La soif: thirst for life

J’ai soif. I’m thirsty.

To ‘have’ thirst (or hunger, or cold, or sleep) is how we express basic needs in French.

I am often thirsty. Which means I drink a lot. Water. Coffee. Tea. Beer. Wine. Not always in that order. But in general, I am someone who needs a lot of liquids. Unlike others who forget to hydrate unless they make a point of it, I actually enjoy drinking water. When I’m truly thirsty, I prefer tap water to anything else. I always have a glass of water on my desk as I work. A bottle of water when I travel.

Pretty sure I’m not diabetic, so what does this mean? Other than the fact I never stray too far from the loo. Maybe it runs deeper than a physical need.

J’ai soif de la vie. I’m thirsty for life, for information, for always trying to do better than I did yesterday. I don’t always succeed – far from it. But I keep trying.

It’s a good thing I’m not a tree. Around here it is drier this fall than I’ve ever seen it in France. We’ve had maybe one rain since August, and the entire summer was basically a drought. The leaves on the trees are crispy, their branches stiff with dryness. The exposed earth has big cracks in it. It would take days, weeks of rain for nature to get to back to normal.

It’s scary. I’m not even sure ‘normal’ as we once knew it will ever return. There is a drought warning from mild to severe in almost every region of France. There are water restrictions for farmers and the water tables everywhere are dangerously low.

Here is a map of where the worst drought conditions are:

We are in an ‘orange’ zone next to Switzerland in the 74 department of Haute Savoie, which means fairly severe restrictions on water use. Yet my next-door neighbour waters her personal garden of Eden every night. All summer long I’ve been tempted to carry out a stealth operation and go shut it down but in the interests of peace I have refrained. But it breaks my heart to see the fields so dry and the human energy pigs with their green oases

I’m not really one to judge. We have a swimming pool. Still, I try to fill it as little as possible and stay sensitive to what’s going on around me.

The EU voted to ban single-use plastics yesterday. It’s a step in the right direction. And it’s not like the impact on our lives will be so huge. I mean, who really needs plastic straws? Seriously? Or disposable cups for that matter. We can always buy or bring a refillable bottle when we go out.

I have an unquenchable thirst. I hope to satisfy it a little each day by trying to think differently, to rearrange my life a little.

J’ai soif. Et toi?


  1. midihideaways · October 25, 2018

    It’s extraordinary to find our department (34) surrounded by yellow, orange and red. Until the recent downpours, we had not really had any rain since the spring, yet somehow we managed to escape the water restrictions.

    As for the single use plastic ban, I wonder if legislation is the best way to go about it, just as for the ban on incandescent lightbulbs etc. If there was more awareness about the impact of single use straws, and the big fast food chains and restaurants stopped distributing them , the problem would soon be solved. I’m sure that they’ll just produce heavier straws, label them multi-use and keep selling the stuff. Big business always tends to find ways to make money…

    • MELewis · October 25, 2018

      It is mystifying as to why some departments escape the drought conditions and others are in the ‘red’. Probably something to do with the Gulf Stream? As for the plastics, I really think we are better off with a two-pronged approach: laws and education. Definitely the real change will come with consumers who vote with their pockets — or bring their own cups, as so many do now in trendy coffee capitals like Vancouver. Glad you have escaped the drought and the hope the recent deluge did not cause any damage!

  2. memoirsofahusk · October 25, 2018

    There are always people who are selfish about using resources to which they feel they have a right. And then there are those who are plain ignorant. There are such easy ways to stop using so many plastics – hard soap anyone? I hate those plastic bottles. Especially shower gel – I mean, detergent for your – ahem – sensitive bits??? Sorry, ranting nearly began there.
    I don’t know why, but I don’t like drinking water very much. Except when it’s really hot (rare) and I’m outside and very obviously thirsty in which case, gallons gulped But I drink copious amounts of tea, Wake Cup, Barley Cup, Rooibos, peppermint tea, fennel tea…. In fact, time to put the kettle on. Just enough water for the cup!

    • MELewis · October 25, 2018

      Yes, the soap thing I recently cottoned on to and am shifting away from liquids where possible. Especially as it’s virtually impossible to find the refill containers around here. My biggest carbon crime in sparkling water, as I love it and can’t find it glass bottles around here. Also not interested in the soda stream solution as it involves too much technology. Funny about not drinking water — I know several people like you. I think it must be in our genes. I do love the teas and tisanes though…enjoy your cuppa!

  3. phildange · October 25, 2018

    Hello Mel . As often I’ll make a comment far from your main theme (just for fun, hope you don’t mind) since i’m not concerned : I quitted drinking when they gave me the choice ; give up smoking or give up all liquids . You can imagine I made the easiest choice .

    I sometimes think about how languages induce our vision of universe and ourselves, and I often thought that English and French universes were fundamentally different and complementary ( I see English as an horizontal language and French as a vertical language) . See, I am thirsty, I am afraid, I am cold, I am 20 y/o . And in French I have thirst, I have fear, I have coldness, I have 20 years .
    English language structurally makes people associate themselves with the condition, I AM, while in French it’s not me, it’s a thing I HAVE . I always found this deeply “thinkable”… .
    For people who have some time to lose of course . Come and have a glass, cheers !

    • MELewis · October 25, 2018

      I always enjoy your comments, Phil. First, as a former smoker and current drinker, I can understand your choice: surely it is easier to enjoy a cigarette without a drink than vice versa? 😉 On a more literary note, I also get your idea about language. The way we express something has a huge influence on how we perceive ourselves. Absolutely agree that the English way of being defined by the thing we are feeling is significant – we are the thing — compared to French where where we ‘have’ the thing. Never thought of it in spatial terms but in some sense I get it — French is a hierarchical language just like the culture – and English, the flat org chart, feels more organic. So vertical vs horizontal makes sense on one level. You either feel such things or you don’t, and I think we are similar in that. As for the glass, I always have time for at least one! 🍷

  4. poshbirdy · October 25, 2018

    We used to buy supermarket soups in ‘recyclable’ containers every day for lunch at our desks. Now I make soups at home at the weekend and re-use those old containers (now washed, of course). Sadly I have very little trust in recycling initiatives and I believe they have been used to dupe many well-meaning people into continuing to buy goods in avoidable packaging. I put my own hand up to that, but am getting wiser now. I’ve never liked hard soap, so that makes it hard to get away from liquids, though I do buy refills wherever possible and I believe that more outlets should provide direct refill services. Sadly, the main appeal of so many overpriced goods is in the packaging which makes them gift-able, and that’s something that really needs to be addressed

    • MELewis · October 25, 2018

      It seems like these things come in waves, driven by marketing trends rather than societal interests. A few years ago, there were quite a few refills for various products on the supermarket shelves; now I see almost none. Is it where we live? Or just that consumers don’t care? I do like hard soap, so for me this makes sense. But surely we should have options, and if you prefer liquid, there should be an ecologically friendly way to get it. The whole brand and packaging thing is a huge influence. I’m not opposed to it, but there should be a ‘no-name’ (whatever happened to that?) or store brand option that is eco-friendly. I think it starts with awareness and it feels like we’re at the beginning of that finally after all these years…😭

  5. Suzanne et Pierre · October 25, 2018

    A thirst for life is a very important thing and it does go with paying attention to what we do to our environment. I never buy bottled water if I can avoid it; only in countries where the tap water isn’t safe to drink. We have also seen the effect of the drought in France when we visited the Lot & Aveyron in early October. It was a lot warmer than we had expected and the fields were yellow and the leaves had already started changing colours. Though it was still a lovely trip… (Suzanne)

    • MELewis · October 25, 2018

      I’m very pleased that you made it back to France this year, Suzanne! What you saw in the heartland was very similar to what we experienced since late summer: leaves falling before they were ready, too warm temperatures and everything so dry. Still, it is a wonderful part of our country and I look forward to seeing your photos.

      • Suzanne et Pierre · October 25, 2018

        You are totally right. We have already started posting the pictures from the trip on our blog if you want to see them. Lot & Aveyron are very nice area and it was a very nice trip.

      • MELewis · October 26, 2018

        Thanks for pointing that out! I seem to miss all the best posts in my reader these days… You have inspired me to want to return to this wonderful region of France.

  6. Taste of France · October 25, 2018

    Even as we just got several months’ of rain in a few hours, I see Aude still in orange on your map. As for watering, check out this excellent podcast:
    I am trying to get rid of all grass in our yard. We don’t have much, just a rectangle in the back that we don’t water. I want to make it a drought-resistant paradise for bees, birds and butterflies, a jungle of native plants with little paths going through.
    We also cart around our refillable metal water bottles, filled with tap water. Starting to see metal straws.
    At the same time, modern plumbing and building codes are set up for waste. When I lived in Africa, with no running water (well, I ran to the pump down the road, when it worked, or to the stream), I tell you every drop was used multiple times. I caught my “shower” water (a few cupfuls of cold water poured over myself) to use to wash the floors; same with dishwater. Everything too dirty went to the plants. In “developed” countries, however, systems that collect graywater for flushing toilets are against building codes.

    • MELewis · October 25, 2018

      Your experience in Africa is humbling. My son spent some time in South America, and when he came home was constantly fishing out of the bin bits of foil and plastic that I threw away to reuse them. These are valuable lessons that we need to learn; so much we take for granted can be challenged and changed. I will listen to the podcast on lawns with pleasure. We landscaped the front of our house with no grass, only stones and plantes ‘rampantes’…but the backyard has a bit of a lawn, and it is yellow and brown. But who cares? It will bounce back as soon as we have a bit of rain, and anyway it’s full of weeds as I don’t want to put chemicals on it.

  7. nessafrance · October 27, 2018

    I also drink a lot of water, but I drink wine, too, probably more than I should. I have a similar thirst for information and for self-improvement. Having a magpie mind, my own writings tend to range widely, but probably not deeply.

    Over here in SW France, our drought broke a couple of weeks ago with heavy rainfall. Despite that, it’s still very dry. The leaves began to fall early and vehicles on our lane whip up small dust storms of dried mud. This, I believe, is planning to change over the next week or so. After all, it’s Toussaint on Thursday…

    • MELewis · October 31, 2018

      Well, they got that right! Although today is sunny, our area also got a couple of days of rain. As you say, it’s barely enough to moisten the surface as the land is so dry. Still, there is hope that more precipitation will fall, although I fear around here it is likely to be snow. It seems we are off to an early start to the winter. ☃️ P.S. Good to know I’m not the only one keeping the French vineyards in business! (Husband went teetotal two years ago…)

      • nessafrance · October 31, 2018

        On Monday the temperature didn’t struggle above 1 C. We were fully expecting to wake up to a dusting of snow on Tuesday, which would be highly unusual in October. Warmer now, but windy and damp.
        My husband and I do pretty well at keeping the vineyards going – except in January, when we always have a dry month. It’s a long one, too…

  8. fatdormouse · November 10, 2018

    I find if I keep tap water in the fridge I have no problem drinking it – it’s just straight from the tap that it tastes yucky. Sparkling water is our bug bear too – all those plastic bottles, but we enjoy it so much!!

    • MELewis · November 11, 2018

      Sparkling water is one indulgence I would really struggle to give up. Why can’t they bring back glass bottles?

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