Golden retriever puppy, body leash, car, travel (c) Kristin Espinasse,
Braise & Smokey's Excellent Adventure. While the kids, the husband, the mother-, brother-, sister-in-law and I visit Morocco (a trip two years in the making!), the rest of our furry family will be "séjouring" in Vaison la Romaine... Chez Ellen and Mark. Not sure if the Sullivan's will have time to update their blog... but you might check in just in case!

CONTRETEMPS (con-truh-tahn) noun, masculine
    : mishap, mischance
    : hitch; delay, inconvenience
    : syncopation (music) ... and see story, below, about " a shifting of the normal accent, usually by stressing the normally unaccented beats...." (

Expressions & Examples:
arriver à contretemps = to arrive at the wrong moment
jouer à contretemps
= to play out of time

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

(Note: the following essay was written in December 2008)

The French word "contretemps" means, among other things, "a note played against the beat". I wonder whether that is why art means more and more to some of us lately, enough to dare us to put meaningless obligations aside in order to pursue creative activity (or "creativity"), and so make a swift turn, marching to another drum beat: our own.

Break apart the word "contretemps" and you get "against time" which explains why artists find it difficult to dabble in their division (you know, the art department). Who's got "temps" to sit quietly, waiting for the muse? And so we must make it (time and art): we shove a few things aside, allow the dust to build up, let the cat eat dog food, don't care about our hair... wear holes in our socks and dive into design when and where we can. If the muse is present, great!, if not, then ainsi soit-il!* Nothing's stopping us now.

Contretemps: Part Deux...
As commitments creep in, and you feel as though your plate were too full, duty dripping over at the sides, you might be tempted to invent a contretemps* in order to excuse yourself from the whirlwind. Who wants to be in a crowded, cacophonic room, when one's own soul-centering salon beckons? A reading lamp with a warm golden hue dancing beneath the dusty lampshade, a pile of favorite books, a jam jar full of colorful felt markers and a sketchbook by one's side... music musing in the background. When's the last time you were there, in that cozy chair?

Contretemps: Intermezzo
(We'll now take a break in the midst of this dilemma, its theme having to do, we think, with "art 'against time' or 'time against art'"--whether that be the art of writing, of painting, of singing... or simply the art of living...)

Contretemps: Conclusion
My mom* sent me a video the other day. "For Jackie and Max," her note said. I clicked open the link and found myself carried away by a quirky Canadian creator: a filmmaker, in all due respect. And I *do* respect the dues and bad days that an artist pays to get to such freedom. For isn't that the end result of art: when the viewer (reader, or listener) is liberated, from time and space? Off we fly, if not contre le vent,* then, somehow, "contre temps" and time's constraints.

I hope you'll enjoy these videos by Andrea Dorfman.* The thoughtful lyrics, by Tanya Davis,* which accompany the first video, will have you clicking the replay button again, and again.

Please forward this post to your favorite artist! Comments welcome -- click here. (Please don't forget to honor my Dad's request -- by listing your town! If you want to make my mom's day -- then add what the weather is like today, in your area :-)

ainsi soit-il
= so be it; un contretemps (m) = an unexpected circumstance (preventing one from making it to an appointment, etc...); my mom = Jules, aka Mama Jules; contre le vent = against the wind

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In Gifts and more...

La Bonne Cuisine de Madame E. Saint-Ange: The Original Companion for French Home Cooking.

Words in a french life Words in a French Life: Lessons in Love & Language

In French music: ZEN by Zazie!   

French for Kids: Learn French (DVD)  

French film: La Vie en Rose

sacoche, Jean-Marc, winemaker, Paris, France (c) Kristin Espinasse
Speaking of artists... here is one that creates wine! (That's my husband, pedaling his portfolio in Paris. Won't you buy his wine ... for Thanksgiving?)

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