Already enamoured with the English language and its intriguing etymology,
I have finally ventured beyond simple French texts and find myself in
the pages of novels (or in this case, a volume of short tales) that were
once incomprehensible and are now ‘increasingly becoming clearer’ as my
vocabulary expands, along with my communication skills.
It is as if the clouds that have surrounded me are lifting and I can
finally see the sky. Of course there are many words or expressions that
elude me, yet once ‘looked up,’ they take the first steps towards becoming
part of my repertoire. Those who live immersed in another language and
culture will relate to the frustration that accompanies ‘lost nuances’
and the efforts required just to accurately express feelings and opinions,
or to enter into dinner table discussions.
The first challenge is to understand – to have an ear for the many
accents and to be able to differentiate all that is uttered, often
at impressive speeds, as regional patois enters and ‘argot’ (slang)
cuts phrases, or peppers conversations with terms that ‘become evident’
only with ‘exposure’ and integration.
Listening, words start to stand out, and eventually contributing, begin
to make sense and somehow find context. It is an art that requires
patience and courage – which is found when miracles happen and words
‘appear’ as if by magic when needed. Due to the incredible capacity of
our brain to absorb, assimilate, process and retain information – even in
a dream state – the ‘switch’ that allows direct transmission is finally
triggered, and instead of thinking, or consciously being aware of a
translation taking place, words are spoken and in turn understood.
Reading solidifies this learning process, hard-wiring words that existed
as ‘sound’ and giving them new form as their spelling is committed
to memory. And eventually, after a certain level of ‘input’ has been
reached, written ‘output’ becomes a little easier. The culmination of
practice, necessity and constant energy applied, results in a new level
of comprehension, which increases every single day as new words enter
and find a space alongside ‘what we already know’ – adding constantly to
our capacity to grow and evolve beyond the ‘comfort zone’ as a door is
opened to a new world, or in this case a book… to the Provence of old.
Having just read ‘Le Château de ma Mère’ (Marcel Pagnol, 1958), I am
once again immersed in Provençal life as I begin ‘Lettres de mon Moulin’
(Alphonse Daudet, 1911), studying the map with interest and drawn into
a rural setting that describes a working mas – painting a picture of
what daily life might have been like here (at Mas Reste) in the same
epoch. Expanding my understanding of the history of the South of France,
and the part we all play in preserving traditions, reading the
ever-changing conditions that affect the land – the silent language
that cannot be gained from books as it comes from direct experience
and keen observation, or communion with nature…
…once predictable, as world events attest, ‘climate change’ brings
many adjustments to the tried and true methods that have worked in
the past – calling on us to listen closely to ‘intuition’ or instincts
that arise, rather than ‘experts,’ for those who have always lived
with an ear to the ground know when it is time to make a move and
respond to change, adapting and remaining open to new experiences.
As life here takes me in a new direction, the only thing I can be sure of
is that it is one of ‘expansion’ – as the journey beyond what has already
been written accelerates to encompass even more of the ‘unknown,’ which
seeks to become ‘the known’.
Knowing (written a few years ago…)
From the heart
Un mas: the usual word in the south for a farm-steading. Etymologically
it is connected with ‘maison,’ and from it is derived the name Dumas
(with which compare Dumont, Dubois, Duval, etc.).