Monday, September 23, 2013

Eating breakfast out(side)

I did something the other morning I don’t ordinarily do.  I ate breakfast out.  

You’re probably thinking I went to a restaurant, but I didn’t.  I ate my bowl of fruit and (hot) oatmeal outside at a park in downtown Clermont. 

Admittedly, it wasn’t my first choice but it turned out surprisingly well. 

As usual, the night before I prepared my next-day breakfast mix of cut-up fresh fruit to eat with the steel-cut oats and ground chia seeds Ralph cooks each morning.  The two of us have enjoyed the same basic breakfast for years varying the fruits with the seasons.  It’s a meal I love and look forward to every morning.

Cut up fruit awaiting the addition of hot oatmeal

On that morning, however, I had routine blood work scheduled.  I’d forgotten all about the appointment, remembering only after slicing the last piece of fruit into my bowl the night before.  The test required fasting - no food, tea or even water until after the visit. 

“So, should I make oatmeal for you, anyway?”  Ralph asked.  “You can have it when you come home.”

I told him to go ahead but that instead of eating it afterwards, I’d take it with me.

When morning came, I packed my white ceramic bowl of cut-up fruit and hot oatmeal into an insulated bag together with a small towel, a cloth napkin and my favorite spoon.  I made up two steaming travel mugs of jasmine green tea and took it all out to the car.  I wouldn’t be able to eat breakfast at home but I could still start the day at a pretty table eating food I enjoy.

“I might be a little while,” I told Ralph.  “After the appointment, I’m going to find a quiet place to have breakfast then do a few errands.”

I kissed him goodbye and went on my way, stopping at the mailbox to pick up the newspaper.

At the doctor’s office, the blood work was quick, over before hunger pangs had even begun.  I was soon back in my car driving around downtown Clermont in search of a little park I remembered noticing in an older residential neighborhood along Lakeshore Drive.

It took a while to find, but was worth the effort.  Park of Indian Hills encompasses a narrow stretch of shady ground beneath several ancient oaks along Lake Minnehaha.  The park’s limited amenities include three wooden picnic tables, a lake-facing bench and a few trash receptacles.  A woman walking a dog was just leaving as I pulled in.  No one else was there.

The Park of Indian Hills

“Perfect,” I thought.  “Privacy and beauty.” 

I settled in at one of the tables, unpacked my breakfast, tea and napkin and folded the paper to the comic page.  By the time I’d finished eating, I’d perused most of the news, been scolded by a squirrel and searched an oak’s uppermost boughs for a woodpecker that I heard but never found.

Unlike the one in the park, this squirrel is too preoccupied with its treasure to scold me

“How lovely this was,” I mused while repacking my bag.  “A quiet breakfast in a pretty spot, outdoors in the breeze.  Why don’t I do this more often?”

Lake County has well over 100 parks from tiny residential retreats like Park of Indian Hills to rambling state and national parks like Lake Louisa in Clermont, Lake Griffin in Leesburg and Alexander Springs in Altoona.  Although I appreciate the many public spaces (two of my favorites are Sara Maude Mason Nature Preserve in Howey-in-the-Hills and Pear Park in south Leesburg), I seldom take advantage of them. 

A family enjoys Dixie Lake in Lake Louisa State Park

I don’t because I’m lazy when it comes to things like this.  It’s easier to stick with the norm; to not alter routines, even the pleasant ones.  I’d like to think I’d do it again – purposely go “out” to breakfast in a public (albeit minimally populated) venue - but the reality is, I probably won’t.  What I can do, however, is appreciate the moment, inadvertent though it was.

A little imagination turned a pre-breakfast appointment to the medical center into a mini-vacation.  Not a bad way to start the day.

To find a park near you, visit Lake County’s Park Finder Website at 

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