mercredi 6 avril 2011

Still gardening, a lesson in French

The wisteria comes into blossom

I scared a few people. I said I might never be able to garden again, but I didn't really mean it. I was just sayin', you know, that I was suffering considerably from the intensity of the efforts to clean this garden up. Every year has had its all-consuming tasks, like attacking one particular area of the garden and trying to improve it, sometimes with some success, but more often ultimately disappointing. Live and learn, or garden and learn, has become my motto. You need a thick skin to garden, not only for the rose and Firethorn bushes, but to manage the disappointments when you don't really know what you are doing.

I'll let you in on a secret: some people actually go to school to learn how to design gardens, and others, if they are any good, got a much earlier start than I did at 41 years of age facing a garden gone totally to weed, suckers and overgrowth with no garden budget to speak of.

There was only one real option: DYI.

And, there was only one real "Y": me.

The other "Y" present had been around for a few years before I arrived in Moosesucks, and let's just say that that "Y" had not manifested a considerable energy or resolve faced with the great literary thematic device of Man versus Nature. So, I began "do"ing "it", and aside from the fear that I might possibly have wasted important years of my life to "go down in history" for something (my objective at 25, as I vainly cried into the telephone receiver to my stepfather once, as he far more than kindly and tolerantly listened to my grandiosity, was to be known to History, and it only just occurs to me that this might be my punishment prior to actual death), I did begin to learn, only far, far too slowly given the time gardens take to let you know if you are succeeding.

The other secret: Pain is no excuse not to get out there and finish your work. Neither is the flu.

Yes, we went to Morzine-Avoriaz for a few days of spring skiing last week, and I returned bien grippée. I am, it turns out, a sensitive and delicate creature. My shoulders, thighs and attitude are highly misleading. In the tourist bus that wound its way back down to Annemasse and the highway to the TGV station in Bellegarde, everyone complained of the ventilation.

I refuse, steadfastly, to complain of ventilation, except when it is utterly absent, as in the case of getting in behind the steering wheel and suffocating, which is a sign that my husband, the complainer in the case of air conditioning and ventilation of any sort, including windows left ouvertes once it is no longer anything but stifling hot outside (and even then at night... you never know what will get inside, carried on the non-existent drafts), has been the last to drive the car.

The ventilation system was on full blast.

"Droit dans la gueule," or "right his face", complained my husband, while a few others pulled their sweaters and jackets up to protect themselves from the drafts. "Je commence à avoir mal à la gorge." I feared the worst. It is unpleasant to travel with a mildly infected man. You'd think you need more than a TGV full of pediatrians on their way back from a medical congress.

La gueule is a word you must know if ever you come to France. It refers to the face, more specifically, as in the case of animals, to the mouth (la gueule du chien), and is used in several very important verbs and combined words, such as: gueuler, or "to yell at"; se faire engueuler, or "to be yelled at"; and dégueuler, or "to puke".

The last is, I should think, self-explanatory, given the meaning concerning dogs. Which brings to mind dégueulasse, or "disgusting" (not to be used in polite society, where it is better to stick to dégoûtant(e)).

Gorge is another interesting word in French, given that it refers to the throat, as in mal à la gorge, or sore throat, but it also extends all the way to bust of a woman. Let me explain. The item of feminine lingerie we call a "bra", short for a word that the grandmothers and even the mothers of women of a certain age (mine) knew, "brassière", and pronounced "bra-zeer", is commonly referred to as a soutien gorge, or a soutif for short (not to be used in elegant company, however).

How, I ask, did the French get there, when a brassière had a perfectly understandable meaning, as an item of clothing resembling a camisole with sleeves intended to support the poitrine, or a delicate way of referring to the breasts of a woman by merely referring to the part of the body that begins at the bottom of the neck and extends to the abdomen. We all know what women have there without having to say it. Like the *[redacted], or the part of the body where babies are until they are born, and once conception and implantation have been achieved.

Please go here next, sign and return to this blog. Thank you.

Actually, you'll have to settle for reading this since the site launched by the Florida ACLU seems to be down temporarily. It's probably overwhelmed with visits, even at this early hour in the States. Which makes very very glad to be in France, where it is the same word, and everyone is very comfortable saying it, and where there are a zillion ways to refer to the male member, or the penis.

Did I upset anyone? We can just use the word "verge" (the first "e" being pronounced like "air"; I don't want anyone laughing at you) from now on. Please note that it is feminine, like "bite" (pronounced "beet", and a big no-no in polite society), but unlike "zizi" (pronounced "zee-zee", and perfectly appropriate when talking to young children about this part of the body). In its feminine form, "Zizie" is the name of Titeuf's little sister. Feel better?

Which sort of oddly, or even straightforwardly, given the activities of the insects and the bees and the flowers, as well as, surely, the birds (being far more discreet) at this time, brings me back to the garden with one last word on the ventilation system on the bus. It was while standing on the platform, waiting for the TGV that my gorge began to hurt, and now my poitrine is full of nastiness. Maybe I should start to be concerned about air-born bacteria in bus ventilation systems, or skiing after too much wine and too many late, elaborate dinners.

But, I digress. The soutien gorge is an exceptional case of French modesty in all matters sexual, it supports the "gorge", which in this case does not mean the "throat". No, I joke. The French never feel the necessity for excessive modesty in all things sexual. "Gorge" referred to the breasts in times gone by, as in gorges de miel, or this sublime phrase from Balzac's Lys, written in 1836 (page 25, according to this online dictionary, but I bet the rest is worth reading, too):
Je (...) fus complètement fasciné par une gorge chastement couverte d'une gaze, mais dont les globes azurés et d'une rondeur parfaite étaient douillettement couché dans des flots de dentelle.

I swoon, but I digress.

Ordinarily, I find it wrenching to leave the Alps and put my ski equipment away, but not after spring skiing, when I have work to complete in the garden, and the wisteria is poised to burst into glorious, airy violet bloom. Which is not to be missed. It happens fairly suddenly, and it only lasts a short moment in garden time. It repeats, but very weakly, later in the summer. And, while I was gone, the pink tulips opened.

I apologize in advance for my inability to edit not only my writing, but my photos.

Now, it's time to go out and clip the box hedge along the stairs before I finish the big viburnum and some kind of conifer hedge down in the bottom garden. That is the big job of the moment.

C'mon, Garden Dog and Rapide, on y va.
* u-t-e-r-u-s

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