There are days that begin like any other - wake the boys, fix the breakfast, pack the lunches, drive the carpools - that then unfold with the most unexpected delight. Not all surprises are good ones, I know, but sometimes the unanticipated delivers a burst of joy. Last week a friend, a good friend who will not flinch at the mention of either silver polish or faltering faith, sent Meyer Lemons from California with no warning. I sliced the top of the box with the kitchen scissor and unrolled the stiff paper bag releasing the citrus scent laced with sweetness. I tipped them into the box and bent at the waist to breathe it in.
Careful not to waste the bounty, I plotted and planned, flipping pages of cookbooks to look for recipes appealing, yet unfamiliar. I hadn't baked with lemon before, though I love it. Lemon Marmalade? Well, I'd never, though now I have and will again. The fact that no one else would like it made it better, bore the same satisfaction that ordering Milk Duds at the movie did as a kid. (My sister didn't like them so I didn't have to share.)
And then, on to the 147-step Lemon Tart that gave me fits, the result of my insecurity. No need. The flavor was delicious, but the texture of both crust and curd were memorable. Everyone liked it, but I ate most of it myself, standing at the counter on one foot, the other resting against the inside of my knee, a habit of unknown origin that I can only hope works the core.
A little left, enough for muffins, surely, though I saved it for cocktails and toasted the giver.
And then, as if the universe knew that winter had ground on a little too long, another gentleman pressed a bouquet of flowers into my hands as we parted. I can't be sure that this is so, but I do not think that hyacinths and I had been previously introduced. I'm pretty sure we never met (though perhaps our cousins went to camp together) and now, I cannot imagine life without them, so heavenly is their scent.
I carry them with me from room to room, nuzzling their rubbery blooms. I am intoxicated by them. The idea of hyacinths comforted me through the lines of a poem I kept tacked to my cubicle wall a lifetime ago:
If thou of fortune be bereft,
and in thy store there be but left
two loaves, sell one and with the
dole, buy hyacinths to feed thy soul.
I thought it was the beauty of the blooms that inspired the poet, but now I realize they delight the soul not only at each sight, but with each breath.
Fruit and flowers and friends are carrying me through to Spring.
The poem, above, and the one secured with push pins to my wall, was attributed to John Greenleaf Whittier. In searching for it today, I see a very similar version is attributed to Moslih Eddin.