Tuesday, April 16, 2024
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Memories at the Picnic Table

picnic table in autumn yard
The picnic table, bench on its side.

I don’t insist that everything about me stay neat, because then I’d have to keep it that way. But I do notice when things are out of place, especially when they are consistently out of place…this picnic table bench, for instance, which, every time I’ve looked out in the yard since October is down on its side, sometimes it’s obviously rolled a few times and is flipped upside down. And not just first thing in the morning, after the overnight visit of the raccoons, but also in the middle of the day, after I’ve set it upright.

Normally it stands upright next to the picnic table, ready for me to use it as a base for my outdoor photo studio, or to sit on at lunch or to read…or for a kitty to step up onto it on her way to the picnic table. I don’t typically notice the picnic table when I look outside, but when the bench is on its side I stop, look at it, and remember Cookie and our times there. That bench was her step up onto the outdoor throne she loved so much, and the big branch that’s there fell just in time to give Cookie a boost when, at age 17, she had difficulty lifting herself up onto the bench; I left it there after the big storm for that reason.

tortoiseshell cat stepping onto picnic table
Cookie steps up from her branch to her bench and onto her picnic table, November 2011; read "Who'll Stop the Rain?" (click on photo).

I was so busy this past summer with major changes in my business and worrying that I needed to focus and keep working, taking no time for breaks, and it was so hot that even Kelly and Mimi weren’t interested, then I lost Kelly and lost all interest for a while. I’ve spent little time out there aside from my garden and haven’t given myself the physical and creative breaks I’ve always appreciated in a long day working at home when Cookie and a parade of kitties before her would bug me to go outside in the morning, or for a few minutes in the afternoon, and I would comply. Seeing the picnic bench on its side I decided it wasn’t important enough for me to take the time to walk out there and put it upright, and it really didn’t matter if it laid there. Eventually I would upright it, only to find it on its side once again, sometimes within hours. Even the raccoons weren’t that persistent.

Short visits outside to upright the bench led to longer ones and I am back to filling the bird feeders in the mornings and finding beautiful things to photograph. Thoughts of Cookie each time I visit the yard, visualizing her in all the places I remember, have eased the memory of last autumn when I knew her loss was imminent though she reliably requested a visit to the yard no matter how she felt or what the weather was.

tortoiseshell cat in snowy back yard
Just a dusting of snow for Cookie's visit to the back yard, December 2011; read "Just a Dusting" (click on photo).

Why did I think of Cookie each time I saw the bench was toppled? Was it that Cookie was still vigilant in my care, and saw that I needed to take a break and visit my refuge and tipped over the bench to lure me out? Perhaps to commune with her once again on a sunny autumn afternoon? And Namir too? And others?

two cats and person
Cookie and Namir and Me have lunch at the picnic table, 2007; I had to piece this together from about five photos I took holding the camera at arm's length...

I’ve had that picnic table since 1994 when I pulled it out of someone’s trash pile, cleaned it up and repaired it and for over a decade had it on my deck. Kublai and I were the first ones to share time on the picnic table and it holds the memory of time spent with each of the cats who’ve shared my life since then. I moved it to the yard a few years ago when I wanted a place to sit and even work out under the trees just in time for Cookie and Namir and me to create some wonderful memories.

two cats on picnic table
A magical morning in the back yard with Namir and Cookie; this was just four days before Namir died; read "Old Friends" (click on photo).

Cookie was the one who happily accepted her role as my lady-in-waiting all those years ago, and I’ve no doubt she was the main instigator in the plan to get me back outdoors, and I’ve also no doubt that Kelly, Peaches, Namir, Lucy, Stanley, Sophie, Moses, Nikka, Fawn, Sally, Allegro and Kublai all had paws in toppling it for my benefit. It’s been upright for days, and I am the better for it.

tortoiseshell cat outdoors with sunbeam
Cookie with Sunbeam, remembering Namir; read "In the Back Yard, in Autumn" (click on photo).

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4 thoughts on “Memories at the Picnic Table

  • Beautiful pictures, beautiful text as always, Bernadette. This one definitely spoke to me. Half the joy in gardening for me is communing with all my spirits with little cat feet: some are buried there, and some elsewhere, but they always know where to find me and sooner or later meet me in the gardens.

    • Tammy, I have as many memories out there as I do inside, and Cookie’s insistent message with the picnic table bench was so obvious I don’t know why I didn’t “get it” sooner.

  • Funny how memories come from the most interesting places. In my case, it’s from a clock of my grandfather’s. I’ve had it many years now (he died over 20 years ago). Yet recently it has reminded me of him, and many pleasant memories have come back to me. I hope your memories are also happy.

    • RumpyDog, I’ve also got a post in mind for how memories become attached to the strangest things. These memories are all happy, and I’ve been a little sad for the past few months but the incident with the picnic table has really eased that for me. Glad your memories are pleasant!


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