The Shepherd’s Hour

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The village streetlamps press their huge amber pearls against the still-light sky.
In the garden, the gentle squeaking of the swings has stopped. The moon, orange and round like a burst pomegranate, has just left the tops of the tall ash trees.
It is the shepherd’s hour. Mathilde takes a breath. At last. This hour is her own. There, before her, the big house huddled in the darkness grows quiet, all its windows open. The little night breezes slip in, singing their ballads. And in the bedrooms, cradled, listened to, reassured, her children (her own little flock) have fallen asleep. Beneath her feet, the grass is still warm, but a coolness runs over her shoulders and down the back of her neck like a fountain.
In a few hours, the night will gather up its stars, the dew will lift and it will be tomorrow. Tomorrow with all its bustle, with the demands of her patients (who she sometimes calls her impatients), with its disappointments and dissatisfactions, tomorrow she will plunge back again into the hectic tumult…
But right now, in this hour that is hers alone, her shepherd’s hour, like the man at peace on his mountain, among his flock and the sleepy streams, time stops for Mathilde and in the beautiful spreading silence, she says to herself that right here and now everything is just fine.

Translated by Wendy Cross


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