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I jut realized it’s been an entire week since I posted. I am busy working on the next big project, but I’m not quite ready to unveil it yet. Let me just say that it will be in the knitting category and that I’m still working on getting a newborn model.

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In the meantime, my thoughts turn to one of our family’s favorite summertime activities–a picnic in the canyon.  We live a very short distance from some of the most majestic mountains on earth–the Rockies. In about fifteen to thirty minutes, we can drive from our home on a hot, muggy upper 90 degree day to any of about a half dozen shady mountain daytime retreats in several distinct canyons.  (You’ll definitely want to peruse this site for a good look at some of our regular places.  My amateur pictures just don’t do them justice.)  We pack a picnic dinner and spend a few hours in the shadows between picturesque rocky cliffs listening to the clear icy river tumbling over the rocks and roots as it winds down the canyon.  At the moment, the leaves are just beginning to turn vibrant Fall colors of orange, red, and gold.  In a few weeks they will peak, then fade, and as the leaves fall dead to the ground and the weather turns frigid, we will pack away our picnic basket for another day next Spring.

I’ll call or text my extended family with a message, “bring your own meat to put on the grill and a dish to share.”  Or they’ll call us.  Spontaneous gatherings are the norm–whoever can show up will, and no one is offended if you don’t.  If someone’s busy with previous commitments, we all know they’d probably rather be with us. Some days we barbeque, unless my husband prefers to relax.  Some days his way of relaxing is to barbeque.  Sometimes there’s an assignment, and sometimes the rules call for “bring your own food.”   Inevitably someone will take it upon themselves to provide cookies or watermelon for everyone.  There has never been too little food at one of our gatherings.

Before dinner–and again after–the kids throw a Frisbee or a football, talk, sing, dance. . . and of course laugh.  Isn’t having best friends to goof off with to release stress, uninhibited, the reason cousins were invented?  We sit around in camp chairs and catch up on the stories–big family, lots of news–even if we have just gotten together two or three days ago.  Someone usually brings knitting or a crocheted afghan they’re working on, the Rook cards, a church lesson they’re studying for, an inspiring article to share, updates on political issues. . . and of course, more stories.

IMG_0687We tie Cookie up to a tree nearby while we eat, then walk her along the river trail.  She draws every little kid to come pet her and barks protectively at all the dads who look (to her) like they have no business having anything to do with those children.  That’s just our little Cookie.

When the air gets cool the mosquitoes begin to come out.  Just before it gets too dark to see, we divvy up the leftovers, then gather up our bags and grills, chairs and coolers; pack up the cars and caravan down the mountain.  Tonight everyone will go home with a few excess tomatoes from my garden.  Beeping the horn at the turn off, we part ways to our individual homes–unless, of course, the plan is to re-convene at Grandma’s on evenings when there’s no reason to rush home to bed.

Recipe for tonight’s Rocky Mountain Canyon Family Gathering:

Invite 30 to 40 family members and make food assignments:

  • Cole Slaw
  • Macaroni Salad
  • Grapes or Watermelon
  • Sandwich Rolls
  • Sandwich Fixin’s:  sliced turkey and roast beef, maybe some salami, sliced cheese, pickles, lettuce, sliced tomatoes.  Don’t forget the mayo, mustard, and ketchup.
  • Chips
  • A thermos of ice water.

Don’t assign dessert–more than likely it will come on it’s own.

Delegate the Frisbee and football to the kids.

Pack the van with picnic blankets, camp chairs,  jackets (yes, jackets), and the “grab and go” picnic bag.  My picnic bag is always stocked with salt, pepper, utensils, plates, cups, and napkins, tablecloth and tablecloth clips.  (You won’t need them for this menu, but we also always have a butane lighter pre-packed in case someone is grilling next to us and forgot their matches.  I can’t tell you how many times that has happened!)

Make sure that someone can arrive in time to save a picnic spot for dinner–probably about 3:30 p.m.–and don’t make any other commitments for the rest of the day.

Seize the Day and take pictures!  You can never do this day over again, but if you make the most of it, you can cherish the memory forever.

Update September 8:  The best-laid plans must change, sometimes.  In all my life I don’t think I’ve ever seen monsoon rain like we had last night!  I’ve seen rain before, having lived in a tropical climate, but I didn’t expect it in the climate I live in now.  One minute it was about 95 degrees and sunny, the next there were huge black clouds thundering in to take over.  Some of our neighbors faced flooded basements and there was a road taken out and homes damaged by mudslides a few blocks away.  We’ll take a little time to regroup, but rest assured, there is no doubt our picnic will be rescheduled when the weather clears. . .

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