How to say searchlight and intruder in French?

Brebis, mouton, sheep, olive trees, south of France (c) Jean-Marc Espinasse,
In addition to the visitors we invite (read about these guys, above), we had some unwelcome guests recently. A story about a prowler, or un rôdeur de nuit, in today's column.

 faisceau de lumière (fay-so-deuh-loo-myer)

    : light beam 


Example sentence (and handy retort!):

Still smarting from a recent disagreement? Why not forward the following quote (mwah ha ha ha! That'll get 'em!) est plus facile de reconnaître les erreurs chez les autres, mais dirigeons vers nous le faisceau de lumière ! It is easier to recognise failure in others, but let's turn the search light on ourselves.

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

A Prowler Appears

While refilling Smokey's and Braise's gamelles on a scorching hot day, I was pleasantly surprised by our neighbor.

"Oh, bonjour Annie! Quel plaisir de vous voir!"

There beneath the parasol pine trees, Annie walked slowly up our gravel driveway, her every step hindered by an enthusiastic welcoming crew: our golden retrievers.

"Smokey. Braise. Poussez-vous!" (No matter how bad my accent is these days--or that skedaddle is more fun to say!--all dog commands are still issued in French. Our bilingual dogs respond to it.) 

Annie waved her finger in a gesture of "not to worry," and I remembered that she is used to animal herding. She walks her feisty goat and her sheep each evening, keeping those two in line, whether in French or in Provençal (a sheep's second language).

"I have something to ask you," Annie said as she gently patted the welcoming crew.

"Bien sûr!" I emptied the dogs' water bowls next to the sunflowers which now tower beside the front door. After refilling the gamelles with fresh water, I encouraged Annie to come inside. It was too hot to chat here on the patio and, besides, I had a question of my own for our next-door voisine.

We sat down at the kitchen table, a pile of freshly-picked roma tomatoes between us. I'd get to my question soon.... First, I was curious to know what Annie had to say.

"Did you hear all the commotion last night?" she began.

Having no idea what Annie was talking about, I guessed I hadn't. Quel bruit? I hadn't even heard her goose honk. Ever since the second goose passed away, last month, things were sadly quiet in the field above our house, where Annie lives.

"My dogs went crazy--barking like mad around 1 a.m.," Annie explained, adding that last night she was all alone (her grown children, my age, were away). 

I was on my own too, I told Annie, anxious to know why her dogs were barking. 

Annie continued, "I got out of bed and headed toward the kitchen, where my chien-loup was going mad. That's when I saw a faisceau de lumière out in the field..."

The words faisceau de lumière were puzzling. I could picture the "lumière"... but wasn't a faisceau a kind of dessert? I jogged my brain, trying to eliminate the image of a villain dessert traipsing through the countryside. But then, just what was it Annie had seen lurking out there?

Annie kept mentioning the faisceau de lumière until I understood from context that it was a beam of light she had witnessed--and not a creamy dessert (or "faisselle"). The faisceau was shining across the field between our homes. Yikes! It seems we had an unwelcome visitor last night! 

"What did you do?" I quizzed Annie, anxious to know la suite.

"I stuck my head out the front door," Annie said, illustrating her gesture.  I could just see her brave face poking out the cracked door. "It's not something I would normally do..." she said of her courageous peekaboo, "but I just had to know what was out there!"

Next, she said the light faded away as the intruder disappeared.... That's when Annie asked if I'd noticed the light from my end of the field... Whoever was lurking was now lurking in my yard!

Just then, Max appeared in the kitchen door well startling me. But the sight of my son in his bright-colored boxer shorts was unmenacing.

"Good morning, Max!" I said. "Listen. Annie says someone was lurking around here last night. Someone with some sort of lantern...."

Max mentioned that when he returned home from a party, after midnight, he had used his telephone screen to light the path to our front door.

Annie and I perked up... until Max added he had arrived home after 1:30 am. Annie was certain, having looked at her clock, that the prowler was in the field at 1 a.m. Max would have arrived a half hour later. That meant Annie and I were all alone at the time of the mysterious visit!

"You have my phone number," Annie assured me. 

"Thanks," I said. "And don't hesitate to call me, either. I'm right next door--not far at all!" We would look out for each other, the one a middle-aged housewife, the other a gentle-spirited widow.

It was a comforting thought. However, one had to face the facts. I studied Annie in her dainty débardeur with its lace bretelles. And there I sat in my T-shirt dress. Both of us had our hair tied back with bobby pins. Should we encounter the prowler tonight, would we be the picture of intimidation and ferocity?

There was no use fearing. I shared with Annie that I was croyante, unsure of whether she might be an atheist, like my belle-mère. If that were the case, perhaps these non-religious words could comfort her: the old adage "nothing to fear but fear itself!"

I sat there fumbling through a personal translation of Franklin D. Roosevelt's famous words... rien a craindre sauf la crainte... I couldn't be sure if Annie was getting the gist of the idea, but her next comment eased my troubled mind in the same way the holy scriptures do:

"Don't worry," Annie chuckled. "Come to think of it, the visitor we had last night was probably no more than a lost soul who had wandered up the hill after the town's "summer night" festivities. "He probably had a pretty girl on his arm," Annie smiled. "Just a couple of lovers who had snuck up to the forest."

 I liked that idea much better than a torch-bearing psychopath. Speaking of unstable types, Annie shook her head and pushed a carton across the table.  "My hens are not themselves these days," she admitted. "But here are a few to enjoy."

"Freshly-laid eggs! Thank you, Annie!"

With that, I remembered the roma tomatoes I had for my neighbor. Filling a bag I handed them to her and then picked her brain about canning this year's harvest. And, just like that, we put a lid on the big bad prowler!

Post note: Remember the men who came to prune all our olive trees? There in the orchard they found many lost items--including a blue satin g-string. Ah là là! It seems this wasn't the first time lovers have lurked in the surrounding fields!

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 French Vocabulary 

 la gamelle = water bowl

quel plaisir de vous voir = what a pleasure to see you

poussez-vous! = beat it! (move out of the way!)

bien sûr = of course

la voisine (le voisin) = neighbor

quel bruit? = what noise?

le débardeur = sleeveless T-shirt

les bretelles = spaghetti straps

un croyant (une croyante) = one who believes in God

Help answer this reader's question:

Melissa is anxious to find a novel to read that takes place in Avignon or nearby, to enhance her connection to the area. (She does already have your first book....)

If you've not already written about a favorite roman, then perhaps you could post to poll ideas from your readers? 

Answer Dave's question and share your favorite books that take place in or near Avignon. Comment here.
Cassis, Var, France, Mediterranean sea (c)
We had such a touching visit with my sister Heidi (to the left) and Brian, her first husband... more about the reunited amoureux soon! 

A Message from KristiOngoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal each week. If you find joy or value in these stories and would like to keep this site going, donating today will help so much. Thank you for being a part of this community and helping me to maintain this site and its newsletter.

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RECIPE: Annie's Soupe de Poissons


A fish shop in Brignoles. 

 la soupe de poissons (sewp-deuh-pwa-sohn)

    : fish soup

Jean-Marc has been catching lots of little fish these days. Last time it was une rascasse! Apart from being unappetizing to look at, they are too small to eat. "Faites la soupe de poissons!" Make fish soup! our friends tell us. Recipe, in today's story....


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

It's the first week of August and we've got tomatoes coming out of our ears! (Now there's an expression to add to our growing list of English and French idioms...).

In the potager the other night, I was harvesting tomatoes when I realized there was no way we could eat them all before they rotted. I needed to learn how to can! Meantime, why not give some away?

I thought about our neighbor, Annie.... but almost as soon as the idea popped up that old faulty thinking kicked in: Annie's probably busy with her family. Or she might be resting. Or maybe she doesn't feel like company. It's 7pm--too late now anyway...  There seemed to be any number of reasons to stay put, and not risk stepping out.

But as I mentioned before, I'm working on such self-defeating and ingrained thoughts. I will no longer let doubtful thinking keep me from enjoying new experiences!

Quickly, I filled a paper bag with the best tomatoes and marched faster than my darting thoughts, right up the little dirt path, to the field between Annie's place and ours. Arriving at the edge of her garden, I heard a chorus of alarms: first there was the horse, which whinnied. The goose was next...honk! honk! honk! Then the dogs and the chickens chimed in. I didn't hear a complaint from the lapins, though. What should they sound like?

Barking, neighing, clucking and honking, the creatures approached the property line. I stood on the other side of the rope, not daring to venture any farther. Looking around I saw no sign of Annie.

And then I heard bleating... Turning toward the field above her house, I saw my neighbor walking her goat and her sheep. What an endearing sight!  A rare and beautiful glimpse of another place and time. I wondered if Annie had any idea how peaceful and lovely she looked.

Apparently not. As I walked up the dirt path, she held out her cane in a gesture of warning. "I'm not very presentable," she apologized. "I'm wearing my pajama top. The long sleeves help keep the mosquitoes away!" Annie smiled, offering a friendly welcome despite initial standoff. Next, she pointed to her pants, which were missing a zipper. The waist was nearly held together by a rubber band.

How refreshing it was to be around someone so down-to-earth. I raised my hand in a thumbs-up gesture. "No worries, Annie! So many of my pants are busted, too! Rigged together now with rubberbands, safety-pins, or, in a pinch, an old tie from Jean-Marc's office days!" How I wanted to say these words to Annie, but I couldn't find the French to express myself. And so I smiled and said instead, Quel plaisir de vous voir tous!

Pointing to Annie and her walking companions--a feisty young goat and a tired old sheep--I wanted to let her know how treasured an image they were, but I should be careful not to gush.... or come off as the hopeless Francophile that I am! I love French country life and the uncomplicated characters whom I sometimes have the privilege of knowing. 

I kissed Annie on each cheek and patted her goat and her mouton which, after a cursory greeting, returned to their foraging. (Chinese mulberries grow here like weeds and are a favorite to eat!)

"They are so sweet, Annie!" I didn't know goats acted like dogs, and were so outgoing. The sheep, on the other hand, seemed shy--especially for his giant size.

Annie told me that they were rescues, but that it wasn't so easy keeping up with all the animals. Picking up the ragged tail of her mouton, she laughed: "I just trimmed him. It's a little uneven but I did it my best!"

"You did an excellent job!" I assured her, impressed that she used kitchen shears when she didn't have the electric kind, made for the task. 

As I admired her handiwork, I saw the heavy sharp hooves of the animals and took a few discreet steps backward. Steel-toe boots would have been better than these flip-flops... 

Annie pointed to my skirt, below which my bare legs were splotched with red dots.

"Careful, the mosquitoes are getting you."

"Next time I'll wear my pajamas," I smiled, handing Annie the tomatoes I'd brought her. "I'd better get back. Jean-Marc wants to go on a boat ride and I keep finding excuses not to go."

Suddenly, Annie's expression turned concerned. "Go with him when he wants to take you on that boat. One day you'll be my age and you won't be able to enjoy such things anymore."

Annie's words struck me like a thunderbolt. Somehow, coming from this peaceful soul, the suggestion finally took hold.

"I've been out a few times..." I explained. "We went fishing last night. Jean-Marc caught a rascasse! We are saving all the little fish, freezing them, and plan on making la soupe de poissons at the end of summer!"

"I used to love to go fishing!" Annie said. She turned her gaze out to the parched field, beyond which the great blue Mediterranean beckoned.   

"Why don't you join us?!"

Annie smiled and quickly changed the subject. Taking my arm, she shared with me another recipe, (after the fava stew ingredients she suggested last time).
Max plays soccer 030
A classic wooden fishing boat in the South of France, photo taken in Giens.


"Saute all the fish in olive oil. First, add onions and garlic to the pan, frying them in the oil. Then add salt and pepper and wild herbs," Annie said, waving her arm, indicating all the plants growing here in the field: thyme, fennel, laurier...

I was curious whether one emptied the fish, or did we keep the insides--as well as the eyes

Annie confirmed that the entire fish was used. "The fish and the herbs will thicken in the pan. Next you can add some water to adjust the texture. Finally add a bit of saffron..."

"OK, I think I got it... olive oil, herbs, saffron, eyes and tails and stomachs..." I winked.

Annie smiled. "I'll remind you of the recipe at the end of summertime."

Now that was something to look forward to--the promise of another visit with Annie. With any luck, maybe we could see each other again before then? For even more lovely than the image of Annie walking her sheep and her goat, is the picture of her with her fishing pole--casting a line far out to sea.  



le potager = kitchen garden

la rascasse = scorpion fish

le lapin (la lapine) = rabbit

quel plaisir de vous voir tous = what a pleasure to see you all

The World is your Oyster. Photo of young girl with telescope, my daughter Jackie (c) Kristin Espinasse,
"The world is your huitre." Photo of Jackie when she was 7 years old. My girl, keep your vision steady and you will achieve your goals. Read a letter by Jackie in which she asks a work related question: Est-ce vraiment aussi dur qu'on le dit de trouver du travail? Click here to read her bilingual note.

Lunch in Provence. Schedule a vineyard tour with Jean-Marc. Join us in Chateauneuf or another Provence vineyard town (c) Kristin Espinasse,
Last month we met up with Rick (center, to the right of Jean-Marc) and his family and friends for a vineyard tour in Chateauneuf-du-Pape. After tasting at three caves, including Uncle Jean-Claude's, we had a sunny lunch and enjoyed talking about France, wine and writing. If you are interested in touring the vineyards of Chateauneuf-du-Pape and beyond, Jean-Marc is your man. Actually, he's MY man, but I might share him for a day....

A Message from KristiOngoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal each week. If you find joy or value in these stories and would like to keep this site going, donating today will help so much. Thank you for being a part of this community and helping me to maintain this site and its newsletter.

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Joyeux Noel (c) Kristin Espinasse
"This side of Christmas". Picture taken in Bollène.

confier (kon-fee-ay)

    : to confide in, to entrust

Audio File: Hear today's word spoken, along with this French quote: Download MP3 or listen to the Wav file

Il ne faut confier son secret qu'à celui qui n'a pas cherché à le deviner. 
One must only share one's secret with the one who has not sought to guess it. --Diane de Beausacq

>> Forward today's post to a friend, who may then sign up to for free French Word-A-Day email delivery  

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

I was in our cellier, hanging laundry along a network of string that zig-zags from one end of the small room to the other, when I heard my husband call out.

"Madame asked me to tell you that she finally got her tooth pulled."

Madame? Tooth? Finalement? I stood there, a wet sock in one hand, a gant de toilette in the other, trying to make sense of the "news". 

Peering around the corner, I saw Jean-Marc pitch another log onto the fire. 

"Our neighbor," Jean-Marc offered, sensing my confusion. "T'étais au courant?"

Was I aware? I had to stop and think, étais-je au courant? Well, I should be aware! ...but had somehow lost awareness—or, to put it plainly, I'd forgotten!

Distressed, I began to jog my memory. "La voisine... oui, sa dent.... la dent de la voisine..." I returned to the cellier allowing my mind to continue the exercise of remembering; meanwhile my hands continued the exercise of laundry.

Yes... I vaguely remembered the conversation. My neighbor had come by with a gift of farm fresh eggs. I had been touched by her offering, given her hens had been on strike for weeks. 

"Elles sont têtues! They're stubborn but they've had a change of heart," my neighbor said of her moody chickens. We were seated at the dining room table, drinking tea and eating the remains of a sweet cake that previous visitors had brought by.

My neighbor said she couldn't stay long, she had to get home to chop some wood for the fire that heated her cottage. It seemed a tiring task for a retired woman, and a widow. I didn't want to pry but went ahead and asked how she was feeling. I remember coaxing the information out of my neighbor, who isn't one to complain or to talk about herself.

That is when she must have admitted to having a toothache. I remember urging her to see a dentist.

"It's something we put off," I sympathized, "I know. I have a bad tooth that needs looking at, too, but I'm afraid of what the dentist will find!"

My neighbor nodded her head, and her eyes were bright with understanding. " puis, on a un peu peur..." and we're just a little bit afraid," she admitted, at which point it was my turn to vigorously nod my head.


In the cellier, I shook out another wet sock and another wash cloth. How could I have forgotten her tooth? I must have been quite interested in that tooth—concerned enough to make my dear neighbor feel compelled to send the update that would put my mind at ease

But my mind was far from eased! It was troubling to think that the information she had shared may have gone in one ear and out the other. Could I have been as careless as that? To want to comfort my neighbor... only to move on to the next deed on my list, forgetting the one that came before it?

No! I sincerely care about my neighbor! She is discreet and undramatic about aches and pains and matters of the heart. An attention-seeker she is not, precisely the kind of person who needs attention! It is the self-effacing types who go unnoticed; meantime, others—my grandmother would call them "squeaky wheels"—vie for our attention, demanding time and energy that could be offered to toothless angels.

I thought about some of the squeaky wheels, or, as Mom calls them "toxic relationships" that have derailed my focus. Whether pushy or manipulating or narcissistic—they are caustic! These are individuals who make me feel I should do this or I should do that (most often for them!). They say, in so many veiled words, "you owe me!" 

It is time to reclaim needed energy and to get attention back on track and focused on toothless angels. I have chosen 7 people to pay more attention to in the coming year. Far from "squeaky wheels" you wouldn't even know it if they cried themselves to sleep last night, and sadly, they may have.  

In order to be of more use to loved-ones, it may help to spend less time with online correspondence (email, Facebook, et compagnie...) in order to correspond with those very near and dear "toothless" angels. What about you, do you have any relations toxiques that you'd like to swap for angels in need? 

...Or maybe you need to carve out time to get a tooth fixed? I'm going to try to pick up the phone and call my dentist now....

With wishes for a peaceful and healthy new year, take care,


P.S. how do you know if a relationship is toxic? How do you feel in the presence of this kind of relationship? What do we really owe another? When you give, do you expect something in return? What are your resolutions for the new year? What and what will you focus on? What will you give up? Who really needs your help? Will you help someone you are mad at? Can you forgive? Does someone need to forgive you? Thanks for sharing!

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le cellier = cellar

finalement = finally

t'étais au courant? = were you aware?

un gant de toilette = wash cloth

la voisine (le voisin) = neighbor

et compagnie = and the rest


  Golden retrievers (c) Kristin Espinasse

 Smokey's parents: that's Sam, left, and Mama Braise on the right.

Smokey has his papa's "not one for the limelight" personality, never mind he's our star!

Smokey. Why wear a hat... when you can wear a cool patch! Read the story "Newbie Knitter" from the archives. 
To comment on any item in this edition, click here

A Message from KristiOngoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal each week. If you find joy or value in these stories and would like to keep this site going, donating today will help so much. Thank you for being a part of this community and helping me to maintain this site and its newsletter.

Ways to contribute:
1.Zelle®, The best way to donate and there are no transaction fees. Zelle to [email protected]

2.Paypal or credit card
Or purchase my book for a friend and so help them discover this free weekly journal.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety


Trompe-l'oeil (c) Kristin Espinasse
Are you an extrovert or an introvert? Casanière, or a "homebody"... like me? How do you feel when you finally venture out? Read on, in today's missive. As for today's word, look carefully: it's not a mouchoir, or a handkerchief! Not even a Kleenex, sniff! (Photo taken in Saint-Roman-de-Malegarde, a village or two away from where today's story takes place.)

mouchard (moo shar) noun, masculine

    :  informer, police spy; sneak, stool pigeon

Synonym: un espion (une espionne) = a spy 

le mouchardage = spying, informing, sneaking
moucharder = to sneak on, to inform on 
une moucharde = female spy, sneak, informer 

Audio File: Listen to Jean-Marc read this sentence: Download MP3 or Wav file

Dans tous les cafés à Paris, pendant la guerre, il y avait des mouchards qui écoutaient...
In all the cafés in Paris, during the war, there were spies who listened... 

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

Spying on La Maraîchère

Not too far from our vineyard, just past a blue-gray oliveraie and a modest truffle orchard, beyond which a lovelorn donkey brays through the night, its woeful calls answered by the cranky aboiements of the neighbor dogs (who'd like to get some sleep, thank you very much!) there stands a fruits-and-vegetables shack.

It would be tempting to call the small structure une paillote--but paillotes are normally found near la plage, and are little freestanding structures with roofs en paille, or straw; not this hutch, c'est tout en bois, or all in wood, from its head to its "toes", which might, for the sake of art, be represented as so many stubby wooden crates that litter the edge of the little maraîchère hut.

Each time I go to the produce stand, which is found on private property, opposite the owner's mas, just up the road from le poulailler, I mumble to myself (and sometimes aloud, within ear reach of the proprietress), je dois venir ici plus souvent. Instead, I have the shameful habitude of buying our produce at the supermarket drive-through (and in all my pre-moving-to-France-dreams, I would never have imagined shopping in France's fast lane! Hélas...)

Because la vendange is just around the corner (phase one, or the picking of red grapes for our rosé wines, begins Saturday!), I'm making an effort with my shopping list, where farm-fresh vegetables are on the menu. Part of that effort involves getting out and rubbing elbows, or coudes, with the locals--always a challenge for a homebody, or casanière, who feels more comfortable among books and slobbering dogs--but who secretly thrives on society, where real characters are to be found (no offense, Braise and Smokey, and no offence Oliver Twist).

Pulling up to the paillote (we'll go ahead and call the stand by the more charming term, again, for art's sake!), I felt those familiar inner tormentors urging me to "rentre!", or "turn back!". "It's been so long since your last visit to the stand," the inner voices menaced. "You're not welcome here among the clients fidels.

With a little effort, I managed to brush off the mind's ramblings in time to hear the greeting coming from behind the wooden comptoir.

"Bonjour, Madame!" Looking up, I noticed two women. The one, middle-aged, looked a little familiar, the other, twice the age of the first, I had never seen before.

I eagerly returned the warm greeting, then, deciding it best not to linger, looked casually around the stand, my mind more on the women than on the crates of vegetables. Being the only client, I felt even more conspicuous than I was acting, loitering like that among the wooden crates, sending surreptitious glances, now and again, to the women behind the fig-flanked register (I selected a few pieces of fruit, there, and threw in a pot of basilic, so as to look busy).

But who can concentrate on homegrown vegetables when real French characters are in the environs? I wanted to meet these personnages, to know what they had for breakfast... and what were their dreams for tomorrow? 

But how to break the ice, or briser la glace? And then it hit me: with a word that looks a lot like "love", or "amour"... and that would be "humour": aMOUR / huMOUR!

And so I gave it my best shot, this stepping-out-of-one's-cozy-shell, using humour as the ice-breaker:

"I haven't seen you here before..." I ventured. With that, one of the women shook her head.

"I am the mother of the proprietor," the one answered.
"And I am the sister," the other offered. 

"We are taking care of the stand while my daughter is away on vacation," the mother explained. She studied me through her bifocals, concluding her examination with an inviting sourire.

I felt those familiar butterflies inside, but pushed past any apprehension. 

"Aha... yes... just as I suspected!" I said, remembering my amour/humour antidote to timidity. "Vous voyez... on m'a envoyé ici pour vous moucharder! I am a spy, you see... sent here by the vacationing proprietaire!" I informed the ladies. "I'm here to make sure that you are indeed doing your work... and I see that you are! I shall now know what to report back to the proprietor!"

Following my mock confession, the women smiled at each other, and at me, while making an animated effort to straighten up, and put on their best impression of Industrious Workers.

 "Voilà," I winked. C'est bien comme ça! Continuez! Continuez!"

With that, I collected the brown paper sacks in which the women had placed the figs and the basilique, and I was off, following quickly in the wake of my nerves, which were already back at the car, ready to go home after this latest venturing out. It seems that no matter how many times I get out, I must still encounter that stifling feeling of awkwardness, before even encountering the locals.

Reaching for the car door, I looked down and noticed a large stone. It was shaped like a great imperfect heart and, although it had no words etched onto its surface, it murmured a clear message -- the echo of which I could hear, even as I stood there: Venture out! Venture out! It whispered. Never fear! Just a bunch of us heavy hearts lying around out here, waiting to be lifted up.....

I looked back at the "hearts" over at the stand, and the women who owned them smiled back at me. Whether their spirits needed a lift, I can't be sure. Meantime, my own soul felt lighter, confirming the maxim that quand on donne on reçoit, when you give you receive.


French Vocabulary

la maraîchère (le maraîcher) = market gardener, one who sells produce

une oliveraie = olive grove

un aboiement = bark (dog)

une paillote = straw

la paille = straw

c'est tout en bois = it's entirely in wood

le mas = a type of house in Provence

le poulailler = henhouse

une habitude = habit

je dois venir ici plus souvent = I should come here more often

le personnage = character

briser la glace = to break the ice

la vendange = wine harvest, or grape picking

le coude = elbow

rentre! = return!

les clients fidels = faithful clients

le sourire = smile

Voilà = there you are!

C'est bien comme ça = very good like that

continuez! = continue on!


I didn't get a picture of the vegetable stand (in today's story), but here is a photo of a homemade-jams-and-eggs stand, to tide you over! The picture was taken a few years ago, in Isle-sur-la-Sorgue. And here is a story that takes place there! I hope you have a minute to read about my stroll there with my belle-tante. You'll see a saintly detail of our house... and read about my sharing an English expression ("He's in the dog house!") with my French aunt-in-law. Click here to read the "Niche" post, written before we moved to this vineyard.

A Message from KristiOngoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal each week. If you find joy or value in these stories and would like to keep this site going, donating today will help so much. Thank you for being a part of this community and helping me to maintain this site and its newsletter.

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


Bluedoor7_2Photo of a French door and its hesitant greeting. 

saluer (sah-loo-ay) verb
  to greet, to wave to, to nod to; to salute

Nobles et mystérieux triomphes qu'aucun regard ne voit, qu'aucune renommée ne paye, qu'aucune fanfare ne salue. Noble and mysterious triumphs which no eye beholds, which are requited with no renown, which are saluted with no trumpet blast. --Victor Hugo

Near the end of the vine horizon, where wheat-colored fields come to a halt before a massive steel hangar,* I saw her waving.

"C'est Madame Delhome," Jean-Marc said, lifting one hand off the steering wheel to return madame's friendly gesture. Our neighbor wore a checkered flannel top and faded blue jeans. She might have been an American farmer if she weren't French.

"Have you met her?" I asked my husband, who answered that he had not. My hand flew up as I waved back, encouraged by madame's initiative and friendliness.

As we drove past the row of vines that madame was pruning, I caught a glimpse of the handsome woman with the engaging smile and sun-kissed complexion as she paused from her chores to acknowledge us strangers.

That wave! In one generous to-and-fro motion the neighbor's greeting was unmistakable. Using the full length of her arm and in one natural and unaffected gesture she offered up the most warm-spirited acknowledgment of our existence.

Not that my own salutation would have been cold or even feigned; it simply would not have been. For too many complications would have cropped up at the instant in which I perceived "the new neighbors" (us) in the distance. Indeed, had it been me hunched over those vines when the new neighbors cruised past, heads in the clouds, my reaction would not have been as simple or as natural as Madame Delhome's had been. I would have hidden behind the very branches that I was tending.

Had I uncharacteristically taken the first step, the process would have been a complicated one and nothing like madame's spontaneous salutation. Whereas madame announced her location among the great field of vines, this with a grand flagging of the arm, I would have weighed the risk of signaling when chances were the passengers in the speeding car hadn't seen me in the first place. Oh, the hazards of appearing uncouth!

When I was certain that the new neighbors had spotted me, only then would my hand have cautiously inched up, all the while anticipating a signal back. In the event that the neighbors weren't actually noticing the awkward figure out there in the vines--but were, horror of horrors, pointing to the dazzling sunset just beyond, then a bit of emergency backtracking would be necessary. I would have to save face by swatting the air as if shooing a mouche.*

And though I sit here, weeks later, practicing Madame Delhome's friendly wave, I must say: it just isn't easy being simple. But then, as my husband says to me, sometimes gently, but more often while swatting his own forehead in exasperation:

"Pourquoi faire simple quand tu peux faire compliqué?!"
Why be simple when you can be complicated?!

References: le hangar (m) = shed; la mouche (f) = fly

:: Audio Clip ::
Nobles et mystérieux triomphes qu'aucun regard ne voit, qu'aucune renommée ne paye, qu'aucune fanfare ne salue. Download saluer.wav

Related Terms & Expressions:
saluer quelqu'un de la main = to wave to someone
saluer d'un coup de tête = to give a nod
saluer quelqu'un d'un chapeau bas = to take off one's hat to somebody
saluer quelqu'un d'un coup de chapeau = to raise one's hat to somebody

Rosetta Stone French (CD-ROM) -- "an award-winning method used by NASA and the Peace Corps"
FRANCE -- English-language magazine covering France & "the next best thing to being there."
A money belt for traveling. Perfect size for your passport and currency.
A book that I have just ordered, and another that I am currently reading. Check them out and don't miss this non-French-themed favorite!

Verb conjugation:
je salue, tu salues, il/elle salue, nous saluons, vous saluez, ils/elles saluent => past participle = salué

Check out the Complete Guide to Conjugating 12000 French Verbs by Bescherelle

A Message from KristiOngoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal each week. If you find joy or value in these stories and would like to keep this site going, donating today will help so much. Thank you for being a part of this community and helping me to maintain this site and its newsletter.

Ways to contribute:
1.Zelle®, The best way to donate and there are no transaction fees. Zelle to [email protected]

2.Paypal or credit card
Or purchase my book for a friend and so help them discover this free weekly journal.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety

Secheresse: Why My Neighbor Showers in The Backyard With The Tomatoes

Something useful to do during the dry season...



noun, feminine


If you were to sneak over to our backyard fence, part its curtain of faded jasmine, and look past a ditch full of wild fennel grown as tall as our older child, you'd spy our next-door voisin showering beneath the fiery heavens at daybreak, scrub-a-dub-dubbing right in the middle of his potager!

But you wouldn't see a steel nozzle above his head or an anti-skid mat beneath his feet. Only a sturdy kitchen stool separates him from the muddy ground below, with its neatly trellised vines—vines which are, oddly, bursting with fruit during this, The Year of the Drought....

There, amongst ripe red tomates, stands my eco-conscious neighbor, garden hose held high above his head. I see no shelves on which to set his shampoo (is that a vinegar rinse he is using?... they say old wine is good for both hair and plants!), and no modesty's-sake shower curtain protects him from this housewife-voyeur (hence those bright blue swim trunks). On closer look, there is a serene expression on the showerer's face, as water from the tuyau trickles over it, splashing and quenching the thirsty légumes beneath.

In this period of sécheresse, the municipal Powers That Be forbid us to water our gardens... but no one said you couldn't wash yourself! I watch as the shower water rains down over the would-be parched vegetables, and I am impressed with my neighbor's clever solution to irrigating his garden.

"You ought to try it sometime!" the man in the blue swim trunks calls out. I freeze, as would any nosy neighbor who has been found out.

My cheeks turn as red as those well-watered tomatoes and I quickly release the jasmine, letting the floral curtain fall to a close.

FRENCH TEXT translation by
"La Douche du Voisin"

Si tu te faufilais jusqu'à la clôture de notre jardin, écartais son rideau de jasmin fané et regardais au-delà d'un fossé rempli de fenouil sauvage qui a poussé aussi haut que notre enfant aîné, tu apercevrais notre voisin d'à côté prendre sa douche sous les cieux ardents à l'aube, frottant, frottant, juste au milieu de son potager !

Mais tu ne verrais pas de pommeau de douche en acier au-dessus de sa tête ni de tapis antidérapant sous ses pieds. Seule un solide tabouret de cuisine le sépare du sol boueux en dessous, avec ses vignes soigneusement palissées - des vignes qui, curieusement, regorgent de fruits en cette Année de la Sécheresse...

Là, parmi les tomates mûres et rouges, se tient mon voisin soucieux de l'environnement, le tuyau d'arrosage tenu haut au-dessus de sa tête. Je ne vois aucune étagère sur laquelle poser son shampoing (est-ce un rinçage au vinaigre qu'il utilise ?... On dit que le vieux vin est bon pour les cheveux et les plantes !), et aucun rideau de douche pour protéger sa pudeur de cette curieuse ménagère (d'où ces maillots de bain bleu vif). En regardant de plus près, une expression sereine se lit sur le visage de notre doucheur, tandis que l'eau du tuyau lui ruisselle dessus, éclaboussant et étanchant la soif des légumes en dessous.

En cette période de sécheresse, les autorités municipales nous interdisent d'arroser nos jardins... mais personne n'a dit qu'on ne pouvait pas se laver ! J'observe l'eau de la douche tomber sur les légumes qui auraient dû être desséchés, et je suis impressionnée par la solution astucieuse de mon voisin pour irriguer son jardin.

"Tu devrais essayer un jour !" lance l'homme en maillot de bain bleu. Je me fige, comme le ferait tout voisin curieux qui a été découvert.

Mes joues rougissent autant que ces tomates bien arrosées et je lâche rapidement le jasmin, laissant le rideau floral retomber pour clore cette scène.

French Vocabulary

1. la clôture - the fence
2. le rideau - the curtain
3. le jasmin - the jasmine
4. le fossé - the ditch
5. le fenouil - the fennel
6. l'enfant (masc.) - the child
7. le voisin - the neighbor
8. la douche - the shower
9. le ciel - the sky
10. le lever du jour - the daybreak
11. le potager - the vegetable garden
12. le tuyau - the hose
13. la boue - the mud
14. le sol - the ground
15. la vigne - the vine
16. le fruit - the fruit
17. la tomate - the tomato
18. l'année (fem.) - the year
19. la sécheresse - the drought
20. la maison - the house

Please help me edit this story for clarity and for typos. Click here to point out any formatting problems, as well. Thank you!

French definition of sécheresse by Petit Larousse: "état de ce qui est sec."

L'amitié est une plante qui doit résister à la sécheresse.
Friendship is a plant that must resist drought.
 --Joseph Joubert

A Message from KristiOngoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal each week. If you find joy or value in these stories and would like to keep this site going, donating today will help so much. Thank you for being a part of this community and helping me to maintain this site and its newsletter.

Ways to contribute:
1.Zelle®, The best way to donate and there are no transaction fees. Zelle to [email protected]

2.Paypal or credit card
Or purchase my book for a friend and so help them discover this free weekly journal.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety