Friday, September 11, 2009

The Consummate Connoisseur

On a verdant strip of land splitting a forest of pine trees and ripples of river water, nestled within the green and surrounded by nature’s gifts of smell and sight is a modest cottage with blue shuttered windows dressed with white window planters overflowing with impatience, lives a man of extra ordinary talents. His vision of life is gifted through the lilacs, daisies, chrysanthemums and streaming irises. There are sweet smelling honeysuckle and colorful lavender. Here is the rainbow’s end, the elusive pot of gold.
And deep in the very heart of this beautiful garden are the yellow narcissus surrounded by two varieties of the aloe vera plants to soften the sharp angles of the shingled home. He loves his little heaven. The morning ritual of caressing and talking with his colorful friends that blossom for him their delight and inner sanctums of love. Yes, this place is heavenly. When you walk towards the entrance on the cobblestone path barely wide enough to fit the train of a newly wedded bride, the flowers and leaves brush against you like the whimpering house cat. Unlike the feline friend these caresses are all about giving. You are in Eden or very close to what could be Eden. The temptation to pick any flower does not rise in one’s thoughts because the grandeur and majesty of the whole would be lost but for the one.
He opens the door dressed in a white shirt and gray pants. His ample being pressed by the strained leather belt, belies his love for food. The thick grey moustache covering the upper lip with rosy cheeks filling the sides while his lower lip moves slightly when he says hello. One could charge him with a jovial and devil may care personality but one would be wrong. The care given to nature around his abode speaks volumes of his tome.
“Thanks for coming. Come in, come in!” His open welcome gives you ease of being with family and loved ones. “How are you?” and “You look good.” All of that comes naturally to him. None is casual, all with depth of desire to know and share. You feel at ease with him, like being in an embrace with a long lost friend.
“How are you John?”
“Great. Today.” He says as he heads into the clean and sparsely decorated living room. “Come sit down and we will enjoy a piece of that pie I made this morning.”
“Sure. Would love to.”
“You know, I was at a bistro four blocks from here this past Saturday and I had this Crème Brulee.” He smacked his lips and you could just see the end of his tongue glide over the lower lip. “There was something about it?” His face cocked at an angle and his eyes turned sideways as thoughts rushed in to fill the vacuum. “Ah, I have known, perfection!” He exclaimed. “The surface was a deep brown, like stilled molten gold, hard enough that you could tap it with the spoon and it would not give. It yielded to the edge of the spoon, the crust slowly cracking under the weight, slowly at first and then rapidly. The soft velvety interior enveloped the spoon.” Again the thoughts flooded in his head to give his voice a pause and his tongue to lick his lips – the after taste of a stolen adventure. “The first bite was like heaven. The crunch mixed with the soft smooth delicate interior just melted in the mouth in a slow rush of juices. The tongue the inside of the cheeks and teeth all merged into a wild tempestuous party. That was most delicious. Most heavenly! I can taste it every time I think of it.” His face turned a shade redder then before.
“You’re making me hungry.”
“Let me get that blueberry pie I promised you,” and with that off he went into the adjacent room where the refrigerator hummed its coolness.
“Now try this,” he said as he offered the plate with a generous slice of the pie, “in its own right it is good. I made it from scratch.” Like a proud father he beamed.
“This is great!”
“I knew you would like it.” His delight was obvious in his words, not from the compliment but the joy of seeing another enjoy the richness of life. “The blueberries are aged just right. I picked them from the market. There is very little sugar in there. All that flavor comes form nature.” He swiped the plate with his finger and licked the last of the essence of this confectionary delight.
“Are you ready for tomorrow?” Tomorrow was his time with destiny. The inch sized malignant tumor in his lung was to be removed. But the tumor location evaded a direct assault at it. John wanted it out in spite of the thoracic surgeon’s slight hesitancy. This was a pact between two experts in their craft, with no repercussions should the after math be an open and close scenario. The gardener wanted the root cause eliminated as much as the surgeon, for that, the chance had to be taken. The weed killer was the surgical scalpel and John knew of none other better option.
“Is one ever?”
“I know, but are you okay.”
“As I’ll ever be.. Will you be there?”
It was an ugly imperfection to see him with tubes exiting his chest, nose and throat and others entering his arms. He had just had his right lung lobe removed for the malignant tumor. He wafted in and out of consciousness for a better part of the afternoon. The experts made dire predictions, predicated on his diabetes, weight and complexity of the surgery in the chart. His, was a malignancy in its infancy stage, now dissected, excised, reviewed and eliminated. The only shadows that might remain were invisible to the naked eye.
The next morning his head propped up on the pillows his eyes held the joy of life again. Unable to speak he motioned for a pen and paper.
How did I do? He wrote in squiggly capital letters.
His eyes scrunched with a ‘yeah?’ as if in disbelief.
“Really. You did well. They removed that little lump of sugar in your Crème Brulee.”
He smiled and then wrote, ‘perfect again?’
“Pretty much.”
‘Please check on my garden.’ He wrote on the pad with searching eyes. It almost looked like a cry of help expressed through the blue-grey interior to his soul.
The next day was overcast and gloomy. The happy dialogue of the birds was missing. The roses seemed to droop a little as if the stalks could not contain the weight of their worry. They seemed to fall away from the cobblestone path, some slightly wilted while others had turned their inner glow off. There was an emergent sadness in this garden. Even though the smell of a moist earth filled the air from the automatic sprinkling system, all was not well with the garden.
Ten days after his surgery and a day after his return home he sat in his wheelchair looking over his ‘children’ as he called the plants. The foliage once again caressed the cobblestone path walkers. The droop from the roses was gone. The spirit had returned and spread from flower to flower and plant to plant with osmotic delight. The garden once again was ablaze with color and perfume.
“I never asked this question before. So I will now. How did I get it? I do not smoke and there is no family history so what happened? Don’t tell me its food because I wont listen.” He let his hands fall to his side. “So there.”
“Unfortunately there are genetic mutations that occur at random. It might have been a weak gene structure and in the process of cell division it might have picked up the wrong signal. Two parts never meant to join, joined or a part was deleted, one never knows. Time will tell. This is a theoretical conjecture, with a lot of ‘might’s’. The truth has still to reveal itself.”
“Philosophy eh?” He smiled.
“Just kidding. I am thrilled not contemplating the remaining time on writing my own obituary. Maybe I’ll eat a little less and lose some weight and then maybe I wont. Or maybe I’ll walk a little more. Maybe!” He clapped his hands in a gesture of finality. “Next week we go to that Bistro for the Crème Brulee.” He was back in step with life. The march to his norm had begun. Promises. Promises.
Some times fate favors the lovers. United again the garden smiles brighter stoked by the whispers of the consummate connoisseur gardener. The lover of life.

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