The French word for Puppy (see Smokey and his 5 sisters when they were baby goldens)

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Our Smokey turned 9 last week (here he is with 2 of his 5 sisters, in 2009). Following the previous post, I received several emails about our golden "showing his age." Funny, I didn't notice the gray in his beard or his eyebrows..until now. And it's all got me thinking about how we need to treasure every day with him. 

We'll keep the rest of this post light, with a look back at Smokey and his sisters. You'll meet Braise, too, Smokey's mama. We got her from the dog pound before we moved to the first vineyard. She passed in 2015, at the same age Smokey is now. We really do need to treasure every day from here on out!


Today's Word: le chiot

    : puppy, pup

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

Kids! Every parent knows that caring for them can be an all-consuming activity, that is, when the kids are not busy consuming you.

Yesterday, Braise and I, exhausted after 7 weeks... and 14 years (respectively) of child-rearing, decided to GIVE IN.  And so we collapsed on the front porch and put up our figurative white flags.

With that... the puppies rushed forth in victory!

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After getting our ears, noses, fingers, and toes chewed on... and our shirts and fur slobbered on... on a eu assez!... That's when we decided to play dead in order to get these puppies off our heads!

(Photo, below: Braise, in the background, feigns la mort. I follow suit, protecting my face just in case...)

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Braise is a natural. Just look at her play dead...

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In my case, the puppies aren't buying it -- though one stops to feel my pulse with her paws.....

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After a bit of ceremonial concern (short-lived sympathy on their part) ... the puppies now esteem that it is time to revive the drama queens.

Let's get their ears! Let's pull on their hair! (Braise, in the background, continues to play dead, unfazed by the toutou torture...)

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The victor! (Actually, there were six of them. Each got his/her turn to rise to the sky as Champion, glorified


FRENCH VOCABULARY
le chiot =
puppy, pup
on a eu assez = we'd had enough
la mort = death
le toutou = doggie (from this list of French baby talk)
Le Seigneur = Lord (from last photo caption, below) 

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Smokey griffes de sorcieres
Smokey, finding a cool spot during the heatwave, as he snoozes on a bed of griffes de Sorcière (witches claws!)

Smokey and bougainvillea
Seigneur, remind me of my priorities, including spending more time with my dog!

A Message from KristiFor twenty years now, support from readers like you has been an encouragement and a means to carve out a career in writing. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider a donation. Your gift keeps me going! Thank you very much.

Ways to contribute:
1. Send a check (to this new address)
2. Paypal or credit card
3. A bank transfer via Zelle, a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase my book for a friend, and so help spread the French word.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety


Hommage: Adieu Mr. Farjon "The Plant Whisperer"

Robert Farjon peugeot bike
Robert Farjon leaving Domaine Rouge-Bleu, where my family once lived. The hollyhocks seem to be hugging his vintage Peugeot bicycle. Find out why plants love this dearly departed Frenchman in the following tribute. 

TODAY'S WORD: amour-en-cage

    : love in a cage

Amour-en-cage is a synonym for Chinese lantern, or physalis. I loved the term the moment Robert Farjon shared it, and today it is especially meaningful.  

ADIEU, ROBERT
France has lost a national treasure. Plant & Provence historian Robert Farjon has passed away. I learned of Monsieur Farjon's passing from Caroline, winemaker/owner, with Thomas, at Domaine Rouge-Bleu vineyard and B&B in Sainte Cécile-les-Vignes. The following story, written years ago, is in hommage to Mr. Farjon. Thank you for reading and for sharing today's remembrance far and wide. 

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

August 14, 2012 - I had an unexpected visit from Mr Farjon the other day. It was such a coincidence, as I had been thinking of him recently—nostalgically remembering all the visits he paid me a several years back.

Just like old times, Mr Farjon parked his ancient Peugeot (a bicycle) outside our portail, leaning it against a giant wine barrel, one of two that flank the entrance to our courtyard. Running up to the gate to greet him, I noticed how stiff his legs were as he walked, slightly hunched over. Instead of leading him to the picnic table, beneath the old mulberry tree, I offered him a seat on the steps beside it.

I was eager to point out our new friends in the garden.... Four years ago, there wouldn't have been any mirabilis jalapa, or marvel of Peru, growing here—and forget about the lily of Spain, or valerian, which now shot up throughout the courtyard, in splashes of raspberry red! Today our garden is home to many a drought-tolerant flower, thanks to those who have sown the love of plants in my heart.

Despite the drought (read: we did not water our grass this year, and parts of the garden suffered the pinch), there were a few plants I wanted to show Mr Farjon, now that the plant whisperer had re-appeared after a 4-year absence.  

But it was difficult to concentrate on my guest, what with Smokey hovering between us. Like a gawky, attention-vying sibling who wants to join in, Smokey wagged his entire body, inching between my friend and me. His full body wag said I'm so happy to see you!, never mind the two had never met before. Indeed, it had been that long—my dog's lifetime—since Mr Farjon last came to visit.

Despite the giant four-pawed fly buzzing between us, I managed to speak to Mr Farjon.

"What have you got there?" I asked Monsieur. Waiting for the answer, I casually pushed Smokey aside, but my dog just wiggled right back in again, so I gave in.  

Smokey and I watched as Mr Farjon selected a long and thorny stem from the pile of just-picked weeds beside him.
"It's a chardon. We call it chausse-trappe," Farjon explained. With that, my venerable visitor told the story of how the plant got its name: the roman army dug ditches and filled them with this needle-sharp weed. And the poor stacked it on rooftops....

"To keep away thieves?" I guessed. 

Mr Farjon shook his head, repeating, simply, that the dried plant was piled on housetops. (I guessed again: for insulation?) As I tried to picture the thorny rooftops, Monsieur Farjon presented the next specimen, aigre-moine .

"Sour-monk" I mumbled, trying to translate the term.

As with each plant he brings, Monsieur took pains to point out where he had uprooted it. "Next to the telephone line. Beside the ditch—just up the street, after the fork in the road."

If I made the mistake of showing a blank look, Monsieur repeated himself, in addition to his usual stuttering, until I nodded convincingly: "Yes, beside the telephone line, up the street--just after the fork in the road!" It seemed important to Monsieur that the plant's location was understood, and he insisted certain plants were very rare these days. When new vineyards are planted, many of these rare plants are torn out. "You can find this plant by the telephone pole," Monsieur repeated, sending an unmistakable order that I should pull over and observe the weed the next time I drove by.

"It contains tanin..." Monsieur spoke a bit about the aigre-moine. "It was used to color wine." Just as I began to wonder whether or not to run and get Jean-Marc from the wine-cellar (wouldn't he love to know about this one?!), Mr Farjon set down yet another specimen.

"Epine du Christ."

"I remember that one," I said, softly. Mr Farjon had once showed me the thorny weed, otherwise known as "Christ's crown". It was this weed—found here in our neighborhood, that was used to torture Jesus.

We paused in time to move to the picnic table, where I asked Mr Farjon if he would note the names of the plants in today's lesson.

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As he wrote, I noticed his hands--the hands of a plant man! Long nails, perfect for pinching or cutting weed samples, and dirt beneath the tips--evidence of the morning's plant harvest!

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To some people, long soil-stained nails equal unkempt.  Others might notice the beauty of these nails, with their hard, smooth surface and elegant curve--perfect for scooping out a plant's delicate racine. As I stared at Mr Farjon's nails, I was unexpectedly envious. I wished my own nails were as healthy looking (though, admittedly, I couldn't own up to the caked dirt part--but that is only because I have not earned the right to wear dirt on my person--or under my nails. But a plant genius may sport soil wherever he pleases and the world would do well to respect him for it!)

As for Mr Farjon, he was oblivious to all the thoughts bubbling up in my head, thoughts about how and how not to appear to society. Thankfully, Monsieur's attention was focused on the task before him.
Farjon handwriting
Watching him write, I had a hunch that the moment was something to capture. It may not have been history in the making, and this may not have been an historical figure, but the moment and the person were just as fascinating. I ran to get my camara.

It occured to me to try and capture a shot of the two of us, by using the automatic timer.... 

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Notice Mr Farjon's concentration. He would eventually look up, to question what all my running back and forth was about.

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"Now look into the lens," I said, coaching my subject.

 "I'm not photogenic," Mr Farjon demured.

"You are beautiful!" I assured him.

"My birthday is tomorrow," he confided. 

(He was turning 83.)


Farjon bike market

The trusty Peugeot... I took a photo of the two when I first moved to Sainte Cécile. I didn't know Monsieur at the time, but thought I'd spotted an unforgettable character, and wrote about it here.

I sent Mr Farjon off with some samples from my own garden (see photo at the top of this post, and the mysterious package in his hand). He very much wanted the two kinds of chamomile growing there, gifts from the Dirt Divas. I tucked several dates inside the bag, for a sweet surprise--nourishment a plant genius needs while burning the midnight oil, poring over plantasauruses or thesauruses or dictionaries, rather. 

Then I watched as he rode off into the endless blue and green horizon.

     *    *    * 

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Mr Farjon departing on his Peugeot. What a chance it was to spend time with you, Monsieur Farjon. Adieu, merci, and please say hello to Smokey who passed away one day after you. He was the very same age, too (in dog years): 92

Here is darling Smokey, as a young lad, when he first met Mr Farjon. In this picture he is showing his respect for the plant man the only way he knew how: getting tangled up in some leafy subject matter:

Smokey loves gardening

 
Farjon book cover
Mr Farjon and his Peugeot bike on the cover of First French "Essais". The last chapter, about meeting Farjon, is online (scroll down the page until you see the title "The Plant Man". 
Finally, do not miss Mireille Besnardeau's (Robert Farjon's niece) excellent hommage in FrenchView the printed article .

Robert Farjon portrait
Reposez en paix, Robert Farjon (August 9, 1929-July 15, 2022)

A Message from KristiFor twenty years now, support from readers like you has been an encouragement and a means to carve out a career in writing. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider a donation. Your gift keeps me going! Thank you very much.

Ways to contribute:
1. Send a check (to this new address)
2. Paypal or credit card
3. A bank transfer via Zelle, a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase my book for a friend, and so help spread the French word.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety


Désinvolte: Mom's new pet (and a message from Smokey?)


The sign on this quirky façade in Alsace reads Le Chat qui Pêche ("The Cat that Fishes"). Read on for a story about another smart cat...and don't miss the photo at the end of this post.

TODAY'S COOL WORD: "désinvolte"


: casual, nonchalant, detached, glib

A FEW BLOOPERS...Today's sound file, recorded by Jean-Marc, has a funny mistake. The good news is you will hear both the term and the translation (in English).  Click the link below for the audio, then scroll to the vocabulary section to check your French comprehension.
Click here for the audio file

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

I was looking for a word to describe Mom's new pet, son animal de compagnie, when Jules offered a suggestion: "ALOOF. Cats are aloof." Well that seemed like a good term to share with you today... until I saw the boring French translation:

"réservé" "distant"...

Bof! You already know those words, in French and English! Luckily, the dictionary offered an interesting synonym for aloof: désinvolte, which reminds me of "revolt" which is what Lili The Cat did when we moved into her house 5 years ago. You see, Lili belonged to the family living here before us. But they were moving abroad and were unable to transport their 12-year-old minette overseas...So we agreed to help out by adopting Lili. But when our new chat figured out our golden retriever, Smokey, was part of the Live-Together deal, she hightailed it over the border, to the neighbor's.

Then, mysteriously, the very day Smokey passed away, Lili quietly migrated back....

I almost stepped on her while watering the rose bushes. Longhaired Lili was the same color as the muddy gravel surrounding her. Lifting her up I had a shock: she weighed less than an empty sock and she resembled as much. This wasn't the neighbor's fault. Our kind voisine regularly fed her, along with the other felines living over there (including one of Lili's offspring), but Lili is a fussy eater, picky to the extreme. "And she is not sociable and won't come into the house—not even when it storms!" My neighbor filled me in on a few of Lili’s quirks as we chatted at our little “window” in the hedge between our yards..

The day Lili met Jules everything changed, for both immigrants. My mom, who moved to France 4 years ago, when her husband passed, was now grieving over the loss of her best friend and confidant, Smokey. "He used to sleep beside me, with his head on my pillow. We used to talk to each other all night long," Mom shared. I remembered their special language, and loved it when Mom impersonated a talking Smokey! 

Since Smokey departed a great void filled Jules' studio... until sock-light Lili appeared! Lili, as you know, had this reputation of being distant, unfriendly, unpredictable, ungrateful--and maybe even a little bit sociopathic...à vrai dire). So we had zero expectations when she returned after 5 years, and instinct told me to reroute the errant cat over to Jules' place, to the little studio 15 meters from our front door.

This many months later and Lili weighs almost as much as our chubby puppy (Smokey never looked his age, even at almost 13 years). "She won't eat anymore home-cooked salmon, so I'm giving her meatballs," Mom explained, during one of our daily "Lili chats". I love going over to Mom's and sitting on the edge of her bed in time to hear of Lili's latest exploits (just as we used to discuss darling Smokey antics):

"She ran off the other cat," Mom said, of the stray with the broken tail who used to eat Lili's leftovers. "And she loves to sit behind the window and glare at the two hedgehogs when they come for their dinner!" (Jules offers Smokey's unused dog food to the spiky hérissons... carefully soaking it in water first). "I can't believe she is 17 years old," Mom confides, petting her new boarder. "You love Grandma, don't you? You can have anything you want! You deserve it!"

I can't believe Lili has come this far--from misanthrope to Miss (that's "beauty queen," in French). It remains a mystery how this cat manifested in time to become Jules' new confidant. I like to think that some tubby golden-haired angel in heaven is smiling down: I promised I would never leave you alone, Grandma! Smokey is saying, in that special, human parlance he uses with Mom.

FRENCH VOCABULARY

un animal de compagnie = a pet
désinvolte
= nonchalant, detached
bof! = meh, nah
le chat = cat
le voisin, la voisine = neighbor
la minette = kitty, kitty cat
à vrai dire = to tell you the truth
un hérisson = hedgehog
la Miss = beauty queen


Lili, beside Mom's pillow, doing her best impression of Smokey. 

A Message from KristiFor twenty years now, support from readers like you has been an encouragement and a means to carve out a career in writing. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider a donation. Your gift keeps me going! Thank you very much.

Ways to contribute:
1. Send a check (to this new address)
2. Paypal or credit card
3. A bank transfer via Zelle, a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase my book for a friend, and so help spread the French word.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety


Adieu Sweet Smokey: French for "Dog Heaven"

Sweet Smokey (2)

Forever in our hearts. Goodbye, Sweet Smokey: August 16th, 2009-July 16, 2022

We take a moment to rise above our sadness to thank you, dearest Smokey, for all the humor, love, and care you so generously shared. We will never forget you. As Jackie said, the hardest part is that this marks a new chapter of our lives.

Dear readers, we are gently turning this page here at home, quietly sharing with each other all of our memories of our happy dog days with Smokey. This journal will return in September, along with a new chapter of our lives, salt and peppered with French words, and ever sweetened with memories of our cherished chien who is now in dog heaven or Le Paradis des Chiens.  

With love,

Kristi

  

Jackie and Kristi
Daughter, Jackie, Smokey, and Kristi.

B&s
Comforted. A young Smokey with his mama, Breizh, who he now joins au Paradis des Chiens.

A Message from KristiFor twenty years now, support from readers like you has been an encouragement and a means to carve out a career in writing. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider a donation. Your gift keeps me going! Thank you very much.

Ways to contribute:
1. Send a check (to this new address)
2. Paypal or credit card
3. A bank transfer via Zelle, a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase my book for a friend, and so help spread the French word.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety


Learn what "quiproquo" means via this familiar synonym + Vive Smokey!

Smokey golden retriever day lily
Our soon-to-be 13-year-old, Smokey and day lilies from our friends Anne and Kirk. Don't miss a beautiful picture of my Mom, Jules, at the close of this post (if your are reading via email, click on the link somewhere below to continue reading).

TODAY'S WORD
: "un malentendu" 

: a misunderstanding, misinterpretation, misapprehension

AUDIO: click here to listen to the example sentence below

Un quiproquo est un malentendu où l'on prend un être vivant, un objet ou une situation pour une autre. A quiproquo is a misunderstanding where one takes a living being, an object or a situation for another.

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse 

During yesterday’s heatwave I was looking for a cold treat to bring Mom. In the frigo I took a yogurt and a banana and headed out the kitchen door, to our garage-turned-studio where Jules has lived for four years now. Le temps vole!

Beyond the sliding glass doors I saw Mom resting on her bed. The ventilateur on the nightstand that had been cooling her was now whirring loudly on the floor beside our golden retriever.

“Mom, are you keeping cool enough? Let me bring in another fan!” I said.

“No, I’m OK. Pull up that chair I brought in for you.”

I set the goûter in the fridge beside the very same yogurt I’d brought previously and noticed it was untouched. On my way back I picked up the green metal fauteuil and set it in front of the kitchen island, facing Mom’s bed, and we settled into our late afternoon tête-à-tête, chatting while petting and fussing over Smokey, who turns 13 next month. As I caressed our dog I suddenly felt another bosse, this time between his neck and shoulder, nestled deep enough to go unnoticed as it grew…and grew. It was nearly the size of a tennis ball!

“When we had all those bumps removed 4 months ago, I knew it was only the surface of the iceberg.” I said to Mom, as a heaviness filled the room.

“Well,” Jules replied, searching the positive side, “he is one happy dog!”

That is true. And so much of it is thanks to Mom, who gives all the credit right back to Smokey. “Do you hear him talking to me?” Mom asks, as we gaze at one of the favorite members of our family, his blond hair whirling in the ventilator's breeze.

Yes, I do hear those two. I hear Smokey barking suggestions to Jules all day long, and have the pleasure and delight of hearing Mom translate them all to me as the two go about their day. At 7 in the morning Smokey says: Bark bark! It’s time for breakfast, Grandma, and by 8: Should we go out to the garden now, Grandma? Bark, bark!  Sometimes at 11, he'll wonder, Is it time for a snack, Grandma? Bark! And finally at 8 pm. It’s late now, Grandma, let’s head in for the night! Smokey’s humble, easygoing, loving and caring dogness is an ever present sweetness in our lives—and as you have seen, he is a helpful guide in Jules’s life. If I begin to think about our life without him I….

“Honey, reach up and turn off the stove,” Mom said, immediately dispersing our troubled thoughts.

I swung around, still in my chair, and turned off the electric burner. “What’s cooking?” I asked Mom.

Jules' face contorted at the thought of duck. “You know I raised ducklings as a child…”

Where this duck came from is a mystery. Mom’s been talking about it for a while. “I can always cook that duck,” Mom will say, when she wants to put off going to the supermarché

That duck. Mom said it was part of the purchase she made at Jean-Marc’s boutique, but I don’t remember my husband selling canard in his épicerie-wine shop. I turned around again to look at Mom’s fry pan. Inside there were kidney beans and strips of that duck.

“You must be desperate,” I said, and we both chuckled at Mom’s predicament. On second glance, I noticed something unusual: la viande était blanche.

“Mom, that’s not duck.”

“It isn’t?” Jules looked hopeful.

“No. It looks like chicken to me. It could even be frogs’ legs!” (The “strips” were similar in length...)

“Frogs’ legs!” Mom gasped. Even Smokey was surprised and he lifted his head in time to wrinkle his nose. Sniff, sniff…

“Could you show me the package?” I asked. Mom retrieved it and there, on the label, it was clear where the quiproquo began.

“Mom, it says ‘dinde,’ not ‘duck’.”

Dinde?

“Yes, Dinde…turkey!” 

Dinde, dinde, wonderful! Am I pronouncing it correctly?” From the looks of things Mom had won the food lottery (and gained a new favorite French word).

“Would you happen to have any rice to go along with it?”

I offered to go and make some, but first, I reached down to caress Smokey. What I’d give to sort out his situation as easily as we did Mom’s. 

“Everything is going to be OK," Jules said, finding just the needed words. "We are all in God’s hands."

As for these heavy hearts, I'll remember He comforts those too. With this spiritual balm easing our painful emotions, we are now free to live each day to the best of our ability--for us, this means rearranging priorities in time to play ball and run through the sprinklers! Or whatever else our favorite furry family member enjoys this side of the rainbow bridge, and may it be miles and miles and miles away. Vive Smokey!
 
13 year old golden retriever Smokey and his tennis ball
Smokey, resting from another tennis ball run. It's true what they say about dogs: every lesson we need about life can be learned from man's best friend. For starters, Get up, go outside, chase the ball today. Always wag your tail. Never complain. Show enthusiasm at all times. Be one big furry ball of love. 

FRENCH VOCABULARY 

Audio File for vocabulary

Audio file here

le frigo = fridge

le temps vole = time flies

le ventilateur = fan

le fauteuil = armchair 

le goûter = 4 o’clock snack, tea time

le tête-à-tête = private talk

la bosse = lump, bump

le supermarché = supermarket, grocery store

le canard = duck

une épicerie fine = fine foods, delicatessen

la viande était blanche = the meat was white 

quiproquo = misunderstanding, mistake

la dinde = turkey

vive = long live

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Photos: a closeup of Mom’s kitchen island and its decor

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July 14th, 2022. Jules, the first garden tomatoes of the season, and a smiling Smokey. He really is a happy dog. Thanks so much, Mom, for spoiling him with your round-the-clock presence, love, and treats.

A Message from KristiFor twenty years now, support from readers like you has been an encouragement and a means to carve out a career in writing. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider a donation. Your gift keeps me going! Thank you very much.

Ways to contribute:
1. Send a check (to this new address)
2. Paypal or credit card
3. A bank transfer via Zelle, a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase my book for a friend, and so help spread the French word.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety


The French Word "Renifler" & Getting my Husband and My Dog to Speak the Same Language

Square in front of Cinema Lumiere in La Ciotat France
This post begins and ends with pictures of (or around) our city's historic Cinéma Lumière. Corrections to this journal are helpful and appreciated. 

Today's Word: renifler

    : to sniff, smell, snuffle

French Audio/Listening: Click the link below to hear Jean-Marc pronounce the French words in today's story. Then scroll down to the vocabulary list to check your French comprehension.

Click here for MP3 sound file

 
La Gloire de Mon Pere Marcel PagnolImprove your French and lose yourself in the local countryside with this classic by Marcel Pagnol. A must read!


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

Yesterday, en fin d'après-midi, Jean-Marc and I went to the movies. Marcel Pagnol's Le Temps des Secrets was playing at the historic Lumière Cinema here in La Ciotat, so my husband and I made a rare date of it.

Scenes from the nearby Massif du Garlaban relaxed us and the film was a welcome divertissement from various blèmes here at home. While each member of our family is dealing with their own struggles the good news is all three generations are currently getting along ici au bercail. (One new item in my human relations tool belt is a book about relationships and how speaking another's "love language" helps to improve communication and fosters closeness.)

How to speak to me...
After our movie date, we returned home and went for a neighborhood walk with our dog. My husband is not used to walking Smokey but he's making an effort and that really "speaks" to me. But when our golden retriever stopped to sniff the various weeds along le trottoir, Jean-Marc abruptly tugged the leash, "Allez, Smokey!" Move on!

An animal's sense of smell is so keen, so precise, there is a very specific word for it in French: le flair (as in "Le flair des chiens est supérieur au nôtre."). If only my husband understood that le reniflement, or sniffing, is part of the pleasure our dog gets from these outings. On second thought, surely Chief Grape, who's in the business of sniffing, understood...

Speaking my husband's language...
"Chéri," I began, "weeds are like wine to Smokey!" Jean-Marc looked a little confused and maybe I was too: Smokey doesn’t like wine but he loves to sniff weeds. And JM doesn’t care to sniff weeds but he loves wine. Is that clear, Dear Reader?  Are you and I speaking the same language? Now, where was I? Oh yes, trying to get my husband to see things from our dog’s point of view:

“...weeds (to Smokey) are like wine (to you). Other dogs have "visited" those grassy patches and left their scent which is brimming with information that only a furry connoisseur could appreciate!"  

At the next mauvaise herbe (a flowering dent-de-lion, this time), Smokey slammed on the brakes again, sniff, sniff, sniff. "That may be a ‘Chardonnay’," I pointed out. “Think of all the smelling notes or aromas!” Half a block later and our dog screeched to a halt at a patch of blossoming fumaria, "Ah! That must be a ‘Merlot’... with hints of plum? vanilla? cedar?" (And for Smokey, notes of Chihuahua? Bulldog? Beagle?)

Speaking our dog’s language...
By the time we rounded the corner, on our way home, my husband seemed to be catching on. "What's that one?" I quizzed when our twelve-year-old toutou plunged his nose into a bunch of sticky lichwort.

"Un Pommeral!" JM replied. (A Pomeranian! Smokey agreed, in his own dialect.)

"And that one?" I asked, pointing to another group of weeds.

"Ça, c'est un Pouilly-Fuissé!" (and un Bichon-Frisé, according to Smokey's estimates, sniff, sniff). Très bien! Our family members were relating to one another via a common interest: l’odorat. And now there would be no need for further comparisons in order to get my husband to understand my dog's need to renifler or sniff (i.e. no need to tell Chief Grape that the next time he goes to a wine fair, he should wear a clothespin on his nose and hurry on past all his favorite booths)! Man and dog were now speaking the same language (and man's wife happy now!).

"Thanks for the movie and for the walk," I said, when our trio reached our front gate. I'm looking forward to more dog walks with my man, and to turning more weeds into wine.

P.S. My human relations tool belt continues to widen and for once that’s a good thing!

***
Smokey golden retriever and fumaria weed
Smokey and the fumaria blossoms ("la fumeterre" in French). Here is a fascinating article about a dog's sense of smell.

The 5 love languages
Post note: The devotional JM and I are reading is based on Gary Chapman's book The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts


FRENCH VOCABULARY
fin d'après-midi = late afternoon
le divertissement = entertainment, diversion 
le blème (from "problème") = worry
le bercail = home ("fold")
le trottoir = sidewalk 
Allez! = Go on!
le flair = sense of smell
Le flair des chiens est supérieur au nôtre = Dogs have a better sense of smell than we do (Wordreference.com)
le reniflement = sniffing
Chéri = Dear
la mauvaise herbe = weed
une dent-de-lion = dandelion
le toutou = slang for “dog”
très bien! = very good
l’odorat = sense of smell

Vocabulary not included in the soundfile (added later, during editing)
un bichon-frisé = a popular dog breed in France, photo here

Cinema lumiere movie theater in la ciotat france
The Cinéma Lumière movie theater. Our city is known as "the birthplace of cinema" after the Lumière Brothers (pictured) came here to create the first motion picture ever made, "L'Arrivée d'un train en Gare à La Ciotat". Also located here in La Ciotat, The Eden Theatre, known as the first cinema in the world.

Near cinema lumiere la ciotat france

A Message from KristiFor twenty years now, support from readers like you has been an encouragement and a means to carve out a career in writing. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider a donation. Your gift keeps me going! Thank you very much.

Ways to contribute:
1. Send a check (to this new address)
2. Paypal or credit card
3. A bank transfer via Zelle, a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase my book for a friend, and so help spread the French word.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety


French for "fighter, warrior, survivor" + Fate, Love, and Dogs: Our golden retriever is “un battant”

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These are our dog’s parents. That’s “Sam” on the left and Breizh, right. They lived life to the fullest and are over the rainbow bridge now. We hope to keep their son, Smokey, on this side of that colorful arc-en-ciel for as long as possible. Read on, in today’s post.

Today's Word: un battant

    : fighter, warrior, survivor

French Audio/Listening: Click the following link to hear Jean-Marc pronounce the French words in the following story. Then scroll down to the vocabulary list to check your French comprehension.

Click here for the sound file


A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

“Universal Love”

On the eve of our dog's surgery, we had a whiskers-to-whiskers talk (whiskers, because at 54 I may have a few myself...). "Smokey, tomorrow you're going to have le she-rur-rur-zher-ee," I explained. "But here's the deal: your mission on earth is not over yet. We all need you here with us, and it is not time for you to leave our family. D'accord?

Our golden retriever had une bosse on his chest that had grown to the size of a tennis ball (and was as hard as one). Finally, we made the difficult decision to remove the lump. The doctor said the dangerous part would be the anesthésie, given our dog's advanced age. Therefore, we decided to remove several lumps while Smokey was under anesthesia, as the actual surgery was the “easy” part, according to our veterinarian. 

La Salle D'Attente
In the waiting room with two other patients (an energetic cocker spaniel and un chat de gouttière). Smokey, was uncharacteristically calm as the assistante vétérinaire sat beside me to complete a questionnaire concerning our chien. “Do you want the supplemental blood test for seniors to determine whether Smokey is fit for surgery?”

That’s when tears began to flow.

"Oh, ça va bien se passer!" the vet’s assistant assured me.
"He is twelve-and-a-half years old," I reminded her, wiping away les larmes.
"Ne vous inquiétez pas...."

The stranger's empathy must have opened up a few chambers in my heart because the catharsis that came with it brought more than release, it brought a mysterious energy.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
Lean not on your own understanding

In all your ways acknowledge Him
And He will make your path straight.
                                Proverbs 3:5-9.

Those were the words that escaped as I drove away from the vet’s without our beloved “pet” (à vrai dire, I have never thought of Smokey as a pet). I don't know why my mind recalled these particular Bible verses, there are so many others that would seem more specific to the occasion. But those words coming out of my mouth, in repetition and in various tones and cadences, sustained me until I arrived at the next (unplanned) destination: le supermarché.

In an emotional spree, or frénésie, I selected lots of goodies for Smokey’s No. 1, full-time caregiver (my Mom): a box of almond-covered Magnums  (chocolate-coated ice cream bars), her favorite raspberry jam (aptly named “La Bonne Maman”), an exotic fruit juice (la canneberge this time) and more Greek yogurt—comfort food to dry Mom’s tears (tears I don't ever remember seeing before). I also put three extra big boxes of Kleenex into my cart.

"Smokey is everything to me. He is my whole life," Mom admitted, her face awash with worry when I took him away that morning.

***

Loading the groceries onto the tapis roulant, I paused to inform the cashier, "Those are the green kiwis and not the one-euro-each yellow ones from New Zealand."

"Pas de souci," she smiled, ringing in the fruit at .75 a piece.

"By the way, did you ever find your glasses?" I asked la caissière, remembering how troubled she was last week, asking other employees if they’d seen her lost lunettes. We customers in line promised to jeter un oeil on the way out to our cars.

"Oui!" she said. “Je les ai trouvées.”

Oh, quel soulagement!” I smiled.

When the cashier finished ringing up my groceries and asked if I had a store fidelity card, I said I hadn't gotten around to it. That's when she left the register, walked around the counter, took out her own wallet, and selected a card inside of it...

"What are you doing?" I asked, but the cashier didn’t answer. 

I did not realize the extent of the cashier’s gesture until I got into my car and looked at the store receipt, which was reduced by 25 euros, thanks to “des remises immédiates salariés.” (She had used her very own employee discount.)

I was blown away. Why she took this risk on me instead of someone in need is a mystery.

Passing other drivers on my way home, I looked beyond our individual windshields and said:

Bless you! To the white-haired lady behind the wheel,
and bless you! to the conductor with the beard,
and bless you!! to the solo driver in the N95 mask— 

That may seem like a strange thing to do, blessing strangers from behind a windshield, but hadn't the cashier done the same from behind her plastic store shield before stepping around the barrier to deliver the blessing?

I remembered the vet’s assistant and how a stranger’s sympathy began this whole domino effect—only instead of pieces falling down, hearts were opening up. And I realize now that the mysterious energy that came when I left my dog in the hands of Fate, was Fate itself or one facet of a complex and universal love—a love we are led to trust.

I hurried home to tell Mom about what happened when I left the vet’s, about all the goodness along the way. But if those first two hours flew on angel's wings, the next three were deep in the pits of hell as we waited and waited for a call from the vet's office. During the long attente my faith à froler le superstition. In a canine version of Step on a crack brake your mama's back, I navigated a host of possibly-fatal actions while waiting for the vet’s call:

...On the way to our mailbox I stalled: Do you really want to check the mail now...or check it later? What if it’s bad news? (reflecting further bad news from the vet!)
...and when lunchtime came there was the question of eating or not eating....then chewing or not chewing...while my dog was under the knife...
...Ditto with nap time.  Could I lie down or might resting be symbolic of eternal rest? A superstitious voice whispered.
...finally, a nagging question: Should I call the vet for an update or would calling irritate the staff (and somehow this would affect the outcome?)....

WHY WEREN’T THEY CALLING!!?! Did Smokey NOT wake up from the anesthesia? 

Finally, 5.5 hours after dropping off our dog for surgery, news came in the form of an SMS from our beloved dog:

Coucou, Je suis en train de me réveiller. Tout va bien. Smokey” (Hello, I am waking up now. All is well. Smokey). I burst out of bed, flew down the stairs and over to Mom’s to share the good news:

"Smokey sent an SMS...I mean, the vet sent an SMS!" 

We were giddy! Exaltées! A little while later I walked into the vet's and heard my dog barking! “He heard you first,” the receptionist pointed out, letting Smokey into the waiting room. If Smokey was quiet and calm this morning, now he was wagging his whole body, which was covered in stitches. Stitches on his calf, stitches on both his sides, stitches on each side of his chest, stitches on his private parts... While he was asleep, they even burned away the large growth in his mouth!

C'est un battant!” the vet's assistant said, sharing that two doctors and one anesthesiologist worked on Smokey!

Oh oui! Un vrai battant! Smokey is a true survivor. And when earlier he disappeared into the operating room, his spirit seemed to float back out, blessing everything in its furry wake, reminding us: when facing Fate, abide in trust--and take comfort in Universal Love. As the words of a familiar verse promised, It will set your path straight!

Jules and Smokey
Both Mom and Smokey are doing great. Merci infiniment to Dr. Trapes and the team at La CiotaVet, here in La Ciotat. 💕

FRENCH VOCABULARY

un battant = a survivor
le she-rur-rur-zher-ee
= lighthearted rendition of "chirugerie", or surgery. The correct term is "intervention chirurgicale"
d'accord? = ok?
une bosse = a lump
une anesthésie = anesthesia 
la salle d'attente = waiting room
un chat de gouttière
= alley cat
le chien = dog
ça va bien se passer! = everything is going to be ok
une larme = tear
ne vous inquiétez pas = don’t worry 
à vrai dire = to tell you the truth
le supermarché = supermarket
la frénésie = frenzy
pas de souci = no worries
la caissière = the cashier 
Bonne Maman = Good Mom
la canneberge = cranberry
le tapis roulant = “the rolling carpet” (conveyor belt)
l’attente (f) = wait
frôler = verge on
jeter un oeil = have a look
je les ai trouvées = I found them
le soulagement = relief
des remises immédiates salariés = immediate employee discounts
exalté = giddy

A dashing Smokey at 7
A dashing Smokey, back in the day (2016?)

A Message from KristiFor twenty years now, support from readers like you has been an encouragement and a means to carve out a career in writing. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider a donation. Your gift keeps me going! Thank you very much.

Ways to contribute:
1. Send a check (to this new address)
2. Paypal or credit card
3. A bank transfer via Zelle, a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase my book for a friend, and so help spread the French word.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety


La Prise de bec - unexpected run-in with a stranger while walking my dog

Ever since I dislocated my elbow while walking my dog, outings with my golden retriever have changed. I am more aware of the dangers around every corner. Giant barking dogs can leap out of nowhere, causing a dog on a leash to react in self defense, and even tiny chiens can wreak havoc. For walks to go smoothly, you have to know your dog, be alert, and have a back-up plan--my own is to quickly change sidewalks or change direction, but this reflex did not work for us recently.  

Saturday's drame was similar to the one that landed me in ER, only this time there was a better ending (if not a happy one). Things had gotten off to a good start, last weekend, when I swallowed past fears and took control of the leash. If we let a bad experience get the best of us, our world becomes smaller and smaller--and so does that of our loved ones! 

Smokey and I headed out into the sunny horizon, one of us mumbling a mantra of positives--the other naturally oblivious to life's What ifs?

Keeping my dog reined in close to my side, we smiled (did you know goldens smile?) at the customers seated in the cafés along the seafront. A waiter seemed to recognize us from the neighborhood, which elevated our spirits even higher.

As the pavement ended, we proceeded onto the dirt-paved area that opens out before the sea. That's when Smokey stalled....

I recognized this behavior. It signaled he was about to bolt. Looking up, I saw the object of his interest: a glossy long-haired retriever that looked very similar to Smokey, only a bit smaller. As I quickly turned to redirect Smokey, the two men walking the dog smiled brightly. I recognized that sourire, it said, Aw, c'est mignon! Our dogs are interested in each other. Let's introduce them....

I smiled back in a thanks but this is not a good idea way -- but it was too late. Smokey began dragging me forward over the slippery ground. I was quickly losing my balance and made the decision to drop the leash (something I would not--and could not!--do the last time, and ended up in that ambulance)....

My golden retriever charged toward the smaller dog and the two were soon caught up in a tangle of barking.  Everything happened so fast and I heard myself shouting, Ne vous inquiètez pas. Il ne va pas attaquer! Don't worry, he won't attack!

That is when one of the men yanked my dog away from his dog and tossed Smokey toward me. With that, he shouted, Il ne va pas attaquer??!! IL NE VA PAS ATTAQUER???

I grabbed Smokey and my adrenaline held him in place. The two men walked off spouting anger our way. 

My mind was reeling. They don't know my dog! They don't know he is a survivor! Attacked by two dogs as a puppy he was not expected to live. LIVE HE DID! Smokey went on to live 9 lives and after another cancer diagnosis, this past summer, I was told he was lucky to be alive, but not to count on a much longer life.... 

I realize none of this matters to the men whose dog has just been threatened by my dog. I just wished to explain to them that while Smokey may bark up a storm -- he'll soon scramble to hide behind the very dust he's kicked up!

This time the two of us sat there in the dust. Dazed, I finally got up off the ground, swallowed the lump in my throat and walked home with my tears and my dog, who was back on his leash. Smokey and I had made so much progress since we moved from the country to the city, where he--where both of us--would have to adjust to les citoyens. As upset as I was over this unexpected pris de bec, or run-in, I could still put myself in the other dog owner's shoes, and I knew I would have reacted the same way, too.  What saddened me was the misunderstanding that remained. 

Today Smokey and I could both use a walk. Instead we are holed up inside, our worlds having rétréci, or grown just a little bit smaller.  We will figure out a way forward, meantime there's a lump in our way (or in my throat). I leave you with a recent picture/video of Smokey R. Dokey. I hope you can see it below (tap the the middle of the picture, until you see an arrow, to make Smokey's tail wag!).

The regular edition of French Word-A-Day will be back next week. See you then.

Amicalement,

Kristi
   

A Message from KristiFor twenty years now, support from readers like you has been an encouragement and a means to carve out a career in writing. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider a donation. Your gift keeps me going! Thank you very much.

Ways to contribute:
1. Send a check (to this new address)
2. Paypal or credit card
3. A bank transfer via Zelle, a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase my book for a friend, and so help spread the French word.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety


Soins des animaux: Why can't our dog sit down? Visit to the vet & collerette

bicycle across from Notre Dame and in front of Shakespeare and company bookshop in Paris France
Benjamin Houy, a young Frenchman from Paris, has written some helpful language posts for this blog. His 30-Day French program will teach you everything you need to know to speak French with 30 lessons based on real-life conversations. Try it out.

TODAY'S WORD: le soin

        : care, attention, treatment


EXAMPLE SENTENCE:

Don't miss the soundfile for this text, click here.


Une collerette vétérinaire, cône pour animal ou collier élisabéthain, est un ustensile de soins des animaux. Ce cône tronqué et fixé au cou de l'animal de façon à entourer sa tête, sert à l'empêcher de se mordre, de se lécher, ou encore de se gratter la tête ou le cou, le temps de la cicatrisation d'une plaie. -Wikipedia

A vet coller, an animal cone or an elizabethan coller, is a treatment implement for animals. This truncated cone, attached to the neck of the animal so that it surrounds its head, serves to keep it from biting itself, licking itself, or scratching the head or neck, for the time it takes for a wound to scar.


Improve your spoken French with  Exercises in French Phonetics


A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE

"Furry humans and the Collar of Shame"

    by Kristi Espinasse


The other night my heart seized up after I was awakened by a rapping at the front door. Startled, I sat up in bed and listened closely. Was someone shaking the door handle? As I grew conscious I began to recognize the noise and it wasn't a knock - it was sheep bells clanking (my rustic farm alarm! the cloches are attached to the door bolt. I've got sheep bells on my windows, too--lest un cambrioleur try to break through! Never mind the sound of broken glass....).

Oh! It's just one of our kids rolling in after midnight, I thought. Until I remembered the kids were far away...in Montpellier and Aix. My God, someone was trying to break in to our home! I went to elbow Jean-Marc awake when I recognized another sound: my dog's collier -- it makes a certain bruit when he shakes down his furry body, as dogs do throughout the day. So it was good ol' Smokey, after all, just having a bit of a sleepless night.

The next morning after tidying up the kitchen and hanging the laundry out to dry, I finally could turn my attention to writing. I was grumbling about how long it took to get to my writing desk--what with so many other things screaming for attention--when Smokey came into the room, his head held low. Now what!

"OK, Smokey, here's a câlin, but now I've got to get to work! A ta place! " I motioned for our golden retriever to go to his bed, just beside my desk. Only, when he got there he could not sit down....

"Couché! Smokey, Couché là!" I said, but poor Smokey could not settle in. It was as though each time he lowered his backside to the ground, an invisible fire sprang up!

I went over to my dog and helped him lie down. Examining his tail I could see it was enflammé. Did he sit down on some sort of poison ivy? Or, worse, was this the beginning of another méchant growth?

I decided not to wait things out--and got Smokey right to the clinic. A moment later a very pregnant vet and I and Smokey were all on the floor wrestling. One of us shaved the tail, the other gripped the dog, and the patient looked up at the ceiling, his world turned upside down.

I was amazed at how far along our vet was (this pregnant) and yet able to wrestle a 35-kilo dog. And I was impressed by Smokey, who managed to keep it together, despite losing so much hair (when humans go to the doctor, they sweat it; for sensitive dogs, like goldens, they lose their hair during such a nerve-racking visit.

By the end of the examination, the pregnant doctor and I were plastered in golden fur, and we still hadn't uncovered the mystery of what got Smokey. "Clean the area twice a day. Apply this pommade, and give him these comprimés," the vet instructed. The final instructions she gave directly to her patient: "Et si tu n'arrêtes pas de te lêcher, tu vas devoir porter la collerette!"

"Oh no, Smokey, you don't want to wear the cone of shame!" I said. It was, come to think of it,  a curious thing to say, coming from two humans covered from head to toe in clumps of golden fur.



Stories you may have missed...

Did you know about this rule for cheese? (Read this post)

A Tip Jar (Read this post)

Cone of shame
I keep this recovery cone (I have two) in our first-aid cabinet. The new cones (soft, pliable) are much more comfortable and easy to use. Get one for your dog or cat, here.


FRENCH VOCABULARY

la cloche = bell
un cambrioleur = burglar
le bruit = noise, sound
le collier = collar
le câlin = hug, cuddle, caress
à ta place = go to your bed
couché! = lie down!
méchant = bad
enflammé = inflamed
35 kilos = 77 pounds
la pommade = cream
se lécher = to lick oneself
le comprimé = tablet

A special note to teachers - your students are encouraged to sign up to French Word-A-Day and receive this family-friendly journal. Thank you for sharing this site.

French-Dirt-Richard-Goodman
One of my favorite books. Order a copy here.

A Message from KristiFor twenty years now, support from readers like you has been an encouragement and a means to carve out a career in writing. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider a donation. Your gift keeps me going! Thank you very much.

Ways to contribute:
1. Send a check (to this new address)
2. Paypal or credit card
3. A bank transfer via Zelle, a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase my book for a friend, and so help spread the French word.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety


The 5 senses in French + Smokey's Grief

male female golden retrievers dog chien straw hat

Pictured: Sam and Breizh, in 2009. Smokey's parents met and eloped in Marseilles. It is the most amazing story ever. A miracle! Please read  "Chien Perdu" here. (But don't miss the update, below).

l'ouïe (wee) noun, feminine

   : hearing

Related Terms & Expressions:

  l'ouï-dire = hearsay, rumor
  avoir l'ouïe fine = to have sharp hearing
  avoir l'ouïe un peu dure = to be hard of hearing
  être tout ouïe = to be all ears
  à portée de l'ouïe = within hearing
  les ouïes des poissons = fish gills

AUDIO FILE: listen to Jean-Marc read today's example sentence: 
Download MP3 or Download wav

 

Les cinq sens. Nos cinq sens sont les suivant: la vue, l'ouïe, le goût, l'odorat, le toucher. The five senses. Our five senses are the following: sight, hearing, taste, smell, and touch.

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

To sharpen. I spoke about the French word aiguiser in a previous post, and was set to feature the verb today, when plans changed. It may seem like a strange word choice following the news about our dog's death--but then my senses seem sharper since Breizh passed away on Saturday.

With the past four days being cloaked in sadness, I began to wonder if grief isn't one of our 5 senses... but of course it isn't, as evidenced by the following list (quickly counted on my right hand, beginning with le pouce, or thumb). 

  • la vue (sight)
  • l'ouïe (hearing)
  • le goût (taste)
  • l'odorat (smell)
  • le toucher (touch)

No, grief is not a sense, but a stirrer of the senses, as we see in these examples:


LA VUE - SIGHT
Soonafter our 9-year-old golden retriever passed, I saw something alarming, quelque chose I had never before noticed. Smokey, Breizh's 6-year-old son, was sporting a silver barbe, or beard.

I remember the day, not three months ago, that I saw Breizh's gray mustache (or was it white?)--after someone pointed it out to me. And I wonder, how many more things--evident, present, glaring--are we not seeing? 

L'OUIE - HEARING
J'entends. I hear a whistle in Smokey's breathing, one that wasn't there before. It is le souffle of sadness and it sometimes terminates with un gros soupir.

Patting his soft, lopsided head, I murmur: Je sais, Smokey, je sais. Elle est partie, notre Breizh. Elle est partie. But it's okay. It is okay. All will be okay.


LE GOUT - TASTE
Food was tasteless, but my appetite returned on day two, arriving on a rumble of hunger pangs. But for Smokey, who lost his mama, it would be 5 days before he would show any interest in his croquettes--the sound of which used to make him do twirls in the air! This morning, no air-twirls, but he did wag his tail excitedly as I set down his bowl. His hunger had finally returned.

L'ODORAT - SMELL
Together, Jean-Marc and I buried Breizh before a field of sunflowers, in front of the laundry line where I go almost daily to dry our clothes.  A wooden wine box doubles as a headstone and a shelf where we can set mementos--like the mug with Breizh's picture, which doubles as a vase.

This morning, while collecting escargot shells from the surrounding field, to set beside the vase of bougainvillea, I remembered Smokey's unusual behavior, when days before he strolled up to the grave and lay down beside it.  He must sense she is here... I thought. Only to watch him walk off with half a cross!

Smokey! Bring that back! I called, hurrying up to him to retrieve the horizontal piece of the cross. Setting the broken tree limb back in place, over the grave, I stared at the cross I'd replaced.  Death, it seems, has a sense of humor, too. 

LE TOUCHER
Smokey's hair has never felt softer, and touching him has its effet tranquillisant. I wish I'd saved a lock of Breizh's hair. Then again, what would I do with it? Wear it around my neck? No! Like those small plastic envelopes holding my children's first teeth, it would be forever hidden in a shoebox, somewhere discreet.


MY INTERGALACTIC DOG

(These paragraphs were originally posted under the "sight" section, above. But I found a better example and needed to move this one somewhere else. The concluding section seems fitting.)

On the phone with my aunt, we were talking about the planet Pluto which has been making headlines lately. "It really makes you wonder how it all began. Consider the endless galaxies!" 

My aunt's words queued my mind which now pictured a vibrant midnight blue outer space with rolling waves of silver stars. Suddenly a smiling golden retriever jetted right past me! There was Breizh, riding an asteroid the size of a basketball! My head got whiplash watching her streak past me, a line of sparkly stardust in her wake. I watched as she disappeared into the future (or the past?). Oh the mystery of where exactly she is, the spirit of our sweet, golden girl.

I had to share the image of a beaming Breizh transported through space-- had to share the vision with my aunt, who very sweetly and politely responded, as if she, too, could picture that intergalactic dog of mine rocketing across the starry sky.

And it dawns on me now, clearer-headed days later, the delicateness that framed my aunt's sympathetic response. I hope to remember to react as she did the next time someone is grieving - to remember to see the intergalactic dog that is not. Nod your head wildly, utter your conviction - let her know that you see just what she sees... and so let her grieve. 

                                                  *    *    *  

Breizh-sunflowers

Dear Reader, Thank you so much for your comforting words regarding Breizh. The empathy you shared, via the comments box and by email, helped to unblock further streams of emotion. 

Here is the most recent photo of our golden girl. At the time I took the picture I did not know it would be the last, or I would have taken a thousand more. As it is, this image fills me with peace, representing, so sweetly, her ongoing journey.

Amicalement,
Kristi

Breizh golden retriever cabanon france straw hats

A Message from KristiFor twenty years now, support from readers like you has been an encouragement and a means to carve out a career in writing. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider a donation. Your gift keeps me going! Thank you very much.

Ways to contribute:
1. Send a check (to this new address)
2. Paypal or credit card
3. A bank transfer via Zelle, a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase my book for a friend, and so help spread the French word.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety


Coursier: Delivering my dog's tumor to the post office...

Max-and-jean-marc

Do you listen to the audio files in these posts? Here are the French men who record them: my 19-year-old son, Max, and my husband, Jean-Marc. The treasure of sound files for this blog dates back to when the kids were 7-years-old. Here is a gem you must listen to and share!: A nine-year-old Max, reading Rudyard Kipling's inspiring poem, "If". Click here.


coursier, coursière

    : delivery boy, delivery girl, courier, runner

AUDIO FILE:
Listen to Max read these French words:
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Hier, ma mère a joué la coursière en amenant la tumeur de Smokey à la poste! Yesterday, my mom played delivery girl by bringing Smokey's tumor to the post office.

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


I often feel I am, as my mother-in-law says, pedaling in the choucroute, or slogging through daily life--especially life's duties! Ever a student of self-improvement, I crave information on how to render the everyday smooth and efficient. I'm an incurable web surfer and have a shelf of books with titles such as Remèdes de Grand-mère and Comment Vous Simplifier La Vie. And when I still can't get my act together, I turn to this paper-thin book by a 17th century French spiritual advisor.

My French veterinarian is also trying to simplify her life. On Tuesday, after Smokey's operation, she handed me an express envelope, with instructions on how to mail my dog's cancerous tumor.

"Just drop this off at the post office," she said, as casually as that.

"La poste?" the bizarre order was not registering.

"They're closed now," she said, looking at her wristwatch. "But you can keep it until tomorrow."  Shaking the bag, she offered. "It's specially sealed!"

Returning home, I put our furry patient, Smokey, to bed and turned my attention to the current dilemma: WHERE TO PUT THE TUMOR? Looking around the house, I weighed the possibilites:

...I could set it on the table beside the entry. No, Breize might eat it.

...Hide it in the armoire? No, it could be forgotton!

...Stick it in the bathroom! Only to sit and stare at it. No!

...Put it on the window sill.... And risk scaring away my new friend Tanja (who was soon arriving for a walk. Yikes, il faut se dépêcher! Better hurry up!)

I stuck the tumor in the kitchen, behind the toaster, and almost passed out when returning from my walk I found someone had tampered with the package--moving it from behind to toaster... to the cutting board! AK! WORST CASE SCENARIO!!!

In the end, no harm came to the The Little Tumor. (Whoever had moved it was impatiently reaching for the stash of baguettes, just behind le grille-pain, and had simply failed to return the non-bagette to its place (isn't that the way your own family behaves when hungry? Anything else--body parts notwithstanding--is no more than an obstacle between them and the food.)

The next day I delivered my dog's tumor to the post office, which, just like my vet and myself, is always looking for ways to simplify life! They have recently  installed several automated machines, or "mail it yourself" stations. Thankfully, one window remained, with a living breathing person behind it.

Handing the clerk my dog's tissues, I may not have chosen the most efficient option (French postal workers are not known for their speed), but I trusted Smokey's tumor would soon be spirited away, as the French say, comme une lettre à la poste!
 

  Tanja-and-Ricard

 I met Tanja and Ricard (yes, like the famous French anise pastis--see him in the fence's opening?) on Instagram. Voilà, one great reason to finally sign up to Instagram: for the interesting and wonderful people and dogs you'll meet! For the latest photos from this French life,  join me here.

Kristi-coffee

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