Shelter for a cart on its last leg.
un abri (ah-bree) noun, masculine
shelter, cover; screen
Je répète...celui qui aime et qui est aimé est à l'abri des coups du sort!
I repeat...he who loves and who is loved is sheltered from fateful blows! --Alfred de Musset
At the end of a swaying line of yellow irises, their green feet tickled by a slow moving rivulet, I saw our neighbor.
"Come on over," Mr. Delhome called out, indicating the makeshift bridge. "I have something for madame." Jean-Marc and I stepped off the path that we had been following during an evening walk.
My husband approached the stream, stepped onto the first of two overlapping wooden crates before catching my hand as I put one foot then the other across the planked pont.*
Our neighbor was planting a row of trees along the south end of a parcel of vines, just across the field and over the stream from our house. I noticed a flowering lilac bush, newly planted, its scented blossoms as white as the peak of Mont Ventoux which we could see in the distance. I wondered why Monsieur Delhome had taken the trouble to decorate this corner of an immense field. It wasn't as if there was a potager* to enjoy alongside it. (Peep's* garden was just down the creek, below an immense plane tree; now that would be a nice place for a lilac bush! And Mr. Delhome might enjoy his flowers more often at that end--Peep being Mr Delhome's father). But here, far across the field from Peep's garden, there was only row on row of vines which mimicked the rows of vines all around and off into the vine horizon. One would only come here to tend grapevines, and yet there is a lovely lilac plant to soothe the eyes on a scorching day.
The trunk of Mr. Delhome's car was open and a few tiny trees remained. It seemed he was planting an oliveraie* in the lonely space between the vines and the creek. "You'll need to plant it "à l'abri du Mistral,"* monsieur said, offering me what looked like an olive branch tucked into a small black carton.
My neighbor might as well have offered me a cozy wingback chair in which to read a favorite book, or a patchwork quilt to use by the fireside: the organic gift triggered the same comforting delight.
"Je...je suis... Merci beaucoup, monsieur!" I stammered.
I tried to imagine where we would put the little olive tree amidst the tractors and piles of broken cement. Now six weeks into renovation, the front terrace of our farmhouse is a stockyard of old doors, wooden crates, and broken concrete.
As if reading my mind, monsieur offered, "If you don't have a place for it right now," he said of the delicate tree, "you can put it in a protective clay pot. It just needs shelter from the Mistral."
I stared at the little olive branch which was as fragile as a vagabond's heart. And when the wind howls, as it will--whether across an empty plain or within a veinard's* soul when luck runs out--each needs a quiet abri.*
Monsieur's message, if not intended for a mere mortal, was not lost on me. I tucked it away, not knowing when this simple truth might sing to a weatherworn spirit. And then there was today.
References: le pont (m) = bridge; le potager (m) = kitchen garden; Peep = (pronunciation for the French word for pipe--which hangs from the corner of this man's mouth and afterwhich he is called); une oliveraie (f) = olive plantation; à l'abri du Mistral = sheltered from the Mistral (wind); veinard(e) = lucky devil; un abri (m) = shelter
un abribus = bus shelter
un abri-garage = carport
l'abrivent = windbreak
un abri bétonné = bunker
prendre abri = to take cover
le sans-abri = homeless person
The Olive Farm by Carol Drinkwater
A Good Year (soundtrack)
Traditional Savon de Marseille Olive oil Soap block in decorative tin
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For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety