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Morning temperature below 10° again. Cloudy with little blue patches, but never in the right place for sunshine.
Swooping down the hill yesterday afternoon, minus my usually-constant companion, Jakob! Lord of Misrule (sick and feeling very sorry for himself), I came upon a man.
This man was wearing a large fleece, jeans and muddy walking boots. He was sitting, still as a statue, on the damp bank by the side of the sentiero. I wondered what he could be doing. Perhaps he had turned an ankle, or was simply resting. But resting on a cold, damp, mud bank in the cold shadows within sight of a nicely painted wooden bench in the sun?
As I approached, I greeted him and he turned around to face me. He had a shock of white hair, bright blue eyes and sunshine in his face. Conscious (and perhaps over-proud) of my recent Croce Rossa training, I asked, "Sta bene?" - are you alright? He smiled and answered "Si." A moment passed as we smiled at each other, and with the smile my unspoken question fluttered between us. Plucking it out of the air, he said "Sto contando gli uccelli" - I'm counting birds. In his hands lay some gadget, and as he spoke, his eyes flew from my face back to the giant chestnut before us, its branches alive with wings.
As I bade him a quiet "buon lavoro", and continued on my way on silent feet, his outdoors sunshine smile, his ruddy cheeks and his air of contentment accompanied me in place of Jakob!. And when later I wove the story of the bird-counter I had met in the woods for a group of kindergarten kids, we all agreed that this must be one of the best jobs in the world.