Rembrandt has become to my spring what the mistral was to my winter: an unexpected thread, weaving together random events. My last reference to the Dutch master will be the part of him I loved first: tulips. Rembrandt tulips. As a young boy, tulips were the first flower I learned to recognize and draw and as a young gardener, the brightly painted Rembrandt variety were the first tulips I planted. This year I’ve planted them in pots I can port about the garden where needed.
Monday they hosted us in the garden morning ’til evening, surrounding us like a visual chorus, as we drank coffee outdoors at breakfast, gardened away the afternoon and finally relaxed at days-end with cocktails, surrounded by them tucked beneath flowering trees.
With designs on a dinner al fresco in our Patois Eden, we meandered to the kitchen to leisurely putz away together, assembling a porterhouse steak with bourbon cream sauce, baked potatoes and a summery cucumber-tomato salad with capers. It was to be the first dinner of our twenty-third year together and time to celebrate. Like any relationship crossing decades, we’ve risen victorious over some difficult years and Monday we deserved a reveling of cocktails, steak and champagne.
But every Eden has its fall and ours came the minute Jim laid the salad on the table by the fish pond. A swarm of those tiny black, vinegar-loving bugs lit onto the salad like an inedible Dada garnish. Without loosing a beat, we turned heel and set our portable feast, sans salade, at a small, ancient oak table in the living room, just big enough for two. With a view of the garden, a centerpiece of forced Rembrandts and three little dogs sniffing in hope at our feet, our candle-lit dinner evoked the timeless aura of a happy moment borrowed from Dickens, the Brontës or E. M. Forster. In the gloaming light of a day well-spent, our contented hearts reveled equally in recent hours and spent years: not a bad way to end a day or begin a year. Our own Howards End.