Out Of The Blue

Out of the Blue

It’s a glorious Saturday – the first beautiful spring day, after a long and dreary winter. You and your partner have just about got the new house in order. It’s taken a lot longer than expected, with surprise plumbing and electrical repairs and some reconfiguration of rooms to avoid leaks till the roof can get fixed. You’ve been working long and hard, making your house a home, and you just had your first get-together. Yesterday was your birthday, and you had a wonderful celebration with old friends who have been waiting to see the place. It was fun, but it was a lot of work. You need a break – and a reward.

The weather is too beautiful to watch from inside, so you’ve decided to take a break drive to a nearby park for a picnic. You’ve packed the big wicker picnic basket with sandwiches and chips, a bottle of sparkling water, and slices of cake from your birthday celebration. Along with a blanket and some lawn chairs, you’re more than ready for a lovely afternoon of soaking up some long-awaited sun. Driving down a winding country road with the windows down, the spring breeze washes you both in the fragrant, balmy promise of fresh new growth.

When you arrive, you see you’re not the only ones in search of fresh air. Apparently, this recreational complex is a popular destination, with its playgrounds, basketball and Bocce courts, horseshoe pits, barbecue areas, and a variety of sports fields. The parking lot is nearly full, as kids in sports uniforms, carrying bats, gloves, lacrosse sticks, and soccer balls trot towards their respective fields. Parents follow at a slower pace, lugging coolers, blankets, lawn chairs, and umbrellas, urging their kids to “Go get ’em!” As you turn into the parking lot, youngsters dash into your path, and heavily laden adults block your progress as they stop in mid-stride to check their smartphones. Snaking through the obstacle course of inattention, you see a car backing out of a distant spot, and you ease your way towards it… slowly… slowly…. The bright sun makes it hard to see, and the chaotic press of people doesn’t help.

The car pulls out, and you slip in, just as another sedan cruises slowly by, its driver banging the steering wheel and cursing at having lost the space. His windows are up, but you can still hear his muffled protests as his wife yells at the kids in the back seat. You shift into park and lower all the windows to catch the fragrant spring breeze. Your partner grabs the picnic basket and blanket from the back seat, and you head for the wide open expanse of grass that stretches out from the edge of the parking lot. About a quarter mile in the distance, the ground rises steeply to form grassy hills, dotted with sheep. Overhead, fluffy clouds scuttle across the electric blue sky. It looks like you have the whole grassy field to yourselves; everyone else seems to be at the games.

As you walk across the grass, you hear a squishing sound. Sure enough, water is pooling around your feet, darkening the edges of your shoes. You both jump back, take a step to the left where the ground rises, but it’s soggy there, too. You angle to the right, but it’s even wetter there. Back-tracking, your feet pulled by the sodden ground, you tip-toe back to the car to regroup.

Across the way, you see a cluster of three picnic tables shaded by mature maples, two of them taken. No sooner do you turn in that direction, than the guy who wanted your parking space leads his family to the one remaining table in the sun. Deciding you’d rather have sun than a picnic table, you pull your lawn chairs out of the trunk and set them up just past your parking space where the grass begins and the ground is still dry. Between the chairs your partner sets up a little spread, with sandwiches, chips, and fizzy water atop a checkered cloth napkin draped over the basket.

It really is lovely. The sandwiches are delicious, with salty lunch meats and mellow cheese on sweet fresh bread, with just a slight tang of spicy mustard. Your nose tingles from the sparkling water, and the crunch of the chips seems to bring out the tastes even more. Off in the distance, sheep baaaaa and graze peacefully up and down the hillside. You try counting them, but you can’t decide if there are 38 of them or 34. They seem unusually large to you, then your partner reminds you it’s nearly lambing season, so they could be pregnant ewes. Also, they may not have been shorn all winter, so their wool might be extra thick.

The sun feels lovely – so warm, so steady – and you both put on your sunglasses to cut the glare. Overhead, clouds are thickening, but it’s hard to tell if they’re rain clouds or if your shades make them look darker. You finish your sandwiches, then pull out two slices of three-layer birthday cake. It’s double-chocolate with a creamy white icing and glistening raspberry filling between the layers of sponge. The first bite wakes up your drowsy senses and brings back memories from your birthday party the night before.

Suddenly, you feel cold. Looking up, massive, dark clouds are gathering overhead, and you realize the sounds of the sports games have died down. Turning, you see the parking lot emptying behind you, as parents and kids hustle to their cars and join the line to exit. You take off your sunglasses, and sure enough – the dark clouds overhead means business. As you and your partner quickly gather the plates, cups, and plastic-ware, the heavens open with a torrential downpour. Sweeping everything into the basket and snatching the lawn chairs, you bolt for the car and toss everything in the trunk. Jumping in the front seat, you fumble getting the key in the ignition, so you can close the windows against the wind-driven rain.

In the distance, a sheepdog dashes and darts through the rain, herding the sheep into a covered enclosure. Both of you pull out your smartphones, drying them quickly. Your partner taps at the screen, murmuring, “Oh, they were calling for rain. I guess I missed that.”

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