A Picnic at the Dunn

The Dunn is joining a long established tradition of holding a picnic in the garden. Our particular one is in August—details will follow.

The word “picnic” invites investigation. It conjures up smells of hot dogs, chicken salad, cookies, the sounds of music, children running and sunburn. As a child I could never figure out why the sandwich at the beach tasted much better than the same sandwich eaten at home—despite the fact they were often sprinkled with sand.

Better yet, you can have a picnic or go picnicking. Both the noun and the verb connote passivity and action on the part of the “picnickers” with the choice to be both at the same event if so inclined. And the speaking of the word can be an art form. Draw it out, let your voice rise at the end and it is an invitation all by itself.

The musical nature of the word can be attributed to its French orgins. It was first used in print in 1692 in the Origines de la Langue Française. Pique-nique was used to describe a group of people dining in a restaurant who brought their own wine. Based mostly on speculation picnic is believed to come from the verb piquer which means “pick” or “peck” and the rhyming nique meaning “thing of little importance.” It’s a good story.

In English the first time “picnic” appeared in print was in 1748 in a letter by Lord Chesterfield, a recognized intellectual and statesman. He associated picnics with card-playing, conversations and, as did the French, drinking.

By the 1800’s the idea of a picnic as an informal affair in the outdoors took root.  A revolution helped. After the French beheaded the aristocracy their parks became a popular place for the newly liberated citizenry to eat informal meals. Art on the subject appeared; some of it, such as Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe (1863) painted by Édouard Manet, was regarded as risqué. 

Picnics provided opportunities for courtship at a time when they were limited. Arthur Dunn, the founder of the Dunn Gardens courted his wife, Jeanette, at picnics.  Son Edward lovingly recounts in his memoir “1121 Union” that Arthur and Jeanette walked together along the trails in the woods by the picnic site. “Father was smitten, as well he might be, for Mother was a beauty, with lovely pale complexion, jet-black Welsh hair and gray-blue eyes.”  The two married in 1901.

We cannot promise you your romance will bloom when you come to the Dunn Gardens picnic, Sunday, August 6, 3:00-7:00 pm but we can promise it will not hinder it either. You will be free to walk the trails of the Dunn when you visit as guests of the Gardens. Come spread a blanket out on the Great Lawn and enjoy a pleasant evening in the company of family, friends and neighbors. BYOB (Bring your own basket). In keeping with the association of wine with picnics, both red and white will be available for purchase, as will beer. There will be games for all available but feel free to bring your own, along with cards if you are of the same inclination as Lord Chesterfield and enjoy playing them. And, of course, your camera to capture the memories.

We do ask you, please to leave your four-footed friends at home.  Car pooling is appreciated in our congested neighborhood as is an RSVP- even though there is no charge for this event.

Most of all we look forward to spending one of the magical summer evenings in the Pacific Northwest with you.  Bring your picnic stories to share.