Dare to have a picnic in the winter

A picnic in the winter. Now that’s something to remember!
Sensible people would have looked at the thermometer before planning a wiener roast last Sunday. But when it comes to picnics, we’ve never been sensible.
It all began back in Edmonton, Alberta in the bitter winter of 1966. For two weeks in late January, the thermometer had never risen above 30 below zero F—not even in the daytime.
Living as we did 400 miles north of the U.S.-Canada border, we had become accustomed to cold weather, but such prolonged bitter cold was simply too much. We discovered for the first time how quickly “cabin fever” can set in.
Then one day close to the end of the month, the miracle happened. The daytime temperature warmed up to two below and we headed to our favourite nature haunt—White Mud Creek—for an outing.
Oh, what fun it was to toboggan down the long slope to the creek bed below. Faces burning, scarves flying in the wind. We had almost forgotten how good it feels to be outdoors.
After everyone tired, we lit a fire in an open pit and cooked hotdogs—with our mittens on. Those were the best hotdogs I’ve ever eaten.
Except maybe the ones at Sand Creek in central Kansas a year later. The temperature was much milder, but still cold. And the ground was covered with snow.
This time, we could walk to our favourite haunt, every family member carrying part of the lunch. Moving along with us was a flock of 30 gorgeous red cardinals, landing and relanding on the snow of the creek bank. Always just a few jumps ahead.
And then we arrived at our destination—cold and ready for hot cocoa—only to discover that we had left behind a trail of chocolate drizzle from our house to the campsite.
Then last Sunday, we repeated the tradition. Wieners on a long-handled fork and veggies on the grill. “Some-mores” for desert. It just doesn’t get better than that.
It’s a funny thing about picnics. You’re really only supposed to have them in the summer; and when you talk about a wiener roast in December, few people understand. It doesn’t sound like fun.
We’ve come to expect the seasons of the year to dictate what we do. Fireplaces in the winter. Outdoor cooking in the summer. Gifts in December. Firecrackers in July. Weddings in June. And parties to mark the New Year.
In a way, it makes life easier to have the whole year specified like that. All we have to do is look at today’s calendar, and the rest takes care of itself.
Yes, in one way, calendars make life very easy. But in another way, they’re incredibly limiting.
Think about it. Learn to walk at age one. Go to kindergarten at age five. To college at age 18. Have a mid-life crisis at 45. Retire at 65. Move to a care facility at 80. All you have to do is look at the calendar.
You don’t take a new job in the winter of life. Or retire for refreshment in the summer. You don’t go back to school in your 50s, or learn a new skill at 90.
You don’t have a picnic in February or a fire in the fireplace in June.
You can live your life that way if you want to, always bowing to the seasons. Yes, you can, but you’ll know never how much fun it is to roast wieners in the snow or learn a new skill at age 80.
Marie Snider is an award-winning health care writer and syndicated columnist.

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