Saturday, October 17, 2020

Love Letter to My Life #28: Something about picnic tables

by Joyce Wycoff

(We know the day we were born, but most of us do not know the day we will die. This love letter to my life is written on the day I've designated as my death day, the 17th of every month, and reminds me to be grateful for my incredible life.)  

There is something about a picnic table. It’s not particularly comfortable, or lovely even in its cross-legged simplicity. However, the sight of a picnic table prompts a happy reaction in me. Maybe it’s the picnic table from childhood under the shady shelter of a large pecan tree; maybe it’s the symbol of years of camping trips and excursions; maybe it’s an ancient memory of eating in community out doors around a fire. 

My reaction to picnic tables seems to be deeper than its form or function. Something happened yesterday that started me on this path of thinking about picnic tables and called to me at 3:30 this morning until I surrendered and began this letter. 
San Diego County ... ocean to desert
I’ve been here in the hill country of east San Diego County for a week and a half, long enough to settle in and begin the familiar routines of writing, photography and making art. Yesterday, as the shade laced the yard, I spread my laptop and notebooks across the picnic table and settled in to think about a new project.

It was a perfect fall day: the air fresh and that perfect temperature that feels neither cool nor warm.. And, even though I’m in a rather large RV park (250 spaces), my neighbors were gone and the only sounds were a rustle of leaves and an occasional birdcall in the distance. I drifted into the project, writing, revising the related art work, mapping the project which slowly emerged like a developing photo in a dark room. When the day softened into evening and turned cool, I picked up my work and went back inside.

That's when I noticed the quiet. Not just the quiet of outside, but the silence in my head. I could hear, or rather feel, the silence, like being wrapped in a blanket of calm and peace. I thought it would go away when I noticed it, but it didn’t. It seemed to be in my body as well as my mind. It was part of  my breath.

In the past six weeks, I’ve been called to make this change, not understanding why. Every time I would have a doubt, it would be whisked away by the ease with which everything was happening. It was like walking through a maze of blind corners with no clue of which way to go until suddenly a “this way” sign would appear. 

I still don’t know exactly why I’m here but it feels right and the peaceful silence is still with me even though it did wake me up in the middle of the night, demanding that I get up and write about this.


  1. Hey friend. So happy to read today's blog. I can see you out at that picnic table, working your magic with words and never even realizing that hours are passing. This is an image that makes me feel doing what you do best and having the peaceful inner calm to enjoy it. I was out in the woods all afternoon. My impetus was to calm my head a bit, for I seem to have lost my bolt cutters and somewhere in the recesses of my brain, I thought I might have left them over on this piece of property, when I was last there, fixing up the fallen fence. Alas, it was not there, but I proceeded to walk the length of my land on this peninsula, clearing decayed trees that fell back in our ice storm in 2008, I think. I was also using my long handled nippers to whack back the persimmon sprouts growing in my short bit of easement across someone else's property. That had not been done since fall of last year. Zeta was with me, doing her own thing and loving it. So, my day was not serene and peaceful like yours, but I totally loved being out there with just my dog! As I was leaving, a truck came down the road, going out toward the end of this peninsula. Only my and my brother's land is there, until one gets to Corps of Engr. land. It's deer season, so I wanted to check just where they planned to park. They did drive all the way down to the end....but with me following them, that did not surprise me. I got out and met them, made sure they knew I knew they were there, etc. So, perhaps, although I had a good day, my outing was not completely serene. I am feeling "good-tired" now and am headed for the shower. When you get to it, share photos of your surroundings....maybe a few of campground and more of the local hills and mountains, etc. I would so love to visit and let you be my tour guide again!

    1. Thanks Judy ... just found your note and so enjoyed reading it. Have you read any of the newer books about trees ... apparently those downed trees go on feeding the habit for decades after they die. My recent favorites are "The Secrets of Oak Woodlands," "Braiding Sweetgrass" (not just about trees, and for fiction "Overstory." I love living here in the woods. I'm in the process of creating a flip book about my new life and it will have lots of photos. ;-)