I joke that the longer one live’s here in Hawai’i, the more distinct the seasons become to them. Having now lived here for ten years, my body has acclimated to the seasonal nuances and can confirm that indeed it can get cold and winter is real here. But when the sun is shining, wherever you are in the world, one of life’s greatest delights is the luxury of lounging on a blanket somewhere outside with a good book and your favorite finger foods.
Journey with me for a moment to your favorite picnicking spot
Perhaps its by the water, amongst the trees, in a field, in a public space for partaking in the idle pleasure of people watching, or perhaps it’s more quiet and secluded. Go there in your mind. With baskets and bags over your arms, you wander until settling on the perfect spot to rest your things. As any seasoned beach lounger, camper, or park picnicker knows, the spot is determined by an inner compass with a “you know when you know” sense of direction.
Now that you’ve found your location, you set your things down, feeling an instant sigh of relief from your arms and shoulders, and shake out the oversized blanket like a parachute until it rests on the ground in part sun, part dappled shade. Bonus points if you landed it perfectly the first time without having to work against the breeze.
You slip off your shoes now and lower yourself onto the blanket to unpack and arrange. From your basket comes small containers of your favorite finger foods, maybe a sandwich wrapped in brown paper, refreshing and hydrating seasonal fruits, a cooling beverage, a book to read [maybe one of short poems], a blank journal and your favorite pen, or a deck of cards.
[a deck of astrology themed playing cards that belonged to my great-grandmother and moonphase dominoes -- two modes of simple entertainment that are lightweight and small to pack]
All that is left to do is to recline in that sunny spot of the blanket and take in the simple, sensual pleasures around you — the taste of the snacks you packed, the smell of surrounding space, the sound of the birds, of the water, or of fellow picnickers chatting quietly, the feel of the ground below you and the sun on your skin, the sight of the patterns above you made by clouds or trees.
What is so dang delightful about picnics?
Call it a side effect of my cancelled journey to Italy in early 2020 but my desire for leisurely, simple dining over good food and conversation has deepened since, and with the presence of warmer weather, doing so al fresco. Something about the combination of tapas style finger foods, fresh fruits, refreshing beverages, warm sun, the soundtrack of the elements, a forthcoming post-snack nap, and a good book makes for some incomparable simple pleasure magic.
[picnic images currently inspiring me]
Curating an intentional, one-of-a-kind picnicking set
Once I was blessed by the Thrift Store Fairies who delivered on my new seasonal obsession with not one, but two second hand picnic baskets — one a traditional woven, double handled latch top and the other a more practical cooler style perfect for the beach — as well as some loose woven checked cotton curtains to be re-sewn into napkins. Seven dollars! The same week I returned to the same second-hand shop and found two sets of utensils in a delightfully retro Neapolitan color palette, an old wine bottle opener stamped “Italy”, and [not for the picnic basket] a used CD of The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. At two dollars and fifty cents I consider this another good day thrifting.
[second-hand scores: picnic basket, bottle opener, two sets of utensils, and linens to repurpose into napkins]
It’s easy to get swept up by the temptations online or in store that are marketing picture-perfect products for this or that, whether it be for your self care routine or [in my more particular case] your dream picnic. I can confidently say that I’ve had much more fun scouring the shelves of second-hand treasures at my local thrift store and curating something one of a kind than I would have clicking “Buy It Now” on a seventy dollar set online. It’s not instant gratification but the feeling of reward is great. For less than ten dollars I have my charming picnic basket and theme-worthy linens and utensils for my partner and me — and moreover, I feel like I’ve won against the consumer industry.
So, if you’re feeling the call this season to take your meals outdoors and also relish in the joy of having something to thrift for, then consider the following for your personally curated dream picnic set:
Something to carry your things in
A traditional picnic basket
An open top, single handled African basket
A lightweight tote bag
Something to lay on
A flat bed sheet
Something to eat and drink with
Reusable utensils — mismatched sets can be fun! Everyone has their favorite spoon, right?
Reusable cups and plates — lightweight is especially key here
Cloth napkins — clean, quality cloth napkins are often abundant second-hand or you can repurpose the fabric from something else [like my curtain score]
A bottle opener
Something to do
A good book — a current read or book of poetry, something that is both light to read and carry
A journal and something to write with — maybe compose a series of haiku inspired by your surroundings
A deck of cards
A sketchbook or travel watercolor kit — picnics are perfect for some plein air art making
A small, easily transportable instrument to play — in the right place, of course. No one wants to be that guy blasting their music out in nature with other folks around.
Keep in mind…
Note, important attributes to consider when curating your picnic kit are weight, durability, and reusability. Using these as my guidelines, I’ve been piecing together my collection using inexpensive, second-hand things to avoid packing the items I use daily in my kitchen and risking breaking or losing them. If you have a car, you might consider making it the permanent residence for your kit so that you're prepared whenever the mood strikes.
Above all, remember that the dreamy Mediterranean inspired picnic you’ve coveted on Pinterest is accessible without the travel expense or the pre-assembled basket from that cute shop online. You may even be able to shop your own home for things you don’t use often to could contribute to your kit. Consider this an exercise in discernment, curation, and ultimately, the joy of simple pleasures. Enjoy.
To get you in the mood... "Songs To Picnic To" a seasonal playlist