1. fold, sheepfold
2. home, the family fold
Quand les bushman d'Afrique du Sud rentrent au bercail, ils s'enduisent la langue de boue pour exprimer leur attachement à leur sol. When South African San bushmen come home, they smear their tongues with dirt to express their love of the earth. -from the book Extra/Ordinary Objects
Friday afternoon the kids, the dog, the garden chairs, and I crawled north along the autoroute du soleil.* Crammed into the car along with the forks, knives, sheets, lamps, peanut butter, and other indispensables,* we fought rush-hour traffic and a wind so strong it sent us zigzagging into the future. Undaunted, we raced like snails to make it to Saint-Cécile before the sun slipped below the western plain and its never-ending vine horizon. We were on our way home, if only for the weekend.
Pulling into the driveway, we were met for the first time by the starry lights of the town of Séguret. Looking north, we could see the village of Carignan -- now a great cluster of fallen stars beneath a blackening sky. I finally could understand Jean-Marc's decision to part with the pigpen. Taking the splinter of a farm shed out of the eye, we could see the starry heavens beyond. Past the fallen barn, the land plunged into a valley of vines bordered by a spring water creek and a wild, thyme-scented garrigue.*
Something about the field and the rushing water recalled my American childhood and for once I felt the restless gypsy within me stagger to a halt. Silenced by the discovery, I studied the scenery beyond and noted the uncanny similarities. Though an ocean away and on another continent, there it was, the
landscape of my childhood reflected here, in the French countryside. There, was the purple mountain that I gazed at as a child (only our mountain was called Shaw Butte, not Mont-Ventoux). And here, below, the rushing water of a French spring, like our desert wash (or stream bed) back home after the monsoon season. Looking up, I saw the field that once bordered our mobile home park. The dirt field with its sweep of desert broom where I used to collect wildflowers now blossomed with grapevines. The mountain, stream, and field aligned to reproduce perfectly my childhood stomping grounds. I turned now to revisit my long-lost home. Only, instead of the single-wide trailer, I stood facing an immense French farmhouse. The washing machine, once parked out on the front porch, had disappeared along with the desert mirage and, with it, the teenage sisters who fought over the bell-bottomed jeans inside of it.
In French, the word "bercail" is synonymous with "home" and the French have a saying: "ramener au bercail la brébis égarée" (to bring the lost sheep back to the fold). I have this feeling, here in my heart, not far from where that gypsy stopped dead in her snail-paced tracks, that I have finally come home.
References: l'autoroute (f) du soleil = superhighway of the sun; indispensable = essential; la garrigue (f) = wild mediterranean scrubland
:: Audio Clip :: Download Bercail.wav
Après les vacances on rentre au bercail.
(After vacation we return home.)
Terms & Expressions:
les douceurs du bercail = home sweet home
bercail pour agneaux = sheepfold, sheep pen
rentrer au bercail = to come back to the fold (politician), to return to the fold
French language software
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