When I was in college, many of my friends memorized lines from Omar Khayyam’s Rubaiyat so that they could impress their true loves. Most of the swains used the quote in the title of this piece, but they probably had not read much else. I think that the book has virtually disappeared from today’s college campuses.
We went on a picnic recently that made me think of the quote. Since our first year of marriage, Susan and I have had an autumn tradition whenever we lived near mountains. We would pack a picnic lunch or evening meal and drive into the mountains to take a walk among the beauty and to sit under the beautiful golden quaking aspens. Of course, the children came along when they were younger. We followed the ritual even when we lived in Louisiana because the Arkansas mountains were not far away; and even though there were no aspens, the colors were spectacular. Only when we lived in Texas, too far from mountains, did we forego the experience. In most Texas places where we lived, the leaves, except for the beautiful gums, just turned a dull brown and fell off the trees around Thanksgiving.
This year the aspens put on an especially good show, and so we packed up a simple lunch and headed up Hyde Park Road to the ski basin. By now, our hikes have gotten shorter and our drives a little longer. This time, except for about a half-hour walk, it was mostly driving. We were surprised to see the crowds, even in the middle of the week. Aspen Vista, where the entire mountainside is laid out in front of you and the trail is flat, was a huge traffic jam. All of our favorite picnic spots had already been occupied.
Fortunately, we ventured up the road in the state park with its assessment of a $5 day-use fee. There was no one around, and we easily found a table under some beautiful autumn colors.
We unpacked our simple lunch: a nice bottle of Cotes du Rhone, a fresh baguette, a roll of hard Italian salami, a wedge of Manchego, a slab of Havarti, and some chocolate. We feasted under the shimmering aspen leaves and thought back on similar days over the decades. It could not have been a more perfect meal or better afternoon. You see why I thought of Omar Khayyam.