The Magic of Eating Outside

Up over the ridges ran the blue of wild lilac like spreading smoke; manzanita and chaparral put on their creamy blooms; even the redwoods spread fresh fans of green, and far below all over the valley floor the fruit blossoms waved in soft airs. Jays laced the air with blue; quail drummed in the woods; every window of the farmhouse was flung open, and the dooryard table was spread three times a day, with birds to do the sweeping away of crumbs, and oak and pear tree shadows lying green upon the checked red cloth.” –Kathleen Norris, Shining Windows

The above, taken from one of my favorite old-timey authors, makes me want to move outdoors…until I look at the temperature! Doesn’t she paint a portrait of country charm? “Every window of the farmhouse flung open…the dooryard table spread three times a day…”

It heartens a woman’s soul, I think, to create beautiful vistas and welcoming surroundings. Different spaces to vary one’s living hours add excitement to everyday fare. I call it: Making the most of Summertime!

Our home place is abundant with potential. I’m always seeing it, yes, through my rose-colored glasses…because our property is far from *arrived*! But 90% of any project’s enthusiasm is in the planning, right?

I walk out the back porch door, face south–toward the garden and chicken house…and visualize the stone patio I want there under the trees someday, our old rope hammock stretched out at one end and a limestone slab picnic table beckoning us to enjoy the shady western evenings and the sun disappearing behind our big hill.

I see the big gnarly tree overhanging the garden and a “someday” tire swing full of laughing children (future grandkids?) with adults lounging nearby in lawn chairs around a fire pit.

Over behind the deck, between the outdoor corn stove and the sandpile, I want two Adirondack chairs situated around a low table, the perfect place for a husband and wife to meet at day’s end to catch up on each others’ news while the children and pups play. Or likewise, for two moms to sit and chat, little ones at their feet.

To have an old rectangular wooden table, a sturdy one with scads of character, to keep out during the summertime, under the Maple trees, bedecked with homespun and picnic basket and a flurry of mismatched flea market chairs–this has long been a wish of mine. I think we have one such table, maybe not so sturdy, buried in the back of one of the old sheds on this place…

I love outdoor restaurants. Adore picnics. Love finding the perfect park in our travels at which to grill or assemble sandwiches…to be perfect, it must have a pond with ducks to feed–over a bridge, of course. These parks abound, friends. You’d be surprised.

We don’t abound in special outdoor corners at our place yet, other than the “someday” ones painted in Outdoor Picnic with Salami Sandwichesmy heart. No bridges, ponds or ducks, or arbors or stone patios or Andirondack chairs. *Smile* For now, we spread out the old quilt or dust off the large flat rock uphill…and simple though it may be, the magic happens. A little shade, some freshly stirring air, a basket of treats, good company…good times.

Outdoors…the perfect gathering place. (Weather permitting, that is!)

***Btw, the first picture in this post is of my paternal grandma and her sisters eating apples***

12 thoughts on “The Magic of Eating Outside”

  1. I love that picture of your paternal grandmother and sisters, it almost looks like a Hallmark picture or the cover a good book. Pretty cool.

    My in-laws own some land that happens to be by a beautiful lake and it is amazes me how quiet and peaceful it is. It is very hard leaving that place and coming back to civilization.

    In my neighborhood, we always hear the constant “thump-thump” of stupid cars passing by blaring their music. And the trains tooting their horns, or sirens, cars honking their horns. The cacophony never ends.

    Leticia’s last blog post..Counselor fired over Christian beliefs

  2. Mary, I love the photo of your grandmother too! That is awesome. I think the photos of your 4th of July camp out on your hill were so beautiful. You don’t need anything with a place like that. I love going out back when I am in need of a breath of fresh air, and looking up at the night sky. Our back yard is large and private, but we have yet to do anything with it. I am hoping to build a screened in deck one of these days. On our vacation this year we had a lot of pic-nics, and they not only saved tons of money, but were so wonderful. I am a pic-nic girl too…that is my idea of eating “out”! Hugs. Juli

  3. Mary…I wanted to let you know that you inspired me to pack a pic-nic this afternoon and eat out with my family! I have packed ham and cheese sandwitches, home-made bread and butter (for Megan, who does not like sandwitches.) Baby carrots, banana bread, iced tea, water and for a treat one hersheys candy bar to split between us. (That way we don’t eat too much candy.) LOL Thanks for the wonderful post. Hugs. Juli

  4. Aw, Juli, I’m so happy–like Beck says, though, eating outdoors does sound good in theory, sometimes the bugs and heat have their way…I hope they didn’t interfere with your fun outing! How’d it go? I was thinking about setting up the card table out under the trees later…but it’s over 100 degrees out there right now! The girls are enjoying it in the pool–best place to be in this kind of summer heat! Let’s do a picnic together sometime~!!!!!!

    Leticia, thanks for your comments about my grandma’s photo! I’ve always wished it was better quality, it’s such a moment they captured! I wonder if they were just enjoying an orchard treat, or a picnic, or taking a break from processing apples…wish Grandma were still alive to tell the story! I’m so glad you have access to a peaceful country get-away! I take for granted what we have here…though I know many city folks wouldn’t understand why I love it so.

    Beck, outdoor kitchens and the like sound so romantic, don’t they? Lol. But my air conditioning keeps me realistic!! (Somewhat…) It is amazing how much comfort a little shade brings on a hot day…esp where we live, there is always wind or a breeze, even if it is just moving the dry air around.

  5. Mary Lynne,
    I regret to say that I do not know the story behind my mother & her sisters in this particular picture. And, it is too late to ask her and so we will just have to imagine that they enjoying each other as they were relaxing on a Sunday afternoon. I am pretty sure this picture would have been taken on a Sunday afternoon as they were still dressed in their Sunday best after attending church in the morning. I do know that on Sunday afternoons the family had a lite lunch which they called “fesper”. It would have consisted of some lunch meats,cheese,zwieback (double buns)& coffecake. This lite lunch was served at 5 pm. Also a fruit was added to this lite menu and in the summer time when the apples were plentiful, that would have been the fruit of choice. Since there were no fans to keep one cool in the house, how fitting it would be to eat outside in the shade and finish off the lite meal with an apple. I know many Sunday afternoons the family either had company or visited relatives or friends. And someone in those early days had a camera or we wouldn’t be able to see this picture today.
    Thanks for reminding me of that picture,
    Aunt Claire

  6. Mary,
    It was fun. I packed water bottles that I used to wet the children’s hair to keep them cool, and of course lots of Iced tea to drink. The children loved it! We went to a little park in our town that had a pic-nic table covered under a little shelter, so we were in the shade. The children enjoyed being outside, despite the heat, and would have stayed longer if my husband and I had not been missing the AC. LOl

  7. I apologize PROFUSELY for just disappearing on you guys! I’ve been so busy…and yet found time to miss checking up on all of you! More on that in a post! Thank you, Leticia, and Colleen, for missing me and caring enough to wonder, I appreciate it!

    Aunt Claire, your explanation is a beautiful and plausible way to explain the picture! And I can hardly imagine not even having FANS to help deal with this heat. We are so spoiled, aren’t we? Thank you so much for shedding light on what a Sunday afternoon might have been for Grandma!

    Juli, your picnic sounds like it was a hit! I have such great childhood memories of evenings at the park, or special parks we’d pay multiple visits to as we criss-crossed America on our summer vacations. We had several favorites that were so nice we would time our driving times to hit them at mealtime! One particular fave was in Holdredge, NE, and last year my hubby and I stopped there on *our* vacation with the kiddos and the park was all updated and changed. Pretty devastating to my childhood memories, let me tell you…but there was still a lake with ducks and geese to feed, and a pavilion across the way with an outdoor Christian concert going on…so it was still special! Yes, let’s plan a road trip this fall and find a nice park to picnic together! FUN!

    I hear you, Andrea! However, we suggested grilling this week to my dh and he about laughed at us. No way was he going back out in the heat…I think it was the day that got to 103, so who could blame him!?

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