Jean-Marc and I begin Part Two of our memoir, The Lost Gardens. This project would not be possible without the support of readers. Mille mercis to those who have purchased the online edition and are reading our story and cheering us on. Without you we would be at Chapter Zero! The blog post below, written in 2013, takes us back to Saint Cyr-sur-Mer, where we thought we would live forever. To buy our memoir and begin reading right away, click here.
Today's Word: flemme? buanderie? semence? pieds d'alouette?
(have your pick from the colorful vocabulary section following today's column...)
A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE... by Kristin Espinasse
Lackadaisy is not a flower
March 2013 - I woke up Sunday morning in an empty bed. Jean-Marc had left in the night to make it to the Nice airport by 5 a.m. and so begin his USA wine tour.
Beyond the bedroom window, the skies were gray and the forest was capped in black nuages. On closer look there was a steady stream of rain, just as my husband had predicted. The cold, wet weather led to a guilty inclination to linger in bed. But if Jean-Marc were here, I thought, he wouldn't be indulging in la grasse matinée or so-called "fat morning"—no! he'd be kicking around in the buanderie or the cellar or in his maritime shipping container which doubles as our extra-storage room (I think it is his French equivalent of The Sunday Garage, where husbands tinker and putter on weekends).
Wherever... he'd be getting stuff done! And so would I... with him by my side. But without him would I turn into a couch potato? I found myself seriously considering this fate on Sunday morning while languishing in a half-empty bed. I reached for my IPad, thinking to share my potato-metamorphosis on Facebook... but then—quelle horreur!—if I went over to FB I might lie in bed all morning until I began to sprout little green shoots!
I sprang out of bed and ended up in the covered carport, that mythic hangout of weekend industrialists. Looking around at the piles of wood and the piles of stuff that needed a home, I heard myself nagging my invisible family, "Ceci ce n'est pas un débarras! This is not a junk room!" How many times had I said it in the months since moving to our new old home?
I noticed an old shop table belonging to Jean-Marc's grandfather.... I could use it to set out rows of plastic garden pots and begin filling them with compost and vegetable seeds—lettuce, tomato, cucumber, peas!
Only, returning inside to get the seed packets, another inspiration hit when I remembered Mom's suggestion that I not hoard les graines de fleurs. "Use them!" She recently urged me. Mom is right: why not gather all the soon-to-expire seeds and toss them around the perimeter of the house? A rainy day was a perfect day to sow wildflowers!
There began an exhilarating back-n-forth sprint beneath the gentle rain. As my rubber-soled slippers collected mud and my pajamas grew soaked, I perfected a system whereby I would fill a pouch (whatever could be found in my flower seed box—an envelope, a coffee filter, the rest of a seed packet) with a mix of semences... next, I dashed through the kitchen, out the carport and beneath the wet sky, scattering seeds all the way!
I haven't a clue what many of the flowers were called or what they looked like (some seeds were taken from mixed wildflower packets) but I had fun imagining which ones I was haphazardly tossing....
And so I scattered "pennycress" and "love in a mist" (I guessed) along the path beneath the front porch...
Then up the stone stairs leading to the back yard, I tossed the orange Mexican poppies (in honor of the lovely stranger on crutches) and purple "Granny's bonnet".
I lined the pétanque court with "starflowers" and "physalis" (aka amour en cage) careful that not one seed should hit the special yard (real French men do not like "love in a cage" encroaching on their playing field).
I scattered Cosmos and Bachelor's Button in the fenced dog run... until it occurred to me that all the tall flowers might attract ticks. Zut, trop tard...
I knelt beside the sweet stone cabanon and covered the floor before it with "pinkfairies" and "roses of heaven", as well as baby's breath and pieds d'alouette, or larkspur. I tucked in several mammoth sunflowers that would tower over the little hut, come late summer. I also planted some artichoke seeds for the vibrant purple contrast beneath the sunny yellow flowers.
As I rested on the ground I could smell the freshly turned earth which woke up all of my hibernating senses. I felt my heart beating and my skin was tingling from the fresh air and the rain. I thought about my bed, the place I secretly wanted to spend my morning. How dead it seemed compared to this!
I don't ever want to be a lazybones, I admitted to the little flowers, still in seed form scattered all around me. And I'm not sure if it was the "baby's breath" or the "love in a mist" or which flowers whispered back first, but I took the hint: Keep coming back... they suggested, one after the other. With water!
I smiled down on the cheering chorus of seeds. Yes, that ought to keep these lazybones out of bed! That plus I can't wait to see what the little cheerleaders will grow up to be, whether Poppies or Soapworts or Busy Lizzies.
EDIT ME: If you see une faute de frappe (typo) in French or in English, I would greatly appreciate it if you would point it out in the comments or via email. Merci beaucoup!
la flemme = slackness
avoir la flemme = to feel lazy
le nuage = cloud
faire la grasse matinée= to sleep in, lie in
la buanderie = utility room
quelle horreur! = Awful thought!
Ceci ce n'est pas un débarras!= this is not a dumping ground!
une semence = seed
les graines de fleurs = flower seeds
la pétanque = game of petanque or boules
zut, trop tard = shoot, too late
pieds d'alouette = larkspur
le cabanon = stone hut (shed)
Once again, I encourage you to discover our book-in-progress. Part One (chapters 1-12 are now finished) and plant the seeds for the inevitable dénouement. Thank you for helping us to tell our story: Click here to purchase The Lost Gardens.
Feedback from Chapter 11:
J-M, this chapter is quite moving, and I find myself touched by the revelation of the near-accident on the tractor after a long day harvesting. Your description puts the reader right there with you. And, too, we who have been on this journey with you from afar, better understand why you left a successful and seemingly 'perfect' situation. (There isn't a perfect anything anywhere, but Sainte Cecile-les-Vignes seemed close!) How wonderful your dream to move to Bandol happened and you found Mas des Bruns. Successful storytelling brings the reader into the story and you & Kristi are certainly accomplishing that. --Patty
The artichokes that eventually...and a tiny glimpse of the sea view Jean-Marc wrote about in Chapter 12 of The Lost Gardens.
Smokey, helping to make sure we leave you with a smile. Enjoy your week ahead!
A Message from Kristi: For twenty years now, support from readers like you has been an encouragement and a means to carve out a career in writing. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider a donation. Your gift keeps me going! Thank you very much.
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For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety