Lockdown, Day 21: The Everyday Heroes of Essoyes

April 7, 2020 at 4:57 pm 6 comments


Essoyes in Champagne. Photo by Janet Hulstrand.

I thought it would be nice this week to talk about what everyday life is like in Essoyes these days, beginning with talking about those who have been continuing to work, every day, while the rest of us do our best to stay home as much as possible.

I’d like to first of all thank the people here in Essoyes who are doing such a great job of helping keep us informed of all the things we need to know–from which businesses will be open each and every day, to updated information about the ever-evolving rules of confinement as they are distributed by the government, to warnings about some of those unkind people who are unfortunately taking advantage of the situation to steal, rob, or otherwise trick the innocent and unsuspecting.  😦

But never mind them: forewarned is forearmed. Most people, not just here, but around the world, are discovering how much good we all have to share with each other. For one local example, both Essoyes and our neighboring village of Mussy sur Seine were featured yesterday in an article in the regional newspaper about community involvement in making masks. And through our mairie, volunteers have been bringing groceries, medicines and other necessary items to those who for whom it is difficult to get out, or who should not be going out.

These wonderful volunteers are helping to keep spirits and morale high also, in various ways. One way is by establishing our own local version of a nightly thanks to all the essential workers who are keeping us fed, caring for the sick, delivering the mail, picking up the garbage, and helping us in various other ways. Here is a link to the song Essoyens are blasting out their windows every night at 8 pm. The first few days, there were only a few people doing it and it was a bit hard to hear from where we are on the edge of town. But it seems to me that it grows a bit louder every night, so that now I can hear it better and better, drifting across the fields. It is indeed an encouraging sound, and a great way to remind us all that though we’re supposed to be keeping a good distance from each other these days, we can find new ways to be a community.


Spring Wheat in Essoyes. Photo by Janet Hulstrand.

Of course the farmers and vignerons continue their work. I often hear the enjambeurs heading out to the vineyards early in the morning. In the field next to our house the colza is beginning to blossom, and the wheat is that pure shade of green that you see only in spring; and it is a lovely sight to see when I take my daily walks, attestation de déplacement and identification safely stored in my pocket.

Our community Facebook page is also taking the time every day to salute all the other “everyday heroes” who are continuing to serve the community through this difficult period. The bakers. The traiteurs. Our grocer and his wife. The pharmacists, and nurses, the tabac (which does far more than sell cigarettes in France).  For the most part, in short, everyone is demonstrating just how well people in France, generally speaking, understand the meaning of solidarité. 

For example, I had arranged with the local taxi company to pick my son up for me at the train station in Vendeuvre, about half an hour away from here, right before this period of confinement began. Originally he was supposed to arrive conveniently at around 5:30 p.m.; but because of one cancelled train and another delayed one, it was 8:00 pm by the time he got there (which is dinner time in France, do you know what that means?!)

Nonetheless, the taxi company shifted; they were there waiting for him; they brought him to me safely and cheerfully, and when I called to thank the manager the following morning for helping us out, he used that phrase I hear so often in France. “C’est normal…” he said.

Well, it wasn’t really “normal” in this case: it was exceptional service, graciously and willingly offered because they knew we were in a pinch.

That is what solidarity is like: millions of relatively small, kind, gracious acts that we perform for each other to help us get through rough times, and easier ones too. I am grateful for the spirit of solidarity that surrounds me every day here in Essoyes, even when my daily walks there have been curtailed. And I am reminded of it every day, when I hear that music come floating across the fields…

Stay safe. Stay happy if you can. And stay well…until next week…

Janet Hulstrand is a writer, editor, writing coach, and teacher of writing and of literature who divides her time between the U.S. and France. She is the author of Demystifying the French: How to Love Them, and Make Them Love You, and is currently working on her next book, a literary memoir entitled “A Long Way from Iowa.”



Entry filed under: About Essoyes, About Quarantine 2020. Tags: , , .

Lockdown in France, Day 14 Lockdown in France, Continued…

6 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Deborah T Smith  |  April 7, 2020 at 5:11 pm

    Thanks for a beautiful report . . . and photos . . . and song!

  • 2. Janet Hulstrand  |  April 7, 2020 at 6:59 pm

    Thank you, Deborah! 🙂

  • 3. vagabonde  |  April 8, 2020 at 3:27 am

    I found your blog, par hasard. I enjoyed your post but I had to look up where Essoyes is – it’s in the Aube, no? Never been there. My parents lived in Paris, 9eme arrondissement, then my mother moved to Neuilly-Plaisance. It looks pretty where you are. It sounds like the people are friendly. I am moving from Atlanta to Nashville (center town.) I have not been out of the house since March 15 and have seen no one, not one neighbor. But then I am a mile from Vanderbilt University and most of the neighbors are students and faculty – who by the way are still walking in groups. I have not seen any of them wearing a mask yet.
    We are all trying to do the best we can and are so grateful for the people who have to work.

    • 4. Janet Hulstrand  |  April 8, 2020 at 6:15 am

      Thank you for this nice note, Vagabonde! 🙂 I’m glad you enjoyed my post. And yes, Essoyes is in l’Aube, kind of between Troyes and Dijon. Almost into Burgundy. It is very beautiful here, and yes, there are a lot of good people here. (There are a lot of good people everywhere, thank goodness!) Stay safe, and stay well, and make of this time the most that you can. 🙂

  • 5. Darlene Schroeder  |  April 8, 2020 at 7:19 pm

    Janet, Sounds a lot like rural Minnesota. It’s a small world! Thanks for sharing.

    • 6. Janet Hulstrand  |  April 13, 2020 at 4:01 pm

      Thanks, and yes it is. Both a lot like rural Minnesota, and very very different. Thus, both comforting and fascinating/exotic. 🙂


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