This week Blizzard Juno battered New England. The school where I work has only closed for snow three times in the last fifty years – and two of those closings were this week. Just under three feet of snow fell in the course of 24 hours. I expected that the French news would cover every detail of Stormzilla – but no! All they said was that the estimates of the anticipated snowfall in New York had not materialized. Humph.
Today there were blue skies, all the better to enjoy the sparkling mountains of snow. It reminded me of the French expression, après la pluie, le beau temps (ap-reh lah ploo-ee, luh bow tohm), which means “after the rain, the good weather.” The idea is that nothing is permanent, especially not our troubles. I’m glad that good weather follows snow, too.
Every feel like you are running in place? Much to do and not making much progress? Then today’s expression, être à la ramasse (et-ruh ah lah rah-mass) will mean something to you. It means “to be behind, to lag behind.” The verb ramasser means “to pick, to gather.” I have the image of myself on a hectic day dropping four things when I try to pick up three others. Ever have a day like that?
During a particularly phase of my life I was juggling a newborn, attending university part-time, running a small business, and looking after our home. I was beyond busy. My 19 year-old brother was staying with us. Observing my frazzled state, my languid brother – clad in a silk, paisley dressing gown – remarked, “You should just do a little bit every day.” I wonder if he knows he came very close to death that day. It’s a good thing I love him dearly.
It’s been a winter wonderland in New England this weekend. One storm has ended and another is poised to hit tomorrow night. With blue skies and bright sun this afternoon, we seized the day, bundled up, and went out for a walk. The reservoirs around our home are almost completely frozen and the snow has transformed the woods. With all the leaves down and covered with a thick blanket of snow, it was easier to see the form of each tree. Some with particularly rough bark were accessorized with daubs of snow.
I took a close-up picture of this tree because it made me think of the French expression, l’arbre cache souvent la forêt (lar-bruh cash soo-vehn lah for-eh), which is the French quivalent of “You can’t see the forest for the trees.” The French expression changes things up a little bit in an interesting way. Literally, it means “the tree hides the forest.” It’s hard to believe that this tree was just one of many. From this vantage point, it’s hiding the whole rest of the forest behind it.
That’s often true in our lives, isn’t it? We can become so fixated with one idea, problem, or project that we totally lose sight of the bigger picture. Now that the grading for this marking period is behind me, I hope I’ll be able gain a more balanced perspective and enjoy the trees AND the forest. Maybe I’ll even get a snow day this week to help!
My penchant for rootling around antique shops has made me think of another useful French word, fouiner (foo-ee-nay); which means “to search,” or “to rummage through.” What kind of things to I like to search for? Things that make me think of my childhood, like a carving set that looks like the one my Dad always used to carve the turkey, or a favorite book. Jewelry that makes me think of bygone beauties. Mirrors that reflect past memories. Delicate porcelain busts that make me think of France. When a shop keeper or a stall holder asks what I’m looking for, I say that I’m just looking for the pleasure of it. It doesn’t matter if I bring anything home or not.
Markets of Paris
On Saturday, I spent an enjoyable day poking around antique shops in Essex, Massachusetts. We saw a portrait that we liked very much, but we wanted to think it over. Then I learned a very à propos phrase on the French news in a report about the Paris flea markets: ce qui est pris n’est plus à prendre (suh key eh pree neh ploo ah prawndruh). Literally, it means “that which is taken is no longer to take.” Idiomatically, you could translate it as “get it while you can.” I wonder if that portrait will still be there if we go back for it.
Markets of Paris
Over the Christmas break, I had the joy of visiting my parents in London, Ontario for a few days. Over the years, we’ve played innumerable hands of Uno. As much as we enjoy its familiar rules and routines, I thought it would be fun to teach them a new card game. I brought along Phase 10. My parents, who’d never played it before, won hand after hand. Today’s phrase aux innocents les mains pleines (oze in-no-sohn lay mahn plen) literally means “to the innocent full hands.” It’s the French equivalent of the English expression “beginner’s luck.” And do you know what? Even with all that beginner’s luck, my Dad still preferred Uno.
Today, twelve people were killed by three gunmen in Paris. The political cartoonists at the satirical paper Charlie Hebdo have been living under death threats for about a decade due to publishing cartoons depicting the prophet Mohammed. Today, those threats were carried out, despite the police protection at the door. People around the world have been rallying in support of the fallen and freedom of speech under the banner “Je suis Charlie” (zjuh swee sharlee) or “I am Charlie.” If freedom of speech is suppressed by terrorism, we will all have lost an incalculable treasure.