Le dejeuner sur l'herbe

Le dejeuner sur l'herbe - Edouard Manet (1832 - 1883)

The sun-drenched day suggested a picnic in the country. We spread our blanket, laid out our repast and ate our fill. We admired a view from Constable's palette: a verdant meadow, lofty trees, rustic cottages. A church steeple punctures the billowy clouds of a lambent sky.

She said picnics were not part of her Chinese culture. I explained that en plein air dining was introduced by the French and adopted as an English pastime. Picnics were painted into art and I produced a dog-eared postcard depicting Manet's Le dejeuner sur l'herbe. She eyed the picture suspiciously, conscious of the implication that the naked lady was de rigueur for these occasions. She looked at me askance.

'You expect me to take my clothes off?'
'Of course,' I said, with an encouraging nod, 'it's traditional.'
Her returning smile was complicit to the ruse.

We watched the aerobatics of two swallows until they disappeared into the trees of a nearby wood. I suggested we follow them. A bevy of grazing sheep witnessed our amble via a rutted farm track. A footpath snaked into the welcome coolness of the gloaming beneath the foliage canopy. A pigeon cooed in the sublimity of it all. A stream trickled its meandering way, as inviting as the pool painted by Manet.

A Donald Peers refrain came to mind:

In a shady nook,
By a babbling brook,
That's where I fell in love with you.

There was no doubting our intention; our shady nook found, we took off our clothes.