Jason and I took a look around our house yesterday, noticing the two (or, okay, maybe three) piles of laundry needing to be folded, the floor that needed to be mopped and vacuumed, the other laundry that needed to be washed, the kids’ rooms, our room, the yard outside. Yes, we needed to stay home today and be responsible and reasonable and get stuff done around here. It would be a productive Saturday!
This is why, when Kalina burst through the door, beaming and squeaky, declaring today to be a perfect day for a picnic, Jason and I agreed today was the worst type of day to be responsible and reasonable, and quickly packed up the van to head north to the Rogue River. Instead of adventure of the unknown, we chose comfortable and known by going straight to our favorite and usual picnic spot. Diverting disaster for the win!
The day was perfect at about 90 degrees, and the 35-minute drive was easy as we pointed out hidden houses we’d glimpse on mountaintops amongst the trees, various areas we hadn’t noticed on the many drives along this route, or just the beauty of the river as it wound itself alongside the road next to us for much of the drive.
The river was riddled with rafters and picnickers, campers, hikers. Everyone seemed to have been equally inspired to partake of the splendor that we are blessed with in our backyards.
For this picnic we decided to take Smoky, our 1-year-old golden retriever/border collie mix. We hadn’t brought him before because he is, inexplicably, just about the only dog of his breeds in the known universe that is deathly afraid of water. In fact, as we pulled into the park, the picnic table that we opted for, that also happened to be just feet from the water, had sprinklers running just a bit over. Smoky took one look at those sprinklers, hung his head low and watched them closely until he had assured himself the water would not be reaching him or his tethered locale.
We unpacked the sandwich fixings, and I made sandwiches as Jason readied the poles. We ate our sandwiches, surveying the area around us, laughing at the little Pomeranian that had it in his head that he had a thing or two to show Smoky. And then just as they shoved the last remaining bits of sandwich into their mouths, still chewing, the kids began their pleadings to please, please, please let them dip their toes in the water.
We happened to be in a spot that was perfect for just this purpose, so they shimmied into their suits behind a towel and then skipped down to the little area that had six or seven feet of still-ish water, which contrasted sharply to the swirling, racing water just beyond that area, sheltered by logs and an outcropping of rocks.
Kalina took one step into the water and screamed, “It’s like ice water!” Uh, yes, exactly, Kalina.
They sat their bums in the shallow water, screeching and jumping back up again in breathless shock. Over and over, they went back for more, until little lips were blue, little fingers were pruny and little backsides dirtied from the rocky river bottom.
Jason declared it was fishing time, so AJ and Jason gathered up their fishing gear, me opting out of fishing to read a book — no contest there — and Kalina, even though she had her pole, opted to stay with me and color in her coloring book in the shade.
It was idyllic. It really was. The area of trees we sat amongst were gorgeous, inspiring me to try my hand at recreating the scene with my paintbrush and canvas sometime in the near future.
Smoky, meanwhile, chased leaves, barked at people who hiked by or loud rafters that came a little too close to shore for his comfort.
And when at long last Jason and AJ came back from their fishing, alas, sans fish, we all went back down to the river’s edge to dip and dance with the icy water, letting it tickle our toes and tease our senses.
Smoky watched us at the river from a distance, and when he decided that all 75 pounds of him was brave enough to venture with us, he stood, sniffing, tasting leaves and pawing at the wet mounds of dirt and rocks.
And then when Jason ventured out to his calves and called to him, Smoky hesitated. You could see him debating. The kids were cheering him on, but we wanted to be sure he made the decision to go into the water himself, on his own. And soon his loyalty made him brave, and he stepped out to Jason’s side, prancing gingerly through the water like a horse, dipping his tongue in to taste the cool water and getting used to the feel of it gently swirling around him.
And then, just as it was obvious just how completely terrified of water he was, it became even more obvious that he was thoroughly enamored with it. His tail wagged and his tongue hung out of his mouth in a big dopey grin. And soon he was chasing the little yellow leaves that had been falling from the trees nearby like little golden yellow summer snowflakes. And when a fish jumped just beyond our little area, he barked and jumped around.
In and out of the water he jumped, splashing and playing, getting out to shake off the river water, only to head right back in when a water bug or a stick would catch his eye.
And when Jason cast his pole out into the water in this spot, the bobber on his line became something of a game for Smoky, which put a stop to the fishing pretty quickly.
The warm day. The rafters shouting their greetings as they paddled by. The birds singing and calling to each other from the trees. My three two-legged companions and the one four-legged companion. It turned into something wonderful.
A short picnic turned into a five-hour event, and we soon were forced to, sadly, pack up our gear and head home. And as we got back onto the highway taking us back down the mountain and into our valley home, the kids, sun-drunk and and sleepy, begged to come back again, maybe tomorrow. And if not immediately then soon. I agree!