder storm. Lightening and thunder and very heavy rain (it came into part of my bedroom).

J'ai pensé aux papillons et à toi et j'ai souri!!


Marianne Rankin

If you can make the sound file louder, I'd appreciate it. Even with the sound on my computer as high as it will go, I can barely hear it.

I enjoyed both the thoughts and the photos in this post. And there is a reason why Jules is moving around and saying each spot is the best. She is following the light as it shifts during the day. Remember Monet's haystacks? He painted several versions to show how they looked as the light moved. Jules has done the same thing with her chaise.

SusanIrene B

Merci for the lovely story and for the exquisite pictures of your garden. I wish I could bring a book and sit there also.

Sue Lathrop

I loved this post about butterflies and your mom’s chair.
My mom loved butterflies, and their symbolism of rebirth and life. She had a few butterfly pins and often wore one to church. (Always wore one on Easter Sunday).

Dear Mollie passed in January and soon we will be scattering her ashes in her beloved garden, as well as releasing butterflies in her memory. Cherish your time with your mom!
Sue Lathrop

Katy Pace Byrd

Gorgeous garden, and lovely post! Thank you.

Alastair Grant

So nice to see Smokey looking so comfortable and well. I see his tongue usually hangs out as the vet said it would after he was savagely mauled as a small puppy. How long ago was that? He must now be about 8 years old?

Judi of Lake Balboa

Glad you enjoyed it. We have to laugh about it, don't we!! Maybe there should be an official warning on the chair! :) Sitting in the park, working the Times crossword puzzle sounds wonderful - just chose your chair carefully!

Kitty Wilson-Pote

Pure poignant pleasure to read this today, Kristi -- thanks so much for letting us visit with you, Jules, Smokey and all the flowing energy in your lovely garden!!

Susan from Australia (Sydney)

Your mother has the soul of a poet ...

Kristin Espinasse


Joan Bodden

A blue papillon qui butine and with a closer look it reminds me of many hot,lazy, childhood summers. However, ours were orange with black frames, like monarchs. Thank you for the history lesson on design!

I love your mother’s joy of discovery, your faithful lab, and your god heart!

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