Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Shepherd redux

We saw the shepherd again today. It had been a frenetic morning at La Bastiole. Jules is having a stone wall built at the bottom of the garden, and there are trucks and backhoes and piles of sand and cement mixers in the parking, and men to go with all that, men who start arriving for the day at 7.30. Which is when Alice starts sounding the alarm. Then at 8.00 Jules phoned C to discuss with him some of the more arcane points of Paying For Everything in Cash, and, before we really knew what was what, he was at the back door with a list of reasons that the bank should hand over wads of cash to C to pay our--now what would we be paying in cash? and why would Jules interest himself in it? I'll leave that to your imagination. On his heels came Marcelle, our French tutor, ready for her weekly hour and a half with E and G, and alarmingly awake and bright-eyed. Alice barked throughout.

So I finished my tea, checked online to make sure that the clock was at 13 days, and then left the house with the dogs. We walked up the path to the chemin du Moulin and towards the village. Wendy found all the olives that were still semi-whole on the ground, dipping her head to scoop them up in her mouth, and Alice sniffed every tuft of grass. There was quite a bit of snow on the Pic de Courmettes. The wind was blowing, and the clouds were coming down quickly: the mountain was disappearing as we walked.

About halfway along the lane, a man stepped out from between two olive trees and began walking along several yards in front of us. He was shorter than I am by half a head, and had legs much longer than his torso. He looked mismatched, like a child had put two different dolls together. He walked with a wooden stick that reached his shoulder, and wore dark green wellington boots, dark green pants, and several bulky pullovers. No hat or gloves. It took him several paces before he heard us coming behind him--Wendy and Alice's collars jingle a little--because he was singing. Not loudly, but not under his breath, either; not humming. Singing something that I could tell had a tune, although that wasn't what he was singing, exactly. It sounded like the baritone line of a chorale: hum hum hum, a bar to meet the melody, hum hum hum, a little more melody.

When he heard us coming, during a lull in his melody, he turned around and wished me good day, but did not lose his place in the chorale. For whatever reason--and my city self wonders at it--my Crazy Person hackles did not go up. I didn't recognize him, as I do many of the people I meet on our walks, but he seemed so perfectly at ease that I just accepted that he belonged there.

And then I saw the sheep below us, on the upper terrace where the lane bends to go up to the village. They were grazing around the olive trees, butting each other along, doing their sheep thing. When we reached the bend in the lane, the singer turned down a little path towards the herd. He glanced back at me before he did, nodded and even seemed to bow, formally, a little. Then the melody line came back to his part, and he went off singing towards his flock.

1 comment:

  1. Hi - which village are you 'just down' from? Is it Bar Sur Loup?

    I'm thinking of having a 'bloggers evening' and am trying to find bloggers who don't have too far to travel.