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How the French find Joie de Vivre in daily life

 joie de vivre

“She wanted to live, and live fully, and to give life, she who loved life! What was the good of existing, if you couldn’t give yourself?”

― Émile Zola, The Joy of Life

Joie de vivre. A love of life. Joy in living.

The sound of those words lights the spirit, makes one want to gulp up life, travel, explore, laugh, love and enjoy. Ah!

Life’s lovelies flood France. Joy and excitement are walking down every charming street, sitting in every café. It’s simple, you might say, to be in love with life when surrounded by such adorable enjoyments.

But there is a secret, of course. It’s not that easy. There is a hidden switch: it’s simple to discover adorable enjoyments when one is in love with life. Joie de vivre.

As the summer holiday season spans before us, simple pleasures, when relished and absorbed, fully evoke the good life in France. You’ll find fragments of luxury, thoughtfully inserted, establish a refined sense of taking one’s time. I can’t imagine anything more calming, more centering that being gently guided to take one’s time (guilt free, easy with the pressures).

joie de vivreBeing invited out of the sun, under a large café umbrella, so lightly touched by a warm breeze, to share a glass of wine, a small plate of herbed nuts, with a loved one…or a friendly stranger that can spin a story…or a mutty dog that rests peacefully at your feet. And why not? What else is there to do when these little things are so divine.

It deepens the breath, expands the mind. These things are not to be forgotten.

A lovely linen napkin, carefully folded. A milk-white cup and saucer filled with black coffee. A bottle of wine, half-full (the other half in your belly).  These pleasures create a purifying pause, a sit-back in one’s chair. And from that view you’ll miss nothing. You’ll see the happiness all around. It’s what drives the cars, hugs the children, wears the hats, picks the herbs…

My husband I shared a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc last week, legs stretched out, weekend ahead of us. It was divine in spirit, felt  fabulous. The conversation was about jalapenos (an odd finish), melons (a lovely nose), peppered gouda (a misguided choice with the wine) but it trailed, and went everywhere. It was a moment of love and happiness. It was a joie de vivre moment.  Later that weekend we picked basil, watched birds, discovered an outdoor concert. All experiences handed out by the universe, waiting to be enjoyed.

The French have been envied and observed for this knack, they make it look easy to stroll into pleasure and treats. Here’s their secret: it is easy. What’s waiting for you?

 Jill Barth is a writer who thinks you’d like a lovely glass of wine. She lives a darling imaginary life at Small Things Honored.

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