Monday, October 27, 2014

An Ideal Picnic

Colonial Williamsburg.My heart-town.There are places in life that you have lived, and places your heart has lived. My heart has lived (so far) in the Lake District, in Romania, in London, in Scotland, in Prince Edward Island, and in Williamsburg. When I hear of other people traveling to these places, my heart does a little disagreeable flip-floppy thing that feels an awful lot like jealousy. I have yet to make it any of my heart-homes except Romania and Williamsburg, so when I make it to one of these places, and I feel doubly at peace. And I like nothing better than to tour a friend around the vicinity and make them love it as achingly as I do. This weekend, after throwing a fabulous party ("Company, company, where would we be without company?"), I betook myself and Charity Klicka to the ferry, and across to Williamsburg.


Since we had connected first over a mutual love for ships and The Wind in The Willows, I was overjoyed to hear that not only did Charity want to interview me for her blog in person, she also hadn't been to Williamsburg in too long. The two things combined admirably into the proposal of a picnic on the grounds of a quiet corner of Williamsburg. I purchased a pomegranate and two colors of pears near home, and packed up my little picnic basket. It is a very well-appointed basket.

Once in Williamsburg, we headed for the Fat Canary and purchased the ideal "long, crusty loaf" and some cheese. I am not certain where the term "long, crusty loaf" came from. I had thought it was from the picnic scene in Willows, but I could never find it, so I'm not sure? Oh, here it is, or the idea of it.
“There he got out the luncheon-basket and packed a simple meal, in which, remembering the stranger's origin and preferences, he took care to include a yard of long French bread, a sausage out of which the garlic sang, some cheese which lay down and cried, and a long-necked straw-covered flask wherein lay bottled sunshine shed and garnered on far Southern slopes.
About the stranger, not Moly. There we go. At the Fat Canary, I bought a bit of Gouda, a bit of Fontina, a bit of Cotswold Double Gloucester, not to mention a sausage called Landjaeger, which was divine. Isn't "Cotswold Double Gloucester" just a perfect name. And then, because the day was hot and the bottles refreshing looking, we went back round and purchased two bottles of ginger-ale. We then lugged our picnic basket around Williamsburg and looked at absolutely everything of interest to two people who didn't much care whither they went, so long as it was leisurely and historic. Two things I learned from lugging picnics about:
1.) Man-servants are helpful for such things. We lacked one
2.) No one brings legitimate picnic baskets anywhere these days. The looks I received.
One of my favorite "emancipated" things to do as a Williamsburg-familiar is to enter any yard and garden where the gates are not locked and make myself at home. Do you realize that one is permitted to wander at at will if the gate is free? I think many people do not know and that is what makes it so pleasant. Charity and I found a place with a stream, and as running water makes everything better, we determined to swing round again and picnic there when we had got hot and dusty and thirsty enough. Having reached this point after probably another half hour of rummaging about, we wandered back and found that our proposed spot had got a lot of little kids playing with bats and rakes in it. I suppose they lived there--people do live in the houses, you know--so we fastened on another yard quite nearby that possessed neat walkways, a bit of grass, and a stream-bank. This turned out to be an even finer spot, being cozier and more Willows-esque.We had a picket fence to our backs, oaks above, a stream to the left, and the road uphill ahead.

This arrangement insured that passersby could observe us at will--and they did. We laughed to see the expressions of the bold starers. I think there were two principle reactions: confusion and jealousy. There were truly jealous expressions bent upon us, and one nice old man who commented on the perfection of the day for the picnic, and the perfection of the spot we had chosen. I rather like that old man. Charity is an over-worked college student and I am an over-wedding'd nanny and writer, so we both thoroughly enjoyed ripping a loaf of bread with our hands, eating pears and cheeses and sausage, drinking ginger-ale (a bug got in mine and I made quite a nice fountain for a moment as I expectorated it), and lazing about in an ideal day. The temperature was perfect, the shade delightful, the grass soft, the stream purling, the afternoon sleepy. We could have napped, only we didn't want to sleep and lose sight of how wonderful it all was. Have you ever had moments of nearly perfect happiness? This was such a one. I couldn't have written a finer occasion, and that is saying something.

Too soon, we were full as full could be, had finished our ginger-ale, and were ready to proceed to the Scottish store, which is a must for anyone who loves Scotland. Charity is learning Scottish-Gaelic, you know. We had been joking at how perfectly our picnic was like that in The Wind in The Willows, but beyond the menu, I was truly not trying to imitate it. That would have been tacky. But does anyone remember the quote about Mole packing back up the picnic and finding he'd left things out every time? I had just got the basket closed to my satisfaction when Charity began to laugh and pointed out that it was all very well but I'd forgot to pack away the table cloth. Le sigh. Round two of basket-packing was successful, and we made a jolly party of it back to the car to deposit our stuffs. On the way back, we stopped at the garden area and I bought a big old narcissus bulb to plant somewhere--I'm a sucker for the beauties, and for anything that can grow in my world that once grew in Williamsburg. We took a detour to a forgotten grave--the Maupin graves--that Charity's ancestors are buried in. It was quite interesting and exciting to look for a grave everyone else had forgotten and know to whom it belonged.We found the graves, bought some lavender (it smells like dusty sunshine) and pursued our course up Duke of Gloucester street. On the way home we missed the ferry so Charity interviewed me as we sat on the pier sticking out into the James River. It was quite a lot of fun, you know.

Charity is such a lovely person. I didn't know her well before this trip, and I know there's a lot more to learn about and from her, but adventures have a way of making kindred spirits out of strangers. After all, Ratty and Mole weren't even friends before Mole got into Ratty's boat and ended up picnicking with him and moving to the River Bank. Never despise picnics and places. It's a grand old life, this friendship thing. I will long cherish the memory of that golden Sunday and the quiet little picnic in a perfect little place. Go out, eat bread and cheese and fruit, and take people up on their offers to give you an adventure. They can be marvelous.

“In silence they landed, and pushed through the blossom and scented herbage and undergrowth that led up to the level ground, till they stood on a little lawn of a marvellous green, set round with Nature's own orchard-trees—crab-apple, wild cherry, and sloe.”
-Kenneth Grahame The Wind in The Willows


Abby said...

This is so cute! Sounds like a lovely afternoon, and I wish I'd been there too. :)

Emily Chapman said...

You're pretty much Edith Nesbit's ghost... or something like that. ^.^ In other words, these piece was so charmingly British and sweet I could hardly stand it.

Unknown said...

You are right, this 'friendship thing' is quite wonderful. How fortunate for you to have such a friend who shares your interests and can slow down to spend time with you in this way. Totally jealous!

Rachel Heffington said...

Abbey: so glad it was enough to make you want to come along. :)
Emily: to be compared in to any shape of Edith Nesbit is a profound honor. ;)
Ashlee: one of the reasons I love meeting new people--they sometimes DO give you these cherished and rare moments. :)