Lockdown, Day 21: The Everyday Heroes of Essoyes

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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.¬† ūüė¶

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.

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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 solidarit√©.¬†

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 ‚ÄúA Long Way from Iowa.‚ÄĚ

 

 

April 7, 2020 at 4:57 pm 6 comments

Lockdown in France, Day 14

Well, we are going to be confined to our homes here in France for at least another two weeks. Nobody likes this idea: but all of us, especially those of us who are lucky enough to still be well (knock wood) also know that it is a shameful thing to complain about it…

Continue Reading March 30, 2020 at 11:20 am 4 comments

Lockdown Day 7: France Fights to Flatten the Curve

As I reported in my post last week, halfway measures were not working to keep people in their homes and at least a meter away from each other in France, and so on Monday night President Macron addressed the French nation again…

Continue Reading March 23, 2020 at 8:41 am 6 comments

Locked Down in Essoyes, Le Grand Est

The most striking thing to me, really, is that if any of us have ever doubted that we are in fact one human race living a somewhat precarious existence on this beautiful planet of ours; and that we all share fundamental desires, needs, and responsibilities as human beings so blessed; and that we are most certainly “in this together”–now is the time when it should be perfectly clear that we are in fact, all of those things…

Continue Reading March 16, 2020 at 2:45 pm 5 comments

Early Winter Highlights from Essoyes

…in early December the village of Essoyes marked the centenary of the death of Pierre-Auguste Renoir. The day was cold, but thankfully also clear and sunny, A substantial group of villagers, plus visiting dignitaries, joined Mayor Alain Cintrat in honoring the day by gathering at the great painter’s grave and placing a bouquet of flowers there…

Continue Reading January 11, 2020 at 1:15 pm 4 comments

Bonne Nouvelle Ann√©e d’Essoyes! (2020)


Tonight is one of the most important holidays of the year in France, as people gather to celebrate le reveillon of the New Year.

It is a night to enjoy fine food, champagne, fireworks, friends, families….in short, life!

May you enjoy seeing in the New Year wherever you are.

Wishing you all good things in 2020.

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 ‚ÄúA Long Way from Iowa.‚ÄĚ

 

 

December 31, 2019 at 8:49 pm 1 comment

Thanksgiving in France (2019)

Thanksgiving is my favorite American holiday, and I am certainly not alone in this sentiment. Americans around the world tend to carry a passionate fondness for Thanksgiving with them wherever they go, and they have a habit of introducing their friends in other countries to the special traditions, foods, and ways of celebrating it…

Continue Reading November 29, 2019 at 4:51 pm 4 comments

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