Picnic baskets and friendship make a difference

We had no intention of attending an outdoor concert. Or eating dinner beneath a canopy of trees,, the fresh air and California sunlight caressing our skin in a warm inviting blanket. And we definitely had no intention of meeting some of the nicest, most welcoming people yet — but there we were, in the midst of a regular Tuesday night happening in Healdsburg, connected into a circle of friends who welcomed us like long lost companions, taking part in their Tuesday night ritual.

The only thing we had predicted  at the start of our day was that we’d end up in Healdsburg for a late lunch. The rest was up to the wine gods and the curve of the road. Turning off of River Road onto Westside Rd, we drove  along the Russian River, wine country laid out before us. We stopped at wineries and olive groves, sampling and enjoying  eachother’s company and the welcoming smiles of the merchants along the route.

In Healdsburg, it was obvious something was happening in the town square when at 2pm, we parked our car and were almost bowled over by people rushing to set up camp with blankets and lawn chairs on the grass of the square. “It’s live music Tuesday from 6 to 8 pm”, one helpful local told us before rushing past to stake out his claim on the grass before the bandshell.

Undecided, we went for lunch, wandered the streets and decided to find a goodwill store so we could purchase a blanket and pillows — in case we decided to stay for the concert or go to the beach for a sunset dinner.

It was Bill who convinced us to stay. “This is way better than the beach,” he told us when I asked if it was worth staying for. Bill is retired . It’s his Tuesday afternoon ‘job’ to stake out turf for anywhere from 10 to 25 friends who turn up for their Tuesday night picnic supper.

C.C., ever eager to hear live music, suggested we stay and I went off in search of a picnic, and wine glasses while he stayed back to hold our spot under the trees.

When I returned, Tony and Mary had arrived to join Bill and C.C. was part of the circle.

And thus began an evening we will never forget. By the time the music started at 6, we were part of a large circle of friends. By the time the music ended at 8, we had promises of visitors for the Calgary Stampede — winemaker John may even turn up next week to take in the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth.

Here’s hoping he does. Here’s hoping Bill and Mary and Tony and Gail and all the others who opened their picnic baskets and their hearts with such grace do come north to sample some western hospitality.

While their show of generosity of spirit will be hard to beat, it would be fun to try to extend it.

They all made an incredible difference to the texure and tone and depth of our last night in this little piece of paradise in the Sonoma wine valley. By opening thier circle to  two strangers,  they created memories that will lat our lifetime, and I’m hoping friendships too.

Extending a smile and a welcome to strangers makes a difference.

I am grateful for the difference they have made. I am grateful  for the time spent laughing and sharing and eating and smiling under the trees ona summer evening in Healdsburg.

Oh! And the music wasn’t  bad either. At least, I think there was music. Amidst all the fun and laughter, it was hard to tell!   🙂

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