On picnics

On picnicsI find comfort in knowing that, regardless of how big Sioux Falls gets and how many people flock to its parks to bask in the warm late-summer sunshine, I can still find some uninhabited green spaces – areas where, if I shut my eyes, I can imagine being in a National Park, or somewhere in another country.

Forgive me for being too Garrison Keillor for you. I went on a picnic today – my first in a long time – and I left feeling refreshed, like that first spring walk or the first fall rake. Refreshed in rediscovering something I always take for granted. Refreshed in the beauty of an open green field.

Picnics are never on my priority list. I just don’t see the trouble, sometimes. You sit on the ground, you eat food, you spend more time packing than you do enjoying and, no matter what, the weather takes a turn for the worse; blazing heat peeks through the shade you struggled to find, or clouds break open to release torrents of picnic-hating rain drops.

Today, though, it was just the thing. The food was good. The day was wonderful. And our location was perfect.

Sioux Falls is an incredibly green city, and I tend to forget this. My daily Interstate-bound travel path and my corporate-tied industry and my reluctance to leave home once I’ve returned, exhausted and ready for bed takes a toll on my nature-watching.

But there it is – in the middle of Sioux Falls, a green area that could just as easily be grassland that has never been tampered with. We walked through a city park, onto the bike trail, and then about a football field’s length off of the trail. We laid our blanket down and looked around. Despite our proximity to the city park, and despite our arrival via Sioux Falls’ most used recreational trail, we found relative peace and quiet.

With our backs turned to the trail, we glanced over an often forgotten corner of the park, separated by an often dry stream and located just off of a trail bridge. We looked up and imagine we were in Hyde Park, or laying below Edinburgh Castle in Scotland. We looked around and found ourselves in the rolling hills of New England, or on the edge of a darkened Minnesota forest. We turned around and reminded ourselves that we didn’t need to travel to get beautiful green fields and darkened woods – we could get them right here in Sioux Falls.

We ate, and we talked. We discussed future parenting and we tried to un-fuss Sierra’s day. And we picnicked. We took on an ancient ritual – that of eating on the ground, the way nomadic people did before tables, before sturdy homes, before anything of substance was nailed to the ground, places set and order succumbed to. We imagined the prairie the way it was before the park, the city, the trail, the bridge, and we simply got down to basics – enjoying each other, enjoying the day.

And I vowed to myself not to take picnicking for granted anymore.

This was lovingly handwritten on August 25th, 2007