Desiderata poem in French and English: lifechanging words


Our 16-year-old set out, yesterday, on a 24-hr voyage. Alone, she flew from Nice to London, then London to Dallas, and on to Denver. Unsure of what to say to my daughter before she left, I slipped the following poem into her travel bag. Photo taken at the Vieux Port in Marseilles, on break from her internship at a couturier's. 

 "D E S I D E R A T A" by Max Ehrmann

Allez tranquillement parmi le vacarme et la hâte
Go placidly amid the noise and haste

Et souvenez-vous de la paix qui peut exister dans le silence
Remember what peace there may be in silence

Sans aliénation, vivre autant que possible en bons termes avec toutes personnes
As far as possible without surrender, be on good terms with all persons

Dîtes doucement et clairement votre vérité; et écoutez les autres, même le simple d'esprit et l'ignorant, ils ont eux aussi leur histoire.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even to the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story.

Évitez les individus bruyants et agressifs, ils sont une vexation pour l'esprit.
Avoid loud and agressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.

Ne vous comparez avec personne : vous risqueriez de devenir vain ou vaniteux.
If you compare yourselves with others, you may become vain and bitter.

Il y a toujours plus grand et plus petit que vous.
For there with always be greater and lesser persons than yourself.


                                           photo of Jackie taken in 2011

Jouissez de vos projets aussi bien que de vos accomplissements.
Enjoy your acheivements as well as your plans.

Soyez toujours intéressé à votre carrière, si modeste soit-elle
Keep interested in your own career, however humble

C'est un véritable atout dans les prospérités changeantes du temps
It is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

Soyez prudent dans vos affaires car le monde est plein de ruses
Exercise caution in your business affairs for the world is full of trickery

Mais ne soyez pas aveugle en ce qui concerne la vertu qui existe ;
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;

Plusieurs individus recherchent les grands idéaux ;
Many persons strive for high ideals;

Et partout la vie est remplie d'héroïsme.
And everywhere life is full of heroism

Soyez vous-même. Surtout n'affectez pas l'amitié.
Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection.

Non plus ne soyez cynique en amour
Neither be cynical about love

Car il est en face de toute stérilité et de tout désenchantement aussi éternel que l'herbe
For in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is perennial as the grass


Prenez avec bonté le conseil des années,
Take kindly to the counsel of the years

En renonçant avec grâce à votre jeunesse.
Gracefully surrendering the things of youth

Fortifiez une puissance d'esprit pour vous protéger en cas de malheur
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune

Mais ne vous chagrinez pas avec vos chimères.
But do not distress yourself with imaginings

De nombreuses peurs naissent de la fatigue et de la solitude.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness

Au delà d'une discipline saine, soyez doux avec vous-même
Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself

                               Jackie, 7 years old.

Vous êtes un enfant de l'univers, pas moins que les arbres et les étoiles;
You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars;

Vous avez le droit d'etre ici.
You have a right to be here.

Et qu'il vous soit clair ou non, l'univers se déroule sans doute comme il le devrait
And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

La Ciotat 8.16.03 047

                                  With my daughter, 5 years-old then...

Soyez en paix avec Dieu, quelle que soit votre conception de lui
Therefore, be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be

Quels que soient vos travaux et vos rêves,
Whatever your labors and aspirations

Gardez, dans le désarroi bruyant de la vie, la paix de votre âme.
In the noisy confusion of life, keep at peace with your soul

Avec toutes ses perfidies, ses besognes fastidieuses et ses rêves brisés,
With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams

Le monde est pourtant beau ;
It is still a beautiful world;

Prenez attention.
Be cheerful.

Tâchez d'être heureux.
Strive to be happy.


If you enjoy this free language journal and find it helpful in any way, help keep it going with a small donation. Merci beaucoup!


Jackie riding a donkey in Southwest France

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to help keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
♥ $10    
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Blog hiatus + special story... and see you in December

Bandol window (c) Kristin Espinasse
An artist's residence in the seaside town of Bandol.

Un mois sabbatique. Some talk of a sabbatical year, but one month may just be enough to recharge these batteries after 11 years of online journaling.

In November, I'll follow a gentle rule: no emails, no blogging. Thanks for helping me stick to it.... If you have sent me a note in 2011 or 2012 and not received a reply, I am so sorry. I wanted to respond, but I slipped behind. Please don't take it personally. I'd feel even worse than I already do!

Before putting this blog and my inbox on hiatus for the next month, one more story for you. I hope it will fill you with hope and inspiration and, especially, tendresse et amour.

If you are looking for the word of the day, I have put it in the following story, somewhere (hint, it's in theme with October 31st...).

"See you" in December!
We'll get back to the regular blog format in December. Thank you for reading!


 A Day in a French Life... by Kristin Espinasse

The Photographer and the Body Piercer 

Last night my mind chattered from the day's unexpected and meaningful encounters. I had met two strangers in the town of Bandol, and by the time we parted I carried in my hand a precious, if invisible, puzzle piece. Mindful of its value--and still unsure as to where to place it--I held it tightly lest it fall into a street grate (alas, it wouldn't be the first time!). Meantime, a familiar quote galloped across my soul, dropping a clue as to what this puzzle piece represented: boldness. 

Boldness has genius, power and magic in it... 

Those words were tattooed on my brain like the Lord's Prayer. They must have significance. But who had said them--Ralph Waldo Emerson? Claude Bristol? Mom? And how did boldness relate to yesterday's meeting? 

An internet search brought the first answer and led to an even more profound text, words which would give insight into yesterday's chance meeting, which I will soon share. First, via Wikipedia, here are the powerful thoughts of William Hutchison Murray, Scottish mountaineer and writer:

Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favour all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would have come his way. I learned a deep respect for one of Goethe's couplets:

Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it.
Boldness has genius, power and magic in it!

Now back to yesterday's pivotal encounter in the town of Bandol, and to where boldness and, especially, "countless ideas and splendid plans--and Providence" fit in.

Cynthia was one of the "strangers" I met yesterday. We first chatted online and were struck by our connections to Mexico and France. Cynthia lives very near my mom (who is in Puerto Vallarta), and she has a home very near me, in Bandol.


Over lunch we discovered more affinities, including a love of photography. After coming to France 20 years ago, and with no plans on leaving, Cynthia's circumstances suddenly changed. But instead of returning to the States, she found a creative way to stay in France--by offering photography tours. 

As we talked about the creative activity that had allowed her to remain in France, I was struck by Cynthia's pluck--her courage and boldness to follow her intuition and to trust things would work out!

Though Cynthia no longer gives photography tours of France, she clearly enjoys helping others advance with their cameras. After lunch, Cynthia was helping me snap some pictures when I looked up, dying to ask her a question.

"Which do you prefer to photograph: architecture or people?"

"People!" Cynthia did not hesitate.

"Me too! Me too!" I said, my voice wagging its tail, like my dog Smokey when his heart is full.

"I want to photograph people!" I said, "but I am afraid of being chased away." I told Cynthia about an encounter, earlier, in which I asked the pumpkin stand lady if I could photograph her bright orange courges. The woman's face contorted into a ghoulish non!--scaring me away from my goal.

"How did you respond to the woman's negative reaction?" Cynthia wanted to know. 

"Well, I told the lady that I was American... and that seeing une citrouille, or pumpkin, made my heart swell with nostalgia. The women then grumbled, 'Go ahead, just don't photograph me!'"

Cynthia said I had handled the situation very well, and, buoyed by her encouragement I seized the next opportunity....

We had be walking toward the church when my eyes locked on a colorful figure sitting in front of the tattoo shop, just beside the historic cathedral. 

"Cynthia! That is who I want to photograph!" I pointed my head over to the girl in purple tights, tattoos up and down her arms. I loved the way she was sitting--carefree, yet lost in concentration.

But just as Cynthia was helping me to discreetly adjust my camera, the purple-legged subject moved. Her feet came down off the table as she shifted to greet a friend who was passing by. Oh no, the moment was lost! Or was it?....

Before my mind could reason or object, I found myself  marching toward the young woman! Enough was enough. I could not go on sneaking photos--and giving up, I determined, was no longer an option. 

(Boldness has genius....)

"Sorry to bother you," I said, "but I would really love to take your picture." Next, I told the young woman what a chicken I was to photograph strangers, but how I no longer wanted that to keep me from a creative impulse!

(Boldness has genius, power and magic in it...)

As I babbled on, unbridling my heart, the young woman in head to toes tattoos with piercings across her face, and earlobes weighed down with spacers--looked up at me with gentle eyes. "Bien sûr. Yes of course you can take my photo."

My babbling stopped... replaced by a moral inkling: 

"Do you mind if I publish your photo?" It was a delicate question. I might have been even more direct: I wish to share your creative and inspiring-to-me character with the world, without exploiting you. You okay with that?

Without batting an eye, the young woman assured me it was pas un souci! How refreshing to know that not everyone has as many hang-ups or fearful imaginings as I. I just needed to relax--and snap the photo!


"I'm Kristi and this is Cynthia," I said, in between snapping pictures. "What is your name?"


"Ah, Janis Joplin!"

My subject smiled a confirmation, when I noticed her great and punctured heart.... 

"It's a bleeding heart," Janis said, as Cynthia and I huddled in close, to study the heart tattoo across Janis's chest. We chatted several moments about everything from tattoos to driving lessons to permaculture--in one of the richest conversations I have ever had in the space of 5 minutes.

Meantime, the lumière from the sky above streamed down through the church's eves, to the tattoo shop below. I watched the light fall across these former strangers, how grounded and strong they were, with hearts as warm as the sun's rays.

As I said goodbye to these artists, while holding that precious invisible puzzle piece in my hand, my breath caught. Something had fallen from me, and landed in the street grate!

I saw then what the puzzle piece truly represented: the limitations I set against myself. I no longer have to let my dreams pass me by. I can stop, say hello, and ask the magic question: May I?

courge or pumpkin (c) Kristin Espinasse
The pumpkin stand.... Which do you prefer as a subject: people or things?

To leave a comment, click here. Thank you very much for reading and I will be back in December with more words and stories. Feel free to leave a message here (my email inbox is closed, until I can catch up).  

Through December, the ebook version of Blossoming in Provence is just over $4.  

I know (je sais) by Ito NagaPerfect for the Francophiles in your life: a gift book with brains and heart. I Know (Je sais), a bilingual edition of Ito Naga’s best-selling Je sais, translated by the author and poet Lynne Knight, is now available from Sixteen Rivers Press. Order here.


Janis, if you are reading, many thanks for helping me to put to rest one more limitation. I will think of you each time I ask the golden question, May I? Puis-je?

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to help keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
♥ $10    
♥ $25    
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You can also support this journal by purchasing our book-in-progress, click here.

c'est déjà pas mal

Block party in French (c) Kristin Espinasse
"A path of one's own." Our daughter Jackie in 2005, in Queyras. Keep marching toward your dream, My Girl, and don't forget to enjoy the sights along the way! More about our recent pep talk in today's story column. Forward it to a struggling student. (Note: the sign reads "block party".)

A few seats are still available at the Washington DC wine dinner with Jean-Marc on March 20th -- click here for more information.

A word and an expression for you today, as I couldn't choose between the two:

c'est déjà pas mal

    : not bad at all, nothing to sneeze at; it's a good start

The second entry, the term pep talk, goes with today's story. Only I couldn't find a good French equivalent so I'm including these examples found on line (I ran out of time to translate them. If you'd like to help, you can share your translation in the comments box, for all to enjoy).

Mon quart de travail a débuté par un pep talk, discours de motivation du superviseur à son équipe. --L'Actualité, Volume 25

La crise est trop profonde pour qu'un pep talk, un discours « motivateur » ou un cri de ralliement puisse agir efficacement. --Renaitre a la Spiritualite: Essai  By Richard Bergeron

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE... by Kristin Espinasse

"You were laughing in your sleep last night!" I said to my daughter, who is sharing my room while her father is away.

"I love it," I assured her. "Always laugh! Laugh and be positive as much as you can in life."

My suggestion wasn't fazing Jackie, who stared out the window wishing to skip school. "Can't I have just one day off?"

The kids always try to work me when their dad is out of town. Usually they succeed in getting one ditch day each, but as school gets more and more demanding I can't in good conscience give in. Besides, I promised Jean-Marc to keep both slackers on track.

As we drove the country road to school, passing the newly pruned olive trees, I noticed how the ground was covered here and there with pink blossoms. The almond trees were dropping their dainty coats. A new stage was unfolding.

I looked over at my daughter, "Just think. Your career is about to begin! This fall you will be enrolled in fashion studies. You are on your way!" I reached over and patted Jackie's leg.

"Ouai," her deadbeat response was one interminable sigh. I knew what was bothering my girl. She's told me many times before: "Et si je ne réussis pas?"

"Of course you will succeed!" I smiled at my passenger.

There she sat, in her army combat pants and bad girl sweatshirt (no words on the black shirt, just three hand gestures. I couldn't make out their meaning, but the symbols--including a fist--seemed to say Don't mess with me!). On the outside she looked tough but inside she was sucking her thumb. The insecure future loomed ahead of her.

Entering the school parking lot I recognized one of the pions whose job it is to welcome students.

"Je peux me baisser? Can I duck down?" Jackie pleaded to return home to bed.

I knew my daughter was tired, but I did not realize the extent of her spring fever. Now was a good time for a pep talk!

"Look, you need to get to class today. Listen to the lecture and that's half the work! Be kind to your future self--don't make her have to struggle tonight by trying to learn the material all on her own.

Jackie seemed to awaken to the suggestion. Maybe she was finally able to make the listen in class  less work at home connection.

"I could go to permanances and get my homework done..." she considered.

"Study hall... Great idea! You're future self will love you when she is relaxing in front of her favorite program tonight instead of falling to sleep on her math book!"

"But I'm too tired to go to school today!" Jackie said, falling back into her rut.

"Look, Choucou. It may not be obvious to you what all these classes are adding up to. But they are all paving the way to your future freedom! One day soon you will be exercising your dream job--if you will just keep showing up and opening your mind to the... possibilities." (I betted "possibilities" sounded better than "lessons", so I used it trusting Jackie's subconscious to make the switch!)

"Look at me," I chimed on, "I may not feel like working today, but I will go home now and write my column--never mind my lack of energy. This is how I practice my dream of writing for a living. Once I sit down to type the first few lines of my story, I'll get in the groove--and so will you. What's important is to begin!"

I continued with my pep talk, tossing in several points on the power of positive thinking, something, I admit to my daughter, that I still struggle with. "But we have to continually keep our thoughts up!" I cheered.

Kissing Jackie goodbye I quizzed her. "Do you understand what I am saying?" I smiled.

"I'm getting half of it," she admitted." Je retiens la moitié de ce que tu dis."

"Oh..." I said, feeling my spirits sink... until I remembered to take my own advice.

"Mais c'est déjà pas mal!" Yes, that's not bad at all!

To comment on this story, click here. To share your own stories of pep talks and school struggles and positive thinking or pulling yourself up by your bootstraps click here.  

French Vocabulary:
= yah
le pion
(la pionne) = monitor
la permanence = study hall
chouchou = sweetie 


 Yay! Just received an update from Valencia Siff (pictured left) who tells me that Chief Grape's winetasting in Virginia was a success. I'm teary-eyed seeing Valencia's touching message (thank you, V.! P.S. You are beautiful!). A few seats remain for the D.C. tasting. Please check this page with a link to reserve your seat. 

Colorado Provencal (c) Kristin Espinasse
From the photo archives: Colorado in Provence! This site in Rustrel, France, is known as Le Colorado Provençal. Posting it for all our Colorado friends. Naner naner!

Colorado Provencal (c) Kristin Espinasse
Around Rustrel, another lazy French village with crawling roses and sleepy benches. 

Thanks for forwarding this edition to a friend. 

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to help keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

You can also support this journal by purchasing our book-in-progress, click here.

Need encouragement? How to say "If at first you don't succeed try try again"

saint-peray cornas domaine chaboud wine barrel Les bouteilles (c) Kristin Espinasse
Thank you for your encouraging feedback on the recent video I made with Smokey. But after trying and failing to make a follow up recording, I'm wondering if I should just stick to photography (today's pic taken on our Rhone river cruise) instead! In times like these, I find the following saying to be particularly reassuring: 

dix fois sur le métier, remettre son ouvrage!
    : if at first you don't succeed, try try again!

(a second translation follows. See the audio section, below)


Audio File: listen to Jean-Marc read the example sentences: Download MP3 or Wav file

Dix fois sur le métier, remettre son ouvrage.
If at first you don't succeed, try try again.

Note: sometimes "vingt fois" is used. I found this example at

Nous devons mettre en pratique la maxime bien connue de Boileau, « Vingt fois sur le métier remettez votre ouvrage », c'est-à-dire revenir inlassablement à la tâche en multipliant les occasions de faire passer les messages. We must apply the well-known maxim of Boileau: "go back to your work again," that is, keep at your task tirelessly and take every opportunity to get the message across.

A Day in a French Life... by Kristin Espinasse

On The Workings of Inspiration

Saturday afternoon, during a restless and agitated sieste, I began to sense some kind of pull coming from within. Next, it felt as though invisible fingers had wrapped around me and were now carrying me out of my bed and over to my desk.

There, I began searching wildly for my video camera. Incredibly I found it, only to rush around trying to find a stable surface on which to set it, and so begin recording the message that was bubbling out from deep within. 

But each time I steadied the camera (on a chair or on the bed or par terre) it tipped and fell over.

Va dehors... I continued to follow the curious inner-urging, which led me down the dirt path opposite the leafy potager, past the clothesline, and over to the cabanon.

Along the way, I picked up a plastic laundry basket, already calculating the height at which I would need to place the camera. I automatically grabbed a picnic chair, in passing.

Now facing the stone wall of the shed, the camera steadied on the laundry basket, which teetered over the chair, I quickly hit "record".... 

Next I hurried around to the other side of the lens. 
Smokey followed, until we were both posed before the camera like a couple of animated puppets, brought to life by the artist behind the scene.

After only one take, the recording was a relative success (not counting the lost footage, when the camera ran out of space), so much so that Smokey and I began to entertain visions of the next Cannes film festival, where we fancied ourselves strolling the red carpet with the likes of Jean Dujardin.

Not wasting a moment, Smokey and I set out to top our first recording. Cannes here we come! Only this time, when the camera began rolling, calamity struck.

The puppets petered out! 

And so it was that, without the great puppet master, Inspiration, the two self-appointed starlets hung heavy from the strings that once supported them.

Across the path, over on the clothesline, the laundry hung in much the same way. And so I got up and went to collect it. 


Post note: the question now is, do we wait for inspiration in order to carry out our artistic pursuits?

If I waited for inspiration each time I set out to write, I would not write very many stories (today, for example, was a total no-inspiration day... a day in which I wanted to crawl back under the covers, and rot there).

But my motto has always been "don't wait for inspiration! Keep plugging away! Work past the difficulty." While this advice is good for writing, it may not work for filming—a medium which is much less forgiving.

French Vocabulary

la sieste = nap
par terre = on the floor
va dehors = go outside
le potager = kitchen garden
le cabanon = stone shack, or hut


"Maybe next time we should wear wigs?" Smokey suggests.... photo taken in Avignon

 NEWS! I am excited to be featured in Ann Mah's Tuesday Night Dinner column. It will be published today, so please check back, via this link, to see if the interview has been posted. You'll learn about what a typical evening mealtime is like here at our place!

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to help keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

You can also support this journal by purchasing our book-in-progress, click here.


Sheep in Les Arcs (c) Kristin Espinasse
Who (or what) is your muse? For me it can be a scene, like this one... and suddenly inspiration comes! Photo taken in Les Arcs-sur-Argens, where we lived from 1999-2007. 


I tried to find a French synonym for une muse, but I landed on a French definition instead. Here it is, along with the day's story, written two summers ago:

une muse (myooz)

    : une source d'inspiration pour un écrivain, un poéte, ou une artiste 

Audio File: Listen to Jean-Marc pronounce the definition to muse: Download MP3 or Wav file

la muse verte = absinthe (the drink that is said to have inspired 19 Century writers)
invoquer sa muse = to call on one's muse
courtiser les muses = to court the muses
taquiner la muse = literally to tease the muse (to give a go at poetry)
les muses = The nine Muses

un musée = museum (from the Greek mousaion, or "a seat or shrine of the muses")


A Day in a French Life... by Kristin Espinasse

Last night I dialed up Mexico and listened as Jules picked up the phone at the other end of the jungle. I felt grateful to hear my mom's voice and immediately asked whether she would like to hear about the fictional nouvelle that I had begun.  

Mom was game. Only, as I heard myself recount the historiette (involving a senile goat that wears recycled espadrilles), I realized—before Mom even suggested it—that I still wasn't addressing the muse... or was it that the muse wasn't addressing me?... or rather neither of us was addressing but rather a-skirting. Quite simply put, we were, both of us, the muse and I, conveniently and once again skirting the heart's history. Whether or not skirts were involved is beside the point. Let's see, is there a point?

"I think you use humor to deflect," Mom pointed out, in so many mom-wise words. "Underneath the guise of comedy, lie your profound stories." 

I offered a few mumbly yah-yahs and you're right about thats. Mom was unconvinced. That is when she reminded me of a line she had just heard in a movie, words that stirred her heart, and maybe they would stir up my own in time to share a few true lines. 

"You are God's muse"

 "You are God's muse," Mom said, quoting the film. She left enough silence for the words to find feeling in my mind. We are God's muse.... 

Later that night, after the house had fallen to sleep, I reluctantly put my espadrille-shoed chèvre aside. I reassured myself that the story could be told another time. Next, I thought of Mom's words:

"Remember, you are God's muse. Just fire up that computer, put your hands over that keyboard and LET IT RIP!"

I opened a new window on my computer screen. I took a sip of coffee, staring for a thoughtful while at the proverbial blank page. Finally, I typed in the title of my story. My throat tightened followed by a stinging in the eyes. Closing them, I felt wet lashes.

I looked up at what I had typed: only a word, no more than a title. It read, Naked

Next, I closed the word document and shut off the computer. I walked down the quiet hall to the bedroom, where I changed into my pajamas. I can't sleep without them.


   "Locked" in St Paul Trois Chateaux (c) Kristin Espinasse

French Vocabulary

la nouvelle = short story

la historiette = anecdote, short story

la chèvre = she goat


  Smokey (c) Kristin Espinasse

Forward today's story to a struggling artist. Thanks. (Picture of Smokey taken two summers ago. What is he thinking? Click here to add a thought bubble.)

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to help keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

You can also support this journal by purchasing our book-in-progress, click here.


Puzzled at which photo to put up today... I found this forerunner in Ramatuelle. Picture taken  last spring.

avant-coureur (ah vahn koor ur) adjective

    : forerunner

synonyme: précurseur (noun)

A Day in a French Life... by Kristin Espinasse

Next month this word journal will set out for—and near—its very dear ninth year! How to sum up one's thoughts about that? With the help of Doctor Seuss, bien sûr:

Oh, les endroits où tu courras!

As you may have surmised, translation is not always on my side. So let's keep le docteur's words intact: 

Oh, the places you'll go!  To this I would add, with glee and wee-stee-tee:

...and, oh, the people you will meet!


Take Lou, for example. He wrote to me back in 2006.

I've just been able to send an e-mail. I read your book, which I enjoy and get your word a day, which is helping me try and learn French, as I'm planning on spending a month next Sept. in the Provence area celebrating my 80th, hope to try your wine, I'm from Casa Grande, AZ., also a desert rat, much good luck to you and to your family, I'm sure, like most of your readers, you feel like family. Au revoir.

And now, three and some years later, at the age of 83, Lou finally came to visit me! He had mentioned wanting to help out with our wine harvest... and so it was that Lou became our most venerable vendangeur!

Lou has often sent encouraging words (you may have seen them in the comments box):

Happy birthday and holiday greetings from an old fan, enjoy your family news and pics, hope to get over one of these days and meet you all, My best to you and yours.

But there is nothing like hearing encouraging words en direct. I stood there on the front patio, listening to un homme d'un certain âge honor me for following and sharing this writing dream. Next, the man with grape stains from his shirt shoulders to his socks, turned and pointed to the horizon. His face sunburnt from harvesting, a bee sting beneath his eye, he said that I was blessed. My eyes traveled back from the skyline and, looking back at Lou, I could not help but feel so: blessed not for what I have, but for whom I have.

Lou's solo trip south (he first visited London) to gather grapes beneath the sizzling sun makes my imagination spin: will I dare to drive a car across a foreign country when I am the same age as he? Or will I remain a wet chicken?

I look at Lou and see what James Dean might have been, nearing ninety: a rebel runner in Time's race, not about to slow down. Never mind gravity.

Time and lines. I try to superimpose my own face on Lou's: eyes on eyes, nose on nose. Will I be as handsome... with a little chance and then some?

But beauty has nothing on bohemia and, like Lou, it is the unconventional life for which I'll strive at 80 or for as long as I'm alive.


(more photos below... keep scrolling!)

Le Coin Commentaires
I love reading your comments. Please don't hesitate to leave a message, or a simple "bonjour". Click here to comment

Speaking of Doctor Seuss, check out Les Oeufs Verts au Jambon: The French Edition of Green Eggs and Ham

French Vocabulary

bien sûr = of course

le docteur = doctor

ouistiti = the word the French say for "cheese" when posing for a photo (pronounced wee-stee-tee)

le vendangeur (la vendangeuse) = grape picker, vintager
wet chicken 

en direct
= live

un homme d'un certain âge = a man of a certain age

wet chicken = la poule mouillée = a coward  



Lou with harvester Zayra. Ah là là!


  Exercises in French Phonics Exercises in French Phonics is... 
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entretenir de grands espoirs

Are you seeing the broken glass... or the pretty watermelon building in the back? Do you practice positive or stinking thinking?

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entretenir de grands espoirs

    : to have high hopes

Audio File: listen to my son, Max, pronounce today's expression and these words:
Download MP3 or Wav file

 J'entretiens de grands espoirs! I have high hopes!

A Day in a French Life... by Kristin Espinasse

Say this: "j'entretiens de grands espoirs!" (I have high hopes!) Now say it again, this time with gusto: J'entretiens de grands espoirs!!!

I say this lately, avec ou sans gusto. No matter how green or Gallic the grass is just outside my window, no matter how peaceful the Provençale prairie beyond, I fight a "negative thought" battle all the @*$!#& day long.   

It is a battle of the mind and it takes a heaping helping of "high apple pie" mentality to fight it. Speaking of apple pie, I've put on weight lately....

(And there they go again, the brain "bad guys" that would have me focusing not on others, but on my thighs. That is how they keep us stuck, in a muck, ever convinced we're out of luck.)

Though my mother taught me to identify negative thinking, my thoughts have a mind of their own and, drone drone drone, on they march relentlessly. I think they're out to get me.

And so I write. Funny (sometimes laughable) stories. It helps to keep those unruly thoughts focused by filling up page after blank page, ordering the thoughts lest they find the time to order me.

"Keep a watchman at the gate," Mom always says. I like to imagine an armed soldier, my very own "brainguard" (stronger even than a bodyguard!). As the defeating thoughts approach, my brainguard raises an arm, level with its shoulder. The upright palm at the end of that arm is almost touching the face of the intruder, so close that the intruder could read the wrinkled life line upon it. But the thought intruders are too dumb to be palm readers.

"Halte! L
et me see your papers!" my brainguard barks at the unwelcome thoughts. Because the thought impostors are
by nature (after all, they can think of nothing better to do than to amuse themselves via so much taunting and fearful thought flaunting), they've forgotten to falsify their passports. In fact, they forgot their passports altogether!

Easy as that, my brainguard sends them on their way. But the thought impostors only get as far as the bridge before, piddle brains that they are, they forget why they've headed off. And so they turn back for another attack.

Sometimes my brainguard falls asleep at the gate and I have to come up with other ways to stave off the savages. One of my new favorite weapons is singing. Just sing louder than the voices in your head.

Personally, I fancy the rubber tree song:

...just what makes that little ol' ant think he can move that rubber-tree plant...

After all, we've got to have high hopes if we are to continue to believe in the good that is out there, high apple pie hopes with dollops and dollops of determination.

:: Le Coin Commentaires ::

To leave a comment, click here. Merci d'avance!


Smokey and Soeurs (c) Kristin Espinasse
  Hang in there! (Smokey and the
soeurettes at 6 weeks...)

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Words in a French Life

"Blogger Espinasse has taken a step backward in the evolution of media by converting selected contents of her Web log into a book. Beginning students of conversational French will profit from many of these brief entries, and supplemental tables of expressions go far to demystify French idioms for anyone wishing to speak and write more fluent French." —Booklist 

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Poppy (c) Kristin Espinasse

It's Vagabonde Vendredi -- time to stray from our comfortable way. I have been saving this favorite flower from my garden for you. Enjoy!


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aviver (ah-vee-vay) verb


    : to stir up

French verb conjugation:
 j'avive, tu avives, il avive, nous avivons, vous avivez, ils avivent past participle: avivé

Audio File & Example sentence: listen to Jean-Marc:  
Download MP3  or Wav

Pour que la muse vienne vous visiter, bousculer vos habitudes, avivez votre matinée! For the muse to come and visit you, shake up your habits, stir up your morning.

A Day in a French Life... by Kristin Espinasse 

Take a new path each day. Shake things up. Do the unexpected

These things run through my mind as I type, fresh dirt beneath my fingernails, along this chattering clavier. (Have you ever listened to the sound of typing?  Stop. Ecoutez! What do you hear?I hear the sound of hailstones hitting the front patio. Did you hear it too? Type on and listen closely... Oh, chameleon keyboard, when I am in the moment, listening with all my might, I hear falling pebbles of poetry.)

It is always a good time to be in the moment. The same goes for writing a thrice-weekly journal on a deadline. This edition will go out, automatically, "preprogramedly," in four hours. Between then and now a lot could happen... such as:

Bees! I could bolt back outside, to where I left my trowel... and look at bumble hides. Yesterday, while visiting with the Dirt Divas (pictured, below), Doreen pointed out the blanched-butted bumblebees.  (Did she call them "white bums"?)  Just thinking of their name makes me light.

Light, this is how I'd like the next four hours to pass—légèrement—and not lourdement. "Heavily" happens when we're over-serious. Why not be neither heavy nor lighty-flighty... why not shoot for "whimsical weighted"?

But back to "what could happen in the next four hours"... Isn't this an exciting thought? Perhaps one might leave the work desk and take a spin around the block (or building, or airport, or internet café) or wherever this letter finds you reading....

Then, there's always a free moment for a one-minute meditation: time to clear the mind and replace any negative (defeating, fearful, muckity-puckity pensées) with positive ones or, better yet, Godly ones.  "Meditate on the Word" my mom, Jules, might tell me. She might also tell me to do something new (and so be renewed?), such as ride my bike to Camaret and give my new friend Liliane a jam jar of jardin jewels: those ruby and sapphire and citrine splendors in the garden.

(Alas, a few hours have now passed... and I haven't managed to lighten up. Worse, I feel weightier than before. Perhaps this is the ol' "one step forward, deux en arrière" snare?)

Never mind. What's important is to keep marching on and with a sing-song in one's step. And if, by chance, you need a guide, you might chance to follow a certain blanched-bumed bee hide...

as it bumbles,  and as you stumble, from one good intention to the next. At least you tried :-) 


:: Le Coin Commentaires ::

Thanks for stopping in to say "bonjour" today. Click here to comment. 

 No picture of the blanched-bottomed bumble bee... Will you enjoy this blue-winged one instead?
  Blue Wings (c) Kristin Espinasse


 The dear
Dirt Divas (Malou & Doreen), who never fail to make one smile. I hope their generosity is contagious. 

   French Vocabulary

écouter = to listen to
légèrement = lightly
lourdement = heavily
le jardin = garden
deux en arrière = two (steps) backwards



There's fan fiction and now "pal poetry": study my latest poem (on the previous page)... and see  how Newforest gussies it up here, below, finding just the right French words and making it even more meaningful:


"Le Point du Jour"  

(Poème de Kristin revu par 'Newforest')




 Ce matin je me suis levée avant les ipomées. 

Coucou, levez-vous!

Je me suis penchée vers ces fleurs matinales

Qui dorment encore, serrant leurs pétales.

Coucou! Levez-vous!

Plus loin, les grillons répètent sans cesse leur cricri strident,

Mais les jolies fleurs bleues, pas encore éveillées, 

Savourent les plaisirs d'une grasse matinée.








  Morning glory
  Photo by Andrew Farrell





Poetry vocabulary 


- une Ipomée = Morning Glory






(un volubilis is a synonyme)





- se pencher = to lean over





- encore = here, it means still (still asleep)





- serrer = to tighten, to grip tightly





- un pétale = petal 





- plus loin = further





- le grillon = cricket





- sans cesse / continuellement = non stop





- le cricri is the French word for the sound made by crickets





- (être éveillé) = (to be) woken up





- savourer le/les plaisir(s) de ... = to enjoy


- faire la grasse matinée = to sleep in 

please help me to thank Newforest for this new and improved poésie. Click here to leave a comment. 





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Bignonia (c) Kristin Espinasse
Bignonias always remind me of our home in Les Arcs, where the flowers clambored up and over the metal pergola beside our driveway, throwing shade onto the boules (or "pétanque" or "bocce ball") court just beyond. Our house in Les Arcs-sur-Argens was a 30-minute drive from Bagnols-en-Forêt, where my English friend, Michèle, had a "pied-à-terre", or second home....





At Michèle's home in Bagnols, I am waiting patiently to meet an Englishwoman who has lived through two world wars. It is easy to pass the time, seated here on a lovely terrace beneath the blossoming cherry tree. The picnic table is gradually filling up as Michèle's golden-haired daughters, Violet and Natalie, bring out roasted chicken, a lovely green-bean salad, and baguettes fresh from the local bakery. 

As the girls disappear into the kitchen in search of les couverts, the guest of honor arrives.

"I'm so sorry for the delay," she apologizes. "The workmen are busy cleaning my terrace. The tiles are covered with mold! I told the men to scrub it down with vinegar. Vinegar works best!"

"Hello Bobby!" Michèle welcomes her neighbor, l'invitée d'honneur.  Bobby pauses to admire the cherry tree, which towers above her like a giant floral umbrella. I try to picture this delicate woman giving orders to a couple of burly ouvriers. In my mind's eye, I see the workmen reluctantly setting aside their industrial cleaners for the simple home remedy: le vinaigre—good ol' sour wine! 

As Bobby settles into her chair, Michèle and her belle-mère, Shirley, shake their heads in appreciation of their friend's latest adventure. 

"Oh, they must love you, Bobby!"

Bobby says that's possible, perhaps because of the beer she gives the men at the end of the workday!

The ladies at the table laugh as Bobby explains what happens when she runs out of Kronenbourg.

"I knock on the neighbor's door." We then learn about Bobby's 72-year-old friend. At 18 years her junior, le voisin wears a black toupee and a handlebar mustache, and provides back-up beer for the sour-scented workmen.

Listening to her colorful story, I notice Bobby's charm and how the flowering cerisier frames her beautifully. Its full, white blossoms muffle the rumbling of a thousand nectar-hungry bees. The buzzing causes us to look up through the trees, to the clear blue sky above. 

"When the Mistral wind blows through, it chases away the clouds," Bobby notes. We search the ciel bleu. Not a cloud in sight.

The sky invites our wondering eyes and questioning hearts. I pull my chair closer to Bobby's.

"What brought you to France?" I ask.

Bobby tells me that when her husband died 12 years ago, she decided to come to the South of France and build a summer nest. She was 78 at the time.

As she shares her story, I can't help but admire her. Her eyes are that pretty shade between "steel" and "powder" that some call robin's-egg blue. Her short hair has that quality of white that tips the edges of the blue sea. I notice how it falls back off her face in endless waves.

Bobby is now talking about her 35-year-old granddaughter, an art teacher in Texas. As she speaks, I try to pinpoint her British accent. Just what part of Angleterre has rubbed off on her voice?

I notice her earrings: large pearl-colored disks. I make a note to wear such earrings in 53 years' time, as if boucles d'oreille would render me as beautiful as she.

Bobby tells me that her 63-year-old daughter has a butterfly tattoo on her hand.

"She got it thirty years ago."

"Were you upset?"

"No. But I told her the butterfly might look different when her skin begins to wrinkle!" 

"Does it?" I am curious.

"It's looking fine," Bobby smiles. Her blue eyes deepen as she turns her attention to the saturated sky.

I look down at my hands as I search for words. I want to tell Bobby that she is like that butterfly.


Your edits here. Thanks for checking grammar and punctuation. Is the story clear enough? Good to go? Share your thoughts, here in the comments box . P.S. Thanks for checking the vocab section, too!

Did you enjoy this story? Check out Kristi's books, including Blossoming in Provence. They are a wonderful way to increase your French vocabulary and to support this blog. Merci beaucoup!

French Vocabulary

Bagnols (Bagnols-en-Forêt)
a town in the Var, not far from the sea 

le couvert
place setting (fork, knive, spoon) 

l'invitée d'honneur
guest of honor

l'ouvrier (m)

le vinaigre

la belle-mère

le voisin

le cerisier
cherry tree 

le ciel bleu
blue sky 

 l'Angleterre (f)

une boucle d'oreille


Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to help keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
♥ $10    
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♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

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