a fond

Cat
When the last time you were "cat" off guard? What did you discover about yourself: pridefulness? greed? Read on in today's story....

à fond (ah fohn) prepositional phrase
  
    : deeply, thoroughly

Audio File: listen to Jean-Marc read the following quote: Download MP3 or Wav file

A mon avis, vous ne pouvez pas dire que vous avez vu quelque chose à fond si vous n'en avez pas pris une photographie. In my opinion, you cannot say you have thoroughly seen something if you haven't taken a photograph of it. —Emile Zola

                                       *     *     *
Booksales Report: only two days left to reach my goal of 1500 books sold in the first six weeks since publicationI have another 114 copies to go... Can you think of anyone who might enjoy a copy of Blossoming in Provence? Meantime, click here to check out the latest reader reviews!


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

On Consideration and Connecting (This story first appeared in January 2008)

Not far from some lazy lavender fields, gray now with the grogginess of winter, lives a picture perfect town. There, above a valley of grapevines, geraniums grow in wintertime, tempting French cats to pose prettily beside them (they'll even say "cheese", or ouistiti, if you ask them to, unlike those hurry purry Parisians).

I reach up to snap a photo of some small flower pots that are crowded together, as if for warmth, along a window sill. Beyond the fenêtre, I can just see into a private residence, where a porcelain lamp glows above a well-polished table. My eyes zoom out and refocus on the painted volets. As the shutters come into focus, the private study receeds into a cozy blur. Très bien... I take up my camera again.

I am pointing my lens to the lively window, when my walking companion remarks, "The pictures frame themselves." 

Click... Snap! 

Her breezy comment ruffles me. Pretty pictures might frame themselves, but you must first search out the frame-worthy subject! Then, there are a number of considerations—including, for one, consideration! (I think about the window that I have just captured, careful to blur the private interior, choosing to bring the shutters into focus instead).

If I am a little froissée, or feather-ruffled, it is less about my friend's innocent comment than about my fussy reaction to it. 

Thinking about the fuss, I recognize a familiar old character. L'Ego! Yes, here we have the ego talking, blathering on with its absurd sense of pride! C'est PATHETIQUE! It isn't as though I have ever taken a photography class or know anything about the rules of photo composition. The fact is I am an untrained photographer who is learning by doing, having had some lucky shots along the way—and some generous feedback. Perhaps the feedback has gone to my head?

Turning to my walking companon, I offer an awkwardly delayed reaction to her observation (I nod forcefully). When my head begins to shake, I recognize, once again, the inner wrestlings of that stubborn ego, which is still not willing to cough up a humble response, such as "So true! It is easy as pie to take a stunning picture in France! Anyone can do it!" (I am satisfied with this imagined response, especially since pie, to me, is rocket-science!)

Turns out there is no need to respond to the comment, and my mini identity crisis goes unnoticed. My friend is a million miles away, lost in the beauty of a Provencal village. Our photo périple rambles on, punctuated by her innocent commentary:

"Villedieu," she coos. "The name of the town says it all!" I relax back into the environment, as we stroll though the "Town of God," photographing the already "framed" pictures. Like a blessed writer—through whom words flow as if channeled—we point our cameras, letting the village compose itself. 

My roving eyes catch on The Sweeping Woman. Every town has one. She is the picture of domestic sagesse: broom in hand... and yet wearing a dainty dress! 

As I take up my camera, that itchy inner-dialogue starts up again. Now that the ego has fallen to sleep, Ms. Ethics has returned with a discours on dignity:

Madame—or "The Sweeping Woman", as you call her—is not behind bars in a zoo. She is not swallowing a blazing torch in one of three circus rings. She is not lounging in a window display, swathed in a beaded gown and feather boa—bringing fashion barracudas to halt along 5th Avenue, at Bergdorf Goodman's. She is, simply, being she. So let her be!

I consider Ms Ethics thoughts about dignity and manners. But might one try a direct approach, something like: "Bonjour, Madame, may I take your picture?" 

I imagine Madame's response. "What is it about me that you find so amusing? It is my white hair? My worn robe? Or is it my Frenchness that is on show?"

In an ethical instant I decide not to snap a picture of Madame and her balai. And yet...

I want Madame's picture because she reminds me of warmth and not steel, being and not doing, prayer and not pricing. She is authentic, real—unswayed by commercial sex appeal. It is what is missing—hairs in place, make-up on her face, a knotted shoe lace—that makes her mystical to me.

No. Not all pictures frame themselves. Some must remain uncontained—free to travel beyond the camera lens, beyond even the mind's eye... to expand and to swell like a giant-hearted universe.

I slip the camera into my coat pocket and take one last admirative gaze at Madame. Her broom comes to a halt as she fastens her eyes on mine. The universe that is my own heart skips a beat. Madame smiles.


 Le Coin Commentaires
Corrections, comments and stories of your own are welcome here, in the comments box


French Vocabulary

ouistiti! (exclamation) = cheese! 

la fenêtre
 (f) = window

le volet = shutter

très bien = very good!

froissé(e) = offended

l'ego (m) = ego

c'est pathéthique = it's pathetic 

le périple = tour, journey

la sagesse (f) = wisdom

le balai (m) = broom

la robe (f) = dress

Cat on a leash (c) Kristin Espinasse

This man gave me permission to take his photo, but that didn't keep Ms. Ethics from mumbling "and did you ask the cats for their permission? To name this photo or to add a caption, click here.

Book Giveaway!
Enjoy Lynn's latest post over at Southern Fried French... and enter to win a copy of Blossoming in Provence. Check out the details here

And thank you, Vera Marie, for the "Blossoming" write up you did at Traveler's Library. Mom was so excited, too,  to see your review

Thank you for the time you've spent reading my column. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next story, please know that ongoing support from readers like you helps me to continue writing and publishing these educational missives from France. Your support is vivement apprécié! Donating via PayPal is easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! Kristi
 
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"I’ve really enjoyed reading your stories over the years & hope you will continue to delight us with your beautiful photos and thoughtful & charming antidotes of life in the beautiful south of France."
--Jacqueline

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rendre service

Life in Colmar (c) Kristin Espinasse

Whatever you do today, venture out just a bit... un tout petit peu... from your comfort zone. If you're not up to venturing out, then cuddle up with this book (I'm in love with it!... but I fear being let down by the ending... zut! that's the last time I'll read book reviews.) Order "The Summer of Katya" here.

rendre service (rahndr sair veese)

    : to help out

Audio File: Listen to Jean-Marc (check back to the blog...):

Je travaille encore pour leur rendre service. I continue to work in order to help them out. 

 

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

One cannot organize an adventure any more than one can rehearse spontaneity. 
                                                                         --Trevanian

I am hopping up and down beside a pile of clothes, hurrying to get into a pair of faded jeans. I have removed my gypsy skirt and my camisole (hand-me-overs from the Dirt Divas), never mind how exotic or "novel" they make me feel; I will not be writing this morning....

....I'm heading out to a nearby field to photograph a venerable vigneron! Now to build up some courage. The flouncy skirt and sleeveless top suddenly make me feel more bare than bold. Besides, alone out there on a country road I wouldn't want to be taken for a promiscuous poule (though it wouldn't be the first time.... In all fairness, it isn't difficult to be taken for a loosey-goosey here, in the land of love, home of Pépé Le Pew. Frenchmen! Better stop here... or the lead in to this story will mislead the reader from the wholesome histoire that follows). 

Poule or no poule, floozy or no floozy, I won't be found loitering beyond our front gate without a little maquillage. Quickly, I cover my blotchy cheeks with fond de teint and put on some rimmel.

Even with the wardrobe pause (strategically designed to buy time... for I am still doubtful about my mission) it takes no more than ten minutes from the moment my husband calls to alert me to the photo opportunity--for me to seize the occasion. En verité, my first reaction was to reject Jean-Marc's suggestion ("You know I'm very uncomfortable taking photos of people!" I objected. "Alors, tant pis. It would have been a great picture!" My husband was disappointed).

(And isn't that just his way: to pressure his wife into doing what is best for her! It works everytime and, illico presto!, I find myself grabbing my keys, my pocket camera, and hurrying out to the car before I can talk myself out of the adventure.)

I am now motoring up the country road flanked by vines and roof-bare stone cabanons. When the leafy field begins to rise up into the horizon, I begin searching for the elderly farmer. I make a concentrated effort to quit drawing up in my mind the scene that I will soon wander into. Besides, I always get it wrong and things are never as I imagine them to be (in this case, a crew of farmers pointing fingers, laughing).

When I see an old remorque parked alongside a ditch, I feel a slight soulagement. He must have driven off, leaving the equipment behind for his afternoon round. I'll catch up with him another time, I lie to myself.

Just as I am about to turn around, I glimpse a tractor heading down the leafy path to my left. Squinting my eyes I can't make out if it is the man that Jean-Marc saw earlier. Does he look ancient? No, he is younger than my husband made him out to be!

I get out of my car and cross the road beside the flower-lined ditch. Inside, the wild teasel, or cardère, is turning whisper purple this time of year. Standing there admiring the elegant flowers, I become aware of my own appearance: in jeans and a sweatshirt, my hair is tied back. I am wearing my new glasses, the ones I picked out last week, not minding the salesgirl who warned I had selected frames from the menswear display. I saw myself as the unsuspecting farmer might: and I could no longer be confused with a poule, or hussy, though I might now be mistaken for male farmhand.

Too late now the farmer has seen me and I sense that I am not unwelcome. I decide to walk up the vine row. I begin with a timid coucou/wave of the hand. I'll ask his permission for a picture and then have time to run to the end of the row and take an action photo....

Halfway up the rangée I greet the vigneron who stops his tractor, leaving the motor running. I approach, so close now that I can put my hand on the machine for balance (I am standing in the newly turned ground, the uneven earth beneath my feet).

I smile. "Je vous embête? I'm bugging you?," I question, having heard it said before by the French.
He smiles warmly, shakes his head, "Non".

"Je voulais savoir... Would you mind if I take your photo?" One hesitation of mine had been the risk of mocking the farmer. After all, what sort of novel attraction had drawn out this curious tourist to his field? He must wonder just what it is about him that makes him prey to my camera. Could it be his age? I did not want him to feel old. I decided to cut to the point.

"How old are you?"

"Quatre-Vingt cinq ans," he smiled.

"Eighty five... Shouldn't you be retired?" I smiled back, resting my arm on the tractor.

"But then what would I do? I don't play boules or cartes." The farmer's eyes became half-moons, so great was his grin.

"Do you enjoy your work?"

He shrugged his shoulders. "It's all I know...."

P1040050

"What is the hardest part about farming. Is it the Mistral?"

"Without the Mistral there would be no vines. Without the wind, there would be no way to dry the grapes and keep them from becoming diseased." Monsieur, who went by André, punctuated every thought with a smile.

I learned that the hardest part about farming is driving a tractor with limited vision (André has sight in only one eye). 

"I am very fortunate to have the other eye," he added, with another of his punctuated sourires.

"Vous êtes très positif, vous savez?" I informed him, "You are so positive, you know?"

(Smiles)

P1040046

And when I feared I was taking up too much of his time, I listened as the motor went silent. André had shut it off, and in so doing, made it clear that I was no bother.

Without all the engine racket I was free to listen to the lovely accent of the Provençal who sat in his tractor politely answering my questions. "I'm so sorry," I said, more than once, "I'm not the best interviewer! Thank you for the practice!"

I learned that the venerable vigneron quit school at 14 to work in the fields. Work at that time consisted of the same job, plowing the earth -- only back then it was horses and not tractors that were steered down the leafy vine paths.

"With the horses, it took eight passages," André explained, his hands waving up and down the vinerows. With the tractor, he only makes one run to upend the weeds.

P1040048
                      All photos taken with this handy pocket camera.

As André spoke I relished his rich Provençal accent. I had to lend my oreille on more than one occasion, signaling with my hand behind my ear, inviting him to repeat a word each time I did not grasp it. I noticed André spoke with a slight bégaiement, or stutter. And I had remarked his resemblance to another villager... That's when it hit me:

"You are not, by chance, the brother of..."

Yes, indeed, he was le frère of The Plant Whisperer! I looked back to the ditch full of wild teasel. It was thanks to the plant man that I could identify the prickly cardère. 

André shared with me that his brother was suffering in his legs, but that did not keep the younger man (at 83, he was two years André's junior) from riding that rickety old bicycle to town each day. I told him that I enjoyed a recent article in the local paper written by the unofficial doctor of plants. "Yes, he still writes on the subject," he said, championing his younger brother, who might have helped with the family vineyard--but chose to follow his own passion of botany, instead.

Each moment that passed I was aware of the risk of holding up the busy grape farmer until finally, despite his inviting nature, I let him get back to his field work.  

He was such a dear, unassuming man. I found myself inching closer and closer to the light of his pure presence. If only I had wings, I might have flown up and landed on the hub of the tractor to be nearer....

Poule indeed! It's no wonder, now, how we wandering women are sometimes mistaken by as "hens"!

                                                                  *** 

  P1040052

André says he continues to work to rendre service or "help out" his daughter and son-in-law, who now run the farm).

Le Coin Commentaires/Comments Corner

Share a story of your own, or leave a message here, in the comments box.

And check out Les Grands Bois - André's family vineyard, here in our village

 

 Related Stories

"Love in a Cage" - a special friendship with The Plant Whisperer

"The Last Peasant": about asking permission to photograph another French native -- and getting much more than a picture in return.

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 Close-up of André. Forever young at 85. Is it his positive attitude? or his humble gratitude? Comment on what keeps a person young at heart.

French Vocabulary

un vigneron = wine farmer

une poule = hen (synonym, in French, for prostitute)

une histoire = story

le fond de teint = base makeup

le rimmel = mascara

alors, tant pis = well then, too bad

illico presto = right away

la remorque = trailor (to tow a tractor)

le soulagement = relief

cardère sauvage = wild teasel (see it here!)

Je vous embete! = I'm bugging you, perhaps?

le sourire = smile

une oreille = ear

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Those seductive French plants! Oh so coquette in their polka-dotted casseroles!

French shopping bag I Heart Paris Shopper: made of recycled material. 1-Percent of the sale of this bag will support the conservation work of the nature conservancy. Order the I Heart Paris bag here.

Easy French Reader: A fun and easy new way to quickly acquire or enhance basic reading skills

 

Thank you for the time you've spent reading my column. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next story, please know that ongoing support from readers like you helps me to continue writing and publishing these educational missives from France. Your support is vivement apprécié! Donating via PayPal is easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! Kristi
 
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"I’ve really enjoyed reading your stories over the years & hope you will continue to delight us with your beautiful photos and thoughtful & charming antidotes of life in the beautiful south of France."
--Jacqueline

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paysan

Le Paysan (C) Kristin Espinasse
Read about "the last peasant" -- in today's story column, then forward to a friend.

le paysan (pay ee zahn)

    : farmer, peasant

la paysanne = woman peasant
. 

 Audio File & Example SentenceDownload MP3 or Wav File

Un paysan est une personne tirant des ressources de la nature proche de son habitat. Il peut adopter ou subir une économie de subsistance. A paysan is a person who makes a living from the natural resources near his dwelling. He can adopt or suffer an economy of subsistence. -from Wikipedia

  Exercises in French Phonics Exercises in French Phonics is... 
" a great book for learning French pronunciation"
"useful and practical"
"high quality material, good value for your money" --from Amazon customer reviews. Order your copy here.

 

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

"The Last Peasant": Endangered People, Endangered Values

Walking through the town of Buis-les-Baronnies, I experienced what long-distance runners feel: that endorphin high that comes from steady exertion. It didn't take a marathon for the feel-good chemicals to kick in: the rush came from picking up my camera again.

Salon de The (c) Kristin Espinasse

Sabot (c) Kristin Espinasse

(see the full picture of this window, here)

Wheelbarrow (c) Kristin Espinasse

How long had it been--six months? one year?--since I set out to capture the endangered beauty of a village and the timeless character of its people?

Ah yes, its people. This last detail explains the recent bout of camera shyness from which I have suffered. I had had a few run-ins with the French -- only two, to be exact (once while photographing a pot of geraniums and once while zooming in on an old wooden shop sign. I hadn't seen the woman seated deep in a leafy courtyard, behind the potted flowers... and I hadn't seen the grand-mère in the window above the artful wooden shop sign. I didn't see them because my lens was not trained on others, but on objects. I knew better than to point my camera's objectif at a person, but I couldn't help what transpired when all my attention focused in on an object, blurring every detail around it. It wasn't until the blurry "detail" began jumping and wagging an angry finger (in the periphery of my lens!) that I noticed the angry, accidental models!

In the town of Buis, I re-experienced the drug of photography. Holding a heavy appareil photo felt so good: curling one's fingers around the body, pulling the unit up to one's eye, peering through the viewfinder... seeing life through the narrow lens helps one focus on the intricate details that are so often missed. I love the feel of my hands twisting the zoom lens... my finger pushing down on the release button. Finally, there's nothing like the sound, or déclic, of a capture! The comforting click that records Here and Now, while Father Time spins his heels beyond the lens.

Zigzagging along the streets of the mountain community, I lowered my lens each time I was eyed by a curious citoyen or shopkeeper. There was that feeling that at any moment I'd be caught. But it isn't illegal to take pictures! I reminded myself, pressing forward in my photo journey. I remained discreet, snapping pictures quickly.

Rounding a bend I ran into a living monument. That Frenchman who encompasses the past--its traditions, its romanticism... while living and breathing in the present! 

I knew I had to have a picture of this man (with his neck-scarf and beret... his débardeur and cane!), but the angry women's voices (from behind the geranium pot and, again, from above the wooden sign) came back to haunt me, "Pas de photo! PAS DE PHOTO!"

I stalled at the corner, eyeing le monsieur. He was as charming as any potted geranium, with as much character as any chipped and peeling shop sign. I would have traded any photo in my camera's archive -- all of them!... pour lui....

I thought about stealing away with his photo! I could do the ol' "snap-n-run" technique... or the "pretend to be photographing the horizon" scheme (only to zoom in on the subject). But I did not have the energy for deceit, and so I quit plotting. 

I began to turn on my heels, when something inside said: Just ask his permission, Dummy! And, fast as that, I beelined it over to the bench!

"Pardonnez-moi, Monsieur.... Would you mind if I took your photo?" And then, not wanting him to feel like the object of some elder scam, I introduced myself. "I live nearby... I am just on my way home from the horse camp, where I left my daughter for the week".

The man recognized the name of the centre équestre and, voilà, we had a contact in common. I told Monsieur that I loved to take photos of France, especially because it is changing so quickly. "Sometimes," I explained, "I return to a village, only to find fresh paint over a perfectly charming publicité -- the old painted advertisement gone forever."

Monsieur shook his head. "Everything's changing." With these words, he introduced himself: "Je suis le dernier paysan".

"I am the last peasant." His words struck me as I sat listening to his story. In the old days, he walked eight kilometers to the field and back. Work, as a child, consisted of harvesting gladiolas, "un travail d'esclave"...  As a teenager, he would work in the olive orchards, in the verger (picking abricots), and he would harvest grapes ("pour la maison").

His brothers and his sisters worked just as hard, lest his mother remind them of their standing. "Elle ne nous a pas gardés pour notre haleine!" he explained.

"She didn't keep you for your breath"? I had never heard such an expression but it didn't take a dictionary of idioms to understand the harsh reality behind it: the mother had mouths to feed! All members of the household were required to be industrious. She wasn't keeping the kids "for their breath", or for her amusement. She had work to do!

I thanked Monsieur for his story and for his photo. It was time to move on (besides, I noticed a shopkeeper, up the way, who seemed to have a protective eye on the venerable villager). I didn't want to cause anyone concern. And so our conversation came to a close.

But Monsieur seemed so alone... I wished I would have asked him what became of his siblings, the ones that worked as hard as he did as a child. I only learned that, after he retired, rest would not be his reward. He left the fields to begin caring for his mother. "It is the hardest job of all to take care of another," Monsieur admitted. His words had me thinking about the old Eastern values concerning caring for our parents. A friend once reminded me:

We care for our parents until they cannot walk anymore, at which point we carry them over our shoulder. We don't question it. More than our duty it is our honor to care for the elderly.


But the mental and physical testing of our strength often blurs our vision and our very values. Monsieur and I sat side by side in the silence, lost in thought. Only a deep, long sigh reminded me of Monsieur's presence.

I thought about the sad irony. Monsieur's mother did not have the luxury of keeping her son "for his breath". But he did keep her... until her very last.

*** 

  DSC_0116

Post note: I was surprised that Monsieur called himself a "paysan" as I have heard that the term can be pejorative. Not only did Monsieur refer to himself as a paysan, but he said, more than once, will all sincerity, that he was no more than "un petit paysan".

Le Coin Commentaires

Comment on this edition or answer the following question: What are some endangered things that you'll regret one day no longer seeing (in architecture... in local characters... wildlife? Endangered traditions or valtues?) Click here to leave a comment.


Related stories:

"Tricoter" (To Knit): Meet the woman who was keeping a protective eye on "the last peasant". Click here to read or review the story and to see the photos.

Capture plein écran 22072011 104134
An an all-time favorite book--one I highly recommend! I hope you'll order a copy of The Life of a Simple Man and enjoy it this summer! Click here to read the reviews

 

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LES PORTES TORDUES (The Twisted Doors): The Scariest Way in the World to Learn and Listen to French! Check it out (if you dare). 

 

French Vocabulary

la grand-mère = grandmother

un objectif = camera lens

un appareil photo = camera

le déclic = click

le citoyen (la citoyenne) = citizen

le débardeur = sleeveless T-shirt, tank top (sometimes called "un Marcel")

pour lui = for him

le centre équestre = riding school

le verger = orchard

un travail = work

esclave (m/f) = slave

l'abricot (m) = apricot


Trenet One way I learned French was by listening to the classics (check out songs by Charles Trenet). Or you might prefer something more modern, like  Tour de Charme by Patricia Kaas

 

DSC_0165
 I Heart French mailboxes... and French Script! Photo taken in Buis-les-Baronnies. Never miss a picture, sign up yourself--or a friend--for the free emailed version of French Word-A-Day.

 

Thank you for the time you've spent reading my column. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next story, please know that ongoing support from readers like you helps me to continue writing and publishing these educational missives from France. Your support is vivement apprécié! Donating via PayPal is easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! Kristi
 
♥ Send $10    
♥ Send $25    
♥♥ Send the amount of your choice


"I’ve really enjoyed reading your stories over the years & hope you will continue to delight us with your beautiful photos and thoughtful & charming antidotes of life in the beautiful south of France."
--Jacqueline

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abracadabrant

DSC_0088
Meet an extraordinary 8-year-old and a giant named Hefty in today's story. All photos by Braden (except for the one above...).

abracadabrant(e) (ah bra kah dah brahn [brahnt]) adj.

    : amazing, extraordinary

syn: invraisemblable (bizarre), extravagant

abracadabra : interjection , also, masculine noun for magical formula  

Audio file: Listen to "abracadabrant" at French Wikipedia...


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

Hero-in-Progress

When Jean-Marc needed to spend the day prospecting with an American wine importer, I offered to host the man's 8-year-old son, or traveling companion.

Doubtful about my decision, I ran to the phone and rang Jules, in Mexico.
"Oh, Mom. How will I do with him?!"

Jules told me not to worry. Instead she shared the story about "Hefty", the giant carnival hand:

"When I was a little girl," Mom began, "I had a horrible wart on my thumb... I was always trying to hide it. One day I was sitting on a tree stump, outside the carnival grounds, staring at my thumb. That's when Hefty appeared. The giant, noticing my sadness, assured me I would never shed another tear. I watched Hefty disappear into the carnival tent and, fast as that, return with a secret ointment. Abracadabra! The wart disappeared!"

As Mom told the story, I could sense her wonderment. The kindness of a stranger... it was such a small detail in the grand scheme of a child's being, and yet the carnival hand's caring gesture never left her.

I considered Mom's words. I might not be as giant, or giant-hearted as Hefty, but there is that unmistakable oddness, or rather, that awkwardness that amounted, did it not, to no more than self-doubt? 

I began to hope for a genuine gesture, like Hefty's, to somehow surface from deep within me. Maybe in this way my eight-year-old guest and I would enjoy the same simplicity?

"Don't worry," Mom assured. "And what an exciting thing... just think about your visitor and wonder just whom, after all, you are hosting."  Thinking about it that way... perhaps Einstein was coming for the day? Or Victor Hugo, or Gandhi, or some other hero... or hero-in-progress!

When Braden arrived I was as nervous as a bride. "Would you like orange juice? Milk? A pain au chocolat?" Our hero was not so hungry and, after a bite or two, I was wondering what to do? what to do? 

I spotted my camera on the comptoir.... 
"Would you like to take some photos, Braden?" 

DSC_0081
     Braden enjoyed "styling" the subject before taking the pictures.

And—voilàwe were off! The rest of the day I spent in the privileged presence of an artist and visionnaire. As I followed the intrepid ingénu...  I began to notice ordinary things anew! And oh the possibilities... of pairing grapes with flowers and pumpkins and trees!

DSC_0083

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By the end of Braden's stay my narrow world was as wide as the Milky Way. And it's all thanks to Hefty whose heart went out. And to the child he helped, who then pointed the way to me:

"The potential of a child... is as endless as a giant's smile."

 

:: Le Coin Commentaires ::
Corrections, comments, and stories of your own are welcome here, in the comments box.

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            The artist's self portrait. "Looking in" by Braden.


French Vocabulary

le comptoir* = counter

voilà = just like that! 

*Newforest, whom many of you know via "Le Coin Commentaires" offers these notes:
Originally, "un comptoir" (from the verb "compter") was a table used by a shopkeeper, on which he showed the goods you wanted to buy - he also used that table to count his money which he kept in a drawer. 

Nowadays, "un comptoir" can be found in shops and bars, in banks, post offices, libraries & commercial places.

For a kitchen: "un plan de travail", "une surface de travail" (I heard French people saying "la table de travail" but I believe "un plan de travail is the most common expression) 

*** 

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Thank you, Braden, for a wonderful day! And thanks for taking the photos here.

 Gift Ideas...

Paris Hook PillowHand-hooked, heavyweight 100% wool face. Soft cotton velvet back. Order one here.

 

 

 

Eiffel lamp Eiffel Tower lamp: see the reviews, here.

 

 

 

Pie dish Emile Henry 9-inch Provencal pie dish in cerise red. Order one here.

 

 

 

Shalimar Shalimar Eau de Parfum by Guerlain. Introduced in 1925. Fragrance notes: an alluring, classic fragrance of exotic florals and vanilla. Order here.

 

 

 



Thank you for the time you've spent reading my column. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next story, please know that ongoing support from readers like you helps me to continue writing and publishing these educational missives from France. Your support is vivement apprécié! Donating via PayPal is easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! Kristi
 
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"I’ve really enjoyed reading your stories over the years & hope you will continue to delight us with your beautiful photos and thoughtful & charming antidotes of life in the beautiful south of France."
--Jacqueline

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objectif

Moroccan Woman (c) Kristin Espinasse
The Picture of Grace. Moroccan women are beautiful!, my husband tells me. In 15 years of marriage, this is the first time he has said the unsayable, done the undo-able (admired another woman from afar... whilst I was "a-near"). But because he spoke the truth, I could not clobber him for it.

French Word-A-Day @ Twitter!
 

Here in France, my doctor says, we have a surplus of the H1N1 vaccine. In America, I tell her, even our president is waiting in line for it.

objectif (owb-jek-teef) noun, masculine

    1. lens (of camera)  2. objective, target
.

 

Yabla French Video Immersion.
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Audio File & Example Sentence:
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Ils étaient à l'aise face à l'objectif.
They were at ease in front of the (camera's) lens.



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

I don't go anywhere anymore without my camera. It hangs on my person like an oxygen mask. Just like missing a breath, I am afraid I will miss life if I am not able to capture it in digits and indulge in its dramatic detail bit by bit.

Pixel by pixel, I love to indulge in architecture and nature, but I am most passionate about the lines and the landscape of humans, strangers...

Cela dit,* I rarely photograph l'homme* because in the time it would take to ask permission -- the stranger's spirit escapes when natural expression gives way to "do I look okay?"

I called Mama Jules in Mexico to tell her about my photo periple* through Morocco:
I said, "A man shouted at me, 'No! No! No!' " 

Mom explained, from experience, that Moroccans do not like to have their picture taken:

"...for as I learned while living in France back in 1997 - Moroccans do not like to be photographed! I was lounging on my favorite bar stool one night in my hangout in the Moroccan part of your village of St. Maximin... I was 51-years-old and liked to celebrate each day with "Pastis 51". I always walked around the village with my camera hanging around my neck, but one night I made the mistake of lifting the camera up in this bar (the interior was all black and white, hundreds of great photos on the walls) very chic, the owner was from Paris and he and his wife were absolutely beautiful and very sophisticated. When the flash from my camera exploded in this little bar -- everyone dropped for cover under the tables and to the floor! That's when I began to learn the difference between my life and theirs...."

Next, Mom told me a story about the Native Americans from my native Arizona:

...it has been said that American Indians feel that the lens steals their âme*....

I had wondered about that gut-feeling I got back in Morocco; indeed, each time I lifted my camera, it felt as though I were lifting a weapon: not a stone or a bow and arrow: but a "soul-snatcher" capable of wounding... like a rock to a sparrow.

***
Post Note: I should point out that the man who shouted after me ("No! No! No!") eventually welcomed me to take a photo of his droguerie* (this, after I explained to him that I had not been pointing my objectif* at the children playing in the street, but at the beautiful bougainvillea just above. I assured him of this by sharing with him my camera's photos.

Comments are the best part of French Word-A-Day! Mom and I read each and every comment... and Dad checks in to see where you all are writing in from (so please list your city next to your name :-)

French Vocabulary

cela dit = that said; l'homme (m) = man; le périple (m) = journey, voyage; une âme (f) = soul; la droguerie (f) = hardware store; un objectif (m) = camera lens

Shopping

Tagine Le Creuset Enameled Cast Iron 2 Quart Moroccan Tagine:
Though I brought back a traditional terracotta tagine (one requiring coals...), I already have my eyes fixed on this modern version (which works with any stove top!). Santa Claus, are you listening? 

Cooking at the Kasbah: Recipes from My Moroccan Kitchen:
Moroccan food features the delicious flavors and health benefits of other Mediterranean cuisines...

Un, Deux, Trois: First French Rhymes:
...a collection of 25 traditional nursery rhymes for children

French Exambusters Study Cards:
Over 1500 questions and answers written by certified teachers and professional translators with a focus on exam preparation.

How to say "tailspin" in French?....

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"La Chasse Queue" (The Tail Chase) : Smokey's new favorite thing to do (with all that energy he's been building up since the attack) is to chase his own tail (missing, I'm afraid, from this photo -- it was hard to keep my camera's lens focused while laughing at my puppy's aerial antics... all that jumping and spinning!). To the right of his broken face, you'll see his healing cheek. He reminds me of Al Pacino in Scarface. Maybe it's the cheekbone (one is much higher than the other now. Perhaps it is just the swelling?).

Still in the mood to read? Check out Eliane's delightful message over at the Sullivan's blog (her words are in French and English -- an excellent way for us to grow our French!).

Thank you for the time you've spent reading my column. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next story, please know that ongoing support from readers like you helps me to continue writing and publishing these educational missives from France. Your support is vivement apprécié! Donating via PayPal is easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! Kristi
 
♥ Send $10    
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♥♥ Send the amount of your choice


"I’ve really enjoyed reading your stories over the years & hope you will continue to delight us with your beautiful photos and thoughtful & charming antidotes of life in the beautiful south of France."
--Jacqueline

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à fond

Cat
When the last time you were "cat" off guard? What did you discover about yourself: pridefulness? greed? Read on in today's story....


à fond (ah fohn) prepositional phrase
 
    : deeply, thoroughly

Audio File: listen to Jean-Marc read the following quote: Download MP3 or Wav file

A mon avis, vous ne pouvez pas dire que vous avez vu quelque chose à fond si vous n'en avez pas pris une photographie. In my opinion, you cannot say you have thoroughly seen something if you haven't taken a photograph of it. —Emile Zola

                                       *     *     *
Booksales Report: only two days left to reach my goal of 1500 books sold in the first six weeks since publication! I have another 114 copies to go... Can you think of anyone who might enjoy a copy of Blossoming in Provence? Meantime, click here to check out the latest reader reviews!

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

On Consideration and Connecting (This story first appeared in January 2008)

Not far from some lazy lavender fields, gray now with the grogginess of winter, there lives a picture perfect town. There, above a valley of grapevines, geraniums grow in wintertime, tempting French cats to pose prettily beside them (they'll even say "cheese", or ouistiti, if you ask them to, unlike those hurry purry Parisians).

I reach up to snap a photo of some small flower pots that are crowded together, as if for warmth, along a window sill. Beyond the fenêtre, I can just see into a private residence, where a porcelain lamp glows above a well-polished table. My eyes zoom out and refocus on the painted volets. As the shutters come into focus, the private study receeds into a cozy blur. Très bien... I take up my camera again.

I am pointing my lens to the lively window, when my walking companion remarks, "The pictures frame themselves." 

Click... Snap! 

Her breezy comment ruffles me. Pretty pictures might frame themselves, but you must first search out the frame-worthy subject! Then, there are a number of considerations—including, for one, consideration! (I think about the window that I have just captured, careful to blur the private interior, choosing to bring the shutters into focus instead).

If I am a little froissée, or feather-ruffled, it is less about my friend's innocent comment than about my fussy reaction to it. 

Thinking about the fuss, I recognize a familiar old character. L'Ego! Yes, here we have the ego talking, blathering on with its absurd sense of pride! C'est PATHETIQUE! It isn't as though I have ever taken a photography class or know anything about the rules of photo composition. The fact is I am an untrained photographer who is learning by doing, having had some lucky shots along the way—and some generous feedback. Perhaps the feedback has gone to my head?

Turning to my walking companon, I offer an awkwardly delayed reaction to her observation (I nod forcefully). When my head begins to shake, I recognize, once again, the inner wrestlings of that stubborn ego, which is still not willing to cough up a humble response, such as "So true! It is easy as pie to take a stunning picture in France! Anyone can do it!" (I am satisfied with this imagined response, especially since pie, to me, is rocket-science!)

Turns out there is no need to respond to the comment, and my mini identity crisis goes unnoticed. My friend is a million miles away, lost in the beauty of a Provencal village. Our photo périple rambles on, punctuated by her innocent commentary:

"Villedieu," she coos. "The name of the town says it all!" I relax back into the environment, as we stroll though the "Town of God," photographing the already "framed" pictures. Like a blessed writer—through whom words flow as if channeled—we point our cameras, letting the village compose itself. 

My roving eyes catch on The Sweeping Woman. Every town has one. She is the picture of domestic sagesse: broom in hand... and yet wearing a dainty dress! 

That itchy inner-dialogue starts up again. Now that the ego has fallen to sleep, Ms. Ethics has returned with a discours on dignity:

Madame—or "The Sweeping Woman", as you call her—is not behind bars in a zoo. She is not swallowing a blazing torch in one of three circus rings. She is not lounging in a window display, swathed in a beaded gown and feather boa—bringing fashion barracudas to halt along 5th Avenue, at Bergdorf Goodman's. She is, simply, being she. So let her be!

I consider Ms Ethics thoughts about dignity and manners. But might one try a direct approach, something like: "Bonjour, Madame, may I take your picture?" 

I imagine Madame's response. "What is it about me that you find so amusing? It is my white hair? my worn robe? Or is it my Frenchness that is on show?"

In an ethical instant I decide not to snap a picture of Madame and her balai. And yet...

I want Madame's picture because she reminds me of warmth and not steel, being and not doing, prayer and not pricing. She is authentic, real—unswayed by commercial sex appeal. It is what is missing—hairs in place, make-up on her face, a knotted shoe lace—that makes her mystical to me.

No. Not all pictures frame themselves. Some must remain uncontained—free to travel beyond the camera lens, beyond even the mind's eye... to expand and to swell like a giant-hearted universe.

I slip the camera into my coat pocket and take one last admirative gaze at Madame. Her broom comes to a halt as she fastens her eyes on mine. The universe that is my own heart skips a beat. Madame smiles.


French Vocabulary

ouistiti! (exclamation) = cheese! 

la fenêtre
(f) = window

le volet = shutter

très bien = very good!

la sagesse (f) = wisdom

le balai (m) = broom

la robe (f) = dress
.

.

Thank you for the time you've spent reading my column. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next story, please know that ongoing support from readers like you helps me to continue writing and publishing these educational missives from France. Your support is vivement apprécié! Donating via PayPal is easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! Kristi
 
♥ Send $10    
♥ Send $25    
♥♥ Send the amount of your choice


"I’ve really enjoyed reading your stories over the years & hope you will continue to delight us with your beautiful photos and thoughtful & charming antidotes of life in the beautiful south of France."
--Jacqueline

NEWSLETTER SIGN-UP: Has a friend forwarded you this post? Sign-up to receive your own free subscription to French Word-A-Day. Click here