“Get me out of here!” I screamed. My cries were futile. I had been crammed into a dark, stuffy backpack for days, sometimes with lumpy shoes pressing painfully against me. How I longed for the comfort of the store where I had been stacked flat on a shelf with my fellow tablecloths. But I hadn’t been happy there either and prayed that someone would buy me and take me on picnics. When finally a lady and man bought me, I believed my hopes would be fulfilled, but I was sadly disappointed. I remained folded up in the dark and very, very lonely. I wondered how long this terrible situation would continue.
A flurry of activity suddenly startled me out of a fretful sleep. Slap, slap, slap! I was flapping in the breeze like I had wings. I squinted against the sudden brightness. Warm hands smoothed my wrinkles flat. “Ahhh, this feels so good,” I sighed. The lady and man sat down on opposite ends of a bench with me between them. Bread, cream cheese, sliced sausage, yogurt, and apples were set on top of me along with little plastic spoons and napkins. “What an idyllic place for a picnic!” I murmured contentedly. “I hope we stay here for awhile.”
“Do I hear singing?” I wondered. The voices became louder and I could make out the words to a familiar song, “Doe, a deer, a female deer…” A bus advertising “Sound of Music Tours” was motoring down a narrow road on the opposite side of a wide smooth-flowing river. Lifting my gaze to the skyline, I saw a green cathedral dome. “If this is Salzburg – and I do believe it is – that cathedral could very well be the one in which Mozart was baptized and where he was the organist for two years. And that must be the Hohensalzburg Fortress dominating everything from the highest hill.” Church bells rang out the time: 5:30 p.m. The lady wrote on me with a black felt marker: June 26, 1999, Salzburg.
Six days later I was excited to discover we were going on another picnic. Early in the morning I was placed in a daypack along with some bread, sausage, cheese, carrots, and oranges. “Where will the picnic be this time?” I wondered. We trundled uphill on what I believe was a cogwheel train. After awhile, the approach to the Klein Scheidegg train station was announced. “Isn’t that in the Swiss Alps?” We got off the train and after a short hike reached our destination. My folds were shaken out and I floated down on a pillow of air to rest gently on a flowery, green meadow.
Breathtakingly beautiful, snowy mountain peaks contrasted dramatically with the lush meadow. I was soon to learn from the man the names of these massive mountain peaks: the Eiger, Monch, and Jungfrau. In English, these names mean ogre, monk, and young woman. “How very fitting that the monk sits between the ogre and the young woman,” I mused. Apparently the terrifyingly steep wall of the Eiger is sought after by daring rock climbers, many of whom have killed themselves in their efforts to reach the summit. I watched the train as it moved up along the cog railway from the station at Klein Scheidegg and cut into the Eiger en route to its final destination at the top of the Jungfrau, the highest train station in Europe.
I could have happily laid there in the meadow for hours soaking up the warm sun and peacefully listening to the occasional drone of a bee sipping from the yellow flowers, but all good things must come to an end. Before returning me to the daypack, the lady wrote: July 2, 1999, the Jungfrau Region, Switzerland.
After picnicking in Austria and Switzerland we traveled to Northern Italy, where soon I was taken on another picnic. Because the lady and man would be hiking in the direction of the rising sun and the day would be a hot one, they left their room
in the early morning when the air was still cool. They climbed the steep trail leading out of the little fishing village before the sun had risen from behind the terraced hills. A large, flat rock a short distance from the footpath provided an expansive outlook high above the Mediterranean Sea. It made a perfect breakfast table, but I must admit it was very chilly on my backside and I remained quite wrinkled. Nevertheless, the lady set out a breakfast of bananas, peaches, cheese, crackers, mixed dried fruit, and Gatorade.
“This is a little peace of heaven,” said the lady with a sigh. “I’m so glad we decided to remain here instead of traveling on to Florence.” From my position laying on the rock, I could look down at Vernazza, one of five little fishing villages nestled into the rocks between the beach and the hills of the Cinque Terre. Footpaths that are centuries old cut through olive groves, vineyards, and orchards and link the five villages dotted along eighteen kilometers of sheer rocky coastline. With so much exploring ahead, the lady and man did not dawdle over breakfast. Before packing me away, the lady wrote: 9:00 a.m., July 7, 1999, the Cinque Terre.
Six days later I was taken on a picnic that started out as a ghastly experience. All morning long I was stuck in the daypack beside a hunk of stinky cheese and had no way of escape. We were back in Switzerland. After traveling uphill by train from Zermatt to Gornergrat, the man unzipped the daypack. I was hopeful that I would be let out for a breath of fresh air, but the man only reached in for the camera. It wasn’t until after a downhill hike to Riffleberg that I was finally let out of the bag and stretched out on a large, open grassy area. What a relief! And to help take my mind off this morning’s troubles was the sight of the gracefully curved pyramid of the Matterhorn across the valley.
The man explained that for many years, the Matterhorn was thought to be unclimbable. That was true until July 14, 1865 when Edward Whymper and six other members of his climbing party reached the top. The climbers spent an hour eating, drinking, and resting on the summit. Whymper lopped off the very top of the Matterhorn, a chunk of mica to bring back as a souvenir. This action might have brought the climbers bad luck, though, because the descent turned into a disaster. A snapped rope plunged four of the seven men to their deaths. Although Whymper returned unharmed, that tragedy haunted him for the rest of his life.
The lady and man finished their lunch of sour-smelling bread, stinky cheese, ham, granola bars, apples, and water, and were preparing to leave. As the lady was writing the date on me, she paused. “Didn’t you say Whymper climbed the Matterhorn on July 14, 1865? Tomorrow will be the 134th anniversary of that event.” She wrote: July 13, 1999, The Matterhorn.
I’m contented now that I’ve been used for the purpose for which I was made. I’ve gone on nine picnics in three countries. I wonder where the lady and man will go next and whether I will be taken along. Time will tell.
March 3, 2008.