Smokey 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.
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
A Message from Kristi on this blog's 19th anniversary
Thank you for reading this language journal. In 2002 I left my job at a vineyard and became self-employed in France. "French Word-A-Day" has been my full-time occupation ever since. Ongoing support from readers like you helps keep this site ad-free and allows me to concentrate on writing. My wish is to continue creating posts that are educational, insightful, and heart-warming. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider supporting it via a blog donation.
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