Monday, February 27, 2012

Dutch interior

Epen, Feb. 27,2012—

WE VISITED AN ACQUAINTANCE yesterday in her twostorey brick bungalow set among oaks, beeches, and birches in a semirural suburb of Eindhoven, where she has lived for over twenty years with her cat, her tastes, her enthusiasms, her regret for her witty, good-natured husband who died suddenly twelve or fifteen years ago…

Among her enthusiasms: running a series of readings by significant authors in many fields: fiction, poetry, history, science. Saturday our friends Hans and Anneke had gone to hear Dick Swaab discuss his Wij zijn ons brein: van baarmoeder tot Alzheimer (Uitgeverij Contact, Amsterdam 2010), and spent the night, and we had gone yesterday to meet them, and renew acquaintance with Mevrouw W.

What a fine, rather elegant, composed woman she is, and what a fine sensibility! Her home is beautifully curated, as Lindsey pointed out… in the entry hall, for example, a painting apparently from the Seventeenth century, a sober, handsome man looking out over your left shoulder, hangs above a low three-legged stool on which was centered a bowl of fragrant apples.

Directly as you enter the large, low-ceilinged main room, if you turn to look back, you see a fine white tapestry covered with those geometrical toches of primary colors that unmistakably announce Bart van der Leck. On the wall at the right a massive oak armoire, from the Eighteenth I'd guess, and looking northern, from Drente perhaps; nearby, hanging just a bit askew, a fine pendulum- clock probably from the same time and place.

The far side of the room is a series of floor-to-ceiling windows looking out to the garden, a lawn surrounded by borders, then the woods. At one end, a pond with a discreet fountain and dormant lily-pads. Curled up on the doormat just outside the door, tail carefully wrapping him, a black-and-grey tortoiseshell cat whose folded triangular ears make you think of Leck again, and sure enough, when you turn back in the hall to thank her for the visit, you catch sight of his signature painting of a folded-ear cat hanging in the upstairs hall.

One doesn't pay such a visit without accepting coffee and a little something. The coffee was enriched with Amaretto and topped with slagroom, sweetened whipped cream; alongside, a delicious white cake with buttercream filling.

Everything here was in its place, and every place was right. This is a life, you sense, that isn't distracted by irrelevancies, or by things that don't count for something, don't hold their place and give their weight to a continuing conversation, among books, furnishings, paintings, friends, memories, and of course the cat; a conversation that fills the time, investigates questions that may arise, entertains its participants, and keeps that devil boredom out the door.

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