LA PIQURE: A Mystery That is Really Bugging Me
"Mauviette": Getting Old is Not for Sissies

LE BONHEUR: Mom Shares The Meaning of Happiness

Beach in La Ciotat
We've had unusual weather, lately, and local businesses have suffered from the lack of customers. But today is a perfect day to head outside. Update: At the time of this posting, it is pouring cats and dogs (il pleut des cordes)! 


 : happiness

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

Mom and I are lounging in the garden. It’s late afternoon, or la fin de l'apres-midi according to the language of Molière. All around us the birds, the trees, and the sweet-scented breeze offer their own poetic expression in a tongue understood by all. It is nature's intoxicating melody, and we are floating in it now.

“Where is everybody?” Mom wonders, surfacing from the bucolic trance.  

I take a deep breath. Mom's frequent questions—'What time is it?' 'What day is it?' and 'Where is everyone?'—keep me busy. Perhaps she’s exercising my reporting skills? In reality, she’s experiencing short-term memory loss, something we're both familiar with. "Let's see...Jean-Marc is in Marseilles, giving a wine tasting. Jackie is in Cassis, working, and Max…Max reminded me just this morning, via text, he is in Croatia." 

"Croatia? With Ana?" Mom wonders.

"No, with his friends."

Mom sighs peacefully, leading me to understand a restful vacation can be found right here in our front yard. Jules reclines on a chaise longue beside the snapdragons and flowering onions, while I sit nearby on a wooden chair next to the fountain. In the water, the first white nénuphars are budding and dragonflies hover here and there.

Ricci is doing figure-eights around us, delighted her mother-daughter meute has moved outside. From here our little shepherd can wander over to the hedge where she loves to slip under the flimsy fence and visit the neighbors, just like Smokey did. Only, unlike our dearly departed golden retriever, she barks at les voisins

"Ricci! Reviens!" With that we go over the drill: "Ça c'est chez nous et là c'est chez les voisins." I can almost hear my dog's thoughts: Yes, but the cats are over there. Little does Ricci know her forays next door are only adding insult to injury: for the day we brought Ricci home, 18-year old Lili The Cat moved back to the neighbor’s (where she decamped when the previous owner of our house (who also owned Lili) left, only to return when Smokey passed away two years ago). When we got Ricci last fall, it was déjà vu: there was no way Lili was sharing this yard with un toutou! 

Back here in the garden, beside the fountain, Mom reaches down to pet our proud protector who is leaning against the side of the lawn chair. "She is so soft," Mom coos. "How can a dog be this soft?" 

"I don't know," I admit. It boggles the mind. Then again, just about anything boggles the mind when you are seeped this deep in peace. I wonder how I could ever be so worked up, as I was a few times earlier today, over everything and nothing. What does any of it matter in the grand scheme of things, beyond this garden wall? Sinking back into my chair I relax, inhaling jasmine floating over from the flowering vine beside the bougainvillea. We need to sit out here more often, I think, turning to gaze at Mom.

Though it is the second week of June, Jules is wearing a light parka and a woolen cap. I'm beginning to understand why she is cold all of the time and it’s not because she lived in Mexico all those years. We’ll have more information on Tuesday, when we return to see the internist in Marseille for The Final Report. I’ve driven back and forth to the city so often, Jean-Marc says I could do it les yeux fermés. I feel proud about my new road skills even if it scared me driving home in a storm the day I took Mom back to the hospital. 

“The weather has been strange,” Mom remarks.

“It sure has,” I agree.

“Look at that blue sky now!”

Above the pepper tree, I see the doves flying in. Zut! I'm all out of bird food. I go and get some bread, breaking off pieces and dropping them beside the geraniums unaware Mom is studying me from her chair.

As I scatter bread for the birds, Mom watches me closely.“You are like a little Julie,” she remarks, her eyes twinkling with a mix of nostalgia and pride.

"I'm trying to be," I smile. Mom is and will always be my model, no matter how many things we don't agree on, including who should be president or how often to feed the birds (whenever they're around, Mom would argue). More and more I am coming around to Mom's ways. 

When I’m done feeding the birds I go over to investigate a curious shape in the pond. With any luck, it’s our resident frog! Kneeling down to stir the water, I see it is only a leaf.

"You have not changed," Mom smiles, sharing a razor-sharp memory from my childhood when I would go exploring in the wash (the empty river bed) behind our trailer. I loved returning after the rain, to sit along the bank and search for tadpoles. 

Fifty years later we are worlds away from the trailer park, here in the South of France. Whoever would have guessed such a future? I settle back into the chair beside Mom and we sneak glances at each other. These are like little pinches to the arms reminding us how lucky we are to be here, together. A moment of quiet pervades our union in the garden, as the fountain gushes, the perfume of jasmine wafts past, and the soft fur of Ricci, resting between our chairs, caresses our skin. The concerns of the day have disappeared into this peaceful moment. A few more moments float by with only the sounds of nature when Mom’s voice gently punctuates the silence.

“Kristi, this is what it’s all about.”

I savor Mom's profound declaration, internalizing exactly what it means. It is a soulful revelation that, should we think too much about it it might smother us in meaning. Maybe that’s why God invented comic relief…

Running my fingers through my hair, my thoughts return to the present. "I can't figure out what's happened to my hair," I say to Mom. "It so stiff and dull! I think I forgot to rinse out the conditioner!" I finally admit.

“Welcome to the club!” Mom laughs, acknowledging our shared absentmindedness. And we sink back into our chairs, lighthearted, as the birds, the dragonflies, the dog, the frog, the flowers, and all of the trees carry on effortlessly, oblivious to the time or the date. If only we could live on forever this way, in this carefree garden, free from worries and the march of time.


IMG_6952 Copy
Jules and the tourterelles. These doves, who Jules calls "Mama" and "Papa", befriended Mom back in 2018 when she moved in with us. While workers renovated the garage (Mom's future studio), Jules escaped the pounding and hammering by finding a quiet spot in a corner of the garden. A feathered friendship was born! We are amazed at how tame these doves are, and how much company they give Mom (and all of us).

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Merci pour vos articles interessants! --Julie G.

Is it a fountain or is it a pond? I often hesitate when referring, in my stories, to this "water feature". Seven years ago, thanks to an initiative begun by Jeanne in the UK, this broken "bassin" was restored as a housewarming gift from my readers. A haven for fish, birds, dragonflies, and frogs, we enjoy it so much, even if we still haven't figured out how to control the green mossy water. Should it be crystal clear? Or is this what a fountain-pond looks like? Either way, it is a joy to listen to the falling water and to see the activity inside the little green pool.


Listen to the French and the English terms via this sound file

le bonheur
= happiness
la fin de l'apres-midi
= late afternoon
la langue de Molière = the language of Molière
la meute = pack
les voisins = the neighbors
reviens = come back
ça c'est chez nous et là c'est chez les voisins = this is our place and that is the neighbors' place
un toutou = a dog
les yeux fermés = with eyes closed
zut = darn
les nénuphars = water lilies

Moke car
Local culture: You'll see these Moke cars here and there, in La Ciotat, Cassis, and other beach towns. They are part of the culture and it is always a pleasure to see them go by.

Peluches teddy bears in the front seat
More local charm outside this friterie, or French fry stand, currently closed for vacation.

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


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You write beautifully....and what a lovely picture of your Mum

Christine Dashper

Kristi, Thank you for such a lovely description of your late afternoon time spent with your Mum. It was just beautiful. I could feel the peace just reading it.

Kindest regards and best wishes - Christine

Jens Hork

Hi Kristi,

Beautifully written!

Greetings from Vinsobres in the Drôme where the weather is strange,too.

Ellen A

Kristi, You outdid yourself with this post. "...the fountain gushes, the perfume of jasmine wafts past, and the soft fur of Ricci, resting between our chairs, caresses our skin." Who would not want to be there? And the beautiful photo of your mom with the doves is absolutely classic.




What a lovey moment you captured. Jules looks great. Sending good wishes for next week.
I spent a quiet morning on the terrace listening to the soft rain of summer. Now the rain has stopped and the birds are singing, occasionally interrupted by a jet heading to Nice.
I love your pond/fountain just as it is. Once a new long terrace is completed along the back of the building I’m planning to put a small water feature on my end.
Bisous to you, your entire family and curious Ricci.

Delia Bourne

A beautiful post. Non stop storms and rain here in the Morvan.

Mary Breed

Dear Kristi,
What a beautiful post! I had the good fortune to have my mom live with us in her later years (she lived to be almost 98). Reading this post, my mom, Emily, was so very much like Jules! She always loved life, but also grew very wise in her later years. When I look at the photo of Jules, my mom, like yours, glowed in moments like these- resting in the sun, in peace, surrounded by the beauty of nature, and with her loved ones. Jules knows she has, at this point in her life, the very best of life. And what a blessing it is to give this comfort and care to your mom, who took such loving care of you as a child. I remember those years with my mom as a great treasure, and filled with many joyful moments.
Enjoy, Kristi! Jules is incredibly fortunate to have you, but you and I know it’s the child who has the opportunity to care for a parent like your mom that is most richly blessed.
Many thanks for sharing your stories and photos. And many, many thanks for sharing Jules!


I am deeply moved by this beautiful portrait of love and gratitude. Thank you, Kristi.


Bonjour Kristi and Jules!

As I was reading I was thinking that it sounds like a little piece of heaven! You both were present to each other and present in the moment and being grateful brings joy!
I love this quote by Benedictine monk David Steindl-Rast

“The root of joy is gratefulness...It is not joy that makes us grateful; it is gratitude that makes us joyful.”

Stacy Lund

My eyes are watering! These are my favorite moments, too. This time with your mom is a true blessing. This is what it’s all about! I’m sending you both love and hugs.

Barbara Lawrence

My husband and I are sitting in our garden having a similar experience. We may have health and mobility issues but at this moment it is birds, birds, and flowers. Parent house wrens kept busy feeding 7 babies. They will fledge in a few days. Cardinals, finches, blue jays, song sparrows, and more. And peace.

Karen Cafarella

What a beautiful post. I can "feel" it all. Being present is hard to do with all this is going on around us, but what a joy it can be even for a little bit. Big Hugs to you both.

Leslie NYC

I agree with other readers: this post soars!
Your writing flows and your observations are so acute and beautiful. It's a great portrait of your lives and your garden and what it all means!


Jules is so wise! Being peaceful is certainly what ii’s all about. I become peaceful and content when I recall my parents and our family life. We recently had a 3 generation family reunion to inter their ashes in a veterans’ columbarium wall on a hill in an oak grove. They died decades ago, but after the religious services and cremation neither one of my sisters could give up their ashes. For years I tried and tried to persuade them, but they gave me the grand silence until one day out of the blue they agreed and put me in charge! What a surprise! We had an outdoor committal ceremony with a flag presentation, a rifle detail, a live bugler to play taps, and a few people spoke about their memories of our parents. Then we spent the week playing golf, walking along the coast, and dining together. I was stunned because after all these years of texting family photos on anniversaries, I had convinced myself that my two sisters had scattered my parents’ ashes and just wouldn’t tell me. Wow, I was so mistaken! Thank goodness that for once I didn’t speak my thoughts! We all had so much fun that we are planning more family reunions! Joanne


Another great reminder to us all to "enjoy the moment!"


What a reprieve from the hustle and bustle of my day! I can almost feel the calm in me now!

Suzanne Dunaway

I believe there are organic substances for ponds and water thingies like your sweet one and they are not harmful to frog or fish but keep the algae down. Ask at the local pet shop or pond shop....may be something as simple as a cap of javel....


Our dear Kristi ,
Your beautiful words could only be joined in tandem with those wonderful pictures,especially of our Jules and the doves! ( non stop prayers for The Final Report,and her complete return to health!)She imparts such peace and wisdom and we are so blessed to have all of you in our lives.
Kristi ma chere, I've told you this before,but your ekphrasis continues to so inspire our admiration! You have so many gifts,this especially among them!
Blessings always
Arms tight around you all.
Natalia XO


Loved this beautiful post! Perfect way to start my day 🤗. What a great picture of your mom!


What a lovely post! I could almost smell the jasmine and hear your fountain as I was reading. Sending love and light to your family from Northern California.


Hi Kristi,

So glad for the Joy your Mom finds in life. Hoping her tests come out fine. Love the dove picture. Would you share the kind of camera and lens that you use? My husband takes photos, too, and yours come out beautifully!!

God bless you all, C-Marie


Agree with all the responses, Kristin. What a beautifully written and thoughtful post..... Thank you. A perfect way to begin a summer day.

Your relationship with your mom is a wonderful one and I gave no doubt that it will carry through whatever challenges lie ahead. Sending thoughts of peace to you both.

Suzanne in Monroe, NJ

What a lovely photo of your mother with her doves. Your account reminds me of times I spent with my mother, Portia, when she came to live with us. In quiet times, whether at home or on our many travels, she would glance over at me with a sweet smile and say, "we have fund, don't we." It's those moments I miss. I am so glad you are enjoying them with Jules.


Quelle Belle. So glad you are home. You can only heal so far in hospital. You must return home to be surrounded by love, doves and good wine. Evidently you followed my advice. You did what the docs said do. Continue to do it. I anxiously await another photo with another beautiful smile. Vous me manquez.


Beautiful photo of your mother. You are blessed to have her and to revel in the wisdom she shares. So often we don’t take time to notice the moment and to just breathe & use our senses to savor it. Thank you for your reminder. Prayers for both of you as you return to the Dr to get an update on Jules health.

Janet M

What a beautiful
and thoughtful post!
(Small typo: “seeped” should be “steeped.”)

Chris Allin

Such glorious serenity coming from the peace and tranquillity of your garden. And the doves must bring so much comfort. I can almost imagine being in your garden with you and Jules. Moments like this can be healing. So glad you embrace them. Staying positive certainly helps.
Keeping Jules in my prayers for an answer and resolution. You are a a thoughtful caregiver, Kristi. 🙏🏻♥️


Kristin, this is a simple list of adjectives which came to me as I was reading your post, and afterwards, thinking about it: loving, poetic, spiritual, gentle, spoken, unspoken, sensitive, tender and bittersweet. It was so beautifully written that your feelings flowed out onto the page. And thank you for posting a picture of Jules. She's as lovely as ever.


What a lovely blog. So peaceful, and calm.
For your water garden you could get hyacinths, snails, goldfish or Koi to keep the algae down.
Also you could add a chemical to help fight it but going natural is best.
Peace, Kathleen

Mary liz

How lucky you are to have this beautiful relationship with your mother.
But no … it’s not luck … it’s , commitment, sacrifice, forgiveness , laughter … and much more.

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