It was the simplest and sweetest of pleasures — a picnic in a small neighborhood park on an evening when stately white cloud ships sailed slowly across the deep blue sea of an early summer sky.
Our meal wasn’t elaborate. Just sandwiches and a nice bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon, with maple-flavored Canadian cookies for dessert.
But plain as the little outing was, it carried us back in memory to our earliest years together, in our first house, before two daughters joined us.
We would pack a bag with provisions and ride our bicycles a few blocks to a grassy tract of 20 or 30 acres that, though it lay smack in the middle of a residential subdivision, had somehow escaped development.
The bicycles are long gone. So is that little meadow, covered now by houses and paved streets.
This new favorite picnic place of ours also is bordered on three sides by houses. When and how it was created I haven’t managed to learn. Perhaps it was an early gift from some prosperous, public-minded citizen.
But now its official designation as a city park protects it.
There’s a softball field and walking paths, picnic tables and a covered pavilion for use in case of rain.
On the ball diamond, young men were practicing fielding and throwing. Out in the open grassy area, several older fellows were chasing brightly colored Frisbees.
And of course there were dogs.
Some of the larger and more regulated parks forbid dogs without leashes. Perhaps there’s an argument for that, but in this little park I speak of, that rule doesn’t apply.
Something about the place seems to encourage civility. Never once have we heard so much as a growl, much less a ruckus.
Some walkers kept their pups on leashes. But by far the greater number were untethered. They might range out a ways, or even get involved in the Frisbee catching.
But mostly they just mingled with others of their kind, romping good-naturedly and striking up canine friendships, before checking back to be sure their human companions hadn’t strayed too far.
We’d nearly finished our picnic this recent evening when a young woman came by our table leading her pet duck in a harness.
Her name — the duck’s, that is — was Squeaky. She was all white with a puffy topknot that identified her as being of the Peking breed. According to her mistress, she was people-friendly, lived happily indoors with dogs and cats, and of course ate duck food.
As you can see, there’s no telling whom you might meet in that lovely little city park.
The joys it offers are of a warm and humble kind. It’s a place where the rush and clamor of the world seem far away and where, for people as for dogs, new and interesting acquaintances are easily made.