I live in a small village in the mountains of the south of France, 20 minutes from both Nice and Cannes called “Le Rouret.”
The villa we rent is at the very top of this mountain village, and 200 meters from a hiking trail that leads into miles and miles of dense mountain forest that is owned by the state.
Although France was shut down for COVID-19, Le Rouret remained fairly open with the bakery, butcher, and supermarket open throughout the two months of lock down.
… But most importantly, the hiking trails into the very dense forest next to our home, never closed.
So for the past many months, nearly every day, even when I am fasting, I go for a 90+ minute hike/jog twice a day, and many paths are very steep, thus these hikes are great cardio and physical training.
Very often I hike up the mountain with a folding armchair, my laptop, my phone and work at the top of the mountain under the trees facing an amazing view of the Mediterranean Sea.
One morning, about 3 weeks ago I met a Shepherd leading 300 sheep in the forest.
Since I would see the Shepherd and his sheep every day, a couple times a day the Shepherd and I became friends.
Within a couple days of becoming friends, the Shepherd invited me each morning to help him guide his sheep down to eat and then come back late afternoon/early evening to help him guide the sheep back up the mountain to sleep.
These sheep are considered “traditional” and are raised off the open land, and not kept on a farm.
This land is owned by the town, and the owner of the sheep just keeps them in the mountains eating and grazing…
… it helps the government maintain the land, and the farmer gets free grazing for his sheep.
Each night – these 300 sheep were left alone in the open (in a Roman ruin) at the top of the mountain with only 2 large guard dogs keeping the herd in order and or protecting them …
The Shepherd leaves them completely alone and goes back to his camper around 9pm and comes back at 7:30 am.
It was an amazing, surreal heavenly experience in the forest with only the 300 sheep and their Shepherd in the mountains of the South of France …
I enjoyed just being in the moment … walking with a Shepherd for several hours each day as he gently guided his sheep to where they needed to go.
We guided the sheep up and down many 20-30% inclines and very often without any path in front of us.
Over the week, my new friend explained many times that his secret to success leading the sheep is that he is very loving with them, but from time to time he must be strict.
He told me that the previous Shepherd was fired because he didn’t lead the sheep tight enough … I guess that Shepherd just let them do whatever they pleased and unfortunately they became spoiled and unruly.
He told me over and over, several times throughout the week that it was important that the sheep decide the path they were taking on the route he was guiding them… but at the same time to ensure they did not take him for granted.
End of that week, Friday evening he invited me to go with him to guide the sheep from our village to another village higher up on the next mountain where the sheep will remain for the rest of the summer …
The Shepherd explained that we would be guiding the sheep on the back streets, and through another small French village to a mountain plateau.
We started around 6pm … and it was beautiful, guiding the sheep through the dense mountain forests then onto the small 2 lane back streets and through the neighboring French Medieval village “Le Bar sur Loup.”
The journey took a good 3 – 4 hours, and during most of the walk, I just prayed and reflected on the surreal, heavenly seven days with the Shepherd and his sheep.
After arriving at the plateau near the top of the mountain… I said goodbye to my friend, and turned around and walked back home.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Le_Rouret (the village where I live)