A Picnic for All Occasions

For Mother’s Day this year, my family knew what would bring me the most joy: a picnic. My husband, Matthew, served as sous chef. Our daughter, Emma, made the fruit salad and homemade bread. Clark brought his wife, Valerie, along with her extraordinary storytelling abilities. The evening air was punctuated with cheers from a friendly baseball game in the park and the familiar chatter of well-fed robins and squirrels. After the meal, each member of my family shared three things they most appreciate about me. I cried more than once.
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Throughout the seasons, picnics make an ordinary meal anything but routine. Matthew and I picnicked on some of our first dates, and we’ve continued to dine alfresco regularly for three decades. Most meals have been sublime in their simplicity—a blanket spread in the backyard makes even PLT (pickle, lettuce, and tomato) sandwiches taste special.
When we travel by car, I try to pack picnic meals—a cheaper, healthier alternative to fast food. We’ve picnicked at the beach, in the woods, in fields, in cemeteries, at rest stops, in parks, and on playgrounds.

For our thirtieth anniversary, Matthew and I packed up homemade crab cakes and ate them on the grounds of a local estate. The historic buildings are closed in the evening, but the grounds are left open. We had the gardens to ourselves—with extra ambience supplied by friendly fireflies.
Since moving from the suburbs to the city, we have been picnicking more than ever. Within easy walking distance, we’ve discovered three parks with picnic tables. The park closest to us also has a gazebo, where we’ve enjoyed slices of seedless watermelon after our family Friday night dinners.

Picnics also make for easy entertaining. Recently, we picnicked with friends and their three small kids in the park behind our house. The kids played on the equipment while the grown ups talked. Bethany made a warm pasta and pesto salad, and I brought cheese, fruit, and carrot cake to round out the meal. Bonus: no clean up. The birds ate up all the crumbs.
Picnics create a memorable oasis—a time set apart from everyday life—to be in nature and to enjoy God’s sustaining gifts. What can be more holy than saying grace and breaking bread together in the shade of a life-giving tree?

Nancy Sleeth serves as the Managing Director for Blessed Earth and is the author of Go Green, Save Green: A Simple guide to saving time, money, and God’s green earth, the first-ever practical guide for going green from a faith perspective.