My Gaulish warrior is here.
Topknot fastened as usual when he works, he coaxes wild allium out of the flower bed and quietly removes clover; he spies snails and removes them to safer grounds. His movements are unhurried, sure, methodical.
We work on opposite side of the flowerbed.
He tells me about errant turtles he has found recently; an escaped parrot that showed up one day around his home and stayed for two years; a strange rat that used to live right in the bougainvillea, practically above our heads where we are working, years ago, when my mom was still alive.
I ask him about the cry of night birds that sounds so mechanical I am not at all sure it’s a bird.
“Ah! You are hearing our local owls sending invitations to each other up and down the hills,” he says as he looks up at me, a smile in his eyes the color of pine bark when the sun is almost gone behind the mountain. His head slightly tilted to the side, he waits for another question or reply.
“How big are they?” I ask.
“They are hard to see, let alone catch… but I have seen one a while back. They are about this big” he says spreading the air vertically between his hands about a foot, placing the bird in one palm and sheltering its head with the other.
I nod. He looks comfortable crouching on the grass, in his element, and as I watch his hands holding the imaginary bird, then go back to gently pulling at weeds, convincing them to give up bulb and roots, I recognize the gesture of a healer in a blink of Time’s warp and weft.
Petit-duc scops – Photo : Christophe Sidamon-Pesson