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 great.
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 my husband, 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.
On that morning, however, I had routine blood work scheduled that required fasting. I remembered it only after slicing the last piece of fruit into my bowl the night before.
"So, should I make oatmeal for you, anyway?" asked Ralph. "You can have it when you come home."
I told him to go ahead but that instead of eating it at home afterward, 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."
At the doctor's office, the blood work was over before hunger pangs had even begun, and 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. The 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 bench that faces the lake and a few trash receptacles. A woman walking a dog was just leaving. No one else was there.
"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 comics 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 spotted.
"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 more than 100 parks, from tiny residential retreats like Park of Indian Hills to rambling state parks and national parks recreation areas such as 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.
I'm lazy when it comes to things like this. It's easier to stick with the pleasant routines. 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. A little imagination turned an unpleasant pre-breakfast appointment 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 gis.lakecountyfl.gov/ParkFinder
Sherry Boas can be reached at simplyliving@beautiful
bamboo.com. Her columns can be found online at OrlandoSentinel.com/lake. Her newest book is "Simply Wild: Untamed Wonders Large and Small."