Last weekend, I did something that I hadn’t done in a very long time, at least since my teens 20-odd years ago.
I went on a picnic.
For most of my life, I haven’t been much of an outdoors person because I’ve mostly preferred indoors activities like video games and surfing the internet, or doing other favourite activities like reading inside.
As well, although I have attended many backyard BBQs over the years, for a long time I’ve moved in social circles that didn’t do picnics.
Also, the idea of picnicking on my own never occurred to me. Along with being more of an indoors person, picnicking seemed like too much hassle:
- traveling a great distance to a suitable location
- lugging all the stuff that I need to enjoy myself (and being obsessive-compulsive, there is always the temptation to take too many things that you “may” need “just in case”)
- being able to leave my stuff on its own while I went somewhere else like the toilet
A few weeks ago, however, a friend and her two sisters announced that, in joint celebration of their birthdays this year, they were hosting a picnic at Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park to the north of Sydney on Saturday 13 November. My friend kindly invited me and I accepted.
And as the last few weeks passed and the big day drew closer, I increasingly looked forward to the picnic for several reasons.
First, similar to what I have previously mentioned about rediscovering the joys of visiting model-railway exhibitions, it was an opportunity to get out of the home for a day.
Second, it was a social occasion, which I’ve come to enjoy more and more during the past few years – especially as I’ve learned to become less uptight, and more confident and relaxed.
Third, it was something very different from my usual routines, and something new worth trying.
Fourth, the working week leading up to the 13th had been mentally grueling, with most of my time spent reformatting a nightmare of a document that had been almost 300 pages long. I did get it finished, but it had been very draining – and therefore served as very good inspiration to get outside for a while.
Finally, a picnic in a location that was considerable distance from where I lived and not easily accessible by someone like me who doesn’t have their own transport presented a series of interesting challenges (not problems – challenges):
- How would I get there and back?
- What can and should I take?
- What would I do when I got there, especially as I would know only my friend and perhaps a few others?
I planned what to take, and how to get there and back. I seriously considered getting off at a railway station that was a few kilometres from the picnic site and walking the rest of the way, but a few days before the 13th my friend advised that instead I should get off at a station close to her place and get a lift with her into the park. I accepted.
Later that same day, I mentioned to another friend about my initial plan to walk into Ku-ring-gai, and he immediately recommended that I didn’t – because he’d previously ridden a bicycle along the route I’d planned to walk and he’d found it very grueling.
At long last, Saturday 13 November arrived – and best of all, unlike the recent shitty weather that had driven me nuts, outside it looked like a spectacular day indeed for a picnic.
I had breakfast, spent half an hour packing, showered and shaved, and headed out.
About an hour later after a train-trip to Sydney’s far north, one of my friend’s sisters picked me up from the station and we drove for another 10 minutes or so into Ku-ring-gai to where my friend and her other sister had already set up camp.
It was just after 11am.
I unloaded all of my stuff from the car, lugged it over to the picnic site and unpacked.
Thanks to my big-arse backpack and the medium-large trolley bag that I use for both travel and grocery-shopping, the only thing I hadn’t been able to bring from my original plan was a spare set of clothes “just in case” – but I had been able to easily bring other stuff like:
- two mini-Eskys (coolers) filled with food, drinks and condiments
- a supermarket grocery-cooler bag filled with odds ‘n’ ends like a roll of paper towels and a roll of plastic garbage bags
- cutlery and utensils, including two large IKEA bowls for making salads in
- two big picnic blankets (one was a spare “just in case”)
- a pair of thongs (flip-flops, not underwear) so I could take off my Colorado boots and let my feet enjoy the sun
- my laptop with batteries and a charger “just in case” for some NaNoWriMo writing
As I mentioned earlier, an obsessive-compulsive can never pack enough.
A few minutes later, everything was in order and in its right place.
I began talking with my friend and her sisters, and I did something else that I hadn’t done for a long, long time – lie on a blanket, look up at a beautiful clear sky and not want to move at all.
Other picnickers arrived, introductions were made and all sorts of conversations began.
I began making steady progress through the mini-Esky that was filled with cans of Pepsi Light.
Plates of nibblies started making the rounds of the growing number of blankets that were being laid out, and I provided my spare blanket to one of my friend’s sisters – so it was good that I had brought it “just in case”.
We kept a watchful eye on a nearby pair of BBQs that was attracting more and more attention from the growing number of other picnicking parties settling in all around us.
It was a stinking hot day but we had good shade from nearby trees and a cliff.
Time passed, and I remembered my Eckhart Tolle and enjoyed every moment.
Finally, we decided to make a grab for one of the BBQs. Four of us went over, secured the position and began cooking.
The heavenly aromas of BBQing sausages, steaks and onions filled the air. I didn’t do any of the cooking, but with some of my odds ‘n’ ends I provided valuable support on garbage detail.
Half an hour later, we lugged our fud back to camp where several bowls of salad had been laid out.
With my IKEA bowls, I quickly made up a bowl of regular coleslaw and a bowl of Bombay Coleslaw (mix regular coleslaw with curry powder and a diced Granny Smith apple).
We sat, and ate, and drank, and talked, and got sleepy, and laid down, and continued to talk.
More time passed, and some folks said goodbye and headed off.
A sudden threat of rain (for crying out loud!) spurred us to do a clean-up – but fortunately there was only a brief spatter of rain, and now that we had cleaned up we didn’t have to worry about it later and so we settled back in and relaxed even more.
Eventually, after more time passed and more people went, there were four of us left – myself, my friend and two of her friends. We continued to talk as I lay on my blanket again with my hat over my face to keep the sun out of my eyes.
I had brought sunscreen, but earlier I had decided not to use it because I wanted to get a little sunburnt to put some colour and life into my pale skin. Now, I saw red on my forearms and legs, felt heat from my limbs and face, and smiled.
Someone looked at the time – and I was amazed to hear that it was just after 5pm. Six hours had gone by?!?
Finally, we decided to call it a day.
My friend and I said goodbye to her friends, and she kindly drove me back to the station.
I bought a large Coke Zero and a bottle of chilled water, and about fifteen minutes later I boarded the next train back into the city.
As I headed home with my gear piled beside me, I alternated between the Coke Zero and water and felt exhausted, sunburnt, in need of a long hot shower, and – most importantly of all – very happy.
It had been a great picnic indeed and I had thoroughly enjoyed myself.
Until next time, stay well and take care 🙂