"...So I called the expatriate artist from a cafe in the Vieille Porte of Marseilles...." (I have waited all my life to write that sentence.)
Friend of an Internet friend, we met on Facebook and chatted several times about the project that would bring me to France, almost to his door, to investigate Mont Ventoux and search out Petrarch's Laura. The site of the Church of St. Claire, he claimed, was visible from his garden (where early evenings he seemed always to be sipping wine with his young French wife). Of course, the church was gone, had been gone for centuries....
But now he was evasive, had become a recluse since a motorcycle accident disfigured his left jaw, and, what did he know about me anyway — a stranger from the web. Or what did I know of him? A few jpegs of abstractions. How might an American be reconfigured by the liquid pressures of the language, fluid Provençal time, the mistral bending the cypresses toward the south...?
Yet, as I tried to extricate myself from the over the phone awkwardness, made worse by the bad connection and noise of the cafe, he seemed to string me on. I could hear his wife's chiding behind in French, and again he held out the lure — his hidden garden just steps from the sanctified place where Petrarch marked his copy of Virgil's Georgics — the meeting — April 6, 1327 : "I bless the time, the place, I bless the hour...."
a hair's breadth from its flower
bee against the mistral